The University Record, October 22, 1997


Make athletics an independent entity

Some years ago, the University found that the Defense Department activities of its Willow Run Laboratories were not appropriate to the purposes of the University and therefore "spun off" that organization into the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM), which has since gone on to become a successful corporation in its own right.

Isn't it time now for the University to recognize that the activities of its Athletics Department are not appropriate to the purposes of the University and to follow the ERIM precedent by spinning off that department into an independent entity, the Michigan Athletics Corporation?

Such an organization could hire and fire coaches and athletes at will, enter into contracts to supply trained players to professional teams, contract for unlimited advertising, relieve players from the bothersome necessity of attending classes, and relieve coaches from the nuisance of compliance with petty rules on recruiting. Furthermore, sale of the stadium and arena could bring in money to enhance the academic objectives of the University.

I am sure that thoughtful readers will find many more advantages to this proposal, and I strongly urge its adoption.

Norman R. Scott,
professor emeritus of electrical engineering
and computer science


BC/BS should cover Pap smears

I recently learned that the Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS) insurance through the University no longer covers routine Papanicolaou (Pap) tests. Pap tests are used for early detection of cervical cancer and are believed to have played a significant role in the decrease in deaths due to this cancer. Implementation of cervical cancer screening programs are credited for the 20 percent to 60 percent reduction of cervical cancer mortality rates in the United States, Canada, and several European countries. Due primarily to screening programs, the incidence of invasive cervical cancer has significantly decreased over the past 40 years.

About 16,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year and about 4,800 women die from the disease annually. The five-year survival rate for women with localized cervical cancer is about 90 percent, but it falls to about 14 percent when the disease is detected in an advanced stage. HEALTHY PEOPLE 2000, which set objectives for the nation, included an objective to reduce deaths from cancer of the uterine cervix.

Consensus guidelines endorsed by the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Medical Women's Association recommend annual Pap smears for all women. If there are no abnormal results, the frequency may be reduced to every three years, based on the provider's recommendation.

There is clearly agreement regarding the benefits of this relatively inexpensive test. Eliminating the insurance coverage for this test sends the wrong message to women who may not be aware of the benefits or who may be concerned regarding personal expenditure for it. A BC/BS representative told me that they had previously covered it, but it was in error, as it is a screening test. This screening test can result in considerable savings by identifying disease in an earlier and less expensively treated stage.

The decision by the University to accept this reduction in benefits in its contract with BC/BS is most unwise and regressive. This, at a time when the federal government has decided it makes sense for this test and others, such as mammograms, to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid because of their beneficial effects, both in terms of reducing early mortality and economic savings. Based on concern for the health of all women covered by our policy with BC/BS, the University needs to restore this as a covered benefit.

Sally L. Lusk,
professor and director,
Occupational Health Nursing Program


U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (1989). Guide to Clinical Preventive Services. 2nd Ed. Baltimore, MD: William & Wilkins.

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (1996). Healthy People 2000 Midcourse Review and 1995 Revisions. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 240.

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (1991). Healthy People 2000. Pub. No. 91-50212. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 421-422.