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Supreme Court shows interest in case of student disciplined for off-campus MySpace group

(11/15/11 5:54pm)

The Supreme Court appears to be showing initial interest in Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools, one of a slew of off-campus speech cases awaiting its consideration. The court requested a response Monday from the West Virginia school district to the certiorari petition filed on behalf of Kara Kowalski, the court docket shows. Kowalski, a former Musselman High School student, was suspended in 2005 for creating a MySpace group that school officials claimed was intended to ridicule another student. The title of the webpage was “S.A.S.H.,” which Kowalski said was an acronym for “Students Against Sluts Herpes.” But posts by other students on the page quickly devolved into disparaging comments about a specific classmate. The 4th U.S.

Report: The road to journalism's future runs straight through college campuses

(11/06/11 9:30pm)

Students aren't the future of journalism. They're the present. That's the bottom line of a report from the New America Foundation, a public-policy think-tank chaired by Google's Eric Schmidt that includes prominent journalistic thinkers such as The Atlantic's James Fallows among its leadership. The report, "Shaping 21st Century Journalism," concludes that America's 483 (or so) journalism schools must fill the gap left by dwindling professional news staffs by refocusing their efforts on the creation of content for public consumption.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: What a haul -- campus towing contracts can be big (and sometimes dirty) money

(11/01/11 5:13pm)

The recent bribery conviction of a California businessman, found guilty of paying inducements to a campus police chief in exchange for automobile towing referrals, highlights just how much money is at stake in the wrecker business -- and how closely it needs watching. According to trial testimony, Morgan McComas of Pirot Towing in San Jacinto, Calif., gave gifts -- including free rims for a personal pickup truck -- to the then-head of the Mount San Jacinto College Police Department to induce the chief to steer business to the Pirot firm.

"Where can I get celebrity photos on the Internet?" Today, there's one more answer.

(11/08/11 3:15pm)

In the everything's-free, share-and-share-alike culture of the Web, it often comes as a surprise and a disappointment to students that celebrity photos on news organizations' websites are valuable copyright-protected property. Students want to talk and write about Rihanna and Li'l Wayne and (for some unearthly reason) Kim Kardashian, and they need illustrations to accompany their stories.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Public schools, private profit -- charter school operators must obey state disclosure laws

(11/08/11 7:03pm)

Charter schools may operate in a public/private twilight zone when it comes to obeying state education regulations, but when it comes to open-records and open-meetings laws, these publicly funded entities must be publicly accountable, an Ohio judge's recent ruling reaffirms. In an October 2011 opinion, Ohio Common Pleas Judge John F.

Western Washington University senators reject proposal on newspaper archive 'takedowns'

(11/10/11 6:56pm)

The student senate at Western Washington University on Wednesday voted down a resolution designed to compel student media to change online archives if alumni found content that damaged their professional reputation. Last week, the student senate heard from members of WWU’s student media arguing the proposal infringed on their First Amendment rights and was otherwise ineffective because student government does not oversee student publications. Of 11 senators, none voted for the proposal.

Why Penn State's (many) problems may include a Clery Act crime reporting violation

(11/13/11 4:17pm)

To the extent that it is understood at all, the Jeanne Clery Act is known as the federal law that requires college police to tally and disclose reported crimes on their campuses. So it may seen anomalous that a crime not reported to police at all -- the alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in the football team showers at Penn State -- might be the basis of a Clery Act violation. To understand why requires understanding the scope of a university's disclosure obligations under Clery -- which, it seems increasingly clear, many colleges and universities thsmselves either fail to understand or affirmatively ignore. The U.S.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Connecticut court case may be a ticket to greater secrecy for college athletic scandals

(11/22/11 5:49pm)

The formula for Coca-Cola. The recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The list of people buying tickets for Connecticut Huskies football games. The first two are legally protected trade secrets -- and third one will be, too, if the University of Connecticut gets its way. Connecticut's Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in December in a case testing whether public colleges may refuse to honor open-records requests for the identities of those buying tickets to sporting events. Ordinarily, any document in the possession of a public university must be disclosed on request, unless the university can point to a specific exemption that makes the document confidential.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Document trail reveals how 'green energy' left S.C. college in the red

(11/29/11 6:35pm)

The story of the University of South Carolina's attempts to turn wood chips into too-cheap-to-meter electricity reads like a chapter out of "The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook: Government Contracting Edition." According to detailed accounts published over the past two months in the Columbia, S.C., newspaper, The State: The construction of a $20 million biomass power plant got rolled into a pre-existing contract for electricity, without the competitive bids that would normally have been required for a building of that size. The plant was months late in powering up, in part because that sole-bidder construction company failed to apply for the necessary permits. It only worked about once every five days. Oh, and one time, it exploded. Reporter Wayne Washington's analysis of 1,816 pages of public documents, many of which The State helpfully republished online to accompany his reporting, makes for a compelling narrative.