Across the nation
Vt. cancels men's hockey season
HANOVER, N.H.-The University of Vermont canceled the remainder of its men's hockey season - beginning with a game scheduled against Dartmouth this past Saturday - because players lied to investigators about team hazing practices.
Men's hockey coach Mike Gilligan, other members of the athletic department, the university president and Board of Trustees decided to terminate all remaining 16 regular season games and any chance of post-season play based on evidence of hazing yet unreleased to the media.
"We have received credible information which indicates that a number of players were not completely truthful during our investigation of hazing allegations," UVM President Judith Ramaley said at a Friday night press conference.
"As we said during our investigation, any indication that players did not provide accurate, truthful, complete information would result in serious consequences. This new information has triggered those consequences."
UVM ordered an independent investigation of an October off-campus party after it was cited in a legal complaint filed by a player who had left the hockey team and the school because of the alleged hazing. The investigation revealed that players had lied during an earlier University inquiry.
Corey LaTulippe, who sued UVM on Dec. 10, alleged that upperclass members of the hockey team forced sexual contact and excessive drinking on younger players during the party, which Gilligan told The Boston Globe had occurred about a half mile from campus.
The suit brought into the open long-rumored hazing practices that college officials had previously been unwilling to discuss.
After receiving a letter from LaTullippe, who had left the school to seek psychological help, on Oct. 28, UVM hired a law firm to look into his allegations. The investigation turned up evidence of hazing, and UVM responded by suspending one player for each game.
Before the original investigation, Gilligan had warned his players to tell the truth. Gilligan now recognizes that his players ignored his admonitions.
"I know those guys pretty well, and they had me fooled," Gilligan told the local Vermont paper, the Rutland Herald. "I think the players were scared. I think they didn't want to hurt people and embarrass themselves and hurt the program and maybe embarrass their great fans."
The university president defended the school's own investigation, placing full blame on the players.
"The questions that were asked were the appropriate questions," Ramaley told the Herald. "The problem was with the answers."
However, it is unclear why the original investigation failed where the independent one succeeded. According to the Herald, there was rampant speculation that the university was trying to cover up the incident.
A Jan. 4 report by UVM shows e-mail messages that reveal university officials would not even discuss the matter forthrightly with the campus police chief when he inquired about the rumors.
LaTulippe's lawsuit forced the university to address the matter directly.
Vermont Attorney General William Sowell is now investigating the hazing incident and the university's response at the request of Governor Howard B. Dean.
The university has "responded very forcefully and appropriately," Dean said. "I think it's a tragedy for the UVM hockey program but I think it's a good thing for the honor of UVM and it sends a good message for the behavior we will and will not tolerate at the university."
Besides the cancellation of the season, the university apparently has no other punitive intentions. Assuming players now honestly answer questions about the hazing incident, they will retain their scholarships and academic standing.
The team's 20 underclassmen - UVM only suited up three seniors this season - will be welcomed back for next season and will likely be joined by at least five recruits the school has already signed.
The premature end to the season, which Gilligan announced to his players in an approximately 40-minute meeting on Friday, concludes what had been a subpar year for the Catamounts. The team stood at 5-9-3, 3-2-2 in the Ivy League.
UVM's Sports Information Director Gordon Woodworth told The Dartmouth several Vermont players refused to speak with The Boston Globe when they were approached at a women's hockey game this weekend.
Colorado bill would eliminate student fees for activist groups
DENVER-While crowds gathered in nearby Civic Center Park Monday to commemorate the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., students from the University of Colorado and other state colleges gathered at the state Capitol to protest a bill they said would limit their civil liberties.
House Bill 1127, introduced by Colorado State Rep. Rob Fairbank, R-Littleton, would restrict the ability of groups such as the UC Student Union to collect student fees and distribute them to student groups.
The bill, which was scheduled for a House Education Committee hearing Monday, states that "no separate mandatory or optional fee or charge for an organization whose primary purpose is to engage in political activity or issue advocacy may be collected in conjunction with other student fees."
UC student leaders, who spent the day at the Capitol lobbying against the measure, said it would restrict the diversity of speech on campus by cutting off funding to many activism-oriented student organizations.
"It takes away students' democratic right to support what they want," said Scott Silber, a student organizer. "It violates First Amendment rights."
Moreover, because so many student organizations are engaged in "issue advocacy" at some level, the law could prove detrimental to a number of fee-funded organizations that provide vital services to students, they said.
Such groups might include the Cultural Events Board and the Women's Resource Center, said Michelle Richardson, tri-executive of the UC Student Union.
"I don't think (the bill's supporters) quite understand the breadth of this legislation," Richardson said.
The outcome of Monday's hearing the bill was not decided as of press time, and legislators supporting the bill could not be reached for comment.
While the bill, as introduced, would seemingly ban both optional and mandatory student fees for political groups, Richardson said she believed the sponsors' intent was to introduce a "positive check-off system" for such fees. That would mean that individual students would decide which specific groups their fee money should be used to support.
Supporters of such a system say it's democratic in that it doesn't force students to support political groups whose views they do not share.
But opponents of HB 1127 say they suspect it's a politically motivated attack by conservative legislators against certain student organizations, especially environmental advocacy groups.
Richardson, who spent much of the day speaking with supporters of the bill, said "several of them specifically said this is to get CoPIRG"- a reference to the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, which lobbies the Legislature on environmental issues.
"You can tell very much that it's very personal," Richardson said.
Colorado State Rep. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, echoed Richardson's concerns.
"I don't know if it's a political vendetta," Tupa said. "It seems to me to be the end of this. They're going after, obviously, particularly environmental groups."
Tupa, a member of the Education Committee, noted that under the current student-government system, fees are appropriated through a democratic process.
"All of those fees have to be voted on," Tupa said.
HB 1127, he said, would undermine students' right to democratic self-government.
Moreover, Tupa said it was premature for the Legislature to act on the matter, because the U.S. Supreme Court will soon issue a decision on whether it is constitutionally acceptable to charge mandatory student fees to support political groups.
"Why are we doing this anyway, if we don't know what the Supreme Court is going to do?" he asked.
Fetal tissue research garners discussion among University of Nebraska Board of Regents
LINCOLN, Neb.-Protesters against fetal cell research greeted the University of Nebraska Board of Regents on Saturday morning outside Varner Hall.
Three members of the community were allowed to address the board for five minutes each on issues concerning them. Each of them spoke on University of Nebraska Medical Center research.
Regent Charles Wilson began the meeting with a statement saying that while he was sensitive to the issue, fetal cell research does not promote or encourage women to terminate their pregnancies.
Bob Blank, executive of director of Metro Right to Life, condemned the medical center for continuing the research.
Blank said according to the National Institute of Health's research donor specifications, a woman has the right to know exactly where the unborn fetus would be used. He said eliminating this procedure eliminates informed consent.
"In order to have an abortion, she is forced into signing away her rights," Blank said.
"You're not only doing the wrong thing, you're doing it in the wrong way."
Bob Bartee, executive assistant to the chancellor of UNMC, said the university follows all NIH guidelines including requiring consent forms, and the forms to use fetal cells are sought only after a woman has chosen abortion as an option.
Any consent form is protected under patient confidentiality, and Blank could not access them despite his requests to do so, Bartee said.
Julie Schmit-Albin, Nebraska Right to Life leader, also addressed the regents and was armed with 3,000 Nebraskans' signatures from Right to Life groups opposed to the research.
The regents also heard from Winston Baldwin, pastor of the First Central Congregational Church in Omaha, who said he was not opposed to the research, nor were many people of faith. He was not commenting on behalf of his church.
He commended the regents for their courage to vote in favor of the research.
But Baldwin was not without concern.
There are some within the faith community who are demonizing those who do not oppose the research. Baldwin said that was wrong, and it worried him.
Though the medical center is currently using fetus cells, Bartee said it is looking for alternative sources for fetal brain cells to conduct the research.
During the Dec. 11 meeting, the board had voted 7-0 for the continuation of the research it said could contribute to a cure for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
Wilson was out of the country during the December meeting and therefore could not vote.
The Regents made few comments concerning fetal cell research, but Regent Nancy O'Brien thanked Baldwin for his words of support.
Superhero threesome fights for scholar sanity at Washington State U.
PULLMAN, Wash.-Not every university can say they have a genuine superhero on campus, let alone three. Washington State University's Coman Hall is home to the three newest caped crusaders this side of Gotham City: Bagman, Bagfreak and T-Bag.
Clad in uniforms of plastic garbage bags (hence the names), the trio patrols Coman and Scott halls to preserve truth, justice, the American way and scholars' sanity in the midst of midterms, finals and other scholastic nuisances.
"I used to be a normal college student, like the thousands of wonderful people that go here," Bagman said, making his voice deeper to sound heroic. "One night, I was stumbling around the hall, under some strange force. I stumbled into the janitorial closet. I came out a different person, forever changed," Bagman said.
Bagfreak joined up after seeing one of Bagman's earlier runs.
"I was visiting a friend of mine in (Coman) and I saw the first Bagman," he said. "It was a far cry from what you see today. He had the same thoughts and dreams, but (his costume) was made primarily of small plastic bags and toilet paper."
T-Bag joined the team as a cadet, then became a full-fledged member.
"They were going on one of their runs and I supported their cause in every way. So I just joined up and that's how it's been ever since."
Members of the team have secret identities, but were unwilling to reveal them.
"That is simply to protect our families. Some of our friends know, because we know they know our families and they won't hurt them in any way," T-Bag said. "Others might reveal that information to some archnemesis, and that could be detrimental to our cause."
This band of merry men have dealt with some nefarious villains. One, Paperboy, interrupted the interview and led the gang on a merry chase.
"He's a new breed," Bagman said of Paperboy.
Other foes have even gone so far as to infiltrate the group.
"Remember the copycat Bagman?" Bagman asked the others, who responded affirmatively before picking up the narrative.
"We thought he was one of us," T-Bag said. "But-"
"He turned against us," Bagman interjected.
"It didn't work out," T-Bag continued. "He revealed his identity in public and therefore threatened all of our lives."
Another would-be cadet got himself captured his first night of rounds. The three primarily patrol Scott-Coman hallways, but they hope to expand; first campus wide, then nationwide.
"We'd like to see Bagmen around the nation, in all college campuses," Bagfreak said. The group's lack of minority or disabled members is a prickly subject for the Bagmen, as it is for many crime fighters.
"As of yet, we have not run across any such persons wanting to join our cause," Bagfreak said. "We are certainly open to anyone who would like to."
The group is taking applications.
"I did injure myself in battle a while ago," Bagman said. "I've had some knee problems; got them operated on. I do use a handicap pass. It's not something I'm proud of."
Response to the trio has been mixed.
During the course of the interview, the threesome were attacked with water balloons.
"Some people do not appreciate the defending of justice because they want to do things which are not legal," Bagman said.
"We're out there to stop them, and they don't like that fact."
T-Bag felt the water balloon incident proved a point.
"This is exactly why we wear the plastic bags," he said. "They're completely water-repellent."
These men hastened to add they are not out to cause trouble - it's all in fun and they are completely sane, they said.
"Our main purpose is to bring humor and just make this whole college experience fun," Bagman said. "We don't want people cracking halfway through the semester. We try to de-stress the situation. We feel that everyone should just have a good time. Sometimes on a college campus things can get stressful. We're all a little high-strung . We're trying to loosen up the string, and let people just relax."
Bagfreak echoed that MASH-style emotion.
"I think our message is 'Have fun. Have a sense of humor about it, but be responsible at the same time.' That's why we're here."