The University Record, July 9, 1996

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Yes, U-M is ready for
self-directed work teams

I enjoyed the coverage of the Workplace of the '90s Conference which appeared in the June 11 issue. It helped fill me in on the sessions I was unable to attend. The article about Ann and Bob Harper's keynote presentation, "Is the U-M ready for self-directed work teams? Are you?" caused me to pause and reflect. If I've noticed anything in my more than 25-year association with the University, it's the tremendous potential of the people the U-M attracts as employees. More of that potential is being tapped now than five years ago. I credit this to leaders who have embraced the principles of M-Quality, the University's approach to continual improvement, and are translating them into action. These leaders are people who view employees as customers and provide them whatever is needed to enhance team and individual performance. These leaders share information; they want partners in achieving excellence, not subordinates. In turn, their employee partners are responsible and enthusiastic in using their skills, knowledge and creativity to provide outstanding service. Anyone who walks into these workplaces will be struck by the difference between them and more typical ones. Employees are truly alive and engaged. And, if you're a customer of theirs, it doesn't take long to notice how this benefits you. Is the University of Michigan ready for more workplaces like these? Absolutely! In five more years we will all look back in amazement that things were ever any other way.


Bernadete Malinoski, alumna (MS '72; MSW '75), former employee (1975-95)

U-M should spend money on enforcement, not publication


At a time when VCM is being implemented and units across campus are struggling with diminished budgets, it seems ludicrous that Parking Services can spend thousands of dollars on a glossy brochure that is mailed first class to employees' homes. The changes that have been introduced could have been outlined in a letter that was sent out via campus mail.

I would suggest that instead of spending money on an expensive publication and postage, Parking Services should either reduce permit fees or hire staff to increase enforcement of parking violations. Employees who pay for parking cannot always find a space in a staff lot, even when they arrive early in the morning. For example, I park in the Thayer lot, and there are cars parked there every day without permits. Those of us who pay for parking are subsidizing students and others who park in staff lots, knowing they are unlikely to be ticketed.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Robin Little, conference assistant,
School of Social Work

Facts raise moral questions about Nike contract


The recent series of articles by Bob Herbert in the New York Times raises troubling questions for me with regard to the relationship of the University of Michigan and Nike. As I recall, we received $7,000,000 from the Nike Corp. to allow it to be a sponsor of various athletic events. As Herbert points out, the manufacturing of the Nike footwear occurs in sweatshops in Asia, where repression is the norm, unionization is not allowed, exploitation is rampant and any protest is dealt with immediately and harshly. In addition, the marketing of Nike in the United States raises other questions of how materialism is encouraged among our young people. Although I am fortunate enough not to have a youngster in my family ask me for money for a $140 pair of sneakers, we should all be concerned with the effect the marketing of Nike sneakers has on our national psyche.

I understand all of the counter arguments. Perhaps Nike pays more in its factories than others might, or one could argue that without Nike those workers would not even have a job. With regard to marketing, perhaps it is not Nike's concern to deal with how athletics in general has affected our young people. Perhaps Nike is relatively benign when compared to other companies. I myself do not know what to do, and that is part of the problem.

The reason is that at the University of Michigan there has not been any discussion of what it means to accept the Nike money. We have just let the athletic department take the funds without a clear consideration of what it means to the employees of Nike, and to the University as a whole. If we accepted this money with a clear understanding of what it meant, then I would have no objections. But concerns have now been raised by the articles of Herbert in the New York Times. We cannot ignore them. Perhaps we did not know the facts about Nike when we accepted the money, but we cannot say that we do not know now.

I would hate to look back 20 years from now and have the University of Michigan shown as an example of how a great institution can be complicit in immoral acts by ignoring the problem. Now is the time to talk about Nike. Now is the time to talk about what it means to accept money. Now is the time to show some concern for morality. Now is the time to at least acknowledge that we are members of a wider community, and that we have some obligations to accept the moral consequences of our actions. Only by facing the facts directly can we be sure we will be doing the right thing.


Stephen Cooper, professor of
microbiology and immunology