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August 31, 2007

Is There Any Fun Left in College?

It’s been said, “If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.” Well, I was there and I remember. Especially I recall how anxious I was to get back to college each September. One reason was long, hot summers as a bricklayer’s helper. My dad was that bricklayer and he knew what he was doing. Able to claim only six years of schooling himself, he made sure his boys knew the alternatives to a college degree. Come late August, I was always eager to resume the life of a fraternity “man,” which included plenty of beer, tobacco (and other leafy combustibles) and music (played very loud and very fast). Oh, yeh… and occasional classes.
The release of the Virginia Tech Panel Report last week could not have been better timed to cast a cloud over the hundreds of thousands of young Americans who headed off to our colleges and universities during the same timeframe. The good news is that most universities haven’t waited to review the report’s recommendations. Most that I know have behaved like Penn, which recently reported the creation of a new communication network with which campus security can simultaneously alert every blackberry, cell phone, computer and other electronic gizmo owned by every student, staffer and faculty member, when evil is afoot on the West Philly campus.
As scary as a crazed shooter is, binge drinking remains a far more serious threat on most campuses. The website www.kidshealth.org defines binge drinking as, “the consumption of five or more drinks in a row by men — or four or more drinks in a row by women — at least once in the previous 2 weeks. Heavy binge drinking includes three or more such episodes in 2 weeks.” Sometimes binge drinking results in alcohol poisoning. Occasionally that ends in death. USA Today recently put the number of alcohol-related deaths on U.S. college campuses at 620 since January 1, 2000. Most were the result of guzzling a lot of liquor. Some were more bizarre.
The cake-taker seems to belong to Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where four intoxicated students shoved a pair of Roman candles under the bedroom door of their friend and fellow student. The “joke” resulted in 16 fireballs, each burning fiercely at about 1500 degrees, blasting into the sleeping lad’s room. His buddies hot-footed themselves downstairs, where they gleefully waited outside for their enraged schoolmate to emerge cursing from his bedchamber.
Instead, what they saw as they stood on the front lawn was the bedroom window glowing orange. While a girlfriend dialed 911, the pranksters tried to rescue the target of their practical joke. They were driven back by the intense heat. Meanwhile, the boy in the bedroom died of smoke inhalation. The jokesters are charged with felony arson for the August 12th tragedy.
Both the VTU massacre and recent alcohol-related deaths have sparked intense debate within the higher education industry. Many of us who work in that industry believe that we must reassess how we handle risk management on our campuses. Think about it: a college campus is in essence a small town --- some universities might qualify as small cities --- populated primarily by 18-20 year-olds. They have to be safely housed, fed, entertained, … oh, yeh, and educated.
“Animal House” has become an American film classic. The movie may also be well on its way to becoming an American artifact. Don’t misunderstand me. Plenty of booze will be guzzled on the nation’s campuses again this academic year. But the winds of change are blowing across many college quads. Indictments of some students and even administrators, when alcohol abuse resulted in student fatalities, are having their impact. Additionally, a predictable trickle-down effect from the heightened security-consciousness following the VTU tragedy is a general tightening up of law enforcement in higher ed.
The students were still excited when they came to our campuses last week. If we do it right, they won’t notice many of the new security steps we’ve taken, such as closed-circuit cameras at key locations. But many will encounter a panoply of new rules and regulations, ranging from tougher sanctions for alcohol violations to the imposition of resident directors in Greek houses.
Yes, Virginia, there is still fun to be had at college. But the light-hearted irresponsibility of the “Animal House” era… my era… is gone for good.
--- Jim Castagnera

August 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

VTU Professor's Comments Raise Provost's Interest

A VTU business prof, who used the massace as an example in a lecture on risk, got his next class visited by the university's provost. Now the professor, Vittorio Bonomo, is complaining that his academic freedom is being chilled. The university says it's just being sensitive to student feelings. Read all about it in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

August 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Increased use of adjuncts

This from one of my colleagues on Law Prof Blogs:

Increase Use of Adjuncts At Community Colleges

The Courier News Online has an article entitled Central Jersey Community Colleges See Rise In Adjuncts, which as the title implies is about the increasing use of adjuncts in community colleges. The numbers of adjuncts used at community colleges is astonishing. As the article states:
At Central Jersey community colleges, 74 percent of the faculty at Raritan Valley Community College in the North Branch section of Branchburg are adjunct professors; 70 percent are adjunct professors at Middlesex County College in Edison; and 59 percent are adjunct professors at Union County College in Cranford.
"There are large numbers of part-time faculty at all three colleges, which is unfortunately quite common for community colleges nationwide," Curtis said, noting the national average for community colleges in fall 2005 was 66 percent of all faculty employed part-time -- another word for adjuncts.
While I do not know the exact numbers, I believe a trend exists in our nation's law schools to increase the number of adjuncts. While I am all for adjunct employment, a law school and a good college needs a core group of full-time faculty who will be there for the students. If a school employs too many adjuncts, that says something about the school. Faculty shape the school. Committee and curriculum work is important.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein

August 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

Charges dropped

Hazing charges dropped against Rider officials
Posted by The Times of Trenton August 28, 2007 11:43AM
Categories: News
A Superior Court judge dismissed aggravated hazing charges against two Rider University administrators Tuesday, after prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence to convict the pair.

Judge Maria Sypek dismissed the fourth-degree felony indictments against Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley, who were charged August 3 along with three students in the alcohol poisoning death of fraternity pledge Gary DeVercelly Jr.

In a motion filed Friday, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini asked Sypek to dismiss the charges against the pair.

"Simply stated, there is insufficient evidence to substantiate a finding, beyond a reasonable doubt, that either Campbell or Badgley acted either knowingly or recklessly with respect to the indictment that resulted in serious bodily injury to (DeVercelly and freshman) William (Williams,)" the motion read.

Contributed by Darryl Isherwood.

August 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 27, 2007

Charges Likely to be Dropped in Alcohol-Death Case

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A prosecutor on Monday asked a judge to drop aggravated hazing charges against two Rider University officials in a case involving the drinking death of a fraternity pledge.

Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini declined to say why he filed the motion to dismiss charges against Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley. He said he wanted first to explain the decision to the judge at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted the administrators and three Rider students on aggravated hazing counts in connection with the death of freshman Gary DeVercelly Jr., 18, of Long Beach, Calif.

DeVercelly had a blood-alcohol level of 0.426 percent, more than five times New Jersey's legal limit for driving, when he was pronounced dead March 30, authorities have said. He died one day after drinking at a party at the Phi Kappa Tau house on the private school's campus in central New Jersey.

A grand jury indicted Campbell, 52 and Badgley, 31, along with Adriano DiDonato, 22, a student who was also the residence director and house master of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house; Dominic Olsen, 21, pledge master of Spring 2007 Phi Kappa Tau pledge class; and Michael J. Torney, 21, the chapter president.

Campbell's attorney, Rocco Cipparone Jr., said Bocchini had no choice but to move to dismiss the charge against his client.

"From my reading of the grand jury transcripts, there's a complete absence of probable cause," Cipparone said. He attributed the indictment to "a groundswell of determination to indict higher-up administrators without factual basis."

Neither Badgley nor her attorney could immediately be reached for comment.

If convicted, Campbell, Badgley and the three students each face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. All have pleaded not guilty.

The two officials were believed to be the only college administrators charged criminally in a hazing death, and college administrators across the nation have been paying close attention to the indictments.

Attorney Douglas Fierberg, who has been retained by DeVercelly's parents, told The Times of Trenton for a story on its Web site Monday that the family was not happy that the prosecutor was seeking to drop charges against the administrators.


(Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

August 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2007

Not exactly higher ed law... but for what it's worth

Higher Ed Law editor Jim Castagnera writes a weekly newspaper column called "Attorney at Large." Here's his new column for the week ahead... for what it's worth:

Human Life on the Discount Table
By
James Castagnera
For weeks we’ve been riveted by the unsuccessful search for six coal miners trapped in a Utah mine. Three rescuers died attempting to locate the half dozen men, while the national news media reported every borehole, every sound probe, and every statement by the mine owner and his critics. A nation of more than 300 million shared to some extent the anxiety of the miners’ families and friends.
Meanwhile, a mine disaster in China, which killed 181, received only passing mention in American news media. National Public Radio noted that on average 13 miners die every day in China. That’s more than 4700 miners every year.
Many years ago a New York newspaper editor told a cub reporter, “When a dog bites a man, that’s not news. When a man bites a dog, that’s news.” The commonplace is discounted. Adam Smith’s invisible hand manipulates the marketplace of information as it manipulates the global economy. In other words, when there’s a lot of something, each individual item is worth less than if the item were rare. This goes for news items as well as manufactured goods.
It goes for human lives, as well.
To me this constitutes a cautionary tale. Consider murder. Homicide is a rarity, thank heavens, here in Havertown. When one spouse stabbed the other in a mattress shop on West Chester Pike a few years ago, the killing was headline news. Meanwhile, a mere dozen miles down that same road, in Philadelphia, 400 murders a year is the norm. Philly’s politicians wring their hands in public now and then, but not much of significance is being done about the body count. The poor of Philadelphia are many and they individually are little valued. In our middle class community, every life still seems to matter.
In America mine disasters are rarities. The news media report on them relentlessly when they occur. Murders are commonplace: 579 in the Big Apple by Christmas Eve last year; 464 in LA, as Los Angelinos awaited Santa’s arrival. The killings get noted only in passing on the AM radio news stations. The same, I assume, can be said of the Chinese media’s reporting of industrial deaths.
This brings me to another interesting statistic you may have missed. “While the military ‘quagmire’ in Iraq was said to tip the scales of power in the U.S. midterm elections, most Americans have no idea more of their fellow citizens – men, women and children – were murdered this year (2006) by illegal aliens than the combined death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since those military campaigns began.” This comes to us compliments of Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa, via a Washington reporter named Joe Farah, who adds, “If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. That's 21,900 since Sept. 11, 2001.”
[http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53103] I offer this in passing for whatever you think it’s worth.
Last October the official U.S. population reached 300 million. Nobody really knows the number of illegal aliens in the country but 12 million gets bandied about as if we do know. Proponents of a path toward legalization for these folks often argue that, except for Native Americans, we’re all descended from immigrants. Carried to its extreme, that thinking leads to conclusions like: because companies and cities were once free to dump their untreated waste into their rivers, they shouldn’t be subject to clean-water laws now, or that because hunters once drove buffalo and eagles and wolves to near-extinction, it ought to be open season again today. The “we’re all immigrants” argument makes no sense at all.
Times change. Populations grow. Lives become discounted. When uncountable aliens move among us… when the faceless poor are preyed upon by gang members and drug dealers (and, apparently, by some of those faceless illegals) in our cities… when their stories slip silently into the “dog bites man” category… then I think every one of us slips imperceptibly lower in individual value.
You aren’t buying that? Perhaps it’s worth remembering what John Donne said in a sermon some 400 years ago; you’ve heard it before: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
As the son of a coal miner, I’m glad we still stop what we’re doing to worry, if only a little, about a half dozen diggers of black gold a couple of thousand miles away from where we live. I only wish we could care as much about others among us, whose deaths are discounted. And I wonder how much we’ll care about one another when our numbers reach half a billion, or a billion, or…
(Jim Castagnera, formerly of Jim Thorpe, is the Associate Provost/Associate Counsel at Rider University and a 2007-08 Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.)

August 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

Beware the Study-Abroad Witch Hunt

Educators have been reacting to the New York Times article and the Cuomo subpoenas. One study-abroad manager at a major university has told us that the Times front-page piece was a plant by a small study-abroad provider that's jeolous of its much larger and more successful competitors. He refused to name the culprit, adding that the company is known to be litigious.

A senior financial-aid officer at a mid-sized university wrote to us recently, "Great article written on Study Abroad. I am starting to feel that Salem, MA may have been an easier place in which to function than today.... As long as it was limited to dunking or a few hours in the stocks, one could get over the ordeal of the accusation."

The article to which he's referring appeared yesterday in the Greentree Gazette's e-zine."Beware the Study-Abroad Witch Hunt"

August 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2007

View Castagnera's "Attorney at Large" Blog

Attorney at Large

August 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How your university should be indemnifying you

The three biggest threats to faculty and staff in the litigation arena are:
1. Health and safety issues, such as the indictment recently handed down against a dean of students in the alcohol-related death of a fraternity pledge and the gun-deaths of nearly three dozen at VTU.
2. Slap-suits such as the one currently threatened (at least by implication) by Disney against the University of Washington and some of its faculty.
3. Investigations by politcally ambitious attorney generals, notably NY's Andrew Cuomo in the areas of student loans and study abroad.
What legal protection should you expect from your institution? Herewith a sample policy:

UNIVERSITY RESPONSIBILITY FOR LEGAL DEMANDS ON
BARGAINING UNIT MEMBERS
The University shall ensure effective legal and other representation
and indemnification in the first instance for any bargaining unit member
named or included in lawsuits or other extra-institutional legal proceedings
arising from the discharge of institutional or other related professional
duties or in the defense of academic freedom at the University. Such
representation and indemnification shall:
1. Include all stages of such legal action, threatened or pending, in a
judicial or administrative proceeding, and all aspects of the use of
compulsory service up to the first appellate court above the trial court,
whether or not the bargaining unit member is a party in the proceeding.
2. Include effective legal representation of the bargaining unit member’s
interests, either by the University’s regular counsel or by counsel
specifically retained by the University, or counsel provided by an
insurance carrier with due attention to potential conflicts of interest.
3. Be applicable whether or nor the University is also named or included
in the legal action.
4. Provide for all legal expenses, for all other direct costs and for court
judgments and settlements.
5. Cover wrongful acts, where "wrongful acts" means any actual or alleged
error, omission, act, or breach of duty in the discharge of duties to or on
behalf of the University or any related professional duties. “Wrongful
acts” include, but are not limited to unlawful discrimination or violation of
civil rights; sexual harassment; failure to hire or promote; denial or
removal of tenure; constructive discharge; breach of an individual
employment contract; unlawful discrimination in the terms and conditions
of employment; failure to grant due process; educational malpractice or
failure to educate; negligent instruction; negligent coaching; failure to
supervise; inadequate or negligent academic guidance or counseling;
improper or inapprorpiate academic placement or discipline; invasion of
privacy or humiliation; infringement of copyright, trademark, or patent;
plagiarism or idea misappropriation; oral or written publication of material
that slanders or libels a person or organization or disparages a person's or
organization's goods, products, or services, including such publication in a
book, newspaper, or other publication, or broadcast over a radio, cable or
television station; negligent coaching, athletic guidance or counseling;
improper athletic placement or discipline; or scientific misconduct.
However, coverage does not include any wrongful act committed by a
bargaining unit member with the knowledge that it was unlawful or with
the intent to harm or injure if a judgment or final adjudication establishes
such knowledge or intent. (By “intent to harm” is meant not only that the
act was intentional, but also that the individual intended to cause the harm
or injury.)
6. Include the full cooperation of the bargaining unit member with the
University and with counsel provided by the University, including but not
limited to providing the University with reasonably-timely notice of any
claim or threatened claim to the Associate Provost.
7. Not involve any settlement of any claim without the express agreement
of the affected bargaining unit member. If the bargaining unit member
refuses to consent to a reasonable settlement that the University
recommends, the University shall be responsible only for the amount of
damages the claim could have been settled for and for defense costs
incurred up to the date of such refusal.
The University at its expense shall provide effective legal and other
representation to legally resist compulsory legal demands for intrusive,
disruptive, or confidence-breaking disclosures involving a bargaining unit
member's work products produced in the discharge of his/her University
duties. Such resistance shall continue until all legal remedies at least up to
the first appellate court above the trial court have been exhausted. In cases
where the University possesses the subject data or has the physical
capacity to respond directly to compulsory legal process involving a
bargaining unit member's work product, the University shall actively enlist
the participation of the bargaining unit member in resisting disclosure and
shall refuse to make any such disclosure or to surrender any such work
product until all legal remedies up to the first appellate court above the
trial court for the protection of the material have been exhausted.

August 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2007

As Disney tries to intimidate U. of Washington, recalling other such acts of intimidation - #2

In 1998 Beverly Enterprises sued Cornell's Kate Bronfenbrenner over an artilce impugning Beverly's labor relations history.Bronfenbrenner Slap Suite

August 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack