Annika Carlson

Tuesday October 24, 2006

At least it’s better than double-secret probation

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

And at least the punishment fits the crime: UMass classics major James I. Connelly was ordered by a district court judge to publicly apologize to a local police officer while wearing a toga.

When several police officers arrived at the rowdy toga party Connelly was hosting, Connelly reportedly insulted a female police officer. He and several others “were charged with being minors in possession of alcohol, as well as having an unlicensed keg and creating excessive noise in violation of a town bylaw,” according to the Daily Collegian.

This isn’t the first time Eastern Hampshire District Court Judge Nancy Dusek-Gomez has doled out an unconventional sentence to a young person. In 2001, she ordered a 17-year-old charged with possession of drug paraphernalia to write an essay about Afroman’s song “Because I Got High.” (Sample lyrics : I was gonna go to class, before I got high/I coulda cheated, and I coulda passed, but I got high.)

Connelly’s sentence isn’t all fun and games, though. In addition to apologizing and standing on display in his toga for an hour in front of the police department, he will pay a $300 fine and complete four hours of community service. If he stays out of trouble for four months, the charges will be dropped from his record–but presumably, not from the internet.

Next time you have a party, who you gonna call?

St. Andrews, Scotland

Ghostbusters! This weekend, movie star Bill Murray played in a golf tournament in St. Andrews, Scotland. But instead of partying with the tournament’s other famous participants, Murray ended up washing dishes at a local college party.

Murray was drinking with some friends at a bar when he met Lykke Stavnef, a Norwegian social anthropology student. According to the Telegraph, instead of sticking with his friends when the bar closed, Murray accompanied Stavnef to a party chock full of Scandinavian students.

“Nobody could believe it when I arrived at the party with Bill Murray,” said Stavnef. “We met him in the bar and he made some jokes. He was just like the character in Lost in Translation.” The house was out of glasses, but according to Stavnef, Murray didn’t mind drinking vodka out of a coffee cup. ” He was joking with me about reheating some leftover pasta and how drunk everyone was,” said Agnes Huitfeldt, another attendee . After they ate the leftovers, Murray volunteered to do the dishes. Stavnef described Murray as relaxed and friendly, adding, ” It was really amusing when he started to wash up.”

Tom Wright, another student, summed up Murray’s motivation for joining the college party: “He couldn’t fail to have a good time. … The party was overflowing with stunning Scandinavian blondes.” Totally worth eating some leftovers and doing some dishes, even if you are a famous movie star.

You can dance if you want to

John Brown University

You think your school puts unreasonable restraints on student activities? Well, until last week, dancing was prohibited at John Brown University, a nondenominational Christian school in Arkansas. The only exceptions to the policy, which has been in place since the university was founded in 1919, were added 20 years ago, allowing square and folk dancing on campus.

To be fair, the school’s dancing policy restricts only campus-sponsored dances; presumably, students unafraid of eternal damnation can shake their thing however they want behind closed doors at their own risk (though the student handbook discourages them from doing so). The new policy allows school-sponsored dances to include ballroom, salsa, and swing dancing–an expansion not taken lightly by those advocating it. Jennifer Paulsen, president of John Brown’s Student Government Association, noted, “The culture has changed. We think students are ready to do this in an appropriate and responsible way.”

The university’s decision was bolstered by research on other schools’ dance policies. Paulsen found that of the 18 nondenominational schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, only eight had policies restricting schools dances.

But some students don’t think the policy revision is clear enough. As the editorial staff of the school’s newspaper, the Threefold Advocate, points out, the new policy allows students to “practice” dancing, but fails to define what constitutes admissible practice. “[Vice President for Student Development Steve] Beers said that 200 students ‘practicing’ together every Friday night would not be permissible,” the staff notes. Additionally, dancing not sponsored by the school is still forbidden. There will be “no techno raves in the Duplexes, no salsa on the Quad, and no waltzing to class,” writes the editorial staff. “In this way the old no-dancing policy is still alive and well.”

Senior Dustin Tracy seemed hopeful that allowing ballroom dancing would give students constructive alternatives to the crazy partying that might otherwise take place. ” It keeps us as students from wanting to go out and hit Dickson Street or go to the clubs,” he said. “I think students are just happy that we’re kind of catching up with the times.” So true. Maybe in the next century they’ll be grinding to hip-hop at John Brown.

Brains vs. Economic Brawn

The George Washington University

Students at The George Washington University have come up with a way to add intellectual capital to the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. This month, GW approved a scholarship program that will give full, four-year scholarships to one Sudanese student each year. The program was dreamed up by students from GW’s chapter of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) after the school’s administration refused to divest from companies who invest in Sudan.

The idea was conceived in a meeting with between students and GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, for whom the original scholarship was named. Traditionally, the scholarship was given to students from Washington, D.C., public schools, but, according to Trachtenberg’s special assistant Gerry Kauvar, the president “offered the students an opportunity to promote this initiative because he is convinced it is more likely to produce needed change in Sudan than divestment.”

In addition to altering the scholarship’s recipients, the name of the program was changed to reflect the school’s intentions: the project is now called Banaa, an Arabic word meaning “to found, build upon or create,” according to an article in the GW Hatchet. Both students and administrators involved are confident that Banaa will set an example for other institutions.