All posts by Andrew Mytelka


Columbia U.’s Football Coach Resigns Amid Alleged Abuse of Players

Columbia University’s football coach resigned on Friday, days after 25 members of the team said in a letter, since withdrawn, that he had physically and verbally abused them and had disregarded their safety, the Columbia Daily Spectator reports.

The coach, Pete Mangurian, resigned “in the best interests of Columbia athletics,” according to a university news release quoted by the Spectator, the Ivy League campus’s student newspaper.

The letter, which was sent to the university’s president as well as the current and former chairmen of its Board of Trustees, also alleged that Mr. Mangurian had pushed members of the team to play despite concussions they had suffered. It was not immediately clear why the letter had been withdrawn, and the players who sent it declined to speak to the Spectator.

The team compiled a dismal 3-27 record in Mr. Mangurian’s three years as coach, including a 21-game losing streak that is still in progress.

“The University routinely reviews complaints and concerns raised by students, even those that have been withdrawn,” the statement read. “While we don’t generally comment on specific cases under review, it is essential to note that Columbia adheres to a strict medical protocol regarding head injuries for all sports teams and our investigation has found no evidence to support an allegation of a departure from that protocol with our football players.”

Read more at:


Man Convicted in Fatal Bank Robbery Will Resume Teaching at U. of Illinois

James W. Kilgore, a member of the militant Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s who served more than six years in prison for his role in a bank robbery in which a customer was killed, will return as an instructor next spring at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Mr. Kilgore’s criminal past came to public attention this year, when a local newspaper reported on it. Until then, he had been a part-time, non-tenure-track instructor at the university. But his contract was not renewed after the newspaper article appeared, raising questions about possible political interference in academic decisions.

Mr. Kilgore, who is 67, never hid his criminal record from the university and spoke of how he was ashamed of his actions four decades ago. Still, some critics felt his past disqualified him from teaching at the university, noting that he had evaded prosecution by fleeing abroad, and one major donor has threatened to withhold a $4.5-million pledge if Mr. Kilgore returned to the classroom.

After a “robust debate” at its meeting last month, the university’s Board of Trustees cleared the way for Mr. Kilgore to be rehired. According to the Tribune, he has been engaged to teach a one-credit course, titled “Sweat Shops or Flat World Opportunities? Exploring the New World of Work.”

Kilgore will teach a one-credit course in Global Studies, according to Thomas Bassett, director of the program within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Kilgore, hired as an adjunct lecturer, signed the offer letter Thursday and will be paid $3,500 for an eight-week undergraduate seminar.

“Dr. Kilgore is an excellent teacher, and we look forward to him being back on our staff,” Bassett said.

Read more at:


Georgetown U. Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Voyeurism by Rabbi

A student at the Georgetown University Law School said in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday that the institution had “turned a blind eye” to a onetime instructor’s secret recordings of women using a ritual bath, The Washington Post reported. The instructor, Rabbi Barry Freundel, is a tenured professor at Towson University, which suspended him after he was arrested on six counts of voyeurism this fall. He taught a seminar last spring at Georgetown.

The plaintiff, identified only as a third-year law student, seeks class-action status, presumably on behalf of other women whom Rabbi Freundel allegedly enticed into using the ritual bath, called a mikvah. Other defendants include the 62-year-old rabbi and the Georgetown synagogue he led. Lawyers for the defendants did not return calls seeking comment.

A Georgetown spokeswoman said the university was “cooperating fully with law-enforcement authorities” and was “conducting our own investigation of Rabbi Freundel’s conduct.”

The D.C. police have said that “many” women, including several Towson students, have come forward since the rabbi’s arrest to say that he had lured them into using the mikvah, but did not know if they had been recorded.

“This case involves an unfathomable breach of trust by a Georgetown professor and religious leader and defendants’ utter failure to prevent and/or stop it,” Baltimore attorney Steven D. Silverman said in the lawsuit. He also said,, “Defendants’ turned a blind eye to obvious signs of Freundel’s increasingly bizarre behavior, ignoring the bright red flags that Freundel was acting inappropriately with women subjected to his authority.”

Read more at:


Missing Mexican Students Are Said to Have Been Killed and Cremated

The 43 Mexican students who have been missing for six weeks were murdered, their bodies burned, and the ashes dumped in a river, suspects in the crime have told investigators, the Associated Press reports. The students, from a teacher-training college, disappeared when they were en route to participate in a protest in Iguala. A combination of police officers and drug gangs, acting at the behest of local officials, are suspected in the deaths, and about 75 people have been arrested. The students’ macabre fate was described on Friday by Mexico’s attorney general, who said that because of the poor condition of the remains, it would be nearly impossible to definitively identify them as belonging to the missing students. The Reuters news agency has more details on the tragedy.

In a somber, lengthy explanation of the investigation, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam played video showing hundreds of charred fragments of bone and teeth fished from the river and its banks. He said it will be very difficult to extract DNA to confirm that they are the students missing since Sept. 26 after an attack by police in the southern state of Guerrero.

Read more at:


SAT Scores Are Delayed in South Korea and China Amid Cheating Investigation

The Educational Testing Service said it would delay reporting SAT scores for tests taken this month by South Korean and Chinese students, amid allegations that “organizations that seek to illegally obtain test materials for their own profit” had compromised the integrity of the college-admission test, The New York Times reported. ETS told the Times that it expected to be able to complete its investigation and to release the scores by mid-November, allowing test-takers to cite them on early applications.

Tom Ewing, a spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, said scores were being withheld based on the nations where students lived, not where they took the exam. The SAT is not administered in China, except at a few private schools, and each year thousands of Chinese students travel to other parts of Asia to take the exam.

Read more at:


Columbia U. to Pay $9-Million to Settle Federal Claims Over AIDS Grants

Columbia University has admitted wrongdoing and agreed to pay $9-million to settle a federal lawsuit accusing it of mismanaging federal grants for AIDS research, reports Capital, an online news service covering New York.

According to the office of the federal prosecutor that handled the case, the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs, a unit of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, filed claims for reimbursement citing work that was not done. Columbia received millions of dollars under more than 75 federal grants to prevent AIDS and HIV, but it was required to track the work of employees and submit that tally in order to obtain the grant money.

The university said in a statement cited by Capital that its center had helped more than two million people in 20 countries. It also said it had instituted new controls over grants administration to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

Columbia’s finance department was found to have provided information for reports, though the employees were largely unaware of which tasks corresponded to which grants. The reports were then certified as correct without using suitable means to verify their accuracy, even as ICAP’s management was aware of the inaccuracies.

Read more at:


U.S. Cancels Funds for Controversial Studies of Infectious Diseases

The White House announced on Friday that it would temporarily block federal financial support of controversial biomedical research in which scientists seek to learn about the potential dangers of infectious diseases by intentionally making them more hazardous, The New York Times reported.

The move, announced by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services, came just weeks after the Obama administration issued regulations permitting such research but requiring stricter federal oversight of it and active disclosure by scientists of the risks inherent in their work.

The Times quoted a White House statement attributing the moratorium to “recent biosafety incidents at federal research facilities,” a reference to mistakes this year by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention involving anthrax, bird-flu, and smallpox samples.

Critics of the research, who have said it could help terrorists or unscrupulous scientists unleash a lethal epidemic, hailed the White House move. The Times was unable to obtain comment from two scientists—Ron Fouchier of Erasmus University, in the Netherlands, and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin at Madison—who claimed, in 2011, to have created a more easily transmitted strain of a type of bird flu. That discovery set off a controversy over the wisdom of such research, and whether it should be permitted, financed, or published, that continues to this day.

The moratorium is only on research on influenza virus and the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS. It made no mention of Ebola or any related filovirus. Ebola is already extremely lethal, but it is not easily transmissible.

No scientist has publicly announced an attempt to make Ebola as easy to transmit with a sneeze as flu is. Given the current panic around Ebola, and congressional anger at federal health agencies, it is unlikely that federal funding for such a project would be given out.

Read more at:


Supporters of U. of Oklahoma Band Sound Off in Ads Attacking President

Full-page advertisements that were published on Friday in major newspapers across Oklahoma and Texas accused the University of Oklahoma’s president, David L. Boren, and the director of its marching band of creating an “environment of mediocrity and complacency” in the band, and of clamping down on criticism, the Tulsa World reports. The ads, which feature anonymous comments by band members, single out for criticism a policy under which members can be kicked out if they say anything negative about the band.

One critic quoted by the World lamented a decline in “marching and musicality” in the band, whose size has dropped from 280 to 225 members. President Boren, in a written statement quoted by the World, declined to respond to “anonymous personal attacks” in the ads. “It’s a shame that people would waste their money on such ads,” he said, “instead of supporting scholarships for our students.”

Nick Nicholson, a former Pride member who lives in Houston, said Friday’s letter was penned by a group of band students. He helped raise money for the ads, which were placed in at least a half-dozen Oklahoma and Texas newspapers, including the World, The Oklahoman, The Norman Transcript, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Close to $20,000 was spent on the ads in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman, alone, Nicholson said.

Read more at:


Thai Historian Faces Complaint for Doubts About Ancient Elephant Battle

A leading Thai historian has been accused of defaming the monarchy—a serious charge in Thailand—over his skepticism about whether a 16th-century duel between a Thai king and an invading Burmese general, both mounted on elephants, actually took place as it has long been portrayed in textbooks and movies, reports Khaosod English, an English-language website of a Thai newspaper.

The accusation of defamation, known as lèse majesté, was made by a group of ultra-royalists against Sulak Sivaraksa, who is 82, based on his remarks this month at a Thammasat University seminar. If officially charged and convicted, the historian could face up to 15 years in prison.

In official Thai histories, the king is said to have killed the general in the elephantine encounter, persuading the Burmese army to retreat.

Lt.Gen. Padung Niwetsuwan, a member of the group, said the 82-year-old writer insulted the Thai monarchy by questioning the accomplishments of King Naresuan, who ruled ancient Thailand – known then as Ayutthaya Kingdom – between 1590 and 1605.

Read more at:


Missing Mexican Students Are Not Among Remains in Mass Grave

Mexican officials said on Tuesday that DNA testing indicated that none of the 43 students who went missing two weeks ago were among the 28 bodies exhumed from a mass grave near where they disappeared, The Wall Street Journal reported. Also on Tuesday, security forces killed the alleged chief of a criminal gang that the authorities had suspected of playing a role, along with corrupt police officers, in the disappearance of the students. The DNA findings were unexpected because the mass grave had been identified by a police officer who admitted he had participated in killing the students.

MEXICO CITY-Mexican security forces killed the alleged head of Guerreros Unidos, the criminal gang accused of colluding with police in the recent disappearance and presumed deaths of 43 college students, a federal official said Tuesday.

Read more at: