University of Michigan Disorientation Guide 2010


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University of Michigan Disorientation Guide 2010




Ann Arbor, Michigan

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U-M Disorientation Guide
Fall 2010

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one
thinks of changing himself.”
-Leo Tolstoy
We live in a world of constant distraction. Just
by engaging with our society we are constantly exposed to the manipulative power of advertisement.
It is a never-ending deluge of brainwashing images
-- what’s cool, what’s hot, what will attract the
opposite sex, what new toy we have to have in order
to maintain our status among our friends. The men
and women who control the images want to control
you. They want to climb inside your head and drive
you around like a fancy car.
But they can’t. Not without your permission. You
hold the keys in your own hand, and only when you
give over your perception of reality can they control you. Advertising is infectious. Once it takes
hold of reality it spreads. Television, magazines,
and billboards are all selling you a version of reality in which you work for it. But once you begin
to unplug from their reality you see the frailness
of it. The truth is there is no set path for you to
follow. You make your own path. You can choose to
follow their path -- a frantic scramble from high
school to college to white-collar job, lined with
stress in addition to material compensation -- or
you can forge your own. Albert Einstein, George
Carlin, and George Gershwin all dropped out of high
school. Albert Einstein went back to school later.
For him that was important for what he wanted to
Your purpose will find you if you keep looking
for it, as long as you strive towards bettering
yourself. Do not take that job flipping burgers.

Malcolm Gladwell claims that it takes 10,000
hours to become a master at anything. Sure, you
can make that greasy buck flipping burgers, but
you’re well on your way to mastering the art of
deep frying bullshit. Start doing what you love
to do, and do it as much as possible. Do what
you love, the money will follow.
This zine will bring certain things to your attention. Our intention is to dispel some illusions, and invite you to share in our reality.
We want to empower you to create the reality that
you want. We want to inform you, inflame you,
inspire you, intrigue you. We want to impart
some of our motivation to you, alleviate apathy,
touch off an avalanche of activism; we want simply to make a difference, no matter how large or
This zine is a call to wake up. Life is whatever
you imagine it to be. You hold the keys in your
hand. Get creative. Get free. Get working.
Your 2010 Disorientors

U of M Tuition hikes since 2002
Tuition for in-state freshmen has
increased by 58% since 2002


















Sources: The Ann Arbor News, The Michigan Daily

This past September 2, The Economist (a magazine certainly not
left-wing by any stretch of the imagination) reported:
College fees have for decades risen faster than Americans’ ability to pay them.
Median household income has grown by a factor of 6.5 in the past 40 years, but
the cost of attending a state college has increased by a factor of 15 for in-state
students and 24 for out-of-state students.
The Goldwater Institute points to [...] rising prices and declining productivity:
administrative bloat. Between 1993 and 2007 spending on university bureaucrats
at America’s 198 leading universities rose much faster than spending on teaching faculty. [...] In some universities, such as Arizona State University, almost
half the full-time employees are administrators. Nearly all university presidents
conduct themselves like corporate titans, with salaries, perks and entourages to

[‘Declining by degree: Will America’s universities go the way of its car companies?’,  The Economist, Sep 2, 2010.]

Welcome to the University of Michigan

For many, the Ann Arbor campus of UM may have a
reputation as a liberal and even radical place. Visions of the John
Sinclair and the White Panthers, the SDS and its ground-breaking
civil rights work, and the tireless early advocates of antidiscrimination, anti-war, anti-prison, etc causes the town saw in the
1960s may come to mind. These figures and events all flourished
circa1960-75, but the town and the university since then have
been steadily left-leaning. The UM administration prides itself on
its progressive policies—it has implemented a ‘green construction’
policy that’s impressively ahead of the national curve, and was
steadfast in its defense of affirmative action, even after Proposal
2 made it illegal to consider race, religion, sex, etc in hiring or
admissions practice in 2006. The university also takes pride in
its commitments to social work, public health, social psychology,
etc (some of its most well-known and well-respected programs)
and supports a general ideology of community service. And Ann
Arbor itself is by all measures a left-leaning town—in the part of
town where I lived for several years, the candidates for city council
were from the Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the Socialist Party. Services available for low-(or no-)income people are well
above the national average, the schools, libraries, and parks are
well-funded and well-used. And living in this town, you will meet
all sorts of people of all ages who will strike you as open-minded,
interested in community and quality-of-life, tolerant, and encouraging of eccentricity and alternative lifestyles.

Yet don’t think that this makes the university any less business-minded, or the town any less beholden to corporate interest.
At some point, the progressive talk ends and the bottom line takes
over, and that means all sorts of cringe-inducing decisions designed to keep the university endowment and the local corporate
economy growing, at the expense of everything from community
groups to cultural institutions to human rights. As some of the

articles that follow will show, the university is a business, as is the
city, both with all the trappings of any other (massive) business.
Some extra money for the newest imacs, or for a pay increase for
the Chair of Medieval Studies, or for another new fake-brick and
drywall building to dazzle potential out-of-state students, will
always win out over other interests. And a higher slot in the latest U.S. News and World Report college rankings, or a few extra
percentage points in the graduation or job placement rate will
always win out over all other concerns. The university does its best
to appear open, democratic, and humanitarian, but it’s fully within
the global capital network, and staying ahead of the pack in this
network is its mandate and mission.
There are many reasons to ignore or overlook all of this. Everyone
entering or continuing in the university is going to be busy with
classes and with social life. And everyone will be made to feel like
they are too young, too inexperienced, too naïve, etc to begin their
real lives and trust their political impulses or social consciences
now. And you will hear many people will argue that the university
and the city must be ruthless and aggressive in pursuing it fiscal
interest—otherwise how do they stay ahead?—and you must stay
ahead and prove your excellence in order to get a good ranking, to
get a good job, to be successful and proud.
At some point though, the drive to sheer competition, to getting
more and better rankings and placements has to face up to one
simple question: is what I’m doing right?
Can the money spent on possibly unnecessary and extravagant
luxuries (such as provisions for  gourmet meals at North Quad)
be  better spent to defray tuition costs for economically strapped
Michigan students? What is the point of so much ultra-expensive
construction at the university at a time when education at the
university is slipping out of the reach of common Michiganders? 
Many lower-income people from Michigan can’t even afford to go
to school at U-M even when they are admitted.

David Leonhardt of the The New York Times reported on April 22,
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — At prestigious universities around the country, from
flagship state colleges to the Ivy League, more and more students from upperincome families are edging out those from the middle class, according to
university data.
The change is fast becoming one of the biggest issues in higher education.
More members of this year’s freshman class at the University of Michigan have
parents making at least $200,000 a year than have parents making less than the
national median of about $53,000, according to a survey of Michigan students.
At the most selective private universities across the country, more fathers of
freshmen are doctors than are hourly workers, teachers, clergy members, farmers
or members of the military — combined.
Experts say the change in the student population is a result of both steep tuition
increases and the phenomenal efforts many wealthy parents put into preparing
their children to apply to the best schools. It is easy to see here, where BMW
3-series sedans are everywhere and students pay up to $800 a month to live off
campus, enough to rent an entire house in parts of Michigan.
Over all, at the 42 most selective state universities, including the flagship
campuses in California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and New York, 40 percent
of this year’s freshmen come from families making more than $100,000, up
from about 32 percent in 1999, according to the Higher Education Research
Institute. Nationwide, fewer than 20 percent of families make that much money.
The recent increase has continued a two-decade trend that extends well beyond
the best-known colleges.
In 2000, about 55 percent of freshmen at the nation’s 250 most selective
colleges, public and private, were from the highest-earning fourth of households,
compared with 46 percent in 1985, according to the institute, which is based at
the University of California, Los Angeles.
The number from the bottom fourth dipped slightly over that period, while
those from the middle 50 percent fell sharply. In many cases, the less wealthy
students went to less selective schools, including lower-ranked campuses of state

According to «Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on
Higher Education,» by the National Center for Public Policy and
Higher Education, simply to ensure that a student attends a fouryear public university, a family in the country’s lowest-income
bracket now has to pay, on average, 55 percent of its total income
(up from 39 percent in 2000); for a middle-income family, the
average is 25 percent (up from 18 percent in 2000); and for an
upper-income family, 9 percent (up from 7 percent).
«Engines of Inequality,» a 2006 report by the Education Trust,
a national education advocacy and policy organization, found
that state flagship universities and a group of major research
universities spent $257 million in 2003 on financial aid for
students from families earning more than $100,000 a year. Those
same universities spent only $171 million on aid to students from
families who made less than $20,000 a year. Similarly, between
1995 and 2003, according to the report, grant aid from the same
public universities to students from families making $80,000 or
more increased 533 percent, while grant aid to families making
less than $40,000 increased only 120 percent.
LSA junior Erin Green wrote in a letter to the Michigan Daily
(published on April 15, 2009):
We need to focus on improving access to education here, or
making it easier to register for the classes you want or reducing
text book prices, not improving our recreation facilities when they
are already bigger and better than those of other schools.

Corporate Criminal Profiles: Rogue’s Gallery
U of M has a massive endowment, one of the ten largest of any
university in the country.  The collection of over 6,000 separate
investments provides the school with funding for a large portion of its
operating costs.  As of June 2009 the value of the endowment had fallen
to $6 billion dollars, down from $7.6 billion the previous year.  But just
who makes up the 6,000 different investments?  Here is a short list of
some of the more notorious companies the U is invested in.  All figures
here are from the 2008 Endowment Stock List.
Barrick Gold Corporation
    Barrick Gold is the world’s largest gold mining company. Like many
mining companies, Barrick has a dismal environmental record. They use
cyanide to separate the gold from the surrounding minerals, and at Lake
Cowal in Australia, the cyandide leached out of their dam and into the
environment. Elsewhere in Australia, near the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder,
they released seven tons of mercury into the surrounding area. They also
caused considerable heavy metal contamination at their Porgera mine
in Papua New Guinea. But don’t take our word for it, the Norwegian
government’s pension fund dumped $245 million of Barrick stock, after
the fund’s ethics council found «an unacceptable risk of contribution to
ongoing and future environmental damage.» Maybe we should follow
their lead, and drop our $11 million in cyanide and mercury tainted stock.
Berkshire Hathaway
    Berkshire Hathaway is the holding company of Warren Buffet, the
richest man to never produce anything. We own $6.4 million dollars
of stock in this company, which owns sweatshop operators Fruit of the
Loom, Russell Athletic, and Fechheimer Brothers, as well as 8.6% of
Coca-Cola. (See the article on Russell Athletics, which appears later in
the zine.)
   Why did the University pull a bait-and-switch to reintroduce Coke? I
can think of 1,483,608 reasons, and they each have George Washington’s
face on them.   (See the article on Coca-Cola later in this zine. )
BAE Systems, Northop Grumman, Raytheon
    What if a company produced a weapon that was illegal in ninty-four

countries? What if 98% of this weapon’s victims were civilians? What if
27% of its victims were children? What would you do if your university
had investment $3.2 million in this company? I speak of the ammunition
known as cluster bombs, and one of their manufacturers, BAE Systems.
We also invest an addition $450,304 in cluster bomb maker Northrop
Grumman, $815,713 in Thales, and $1.2 million in Raytheon, who
developed the delivery system. We’d be breaking the law in Belgium,
by the way. In 2007, they outlawed investing in companies that make
cluster bombs. The Norwegian government’s pension fund also excludes
Raytheon and Thales on humanitarian grounds.
    AstraZeneca is a pharmaceuticals company. They only make money
while their drug is protected by patent. When the patent was about to
run out on Omeprazole, their most successful drug, they re-patented it as
Nexium, the only change being the molecule was a mirror image. But in
the body, they are both converted to the same active molecule. Then, they
spent millions of dollars marketing Nexium as if it were a brand new
drug. They are also the subject of four class action lawsuits in Canada
and two in the US, when it turned out their anti-psychotic drug, Seroquel,
had the teensy side-effect of causing diabetes.  They have since indicated
they are seeking approval to market Seroquel as an anti-depressant. I
wonder how it affects our medical programs that $768,612 of your tuition
is invested in them. (Along with $x in other pharmaceuticals.) Also,
criticism of AstraZeneca was erased from Wikipedia by a user editing
from a computer registered to the company.
Big Finance
    The University put a ton of our money in finance, over $55 million
total. They do some curious things with the money, though. Citigroup, for
instance, has over a million dollars in investment from the U. In the 2008
election, they donated $320,000 to McCain and $657,000 to Obama. We
own $2.6 million of Goldman Sachs, and they gave $230,000 to McCain
and $980,000 to Obama. We own over two million in JPMorgan Chase
stock, and they gave $225,000 to McCain and $650,000 to Obama.
UBS has $2.5 million of our money, and they gave $182,000 to McCain
and $522,000 to Obama. It seems the people we invest in know a thing
or two about investment themselves. For instance, they know how to

    Further, big finance companies do creepy things with your money. For
instance, a prominent manufacturer of cluster bombs and anti-personnel
mines is Textron. We don’t own any Textron stock, but JPMorgan Chase
has $120 million invested in Textron. Similarly, we don’t own any
Lockheed Martin stock, but four banks we are invested in (JPMorgan
Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Mizuho Bank) form Lockheed’s
$1.5 billion revolving credit facility. Thales, another cluster bomb maker
whose stock we do own, recently got a $2 billion dollar loan from a
syndicate including U-M financed banks BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank,
and JPMorgan Chase. Other Thales-financing banks we’re invested in:
Barclays, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, HSBC, ING Bank, Lloyds
TBS, Sumitomo Mitsui, Societe Generale, and UBS.
Exact figures on campaign donations (for reference):
Citigroup Inc
Goldman Sachs
JPMorgan Chase & Co




On the Norwegian Government Pension Fund: The NGPF invests
Norway’s oil money. They have an ethics committee which determines
is a company poses an unacceptable risk of contributing to human
rights violations, environmental damage, etc. On their list of excluded
companies are nine companies we invest in, totaling over $13 million.
Also, we invest in two companies they have flagged for keeping a close
eye on.
Rio Tinto - 3902041
BAE Systems - 3202259
Finmeccanica - 186405
Thales - 815713
Boeing - 1196104
Northop Grumman - 450304
United Technologies - 900820
Raytheon - 1226904
Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold - 1996759
Total: $13,877,309


University Donors: Where the big money comes
If you’re in the business school, you might have had classes
in Sam Wyly Hall.  If you study architecture, chances are
you’re familiar with the name A. Alfred Taubman- the school
of architecture and the Health Care Center are named after
him.  What you might not have realized is that both of these
names have been dirtied with accusations of fraud.
Most recently, Sam Wyly and his brother Charles have been
accused of insider trading and securities fraud.  Whether
or not they are guilty will be up to a court of law, but the
Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released
a report in 2006 highlighting Mr. Wyly’s investment practices
as an elaborate abuse of tax laws, including purchases of a
$622,000 ruby and a $937,500 painting of Benjamin Franklin
with untaxed dollars.  In an interview with the Michigan
Daily, University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said the
U is “sorry to hear he is facing these difficult circumstances.”
Allegedly the pair utilizes a maze of 58 different shell and
trust corporations in the Isle of Man and Cayman Islands to
mask their activities.  The SEC has been investigating them
for six years owing to the complexity of the case.  Mr. Wyly
claims it’s a political issue, that it is “good politics to beat up
on big companies and rich people.”  Wyly himself has had
a great deal of political involvement, contributing $30,000
to the Swift Boat campaign against Sen. John Kerry in 2004
and around $4,000,000 to various arms of the Republican
machine in the last 20 years. * The Wyly brothers are accused
of profitting more than $550 million dollars from their
offshore activities.  According to the SEC, $8 million of Wyly’s
$10 million dollar contribution to the U of M came from
offshore funds.

Adolph Alfred Taubman, real estate mogul and billionaire,
has done time in the slammer.  In 2000 he was convicted of
price-fixing, a charge he still denies, and sentenced to 1 year
in prison with a $7.5 million dollar fine.  The prosecutors at
his trial claimed he schemed with his competitor at Christie’s
to steal over $400 million dollars in commissions from
sellers during a six year period.  His defense claimed he was
set up by a greedy employee.  At his trial, other real estate
executives claimed he was a simple businessman who fell
asleep at meetings and would not know how to construct
such an elaborate scheme. Still, the court found him guilty
and he served 9 and half months in a federal white-collar
Political science professor Edie Goldenberg argued at the
time of Taubman’s conviction that his name should be
removed from the buildings that it graces.  “I don’t think
that sets a wonderful example for the students,” Goldenberg
said.  “The University really ought to give the money back
and find other sources.”
*Source: Center for Responsive Politics, Washington Post


A Struggle in Solidarity with Others: Lessons from the Student
Campaign Battling Coca Cola
I became involved in a campaign to kick the Coca Cola company off the
UM campus because of their treatment of workers and the surrounding
community at their plants in India and Colombia.  
While walking one day through the university’s central quadrangle, I
saw undergraduates distributing fliers and accepted one. The flier asked
people to assemble in the University Union to work on creating and
assembling banners and posters for an upcoming demonstration, where
one of the Coca Cola company’s higher-ups was going to be speaking at
a panel discussion at the university’s business school. I went and found
several others making posters, and joined. Several others seemed to have
shown up in the same way I had. 
Some of the students were from different organizations, while some,
like me, were in no organization at all. Represented were Amnesty
International’s campus chapter, several environmental groups, Latino/
Hispanic student organizations and a group called Students Organizing
for Labor Equality. The range of groups that were able to form a
coalition reflected the range of problems the corporation posed. Coke
has bottling plants in Colombia, where several trade unionists have been
killed by paramilitary forces suspected of working in collusion with
plant managers. Several of the company’s plants in India are suspected
of contributing to groundwater depletion in surrounding areas. Coke
had also gained notoriety when a test by a non-profit environmental
organization allegedly proved that the bottled drinks the company sold
throughout India had high levels of pesticide.  
The demonstration was to be held at a «corporate social responsibility»
panel during a conference at the Business School and a representative
from Coke was going to be on the panel. The students organizing the
protest had decided to expose the Coke representative on the panel to an
innovative form of public ridicule. They had strung together many Coke
bottles and cans into a giant chain about fifty feet long.
After some debate, the group decided that a couple of students would
walk down to the stage without warning, and take a minute or two

explaining why they were protesting against Coke. It was hoped that
the element of surprise would provide just enough time for the students
to speak before the security guards could cart them off the stage.
Meanwhile, a group of students would silently parade up and down,
presenting the surreal spectacle of strung-up cans and bottles. This
“guerrilla theater” would, it was hoped, throw the event into disarray. 
On the day of the protest, we passed out informational fliers to those
attending. Our presence created, I think, a sense of anticipation on
campus that something interesting was about to happen. There certainly
was a palpable sense of tension in the air. When the students “rushed” the
stage there was a collective gasp from the audience. While the “rushers”
delivered their short speech, the rest paraded the chain with mock-solemn
silence. There was a murmuring ripple of laughter. 
These minimally disruptive actions completely changed, however, the
dynamic in the room: during the question-and-answer session, most
questions that the audience asked ended up being directly or indirectly
related to the concerns we had raised. We had strategically sprinkled
ourselves among the audience, with banners and posters on full display,
and asked pertinent questions. This demonstrated that the protesters
were not mindlessly disruptive, but were, instead, intelligent, thoughtful
members -- citizens -- of the university community. It showed that the
protesters were fluent both in the language of street protest and in the
language of the academy -- we communicated that we were participating
in the university’s own mission of critical thought and inquiry. We
succeeded in capturing the audience’s interest and attention by organizing
a protest that was inventive, innovative and combined performance art
and humor. 
The coalition was made up of many pre-existing student groups. It was
also a coalition or cooperation between similar campaigns at different
universities, as we coordinated activities and kept in touch. Campaigns
from different campuses were able to share ideas, discuss strategies, and
most importantly, draw inspiration and encouragement from success
on other campuses. The campaign itself represented a kind of coalition
activism as students on U.S. or Canadian campuses agitated about a
multinational company’s activities in Colombia and in India, while at
the same time large numbers of people in those countries were, also,
of course, actively agitating around these demands. Implicitly, then,

this was a coalition between “first worlders” and “third worlders,” the
relatively elite and the relatively underprivileged.  
Such a coalition, by its nature, raises an array of questions and issues. 
The students demanded that Coke not be allowed to sell its products
on campus, because, given its unethical conduct, this would violate
the university’s Vendor Code of Conduct. So, this was a consumer-led
protest -- not a consumer boycott, but a more focused, and potentially
more effective, resistance that demanded that the university be
accountable to its own stated goals. But could the students ethically
claim to speak on behalf of the affected people in India or Colombia?
In recognition of this challenge, the student campaign took a conscious
decision to play a supporting role, deferring to all decisions taken by
activists on the ground, remaining in constant communication with them. 
This proved easier in the Colombian case than in the Indian. In fact,
leading Colombian trade unionists were able to tour the county,
addressing audiences at well-publicized public meetings, which was not
possible for Indian activists because of the greater distance involved.
But we also found an ally in the India Resource Center, a nonprofit
organization in California, which is run by an Indian expatriate activist
who travels to the India regularly, thus serving as a communication
channel between activists in India, and the USA. 
Thus, the politics of the campaign were a politics of solidarity rather
than a politics of representation. Students were careful to avoid what is
always a potential pitfall when there is a coalition between the relatively
powerful and the relatively powerless -- the danger of  “appropriating”
the agency of others. For example, when a campus newspaper invited
student activists to write op-ed articles, the students insisted on giving
the Indian and Colombian activists space to write first-person narratives.
Likewise, on the campaign website, students provided posted statements
not only from the student campaign but also from the Colombian union
and peasants’ organizations in India. 
What did the students accomplish in the end? On the “legal” front,
students filed a complaint with the university’s Dispute Review Board
stating that Coke was in violation of the Vendor Code of Conduct. The
Dispute Review Board held public hearings at which both sides spoke

and concluded that there was reasonable ground to suspect that the
company was indeed in violation of the VCC. The Board recommended
that the company subject itself to further investigation, which Coke
refused to do. 
The university, under intense student pressure, cut their contract, at
which point Coke agreed, a few weeks later, to an «assessment» (its
chosen euphemism for an investigation). The university backtracked,
then restored the contracts while also arranging for an Indian nonprofit
research institute and the International Labor Organization (ILO) assess
the situation. The Indian assessment team submitted its report in January
2008, while the ILO’s assessment in Colombia is still continuing.
On the basis of the Indian team’s report, the university said that the
company was off the hook despite the report finding problems, especially
groundwater depletion at the site of Coke’s bottling plants. This finding
also provided activists in India with documentation. Thus, the students’
work has already led to some concrete results. 
Perhaps the most important result through this three-year-long agitation
at the university was the effect on the participating students themselves.
One student, for example, went to Colombia after graduation to work
with the Colombian labor union at Coke and then has returned to work as
a union organizer in the USA, while others are working for progressive
organizations or pursuing activist scholarship in graduate school. The
campaign has left an influence on the activists. These effects are being
felt in ways large and small as the participants move on to new projects
in the course of their post-university lives. 
In her ‘Confronting Empire’ speech in January 2003 in Porto Alegre,
Brazil, the Indian writer Arundhati Roy made a series of powerful
remarks towards the end of her speech. [1]  She said, «We can continue
to build public opinion until it becomes a deafening roar... Our strategy
should be not only to confront empire, but deprive it of oxygen. To
shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our music, our literature,
our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness...
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they
are selling -- ... their notion of inevitability. Another world is not only
possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.» 
The fight for another world, a better world, has to be fought and

won incrementally, inch by inch, person by person, even if it seems
tantalizingly close and almost within our reach. It will be won through
building coalitions and building solidarity. There was evidence of all
these aspects of successful struggle in this small and humble episode,
this one struggle among many unfolding today in the world, that I was
fortunate to witness and, to some extent, participate in. 
In June 2008, Frei Betto, the Brazilian liberation theologist, wrote: «I
think the best present would be to see new generations believing and
struggling for a better world, where solidarity is a habit, not a virtue;
where the practice of justice is an ethical demand, and socialism the
political name for love.» [2] The students at this U.S. university had
successful careers waiting for them after graduation. They did not have
to do what they did, and yet they did so, without thinking that they were
doing something exceptional. Solidarity, for these students, had – in Frei
Betto’s language -- become «a habit».  
If they could act in this way, others can, too -- and the ethical demand
whose name is “the practice of justice” can perhaps become universal
and omnipresent in a future world! 
1 Roy, Arundhati. “Confronting Empire” (Speech Given at World Social
Forum, January 27, 2003, in Porto Alegre, Brazil). Reprinted in: North
Bay Progressive Newspaper, Feb 25 - Mar 25, 2003.  
2 Betto, Frei. “14 de junio, 80 cumpleaños del Che Guevara: Mensaje de
aniversario” (“Message for Che Guevara’s 80th birthday on June 14”),
Granma, Cuba, 2008.


Co-ops: For Housing, Community, Economy,
and the World
Where are you living next year? You’ll probably start hearing
this question long before it seems to make any sense to start
thinking about it. You’ll most likely hear about two options.
There’s the dorms: social, includes a meal plan, yet exorbitantly
expensive and under the thumb of the university. Or you can
live in a private house or apartment, where you’ll save money
and have more freedom, but you have to shop and cook for
yourself, and you don’t get the built-in social life guaranteed by
the more densely populated residence halls.
That’s where the co-ops come in. Less than half the cost of
the dorms, about 30% cheaper than the average Ann Arbor
apartment, yet includes food—all the food you could possibly
want, any time of day or night—plus home cooked meals almost
every night, all your utilities, internet, laundry, cable, parking,
and more. The 18 ICC co-ops around Ann Arbor are all located
in easy walking distance from campus, including one huge
structure on North Campus housing 150 people. The co-ops
are pretty much the only game in town offering 4 and 8 month
contracts, so you don’t have to try to find a subletter when
you leave for the summer or study abroad. Plus, the co-ops
include that student/community/social-life-in-a-can aspect
that convinced you to sign your life away to University Housing
for your freshman year. Varying in size from 12 to 85 members,
each house has a unique culture and history. You’ll become
part of a genuine community, and you’ll meet friends that
you’ll keep for the rest of your life. Best of all, if you don’t like
something, you can change it—because the co-ops are 100%
owned and democratically controlled by the people living in
How is all this possible? Through the power of cooperatives.
A co-op is a business or organization that is collectively
owned and democratically controlled by the people it serves.
In the case of a housing co-op like the ones described above,
collective ownership means there’s no landlord making profits
off of your rent payments, and democratic control means you
decide as a community how much you’re going to pay and what
it’s going to be spent on. You decide what kind of food to buy,
what newspapers to subscribe to, when you’ll have meals,
and when you’ll have parties. Each member also contributes
about 4 hours of work a week to keep the house running. This
includes things like cooking, washing dishes, ordering food,
paying bills, and cleaning the house—things you’d have to do
anyway if you lived on your own. Everyone just pitches in a few

hours a week, and like magic, everything gets done—you get
meals cooked, food bought, dishes washed, bathrooms cleaned,
bills paid, trash taken, parties planned, and much much more.
The oldest co-op in Ann Arbor, Michigan House, was actually
the first student co-op in North America, founded in 1932 at
the height of the Great Depression. It served two purposes:
a way for low-income students to save money to be able to
afford being in school, and an experiment in putting values of
cooperation and democracy into practice. Today there are 18
student-run co-ops around Ann Arbor and hundreds more that
have sprung up all over the U.S. and Canada. The 18 Ann Arbor
co-ops are part of an organization called the Inter-Cooperative
Council, or ICC (, that is 100% owned and
controlled by its members, all of whom are residents and
most of whom are students. Students serve on the Board
of Directors, work in the office, and oversee maintenance,
property management and the finances of the organization,
with the help of a small staff hired by and accountable to the
membership. An organization called NASCO (North American
Students of Cooperation, represents the tens
of thousands of members of student and campus co-ops all
over the U.S. and Canada. The student co-ops are an amazing
way to save money, make friends, and learn things you could
never learn in a classroom, like how to get along with a diverse
group of people and how to run a multi-million dollar business.
But the cooperative movement is much larger than
student housing. There are many different kinds of co-ops
throughout the world, and each one is collectively owned and
democratically controlled by the people it serves. Food coops, like the wonderful People’s Food Co-op at the corner of
Fourth and Catherine in Ann Arbor, are grocery stores owned
and controlled by the people who shop there. They tend to
provide many more options for organic and local products
than traditional grocery stores, and PFC, which gives special
discounts to students, is no exception. Credit unions, like the
University of Michigan Credit Union in the basement of the
Michigan Union, are co-op banks owned and controlled by the
people who use their services. UMCU tends to provide better
rates and more people-friendly service than other local banks,
and it too has great deals for students.
Agricultural co-ops, which empower small farmers in the
developing world to compete with major agribusinesses and
maintain control of their own production and distribution, form
the foundation of the Fair Trade movement. By shopping at
exclusively Fair Trade coffee shops like Rendezvous Cafe on
South University, Cafe Verde at Fourth and Catherine, or any

of the coffee shops in campus buildings, or by asking for Fair
Trade at most other coffee shops in town, you can contribute
to the development of alternative systems of international
trade that use co-ops to achieve economic equality and justice.
And Fair Trade is not just for coffee: other products available
include tea, cocoa, bananas, flowers, wine, and even vodka.
But the co-op model most radically different from
conventional business, and most hopeful as a tool for economic
justice, is the worker-owned co-op. Worker-owned co-ops, like
Fair Trade distributor Equal Exchange, are businesses owned
and controlled by their workers. Instead of having owners or
outside shareholders who hire workers and then collect all the
profits, the workers in a worker co-op own the business they
work in, make business decisions in a democratic way, and
collect all the profits from their labor. Unlike in a conventional
business, where perverse incentives encourage employees to
work as little as possible without getting fired and thus require
owners to employ many layers of supervision, workers in a
worker co-op directly benefit when the business does well, and
so each one has an incentive to be productive. In a worker coop, profits are still desired, as all the workers benefit when the
business profits—but profits are not the true bottom line. The
bottom line is people. Profits are desirable only to the extent
that they benefit the people most affected. And decisions are
made by the people most knowledgeable about the business
operations, the workers themselves.
Since the worker co-op is a business model rather than a
system of government, it is one of the most hopeful tools the
world has for a better economy. Worker co-ops don’t require
a revolution—they function within the market economy. They
are a grassroots, bottom-up solution—one business at a time.
And since they are co-ops, they can plug in to the already huge
co-op movement: There are
almost a billion members of
co-ops in the world, including
40% of the US population. And
co-ops provide over 100 million
jobs worldwide—more than
multinational corporations!
There’s a lot more information
about worker co-ops on the
website of the US Federation
of Worker Cooperatives at Viva La

  Anti-Sweatshop Work
The Michigan logo is one of the most widely reproduced university
logos in the world. You may be wearing one now. You may even have
got that shirt for free. How did that logo get there, and what does the
University get out of it?
The University owns the logo, and only companies that the U
designates are allowed to use it. They pay royalties to the U for the
privilege of this license. During the licensing process, the U negotiates
with companies and dictates certain things; for instance, each licensing
agreement contains certain parameters for a given shirt’s quality, how
good its fabrics are, how high-quality the ink used, etc. That way, the
up-scale products come from a different company than the bargain
products. The point is, the licensing process is relatively complicated
and the U gets more than a passing chance to see who they’re dealing
with and how their licensed products will be made.
For a long time, labor and human rights were not considered in the
distribution and granting of licenses. But in 1999, students from SOLE
(Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality) occupied the
president’s office for two days in order to get labor and human rights
requirements in the license. The protest was successful, and since then
all licensees must agree that they would meet certain production and
labor right standards.
However, it turned out a lot of companies that produce licensed
products for all sorts of universities and sports teams didn’t follow the
license. Word got around that certain production companies had not
been meeting licensing standards (a fact which was bad for business)
and, in response, several groups were started to monitor licensed
groups. The apparel companies started a group called the Fair Labor
Association (FLA) to help monitor, while the unions formed their own
monitoring group, the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC). The U
initially sided with the (obviously more corporate friendly) FLA but,
after some efforts spearheaded by students, the U eventually became
a member of both groups.
During the early years of the two organizations, both together
inspected a hat factory in the Dominican Republic called BJ&B that
made Nike hats for a lot of universities, including us. The workers
formed a union, and Nike pulled their orders from the plant, moving
them to a different plant owned by the same company. BJ&B had to
close. Leaving factories because they unionize is the kind of thing
licensees specifically aren’t allowed to do. Nike noted that the FLA
could not conclude definitively that this had happened, despite the
fact that the WRC was unequivocal in its decision that it had. The U
went with Nike on the matter, not only keeping them on as the chief
producer of Michigan gear but also denying the reports of the WRC.

These sorts of problems happen all the time. The WRC came up with
a better program called the Designated Suppliers Program, in which
factories are pre-approved as having good working conditions, and we
tell licensees they have to pick one of the approved factories to make
our stuff. President Coleman refused this program, and, after years of
fruitless lobbying (including being shut out of the Board of Regent’s
meeting in 2005), students again occupied the president’s office in
2006. This time, they were arrested. «I don’t take demands from
students,» was the only comment from President Coleman.
Other problems arose around a loophole in the licensing agreement,
which states that only companies that print logos are subject to labor
standards while suppliers of the un-printed shirts, hats, etc are not.
For instance, Fruit of the Loom workers in the Dominican Republic
were notoriously poorly treated from the mid-2000s forward, when
increased competition brought the company to implement new, violent
measures to decrease organizing. Fruit of the Loom doesn’t have a UM
license, but a number of companies with a license buy their shirts and
print on them.
The U does respond positively to some violations of labor standards,
thank mostly to student efforts (especially the on-campus group
SOLE) over the past ten years. The most recent violation that
students protested was by Russell Athletic, which shut down a factory
in Honduras after workers, facing increasingly egregious working
conditions, began to organize. The U gave Russell a remediation plan
but soon learned the company had no plans to comply, eventually
dropping them and their license after they shut down another Latin
American plant that was trying to unionize. It was the second contract
to ever be cut for labor rights violations, after New Era was dropped
for their labor practices in 2003.
How can you buy a U-M shirt that wasn’t made in a sweatshop?  The
Barnes and Noble bookstore in the Union sells a Knights Apparel
line called «Alta Gracia» that is made in a factory with higher labor
standards than the rest.  The factory’s conditions are in accordance
with DSP standards, and it is located where the old BJ&B factory in
the Dominican Republic was, providing jobs to the community that lost
them when Nike closed its factory.  Go ahead, buy Michigan apparel
with a healthy conscience!
Also, if you’re looking for sweat-free clothing for your student
group, consider ordering through FairTees.  FairTees is a student
organization dedicated to connecting student groups with ethical and
environmentally-friendly clothing.  Check it out at


Ann Arbor, City without Communities
In general, Ann Arbor is an upper-middle class city with a median
household income of about $85,000 (versus a national median of
$52,000). If you do an extensive tour of town, you might be surprised by
the number of upper-middle class households and the relative lack of
working class or lower-middle class ones (this will be especially apparent
to people coming from the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, or Lansing areas,
since all three of these cities have population sizes vaguely comparable
to Ann Arbor’s). This is due not only to the presence of the university,
which supplies quite a few people with upper-middle class incomes (in
households that tend to be small), but also to the extensive research and
development economy the city hosts. In addition to the hospital—which
is fully a part of the University—various chemical, biotech, and medical
research companies that employ highly specialized, highly paid workers
are based in Ann Arbor. The prices of housing and real estate are
extremely high, relative not only to the national average but also to other
cities in Michigan, substantially beating out such suburban enclaves as
Auburn Hills or Canton. (Out of cities in Michigan of more than 50,000
Ann Arbor is the most expensive, and by no small measure.) This means
that most of the non-professional population of Ann Arbor rents, a fact
especially true downtown, in the areas surrounding campus, and on
the expansive west side of town. This in turn means that there are few
people with a stake in long-term community life in Ann Arbor, a condition
furthered by the overwhelming transience of young people in town.
Ann Arbor’s minority enclaves and lower-income spaces have dwindled
over the past thirty years. For example, the area around Wheeler Park
and the Amtrak station was not long ago a neighborhood of working class
families, many of them black and (later) Hispanic, until it was reclaimed
by developers over the past three decades who have rehabbed singlefamily houses and split them into apartments to rent to grad students and
young professionals, built half-million dollar condominiums for health and
research professionals, and even tried to put up high rises in the middle
of these neighborhoods.[1] This has forced lower-income families to the
distant corners of the city, to apartment complexes at the end of bus lines
without any neighborhood support systems.[2]
The story of gentrification is familiar, but it’s not often mentioned how
damaging for the health of a community the removal of all lower-income
housing to a city’s peripheries can be. Gentrification and the removal of
all lower-income people from a city mean a change in the meaning of
the word, ‘community.’ Professionals have smaller families and fewer
children; they have enough money to make sure their kids go to good

schools and have enough supplies; they have enough money for health
care, and so forth. No one is in need and everyone is too busy with
careers, running kids to school and baseball practice, etc, to socialize
much with neighbors, and relationships are primarily economic as a
result: one knows the local barista because he serves you coffee, the
local butcher because she gets your bacon, the yoga teacher because
he teaches your Thursday morning class, etc. Even the ‘public’ places
and events (e.g. Top of the Park or the libraries) are funded from on high,
not from autonomous grass roots community initiatives. The general
mindset is that donating money and trusting the local government to take
care of all social issues will take care of all the city’s problems and make
Ann Arbor a wonderful liberal place.
Once an administration no longer has to meet its citizens’ demands and
its communities’ needs, the only thing they look to do is grow, and that’s
where Ann Arbor is at now. All these well-off people have secure presents
and their futures look secured, all these renters are worried about paying
their next month’s rent (or preparing to move to bigger cities), and all the
lower-income people with childcare, health care, and education needs
are pushed far away from the eyesight of most residents. In general,
Ann Arbor residents are willing to throw money at some causes, but few
seem interested in anything that goes beyond professional or personal
comfort zones—don’t want to work directly with people, don’t want to mix
with those outside of my class or race, don’t want to risk noncompliance
with any state or federal regulations, and definitely not willing to stop and
rethink what we’re doing and why.
This is the current state of Ann Arbor’s communities. We need your help
to imagine something better.

Some case studies: Ann Arbor’s priorities
A few years ago, a group of homeless people who had been turned away
from the Ann Arbor homeless shelter, the Delonis Center, decided to
start a tent city in un-used city land behind a shopping center. The tent
city, called Camp Take Notice, was not meant to be just another flopping
ground for vagrants, but was rather designed as an autonomous, drugand alcohol-free community with a long list of rules and bylaws. They
held regular meetings and made decisions democratically, and during
their existence were able to handle all problems among residents from
within the community. As their name indicates, their stated goal was to
provide a model of a working homeless community and bring attention
to the issue of homelessness to the larger Ann Arbor community. They
wanted to publicize the fact that the existing facilities in Ann Arbor, while
useful and effective to an extent, were insufficient to meet the needs
of the homeless population. And above all, they looked to protest the
criminalization of homelessness in the United States.
On September 2, 2009, Michigan state troopers raided the organization’s
site, arresting the founder of the camp for trespassing and ordering
the rest of the residents to leave immediately—even wheeling up two
Department of Transportation dump trucks and threatening to dispose of
their tents and belongings if they didn’t leave in good time. Their leader,
Caleb Poirier, was arrested for trespassing and taken off to a Washtenaw
County jail. There had been no complaints from neighbors to spark the
raid, and the land was not set to be reclaimed or repurposed by the
state, but the residents didn’t own the land and hence were considered
‘trespassers’ on it. Since they were homeless and owned no land, there
was, in fact. no place in the entire state of Michigan where they could
sleep for free without being considered trespassers. The state had no
further plans for them, didn’t have a shelter lined up, or an alternative
location—but removed them and their quiet community from the unused, low visibility land and put them back on the street. In the days that
followed, the city cleared trees and other shade from the land to ensure
that the camp wouldn’t return, and warned the group not to set up shop
at another location within Ann Arbor city limits. Charges were pursued
against Poirier until a series of high-profile protests by ACLU lawyers
brought Washtenaw County to drop the case in January 2010, more than
five months after the initial arrest.
Just a few weeks ago, a large diverse group of dozens of travelers,
musicians, adventurers, etc came to Ann Arbor for the annual mid-August
‘Punk Week,’ in which locals put on concerts, workshops, spectacles,
and other events for any and all travelers willing to make the trip to
AA. A group of twenty or thirty of these travelers were barbecuing in

Bandemeer Park (off of N Main St alonge the Huron River), when an Ann
Arbor squad car came by and told them to disperse. Complaints about
the travelers had come in, and the cops wanted them to leave the park
immediately. Some of the travelers protested, and a few were quickly
arrested on dubious charges of refusing to leave the park (a public park). 
A fracas followed, in which police tackled and violently restrained a
fleeing female, and seven people were ultimately arrested.
Local lawyers stepped up to defend the arrested travelers, working pro
bono and citing clear police prejudice against their age and appearance
as their reason for involvement. The story was picked up by the local
media outlet,, and sparked some debate about whether
or not Ann Arbor should tolerate punk week and the travelers that came
with it. The debate was about whether or not, and how much, the scruffylooking travelers might threaten business and make the streets less
pedestrian friendly. At a city council meeting held while punk week was
still going on, punk week was on the agenda and City Administrator
Roger Fraser declared that the event had become ‘quite a nuisance’
and brought ‘rampages’ and ‘other unmentionable activities’ to town.
More discussion followed on websites and other outlets, and the general
consensus was that the city should put their foot down and no longer
allow itself to be abused and taken for granted by these travelling kids.
Other disagreed and thought they should be tolerated, or perhaps treated
as charity cases.
What seems to have been lost in all this was the question of the law.
It’s unclear what ‘rampages’ and ‘unmentionable activities’ Fraser was
referring to—especially since nobody was ever accused of, let alone
charged with such actions—and the debate was centered on whether or
not body odor and scruffy appearance was bad for businesses relying
on foot traffic, not whether or not travelers broke laws or were becoming
dangerous. In other words, what the city council, the police, and
concerned citizens were aiming at was the systematic harassment and
driving off of a particular ‘population’—though one that it couldn’t charge
with any actual crimes or legal transgressions—that it saw as bad for
In the end, the travelers pled guilty and their sentences were all limited
to the week in jail they had already served while awaiting their court
date. Perhaps this had to do with the pressure on the city and the police
department that the lawyers threatened, or perhaps it was merely due to
the fact that punk week was over, and most of the travelers already gone,
so that the city could relax with the threat of the punks having passed.
In any case, it seems like a good introduction to the famously ‘liberal’
town you’re now living in: if a few businesses claim that they’re selling
a bit less than normal, or if a few citizens complain about someone’s
body odor, the city will step up, invent reasons to arrest people and
have its administrators and politicians advocating selective, prejudiced

enforcement of the law.
To be fair, in both these instances, many citizens responded to the
arrests quickly, raising lawyers and putting pressure on the city to deal
with the matters fairly. Ann Arbor is indeed still a liberal place, but the
liberal community has become reactionary, relying on gross abuses of
the law to take a stand against corporatism and encourage community
There are a number of organizations, collectives, co-ops, etc in Ann
Arbor now that are looking to counter the effects of consumerism; some
of these are explicitly dedicated to community-building and offer free
classes and opportunities for cooperative work.  Others offer alternatives
to ethically compromised agribusiness, sweatshop-reliant retail chains,
and other non-sustainable businesses.
Ann Arbor’s most promising recent development has been the growth
of a handful of different groups looking to spread knowledge and
share skills free of charge to all members of the community. Most are
consciously opposed to commercial models and look to foster community
by teaching skills
The Ann Arbor Free Skool: relatively new, growing organization
dedicated to offering free classes and workshops on a variety of DIY
skills from beer-brewing to bee-keeping to furniture-building to Tai Chi to
wilderness survival. They also throw really fun ‘DIY Fests’ every month or
two with food, bands, art projects, and workshops. Everything is free, and
they’re always looking for more people to get involved. Check ‘em out on
Facebook for a calendar, upcoming events, or to get involved.
Common Cycle: free bike collective along the lines of Detroit’s The Hub
or Chicago’s Recyclery. Show up with a broken or damaged bike, and
they supply tools, know-how, and even (some) parts to fix it up and get
it back on the road. They hope to have a permanent location soon and
host classes and bike-builds in addition to their usual repair services.
Currently held on Sundays from 10-3 at the Kerrytown Artisan Market,
407 North 5th Ave. Look for their banner and cart.
All Hands Active! (AHA): a group of hackers, electronics wizards, and
‘makers’ who build everything from robots to Halloween costumes. They
do collaborative projects but also host ‘build nights’ in which anyone

can come and work on individual projects. They also offer classes and
workshops on different subjects. Currently meeting Thursdays from 7:30p
‘til you’re tired of making at Ann Arbor’s underground gamers’ den, Digital
Ops (525 E Liberty).

SOLE: Dedicated activist group working for labor rights; connected with
other groups and chapters at other universities, and working in solidarity
with the labor groups whose causes they publicize; see the article on
sweatshops above for information on some of their work

Ann Arbor Food Not Bombs!: Food Not Bombs! is a revolutionary
activist organization dedicated to ending poverty, war, and imperialism
worldwide.  First started in Massachusettes in 1980, Food Not Bombs!
has spread to hundreds of cities across the Americas, Europe, Asia,
Africa, Australia and the Middle East.   They protest governments that
allow the continuation of hunger and poverty while spending billions
every year on weapons and war.  Food Not Bombs! shares free
vegetarian and vegan meals to advocate democratic and decentralized
access to food in the community.  Food comes from donations from local
gardeners, supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, farmers and wasted
food that is reclaimed.  Ann Arbor Food Not Bombs! serves weekly meals
at Liberty Plaza, Sundays from 6 to 8.  To get involved, contact

Student Sustainability Initiative: Blanket organization encompassing a
number of environmental causes and sub-groups, from ride-sharing on
campus to education about local agriculture; with a group that size, be
careful to separate the sustainability from the green-washing, but they’re
active and contain many options or visit the Ann Arbor Food Not Bombs!
facebook page. 

Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice: Collaboration between
various non-profit community organizations promoting environmental and
anti-war causes, as well as smaller scale, community-based initiatives;
urges both people of faith and secular people of conscience to act on
their moral and social values

There are a ton of on-campus groups for all sorts of niches, and this
list is not only woefully incomplete but also fairly random. University
groups tend to be less grass-roots than non-university-affiliated ones,
but the point is to be aware of the variety of groups--and to be careful in
researching which groups you want to be a part of. Also don’t hesitate to
shop around; be confident that you’ll eventually figure out how to apply
your energies and talents to causes that fit them.

The F-Word: Feminist organization dedicated to dispersing the ideals of
women’s equality throughout campus
Global Zero: Group looking to eliminate nuclear weapons world-wide
Union of Progressive Zionists: Advocates and works towards a
peaceful two state solution in the Middle East

Good’ businesses
One of the best things about Ann Arbor is that it is relatively easy to
support ‘good’ businesses (and even ‘good’ chain stores—which do
exist!). There are local, sustainable options for everything from where
you get your pizza to where you get your nails done to where you buy
the seeds for your garden. This guide will not list many of them—you can
find them yourself, just ask around!—but we would like to take a moment
to remind you of the importance of supporting them. Corporate practices
employ unethical, unsustainable practices ubiquitously to produce cheap
and convenient products, but corporations will listen if we stop buying
their products and demand more ethical and sustainable production
practices. Putting pressure on companies due to lost revenue or bad p.r.
can immediately prevent everything from the destruction of endangered
habitats in India to the murder of organizers in Honduras (see the
above article on sweatshops). The battles against some of the worst
injustices in the nation and world today can be fought just be buying one
reasonable, sustainable product instead of a compromised one.
And also remember that small, local businesses alone can offer
innovative, alternative models of production and show new ways of
producing food, clothes, etc that have less damaging effects on the

community and beyond.
All in all, supporting ‘good’ business may not be as sexy as a revolution
but it could also, conceivably, have as big of an impact.
With that in mind, here are a few businesses—some innovative, some
old as the hills—that offer alternative models to the dominant corporate
We’ve all been in them but may forget that they’re essentially turning
garbage into meals for homeless people, school supplies for kids, etc. In
offering their goods at greatly discounted rates, they also supply clothes
and household products to low-income families who would otherwise
struggle to afford them. Here are the local ones:
Salvation Army, 1621 S State St:
A behemoth of a store, frequently patronized by frat kids ‘slumming’ it but
also essential for lower-income families on the south side of town. Not
an easy store to navigate—clothes aren’t arranged by size and there’s
virtually no in-store help—but it’s by far the biggest thrift store in the area
as well as the closest one to campus. Also on the cheaper end of thrift
stores. (Note: the Salvation Army itself is a religious organization that
uses a strange combination of Bible-based Protestantism and military
jargon to ‘reform’ homeless people and drug addicts who come to their
shelters. It’s not coercive, though, and does indeed help lots of homeless
people; many communities would be much worse off without their help.)
PTO, 2280 South Industrial Highway:
Smaller store that only puts out higher-end goods (i.e. no double-XL
hoodies with mustard stains on the wrists). Small enough that you can
actually see their whole selection in a fifteen-minute browse. Much less
of a campus crowd here, though it’s only a few blocks from the Salvation
Army. Proceeds go to the Parent-Teacher Organization of Ann Arbor, all
of which goes to AA public schools.
Value World, 345 North Maple Road:
Big, well-stocked store, mostly clothes. Privately run, though I think they
get most of their clothes from charity organizations.
Kiwanis, 200 S 1st St:
Only open on Saturday mornings. Fun, chaotic place to go to, with
a great selection and good bargains. But again: ONLY OPEN ON
SATURDAY MORNINGS. Run by the local chapter of Kiwanis, a
volunteer organization that supports and funds various charities

ReUse Center, 2420 South Industrial Highway: For larger items and
household things like doors, pipes, roofing, etc. Also has a large
selection of books, electronics, and kitchen stuff. Run by the city, it’s
become relatively expensive but still quite a discount from the hardware
store. For home repair supplies, check out the Habitat for Humanity
ReStore, 170 Aprill Drive (a few miles west of town).
Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA):
Ann Arbor’s proximity to good ol’ Midwestern farmland means that it
provides a number of CSA opportunities. CSAs are farms supported
by members of the community (thus the name!), who buy a share in
the farm and receive a portion of its produce in exchange. Essentially
a farm co-op. Some of them require that members or share-holders (or
simply sharers) work on the farms, though others don’t ask for anything
more than a check. There are a few year-round and winter-time CSAs in
the area but most go from approximately May to November. Here are a
few, but there are more out there that offer different goods and different
-Community Farm of Ann Arbor,
-Tantre Farm
-Garden Works
In addition, there are a number of community gardens that produce food
for blocks or neighborhoods. (Note: for those interested in community
agriculture, a trip to Detroit is essential. Because of large amount of
vacant land in Detroit, the city has become a beacon of urban agriculture,
with a number of small farms within the city limits offering fresh healthy
produce to various neighborhoods which otherwise would have mostly
corner stores and fast food chains as options for food. There are also a
number of places working to educate Detroit residents to grow their own
food in vacant areas around the city. Earthworks Urban Farm is a good
place to start)
Farmer’s Market, 315 Detroit St (at 5th Ave and Kingsley):
Only open Saturdays and Wednesdays from 7a-3p. Produce and other
goods from local farms. Some of it is expensive, but you can always find

a deal, and you can ask the farmers all about where it’s from and how
they produced it. Also features some small businesses doing innovative
things with local food. (Note that the same space is used for other
markets other days of the week)
The People’s Food Co-op (PFC), 216 N Fourth Ave:
Initially started as a barebones co-op designed to bring produce to
students and lower-class families, the PFC is now a large and attractive
store. Unfortunately, it’s also an expensive place that makes most of
its money selling corporate organic products (Morning Star, Stonyfield,
etc—all owned (though not necessarily run) by massive food companies
like Danon and Coke). Though technically a co-op, paying for their large
facility in prime Ann Arbor real estate compromises their ability to offer
affordable fresh products to the community. It’s by all means better than
having a Kroger at the same location, and most of the store’s products
are miles better than the average big grocery store. Students can get
tasty organic lunch for three or four bucks at the food bar (or more likely
at the pre-packed fridge case), and it’s vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Maybe a disappointment to those wanting a real grass roots co-op, but
it’s open pretty late and you can trust most of their products.
Local radio stations WCBN (88.3) and WEMU (89.1) are both
community-run, non-commercial stations whose DJs and programmers
play what they want to play. ‘EMU is more conservative, supplying the
area with jazz, blues, and roots programs most nights of the week, and
also running the more popular NPR shows (This American Life, Wait
Wait!, etc) during the weekends and some days.  ‘CBN is run mostly by
students, with some shows here and there run by various non-university
locals, and the programming is generally more experimental, cutting
edge, etc (though not always—you’ll still run into a sports talk show or
an hour block of classic rock here and there). I’m guessing 90% of music
lovers in town list CBN as their favorite station—and you’re guaranteed
never to hear an ad for Red Bull, Monster, or Amp’d on it.
There are also a handful of small, locally run record stores and
bookstores. Most are staffed by people who know what’s up and can turn
you on to stuff that’ll get you going. Some of the good ones are:
Wazoo records: 336 1/2 S. State, above Bivouac. Great staff, used and
new CDs and some records
Underground Sounds: 255 East Liberty St. Knowledgeable and friendly
Encore Recordings: 417 East Liberty St. Mostly used records and CDs;

best in town for vintage LPs
Dawn Treader: 514 East Liberty St. Prototypical used bookstore with a
good selection, though not always the cheapest source of books
David’s Books: 516 East William: Smaller and generally a little cheaper
than Dawn Treader
Cross St Books: 523 W Cross St Ypsilanti: chaotic bookstore staffed
exclusively by its eccentric owner; best-quality selection in the area
Nicola’s Books: 2513 Jackson Ave. Not close to downtown, but the only
place for new books in town where the staff actually seems to enjoy
reading and knows anything about books (and not just Tom Clancy); your
other options are Border’s and Barnes and Noble
Note on shows: more well-known indie touring acts come to the Blind
Pig, the Elbo Room in Ypsi, and the Majestic/Magic Stick in Detroit. More
cutting-edge, DIY-minded local and touring acts tend to play at one of a
handful of lesser-known venues. Keep your eyes pealed for shows at Far
House, Arbor Vitae, and the Yellow Barn.
[1] A decade-long neighborhood rights campaign against the plans of
development company, Three Oaks, to build a series of high rise condos
along N Main St by Felch St has, along with the help of the foreclosure
crisis, temporarily succeeded.
[2] These complexes are on all sides of the city. There are large
complexes along Packard and Stone School on the south and southeast
edges of town, to the north along Pontiac Trail and Nixon Rd, etc.

“We can continue to build public opinion until it becomes
a deafening roar... Our strategy should be not only to
confront empire, but deprive it of oxygen. To shame it.
To mock it. With our art, our music, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer
relentlessness... The corporate revolution will collapse if
we refuse to buy what they are selling -- ... their notion of
inevitability. Another world is not only possible, she is on
her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
--Arundhati Roy

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