Trouble on campus

September 17, 2009 3:27:43 PM PDT
Not a great time for universities in our area.

Campuses are tiny communities, filled with life's realities ? joyful and sorrowful. But events of the past few days have left several campuses reeling, and the rest of us shuttering.

Where to begin? Yale is one of the nation's finest universities, but the folks who work and attend school there tonight are perplexed - and a bit fearful - after a medical school lab technician has been arrested for murdering grad student Annie Le.

Ms. Le (pronounced "Lay") was to be married on Sunday. But on that day, her remains were discovered, buried in a wall in a lab. just days after she disappeared. The suspect - Ray Clark III - apparently texted or e-mailed Le, asking that they meet in the lab to talk about the "dirty mice" that were being studied. He has, according to police, defensive wounds on his arms and back (he reportedly says it was his cat that did it). And the DNA found at the scene apparently is a match to his.

Ms. Le's fiancé is grieving. Mr. Clark's fiancee is in shock. And Yale administrators are trying to figure out how to handle all this - that one of their employees allegedly murdered one of their grad students.

Then there's the situation at Hofstra University, where an 18-year-old woman's supposed night of terror Saturday led to the arrest of four young men and the search for a fifth - all accused of gang raping her.

Turns out - as we reported last night on Eyewitness News at 11 - the woman recanted her allegations. She wasn't raped; the sex with the five men, in a dormitory bathroom, was consensual.

We plastered the young men's pictures and names on our air; they were in the paper. Cops said they had evidence, and the Hofstra campus on Long Island was stunned.

Now, everyone is stunned again. Why did the young woman make this up? Humiliation? We just don't know yet. And we also don't yet know whether she'll face criminal charges for making it up.

Then there's St. John's University in Queens, where an 18-year-old student now faces charges after he posted messages on his Facebook page threatening to commit a "Virginia Tech attack" on campus.

What's in the water at these universities?

We'll have the latest on all three stories, tonight at 11.

And a final word about Mary Travers. Her voice changed music. And the songs she sung became anthems that changed the country. I don't know exactly how many times I've seen Peter, Paul and Mary in concert, other than "lots." And I long ago lost count of the hundreds of times I've played their songs ? either on reel-to-reel, or 8-track, or cassette, or CD, or IPOD, or my guitar.

Travers, who died last night after a long battle with cancer and leukemia, helped define pop culture and the political landscape in the 1960s - starting in Greenwich Village, where Peter, Paul and Mary started singing the songs of a young poet/folk singer named Bob Dylan.

They marched on Washington with Martin Luther King, and sang that day in 1963. And they popularized folk music on their way to a wildly successful career.

They were close, and like family with each other. And I was fortunate enough to hear Peter Yarrow talk candidly about the trio's early years and about how they still liked performing together.

Today, before I came to work, I played Peter, Paul and Mary songs at home. My wife says the first album she ever bought was by PP&M. And today was the first time our eight-week-old daughter had heard their music. It will not be the last.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.


PS: Thanks to all of you who wrote in about the comments by former Pres. Jimmy Carter. Race is still an incredibly complex and important issue in this country. I'm not sure if it ever won't be. The White House is now distancing itself from Carter's comments that some of the Obama criticism is race-based. But his words certainly struck a chord. Here are your comments.

From Jean Prinston:
"I understand the ex-President's concern, but why would he refer to America the great country if they could not give honor and respect where is due?"

Laurence Gluckman writes:
"I feel that Pres. Carter is more on target than anyone is willing to admit. And that is truly unfortunate for us, as people and as a nation.

"It is this unbridled animosity against President Obama that quite frankly has caused our elected representatives ? to become mired in debate. Clearly along party lines. Ultimately, we all lose in this. The President was elected by a majority.

"Whether you agree with it or not, whether you agree with the man or not, NO ONE should disrespect the man or the office. The color of one's skin has no bearing on whether or not they can manage, organize or lead a country. It is the capacity of one's mind to do all of those things and more that makes the difference. Of which, one race does not have a monopoly over another. Quite honestly, I think there is enough stupidity to go around for everyone.

Now, Congress is passing rules on what you can and cannot call the President. Why do they feel this need? Common sense should be the rule of the day here. Not written rules."

From Minnie Balaguer of the Bronx:
"I totally agree with former President Carter's comments. I am a dark-skinned Hispanic woman. Although both my parents are Puerto Ricans who came here in the late 40's from the island, one is listed on my birth certificate as black (my mom is dark skinned) and the other is listed as white (my dad was fair skinned w/ light eyes -- go figure!).

"I am very often mistaken for African American -- that is until I open my mouth, and/or I tell people my name. Then, after the confusion in the eyes of those I encounter, I often see them try to recover themselves.

"I remember stories my parents told me about how it was very difficult for them in the 40's, 50's and even the early 60's to go out and enjoy a meal because they couldn't sit together on the bus - so they entertained at home and very often the people they entertained were people who felt they didn't fit in --- gay people, people of mixed background, etc. I remember stories of the taunts my mother endured at the factory where she worked in the 50's. I remember my older brother (dark skinned) being arrested during the civil rights movement in the 60's just for wearing a sleeveless tee shirt in public (what would today's teenagers think about that with their butts hanging out of their pants!) and the list goes on.

"Nowadays we have what we call 'political correctness.' What a crock! Just watch any news program! I raised my child to be open minded and treat everyone the same, telling her, as my parents told me, that everyone was the same; we all bleed red -- obviously to no avail -- the example being these so-called "people in power" who should probably know better. My 7 year old grandson is still thankfully oblivious -- but I worry constantly for him because he is half African-American and could grow up to be looked upon as 'less than'...and possibly endure police harassment just for being who he is.

"This situation will continue to stagnate and fester until we change what is deep in the core of those who hide behind the political correctness of it all. It starts in the home, with parents teaching children acceptance at a very early age. This country's history with regard to the way non-WASPs are perceived by many is atrocious and damaging to the future of this country. Prejudice is a malignant cancer people, and we have got to stop it!

"Mr. Obama is our President - whether you like it or not he was elected fair and square. Let the man do his job. WE NEED TO GROW UP!!"

From someone named Domarco:
"I can't understand why people always raise the race issue whenever there is a confrontation or a difference of opinion (involving) ? a black person. It would have served Mr. Carter and Pres. Obama better if he made a statement on the merit of the Health Plan. It's bad enough when the Reverend (Wright) opens his mouth, but does Mr. Carter need to be negative too? Mr. Carter forgot that Pres. Obama became President by winning the election with many, many whites voting for him."

From W. Diggs of Yonkers:
"I believe former President Carter was quite correct in what he said. Even if you dislike what President Obama has done on policy grounds, does any of it truly require 'birthers' or 'deathers' or any of the 'tea-baggers' to react to him with the venom and true hatred they've so far shown? I don't think so.

"This nation is not as cultured and refined as we'd like to believe, and there are many who feel threatened by the rise of a man who they see as more educated, more intelligent and more qualified than they are. This President destroys the long-held stereotype that some held about black Americans not being as smart, nor as industrious nor as sharp as white (and other) Americans.

"The death of a stereotype is never pretty."

From Robyn:
"Bill, unfortunately, I think Pres. Carter is right on target with his opinion. However, on the other side of this coin is the fact that there is no white person qualified to lead this country either. We have already seen this fact for years; way too many lobbyists and right-wing idiots in the mix of politics to allow a black or white president to really lead this country.

From Lee Storm of Madison, New Jersey:
"Bill, I grieve to say it, but I feel (Pres. Carter) may have a point. It took a heck of a lot to convince people that blacks were as able ? as whites; and how long did it take to desegregate the (armed) forces? Even these days, so-called minorities are given less efficient medical treatment as compared to whites.

And it goes on and on.

"So sure, there are probably a lot of people who just aren't ready and won't truly accept a black or bi-racial president. It is a sad thing indeed. And a lot of it goes back to labeling people and stressing what color or race or gender they are, i.e. the first 'black doctor,' the first 'Hispanic judge,' the first 'woman astronaut.'

" I've said it once and I'll say it again: That Labeling Thing Exacerbates The Problem. People need to be seen on merit not on race/gender basis. Thanks for allowing me.