November 30th, 2013 § § permalink
When news that the University of Michigan has received a donation is announced, many people begin to wonder how this incredible act of generosity will benefit them on an individual basis. It is understandable for people to believe that donations do not trickle down far enough to benefit students tangibly. When looking through the comment section of any article about donations, it is clear that a large sum of people wonder why donations are not being used to lower tuition.
Take Stephen M. Ross’ recent $200 million donation, for example. The donation will be implemented in the Ross School of Business to create new study spaces, a new career services center, an enhanced recruiting center, a collaborative research facility, new innovative classrooms, and scholarships for business students. On the athletic campus, the money will be used to improve its academic success programs, develop state-of-the-art facilities, and create new spaces for student-athletes to cultivate their success after college (Annarbor.com). Although this all sounds excellent, are there better ways to use these funds?
While this is a difficult question to answer, even if we could answer it, it really does not matter. Stephen Ross, and whoever else donates or has previously donated to Michigan, has earned to right to direct their donations in whichever direction they desire. Even if their donations do not trickle down to a point that makes them tangible for individuals, their generosity certainly benefits the University—and the city of Ann Arbor—as a whole.
This being said, perhaps these large donations are not as inefficient as they initially appear.
Tuition has risen largely because state funding has steadily declined. Over the past decade, state funding has decreased by more than 50% on a per-student basis. In the 60’s, state funding accounted for 80% of the University’s budget. Now, it accounts for less than 17% (vpcomm.umich.edu). Rises in tuition are used to uphold the “core academic missions” of the University (instruction, financial aid, academic advising, museums, libraries, computing centers, etc.). Tuition is not used to pay for athletics, student housing, UHS, student publications, and most construction projects. Donations are a substantial source of funding across all areas. Regardless of what they are used for, donations allow the University to maintain and improve education quality and prestige.
In this way, donations aimed at construction projects that may seem superfluous benefit the entire community. Construction creates employment, and once new structures are completed, they create space for jobs of all sorts (doctors, custodians, administrative staff, professors, etc.). New facilities allow the University to build towards the future and establish a competitive edge.
So, while it is common to wonder why large donations are not used to directly assist students in a more tangible manner, donations are guided in avenues that tuition itself is not able to reach. Beautiful new buildings and more robust programs create opportunity across the board that improves the University on a grand scale.
October 14th, 2013 § § permalink
Source: Approved Designs for the Munger Graduate Residences, view from Main Street from the South Quad.
Much to the dismay of Ann Arbor residents and UM students alike, Blimpy Burger had to officially shut its doors in late August. The parcel of land that Blimpy Burger used to sit on, as well as adjacent parcels of land, is to be used for a new graduate dormitory. The project is the gift and brainchild of Charles T. Munger, whose $110 million donation included specific design stipulations for what is to be called the Munger Residence Hall.
While the $185 million project ($75 of which will be funded by lease revenue) aims to attract graduate students to UM, current students are not so sure about the efficacy of the project. In a poll of graduate students, 96% (of the 233 that responded) said they would not live in Munger. This is largely due to the fact that preliminary monthly rent projections are set at roughly $1,000 per month. Although these may decrease (so that they are competitive with the surrounding market), graduate students usually opt for more affordable housing.
Aside from price concerns, graduate students are uneasy about the communal aspects of Munger’s design. With each set of seven individual bedrooms, there will be seven private bathrooms, a large common kitchen, common recreational rooms, and a common furnished dining room. Understandably, graduate students fear that this blueprint is too similar to undergraduate dorms. Given that most graduate students are in their 20s or 30s, such a living arrangement seems unappealing—especially if they can rent a single apartment off-campus for less.
Although this seems to be a social engineering project that is being wasted on non-interested 20-30 year-olds, similar projects have worked before. Munger funded a graduate housing project at Stanford, which has been fully occupied since its completion in 2009. Although Stanford’s building only has 4 bedrooms per unit, their graduate housing ranges from $1322-$1679 per month (which is competitive with the surrounding market).
Munger recognizes that spending a huge sum of money on a new residence hall does not seem economically prudent, but he has extremely valid reasons to believe that it is indeed a sound investment. For one, a top-notch graduate dormitory is a selling point for UM as it tries to recruit top students. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Munger spoke of “the fatal un-connectedness of academic disciplines” and described this un-connectedness as a “pernicious evil.”
Communal kitchens, dining rooms, recreational rooms (including a fitness center and track) are all geared towards making the building into an intellectually engaging community. Graduate students often speak of how their student body is isolated from one another, and Munger Hall aims to promote both academic and social collaboration.
The relocation of Blimpy Burger is certainly hard to forget, but the plan makes sense as a selling point for UM graduate programs and as a way to promote cross-discipline interaction. The 96% disapproval rating (from just a small fraction of the graduate student body) is something to consider, but perhaps once plans begin to materialize students will gain interest.
Still, lofty rent projections and very high disapproval ratings are worrying. Richard Saccone, president of Rackham Graduate School cited that the preliminary rent projections of $1,000 are far beyond what a typical graduate student is willing to pay. The average rent price in Ann Arbor is a fuzzy figure since there is such a wide range to choose from—there are luxury apartments, older apartments, studios, shared houses, etc. Often these options are less than or around the $1000 mark. Given such a wide buffet of housing options, it seems almost impossible to imagine a graduate student opting to live in an expensive social experiment when more peaceful, familiar, and affordable options are readily available.
September 29th, 2013 § § permalink
Beginning October 5th the University of Michigan will launch a new shuttle service running from Ann Arbor to downtown Detroit. For now, the program is in its pilot stage, and will run on Fridays and Saturdays. However, the director of U of M’s Detroit Center, Addell Anderson, hopes that demand for the shuttle grows to a point where the project can attract more funds, and thus, have a larger fleet of buses and a weekday schedule.
For now, one bus will begin its first hour-long trip on Fridays to Detroit at 8 a.m. from C.C. Little. The final trip on Friday will return at 8:45 p.m. On Saturday, the shuttle will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the final trip will return to Ann Arbor at 10:50 p.m. Between these times, the bus will run four times between Ann Arbor and Detroit, making stops at U of M’s Detroit Center, Eastern Market, the Cultural Center, and Downtown and Southwest Detroit.
Interest for the shuttle seems to be very high from a number of parties, especially since it is not restricted to U-M students. The public can reserve seats online, walk-ons can ride if there is space, and anybody can ride in either direction (Detroiters can come to Ann Arbor and vice-versa).
Since the University has made significant financial and education investments in Detroit, this service aims to afford students an efficient way to explore Detroit. Fourty-five thousand of the shuttle’s funding comes from the Third Century Fund, U of M’s internal grant campaign. According to an interview with Anderson for MLive.com, the “aim is not to become a full-scale transit provider, but to better facilitate and advance learning and engagement with the city, as well as to deepen relationships between Detroit and the U-M community.”
Last semester, when the idea for an Ann Arbor-Detroit connector first materialized, a survey of roughly 300 students indicated that such a connector would make them more likely to engage in all that Detroit has to offer.
For example, the U of M Detroit Center’s mission is to “mutually enrich the University’s and Detroit’s communities through service, education, research and the exchange of culture”. The center has an impressive list of current initiatives, including public health, engineering, art and design, social work, and community service. Regardless of which academic discipline you are focused in, it appears as if greater access to Detroit will allow students to apply their skills and interests, while giving back to community.
Although current funding and planning have slated for the shuttle to run only for the current semester, Anderson is optimistic that the project’s popularity will extend it into the future. The shuttle fills quite an obvious void in our opportunities as students, and it opens the door to a mutually beneficial relationship between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
One potential issue with the shuttle however, pertains to how it will be used. If the schedule ends up getting extended to weekdays, UM should keep track of what sorts of growth the shuttle has allowed for. Are students using the shuttle to augment their studies and benefit Detroit? Or, is it simply a free ride for students and non UM students? Although the current funds only comprise a small fraction of a $50 million fund, the program should only grow if it is being used for the betterment of Detroit and our student body.
April 28th, 2013 § § permalink
Currently old and outdated, South Quad will receive a $60 million facelift in May (Courtney Sacco, AnnArbor.com)
Housing options both on and off campus have gotten noticeably more lavish with each passing year. While high-rise luxury apartments are sprouting up in groves, new dormitory renovations are steadily upping the appeal of university housing. As part of an eight-year, $440 million renovating spree, Alice Lloyd recently received a $56 million update, and a $116 million overhaul of East Quad is in the works.
Following this trend, the University has recently approved a $60 million renovation of South Quad. The main purpose of this renovation is to consolidate campus dining on central campus—similar to how the Mosher Jordan renovation consolidated dining on the Hill. Following this, the dining halls in both Betsy Barbour and West Quad will be closed. To accommodate more diners, South Quad will increase its seating capacity from 650 students to 950 students. West Quad will later receive a $114.5 million renovation, which will include supplanting its current cafeteria with community spaces. In this way, it will be somewhat similar to Alice Lloyd, in that it will be replete with modern community spaces instead of a dining hall.
The University seems to be focusing on creating more community spaces, as South Quad’s renovations will not include any dorm room renovations—the entire $60 million will be allocated to creating community spaces, a new dining hall, new bathrooms, and other infrastructural improvements (all changes will be confined to the first two floors). Community spaces will include music practice rooms, a game room, study rooms, and new bathrooms.
Built in 1950, South Quad has not received a renovation of any sort since the 1990’s, when windows, elevators, and other subtleties were rehabilitated. Now, however, we are seeing a fervent push towards improving UM’s overall housing experience. Since taking office in 2002, President Mary Sue Coleman has noted this initiative is one of her top accomplishments.
South Quad’s new dining hall will be unique, as it will adapt open, varied seating, and “micro-restaurants” in lieu of a more traditional college cafeteria layout. According to architect Christopher Purdy, “They’re really focused on a variety of food options, they’re focused on very high quality food, they’re focused on social space, and they’re focused on fresh and healthy options. That input really drove the design concept for the dining space, which focuses on micro-restaurants so it’s not a large, traditional dining hall.”
As a two-year South Quad resident, sophomore Adam Litt offered his thoughts on South Quad’s current state, and the benefits of the renovations. “I think that the dorm is fine as it is now. In both years at South Quad, I haven’t had a problem. I don’t think that anything is particularly wrong, but improvements can definitely be made. I like the dining hall as it is, but you often hear that people are going to eat at the newer dining halls like North Quad and Mojo.”
While all of these renovations certainly come at a pretty penny, they are ultimately a necessity. Updated living arrangements are not only a part of general upkeep, but they also attract new students.
March 29th, 2013 § § permalink
New guidelines by the Transportation Security Administration will permit specific knives to be brought on board, beginning April 25, 2013
Despite fervent opposition, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has stood by his decision to allow small knives on airplanes. This decision is part of a new set of rules slated to take effect on April 25th. These rules would allow knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches and less than .5 inches wide onboard aircrafts. Knives that “resemble weapons” (those with blades that lock in place or have molded hand grips) will not be allowed regardless of size. In addition, passengers will be allowed to carry up to two golf clubs, toy bats, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, and pool cues. Box cutters and razor blades, however, will remain prohibited.
Arguments against this legislation are varied, but they all seem to feel that the decision is nonsensical. How can a sharp, albeit small, object make it through security while a bottle of shampoo cannot?
Aside from the belief that this decision does not seem to make much sense since less harmful objects are still banned, the public points largely at the events that took place on September 11, 2001 as evidence for why knives will only cause anxiety about in-flight attacks. As President of the Association of Flight Attendants, Veda Shook said, “it is completely unnecessary to introduce a weapon back into the aircraft”.
Despite these steadfast arguments against the decision, John Pistole still stands by the TSA’s choice. According to Pistole, allowing for small knives on planes will allow TSA agents to thoroughly search for more threatening items. Accordingly, Pistole asserts that studies and fieldwork suggest that small knives do not pose a substantial threat—rather, larger weapons and explosives are what we really need to worry about. In not having to search for small knives, TSA agents will be able to weed out many of these more pertinent threats. In following through with this plan, the TSA is also trying to align themselves with the rest of the world’s airline security procedures (which all allow knives with blades under 2.36 inches).
Now, this raises the question: how can searching for small blades be such a large distraction? In responding to this, TSA representatives and proponents of the decision have cited just how covert terrorists have been in the past. Instead of searching for small blades, agents will be able to focus on uncovering the ways in which terrorists are trying to stage a more extensive attack. For instance, explosives have been hidden inside printer cartridges and within the tubes of crutches.
Given this argument, Shook still stated her skepticism as she believes that this “will only create a bottleneck” where agents will waste time trying to decipher whether or not a blade is over or under 2.36 inches. She believes that rather than creating this confusion, it is much more logical to uphold prohibition of all knives regardless of size.
Despite the TSA’s positive intentions, many organizations and companies have been quick to call the changes both ill advised and dangerous. Delta, American, and US Airways have all voiced their immediate disapproval of the plan. Flight attendants in particular have expressed their concerns, stating that a blade poses an immediate threat to everyone on an aircraft. Since flight attendants are first responders to any issue onboard, they are worried that a knife of any sort will compromise their ability to protect passengers. Many have echoed these sentiments, saying that the TSA should involve stakeholders in the airline industry in their process. In the same regard, members of Congress from across the country have written Pistole and spoken publicly about the issue calling for reevaluation.
In further support of his decisions, Pistole explained, “on average it takes two to three minutes for the pocket knife to be identified, for that bag to be pulled, for that bag to be opened, [and] for the knife to be found”. Since knives are likely the most commonly surrendered item at security checkpoints aside from liquids, not having to search for so many (potentially) harmless knives will free up a lot of valuable search time.
While the TSA seems to have concrete reasons for why this is in our nation’s best interest, many are wondering why something that was such a large threat around a decade ago is now not seen to be a threat at all simply given the fact that more advanced threats have emerged.
While some fear that the smallest of blades can cause havoc on an aircraft, others disagree. A 2.36-inch blade is roughly smaller than a car key, and given the fact that cockpits are very secure now, it is extremely unlikely that this would ever become an issue. In the rest the cabin, it is also likely that such a blade will not lead to any fatalities. Again, the knives that will be allowed are very small, and as knife expert Dan Delaven stated in an interview with CNN, such a small blade would likely not be able to kill someone. Further, Delaven noted that even if someone were to stage an attack, “it’s not like people are just going to stand around and do nothing”—they will restrain the attacker who will likely not even be able to do anything substantial beforehand due to the nature of his or her blade.
It seems as if the TSA is trying to account for large-scale catastrophic events while flight attendants, passengers, politicians etc. are more receptive to the fear that some people have, especially fear associated with 9/11. Regardless of whether or not these small blades could actually lead to an event that would be life threatening, people are understandably fearful and are wondering “why the risk?”
November 27th, 2012 § § permalink
In an effort to satiate students looking to garner a solid knowledge base in business, the Ross School of Business has been working on developing a minor program. Although Ross faculty has approved the program, it still remains to be approved by other schools within the university. As of now, the Engineering school has accepted the program, and once the other colleges/schools follow suit, the first application process will begin in the spring of 2013.
In a cross-collaborative academic culture like Michigan’s, this program makes sense. Dual-degrees are a great tool that students can leverage to their advantage in the increasingly competitive job market. A minor in business would expose non-Ross students to opportunities that they otherwise may not have had access to, and a solid footing in business acumen can augment nearly any area of study.
In deliberating about whether or not to approve the program, Ross faculty “benchmarked similar programs at peer universities, interviewed recruiters, and hosted a BBA town hall meeting,” according to an official statement. After all aspects of the potential program were developed, reviewed, and adjusted, the program was voted on and approved by Ross faculty in September.
In an interview with the Michigan Review, Associate Dean Lynn Wooten noted that business minor is not an entirely new idea. “Currently, 25% of Ross’s undergraduate student body is composed of non-business students taking business courses,” said Wooten. “The minor in business program looks to expand the opportunities offered to non-Ross students by allowing them to take a greater array of business courses.”
Similar to the the current BBA program, a minor in business will require students to apply. The application will mandate that prospective students (with a junior level standing or higher) write essays, which in addition to their transcript, will help the admissions board decide whether or not to admit them. Students will also have to apply with a solid academic standing, and having completed two prerequisite courses with a B or better. The program will be most selective, as only 100 students will be granted admission. When asked about the application process, Wooten said, that the school expects many applicants, and that the program will be constantly revised to ensure an ideal amount of acceptances.
The minor will consist of 15 credits, and similar to the BBA program, accounting is a requirement. Unlike the BBA program though, students will be able to choose between finance and operations management, marketing and management, and strategy and an action-based learning course. The grading curve for these courses will be the same as the BBA grading curve, but the courses will be entirely separate from their BBA counterparts (business minors will only have class with other business minors and non-Ross students). Electives, however, will consist of BBA students, minors in business, and non-Ross students. Dean Wooten looks forward to students in the minor program as an addition to Ross’ growing diversity.
“Our students in the minor program will bring richer diversity to the classroom,” said Wooten. “With various, non-business backgrounds, they may be able to look at a problem through a different lens.”
Business minors will deal with career services within their home UM department, which means they will not have access to Ross advisors and will not be exposed to Ross-specific recruiting. Access to Ross’s iMpact system and room reservations will not be available for students minoring in business either, but they will still have access to select Ross’ extracurricular clubs and fraternities. For those interested in the program, questions and concerns will be addressed at the BBA Forum with Dean Wooten on December 4th at 5PM in R1240.
It’s expected that the Ross minor will draw plenty of student interest, especially from students who were hesitant to apply to the BBA program. In creating the minor in business program, Ross aims to contribute to Michigan’s interdisciplinary nature, or as Wooten puts it, “more competitive students.”
November 2nd, 2012 § § permalink
Citing a strong positive correlation between sugary drink consumption and obesity, the New York City Board has approved a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks at any vendor regulated by the city (this would include McDonald’s and any many small businesses, for example). The ban is incredibly controversial for numerous reasons in that it seems to both infringe and protect at the same time.
Since the ban only applies to businesses regulated by the city, many corporate giants are exempt from abiding by the ban’s stipulations. Accordingly, a local pizza parlor will be unable to sell a soda larger than 16 ounces, yet 711 will retain the right to do so. This will lead to decreases in revenue for city-regulated businesses, as consumers will find logic in buying their soft drink at 711 (a 50-ounce soft drink at 711 costs less than two dollars). This could spell disaster for small businesses, and if forced to shut down, large corporations will be sure to bombard newly available New York City storefronts.
On the other hand, the health concerns associated with excessive sugar consumption are difficult to ignore. According to New York City’s health department, more than half of NYC residents are obese or overweight. According to Mayor Bloomberg, “This is the single biggest step any city, I think, has ever taken to curb obesity. It’s certainly not the last step that lots of cities are going to take, and we believe that it will help save lives.” There are many proponents of the ban solely based on its seemingly invaluable health benefits. Arguments for the ban generally follow similar logic; sugar is metabolically toxic, especially when consumed excessively. Obesity is caused by overconsumption, and that is what large soda sizes implicitly encourage.
At the same time, the ban has received vehement opposition. Arguments against the ban are generally founded on the idea that the city is overstepping its boundaries since the ban directly restricts consumer choices. For one, it seems wrong to pinpoint one product—especially a product that is a large part of many dietary habits. In many minds, it should be entirely up to the consumer how much sugar they consume.
Personally, I cannot find a problem with the ban. Trying to call the ban a violation of rights seems overly cautious as the government’s intentions are clearly positive. Empty calories (especially sugar consumed in a liquid) are directly correlated to obesity. If somebody must have a gargantuan soda, they can still get it. Although the legislation may seem harsh and aggressive, it is important. Something had to be done, and in order to remedy the issue of small businesses forfeiting sales to larger, unrestricted vendors, perhaps legislation that would affect everyone equally should be pursued.
Sure, the notion of the government playing the role of our parents seems odd, but it truly is in our best interest to accept this legislation and look towards further implementing legislation to ensure greater levels of public health. People will be able to drink as much soda as they want no matter what; the government is just helping us to gauge our consumption. Imagine if vendors had never introduced the excessively large sizes that we are now accustomed to. It seems unlikely that we would call for larger sizes claiming that the current sizes restrict our right to have as much soda as we want. Since vendors introduced and stood by such large sizes, the government had to call them out on it.
March 26th, 2012 § § permalink
After dropping the “f-bomb” numerous times in a single tweet, High School Senior Austin Carrol was expelled by his high school. Interestingly, Austin was not on school grounds when he wrote the tweet, and he was using is his own personal computer. Although there has been a push for legislation that would deem Austin’s expulsion acceptable (for example, a bill that would permit schools to suspend or expel students for engaging in activities away from school and after hours that “may reasonably be considered to be an interference with school purposes or an educational function”), this case seems to be a direct violation of the first amendment. After further research, I found that based on the account presented by the news story, the expulsion is a violation of his first amendment rights (see J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District and Layshock v. Hermitage School District for examples). As I see it, and as these rulings show, schools are given latitude to act in protecting the basic educational mission of the school. If Austin was in fact at home when he tweeted, then I would argue that there are no grounds for his expulsion.
March 26th, 2012 § § permalink
Watching a bunch of noticeably aged congressmen nearly tear apart the Internet (while simultaneously trying to figure out what it is) has been absurd. Their first two attempts—the overtly stifling SOPA and PIPA bills—were luckily shelved for the time being, but this is not to say that they—or something like them—will not resurface in the future. The motive behind bills like SOPA and PIPA resonates from private companies wanting the ability to shut down websites that give people free access to copyrighted media. Given that SOPA and PIPA were crude, vastly overpowered attempts at maybe increasing sales figures in the entertainment industry, I will show how Internet piracy is not to be remedied with polarizing legal discourse alone—it is far too complex, and far too important.
Many people are under the impression that online piracy is a massive issue—one that costs the U.S economy about $250 million dollars per year and 750,000 jobs. These are vast exaggerations as confirmed in a report by the Government Accountability Office, which noted that these figures “cannot be substantiated or traced back to an underlying data source or methodology.”
These methodological errors are discoverable by reason. Given a hypothetical scenario, it is clear that Internet piracy is not a factual issue—rather, it is more an economic matter. Say Bob wants to watch Kung Fu Panda 2. He has two options: buy the DVD or download it from a bit torrent for free. However, perhaps Bob actually only has one option. Perhaps due to economic constraints, he will only watch the movie if he can download it for free (buying the DVD was never an option). In this sense, Bob downloading the movie for free cannot be counted as a sales loss. Something else to consider–if Jim does not spend money on a music album, he will indefinitely spend that money elsewhere, so him not buying the album is not truly a flat-out loss as some SOPA/PIPA proponents would suggest.
Accordingly, Congressman Tim Walz sensibly argues, “Instead of using the Justice department as a sledgehammer amongst the delicate weeds of the Internet, corporations must embrace the free market and adapt their business models to compete in a new reality.” While it is certainly true that companies ought to adapt to the changing markets (as Walz suggests), there are strong legal counter-arguments that may render this stance unsound.
Those who argue that bills such as SOPA and PIPA are a violation of their basic liberties are technically incorrect. In a free society, you do not have the right to steal your neighbor’s property—it is the function of the state to ensure that this is upheld. It follows that intellectual property is entitled to the same theft protection—at least to a certain degree.
This said, there are a few less-polarizing solutions that ought to be proposed. The first would impose fines on those who pirate content. If somebody gets caught, the fine imposed should be reasonable, yet large enough to scare people away from pirating. The second subscribes to the following logic: in order to be successful with a product that can be easily pirated, a company must have a product worth buying in the first place, set a price that is lower than what it’s truly worth (bundling items are often a good way to do this), and perhaps most importantly, make it easier to obtain than it is to find a torrent for it. This is why Netflix, Valve, Apple and Amazon are swimming in money.
Ultimately, antiquated Congressmen are going about this issue in the wrong way. You cannot simply destroy the Internet—it is growing way to quickly, and it is far too important to just about everything. The problem is not solely a legal matter, nor is it solely an economic matter—it is both. Rather than rushing bills through Congress, this issue needs to be thoroughly mapped out and deliberated on before Congressmen armed with falsified data and ill-conceived notions of what the Internet is destroy it entirely.
March 14th, 2012 § § permalink
Allegations regarding the terrible working conditions at Foxconn, a huge manufacturer in China, are quite regular—especially of late. Along with these reports, we have been encouraged to boycott products produced at Foxconn—namely Apple’s devices. In this way, we are somewhat tied to the injustices at Foxconn. Our seemingly infinite consumerism has allowed for ¬inhumane mass-producing factories like Foxconn to become both viable and preferable solutions to monstrous consumer demands.
Something about these horrors occurring overseas makes them seem considerably less real, and to an extent, less horrifying. Accordingly, if the Foxconn injustices are too distant to gauge, perhaps stories from a domestically located shipping warehouse will hit home.
Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland spent a short time as a temp worker in the the Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide warehouse, which ships some of the devices produced at Foxconn. During her short stint during the holiday season, she was able to expose the eerie similarities between working conditions at Foxconn and at this domestic warehouse—begging the question: could anything on American soil be worse than Foxconn?
At Foxconn, employees work 12 hours shifts with two one-hour breaks. At APGSW, the standard shift is eight hours, but “working more than eight hours is mandatory,” explains McClelland, who ended up working 12-hour days during peak season. During this twelve-hour day, McClelland was treated to two fifteen-minute breaks, as a well as a half-hour lunch break.
Recently, wages at Foxconn have been raised to $285 per month, or $10 per day. Although each American state has an established minimum wage, MacClelland found that she would make “$60 in a 10.5 hour day, which comes out to about $5.71 an hour (about $1.50 dollars less than both the Federal and Mississippi minimum wages). The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more than 15 percent of pickers, packers, movers, and unloaders are temps. They make $3 less an hour on average than permanent workers.”
At Foxconn, turnover is high due to dissatisfaction, and those who express their disgust are dismissed. Similarly, APGSW shows little regard for how their employees are feeling. Upon posing this question to a seasoned employee–“will they actually fire me if I cry”—the answer was a definite “Yes.” There’s 16 other people who want your job. Why would they keep a person who gets emotional, especially in this economy?”
Foxconn employees—regardless of age—often complain of permanent physical ailments after only months of employment. Emotionally, Foxconn employees have been inclined to commit suicide. Consequently, Foxconn has implemented a counseling center (something that probably should not have to exist at a factory). Prior to her formal employment, McClelland was warned, “People lose fingers. Or parts of fingers. And about once a year, they tell us, someone in an Amalgamated warehouse gets caught by the hair, and when a conveyor belt catches you by the hair, it doesn’t just take your hair with it. It rips out a piece of scalp as well.” As per emotional harms, McClellan sites a warning from a woman at the local chamber of commerce, which made it clear that “somebody is going to be mean [to you].”
After seeing how similar some domestic working conditions are to those at Foxconn, I began to wonder if there are similar cases. I came across a story highlighting similar issues in a story from The Morning Call (a Pennsylvania newspaper). At the Breinigsville warehouse, Amazon uses temporary employees to package products. Amazon knowingly works these employees passed the point of exhaustion—they have ambulances parked outside waiting to transport anybody who suffers from heat exhaustion, which reportedly happens often.
Seeing how such injustices knowingly occur is worrying. The fact that a factory needs a psychological ward or an on-call ambulatory staff should speak for itself—they are doing something entirely wrong, and entirely unjust. I understand that in desperate economic times, workers are forced to accept terrible working conditions as their “best option” but this outright neglect and mistreatment on the part of the owners is not acceptable. It appears as if factory owners are simply capitalizing on desperation. Especially in the U.S where there are labor laws, this should be entirely unacceptable.
The issues at Foxconn are not some nebulous foreign problem that we can just turn a blind eye upon. Worker injustice is everywhere, and we should seek a global solution—especially when we have a part in the markets affected.