The Behrend beacon. (Erie, Pa.) 1998-current, October 15, 1998, Image 4

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    The Behrend College Beacon. Thursday. October 15, 1998
page 4-
The Behrend College Beacon
published weekly by the students of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College
News Editor
Will Jordan
Photography Editor
Andrea Zaffino
Associate Editor
Mark Greenbank
Business Manager
Jaime Davis
Robert Speel
Jim O'Loughlin
The Beacon is
published weekly by the students of
Penn State Erie, The Behrend
College; First Floor. The J. Elmer
Reed Union Building, Station Road,
Erie, PA 16563. The Beacon can be
reached by calling (814) 898-6488 or
(814) 898-6019 (FAX). ISSN 1071-
Postal In
A view from the lighthouse
The computers on the first floor
of the Reed Building have proved
to be extremely popular with
students. They are in use well until
late at night and are often very
crowded in the day.
Needless to say. they have at least
helped to relieve crowding at the
computer lab. Students can now
surf the web and check their email
outside of the lab, which opens up
computers for those who need to
write papers or work on projects.
If this could be duplicated in other
buildings, it would further alleviate
crowding ia.tbc. lttbs, The costs
waoiid ijp re.\dU\e.Vy.l.ow if they
followed the same’procedure as they
did for the machines in Reed. Old
computers that have been replaced
still work very well for the internet
and email.
If students could have access to
these computers in Academic or
Science or even in the residence
halls, there would be much less
complaint about lines in the labs.
Also, there would be a greater
convenience for students. Currently
Public Figures, Private Lives and Tough Choices for Reporters
By Steve Weinberg
The Baltimore Sun
Media critics who say journalists
have no business delving into the sex
lives of Reps. Henry Hyde and Dan
Burton are probably well-intentioned
- but they’re misguided about how and
why investigative reporters do what
they do. The controversy has led me
to reflect not only on the current con
troversy but also on the difficult de
cisions I made a decade ago as the first
independent biographer of business
tycoon Armand Hammer, whose pri
vate life was messy, to say the least.
When a public official exercises
influence over policy and, thus, over
other people, that official should ex
pect scrutiny of actions and words, of
any discrepancy between perfor
mance in the public arena and behav
ior offstage. Journalists are not the
only people capable of doing the scru
tinizing. But because no one else has
their job description, journalists have
accepted the responsibility, some
times reluctantly, sometimes eagerly.
Whether reluctant or eager, journal
ists must go through two states of de
cision-making. Not all of my col
leagues agree, but 1 think the first
stage ought to be automatic - learn
ing as much as possible about the pub
lic official when a discrepancy seems
likely. It is the vacuum-cleaner ap
proach to information gathering:
Sweep the carpet (and beneath the
carpet), picking up as much as pos
sible. It takes searching skills devel
oped through experience to do the job
well, but it should be seen as an eth-
ics-free process.
The less automatic, ethics-laden
part of the process comes next, as the
vacuum cleaner bag is emptied. There
Editor in Chief
Anne Rajotte
Managing Editor
Avodele Jones
Letter Polic
encourages letters to the editor.
Letters should include the address,
phone number, semester standing and
major of the writer. Writers can mail
their letters to
Letters must be received no later than
spm Tuesday for inclusion in that
week’s issue.
there are computer labs located on
each end of campus: in the library
and in Hammermill. One of the
reasons the computers in Reed are
so popular is they are located in a
central place where there are a lot
of students.
Residence halls would be another
extremely convenient place for
these computers. If students could
use these, computers for the internet,
there would be no need to use the
machines in Hammermill or the
library, which then could be used by
students for their school work.
The growing population of
Behrend means increased traffic in
all of its facilities, including the
computer labs. Student Affairs and
the computer center have
discovered a popular way to help
decrease crowding in at least one
part of campus.
is no formula to arrive at the answer,
no decision that will leave everyone
When the online magazine Salon
published details earlier this month
of Henry Hyde’s 30-year-old extra
marital affair, many news consumers
- not all of them Democrats - ap
plauded the decision. After all, they
said, if a congressman is going to be
sitting in judgment of a president be
cause that president lied about extra
marital sex, why not be alert for hy
pocrisy in the life of the person do
ing the judging?
Many other news consumers - not
all of them Republicans - criticized
the decision by Salon’s staff. Hyde’s
conduct took place so long ago that
it must be deemed irrelevant, the crit
ics said, noting that at least several
mainstream newspapers had decided
to ignore the informant who eventu
ally contacted Salon. Besides, Hyde’s
conduct is not the point - he has per
formed conscientiously in his job as
a congressman, has earned his posi
tion as chairman of the House Judi
ciary Committee, and thus is quali
fied to judge whether Clinton should
be censured, impeached or given al
ternative treatment.
To his credit, Salon editor David
Talbot substantiated the details of
Hyde's affair beyond a doubt before
publishing. Justified ethically or not,
the piece was solid. Then Talbot is
sued an extraordinarily detailed edi
torial explaining the decision to pub
lish. The explanation, while unusu
ally gutsy, also seemed obligatory.
Why? Because of Salon’s previous
insistence that the private lives of
public officials ought to be sacrosanct
- a premise many, probably most, in
vestigative journalists would dispute
Features Editor
Jon Stubbs
Sports Editor
Jason Snyder
Layout Editors
Mike Perkins
Rose Forrest
Advertising Managers
Erin Edin%er
Carey Smith
The Beacon
The Behrend Review
freshman elections violate SGA constitution
Two weeks ago. as I sat down in
Bruno's to eat my lunch and read The
Beacon, as I do every Thursday
around noon, one item in particular
caught my attention. A headline in
the lower right hand corner of the
front page which read: “SGA post
pones freshmen elections.”
Now as a former SGA Senator and
a former Co-Chairperson of the SGA
Freshmen Elections Committee, I
So why then did SGA, “the voice of the students” by
their own slogan, take the voice away from the
thought this was quite odd. I said to
myself, “those elections should have
taken place a couple of weeks ago”.
However as I read on further into the
article, one sentence in particular in
furiated me. It read: “Members of
the SGA will vote and choose two
candidates for the two open posi-
Now I will be the first person to
admit that if an SGA Senate seat be
comes open during the course of the
academic ye o ' d-ip to resignation,
tmpeach’r.ent. • Uath of a Senator,
SGA most certainly has the right to
choose a person to fill its vacancy.
One Flew Over the Albatross' Nest
Death of gay student reflects attitudes of America
Matthew Shepard, the gay Univer
sity of Wyoming student who was
brutally beaten ;and tortured a week
ago, died early Monday morning.
Once again the issue of rampant
homophobia in the United States has
to be brought into the spotlight by
means of an act of violence. College
campuses all over the United States
deal with hale crimes, and Penn State
is no exception. Even Behrend, where
no act of violence against gays has
been reported in recent years, has its
share of anti-gay students.
The Trigon mailbox in the SGA
office is regularly graffitied with anti
gay comments. Last year's Safer Sex
Cabaret was criticized for its inclu
sion of gay sex in its discussion of
safer sex.
The attitudes at Behrend are a re
flection of the attitudes in the rest of
the country. The United States Con
gress passed the Defense of Marriage
if the private life influences pubiic
Talbot said Clinton’s political op
ponents have made private behavior
into a sweeping character issue. So,
according to Talbot, “what holds true
for President Clinton must hold
equally true of the august figure who
leads the committee sitting in judg
ment upon him.” Conceding that
Hyde never lied under oath about his
sexual conduct, Talbot commented
that “lying and having an affair can’t
be separated. To have an affair is by
definition to lie about it - an alfair is
a lie.”
Such a lie does not disqualify
Hyde, or Clinton, from fitness to hold
public office, Talbot said. I disagree;
people who hurt others with lies
ought to be turned out by their con
stituents. In hindsight, would any
body dispute the wisdom of the Mi
ami Herald’s controversial decision
more than a decade ago to reveal the
lies told by former Sen. Gary Hart
about his sex life while trying to win
the Democratic nomination for presi
The Herald’s investigation told the
citizenry something significant and
enduring about Hart’s character. But
my disagreement with Talbot derives
from my citizenship, not my voca
As an investigate reporter,! have
struggled with how mii' h unpleasant
private information to publish. About
a decade ago, I wrote the first inde
pendent biography of Armand Ham
mer; Occidental Petroleum Corpora
chief executive officer, art collector,
patron of cancer research, citizen-dip
lomat, a man of many accomplish
ments - and a habitual liar.
However this iis not the case as far as
the two Freshimen Senate seats are
concerned. Tlhese are not seats that
became vacamt due to resignation,
impeachment, or death of anyone, but
became vacamt because the terms of
office of the two previous individu
als who occupied them expired.
Article VIIL of the SGA Constitu
tion flatly lays out the procedures
and/or rules ffor electing two indi
viduals to the two vacant Freshmen
Senate seats. Under Section 1 it
states: “Elections for the Freshman
Senators shall be held before the end
of the fifth week of the Fall semes
ter.” While Seection 3 goes on to say:
“All elections; shall be held on two
consecutive dtays.” And Section 4
states: “All fuill-time students shall
be eligible to l vote for the Student
Senate and SG;Aofficers... During the
Fall semester, , students of first semes
ter standing shiall be eligible to vote
for the two Frteshman Senators.” Fi
nally Sect'ot; 110 states: “A minimum
of ten (10) votes is needed to be
elected to any/ SGA office.” How-
Act that woul d allow states to make
same-sex marriages illegal even be
fore they had a chance to fight for le-
“Special rights,” the
battle cry of many anti
gay activists, simply
don’t exist.
This summer, members of the reli
gious right launched a campaign
against homosexuality, placing large
ads in major newspapers featuring
“reformed” gays and lesbians.
Southern Baptists have boycotted
Disney for, among other things, spon
soring “Gay Day” at Disney world and
extending spousal benefits to partners
of gay and lesbian employees.
Although my publisher trumpeted
the unauthorized nature of the biog
raphy on the cover over my protest,
it was not a mostly negative book. I
gave Hammer credit for his accom
plishments in chapter after chapter.
Many reviewers accused me of treat
ing Hammer’s life too gingerly.
I tried to treat his private life
thoughtfully, judiciously - not gin
gerly. My agent and my editor, hop
ing for best-seller status, did nothing
to discourage the inclusion of details
about Hammer’s sex life. I decided
against publishing most of those de
tails. Hammer was alive at the time.
So was his son, two grandchildren,
his third and longtime wife, and sev
eral of Hammer’s alleged mistresses.
The revelations about numerous
ever nowhere in Article VIII or any
where else in the SGA Constitution
does it say that SGA has the right to
cancel regularly scheduled student
wide elections and choose from the
candidates themselves.
So why then did SGA, “the voice
of the students” by their own slogan,
take the voice away from the stu
dents? SGA could make the argu
ment that because outside student in
volvement with SGA is usually very
minimal, as evident in last week’s
SGA student open forum in which,
according to The Beacon, “none of
the student body was present,” that
they would save a lot of time and
money by choosing from the candi
dates themselves instead of holding
a student-wide election in which
voter turnout would probably be very
If this was their reason for taking
the democratic process away the stu
dents at Behrend, it is total and com
plete nonsense. In nearly every presi
dential election, voter turnout is less
than 50% of the population, while in
midterm congressional elections
voter turnout is as low as 35% of the
population. Does this mean we
should no longer hold elections for
the president and congress? Should
we instead allow a few elitists at the
top of our government to choose for
The list of assaults against gays and
lesbians goes on and on.
As in many other states, there are
no hate crime laws in Wyoming. The
argument against hate crime laws is
that these kind of laws give “special
rights” to gays and other minorities.
“Special rights,” the battle cry of
many anti-gay activists, simply don’t
exist. If anything it is straight people
who have the special rights. It is
straights who take for granted rights
such as employment, housing, public
accommodations and credit. Gays
cannot take these rights for granted,
because they aren’t always guaranteed
these things.
Numerous campaigns and voter ini
tiatives have been launched to create
or reverse gay rights laws. Last Janu
ary, Maine voters overturned a law
created to guarantee gays and lesbi
ans equal access to basic rights such
as employment and credit. Several
nonsexual episodes in Hammer’s life
would have been painful enough to
him ann i,i. Why cause addi
tional pain when I could not clearly
connect bis sexual behavior with his
public fie'-isiop-making? Could I
frame Hammer s private behavior as
a character issue? Sure, I could have.
Biography ought to be all about char
acter. It seemed to me, however, that
I could delineate his character with
out bringing most of the documented
and rumored sexual activities into the
So I omitted everything I knew for
sure, and nearly for sure, about the
times he forced himself sexually on
women. I omitted rumor and docu
mented fact about an extramarital af
fair between the then-octogenarian
us because the majority of American
citizens arc uninvolved? Maybe the
Student Government Association
should think about this.
Unfortunately my deadline for this
column came before last night’s SGA
meeting. So I have no way of know
ing if SGA, at last, held its so-called
“elections” for the two Freshman
Senator seats. If SGA again post
poned its appointment of Freshmen
Senators last night, I would encour
age them to forego the idea of select
ing the candidates within SGA and
hold a campus wide election at the
earliest possible convenience to elect
the SGA Freshmen Senators.
If SGA did choose the Freshmen
Senators last night, it is my opinion
that their selections are invalid be
cause they were not chosen in a cam
pus-wide election, and are thus in
gross violation of the SGA Constitu
tion. SGA should then immediately
apologize to the student body for this
action, declare their selections void,
and hold campus-wide elections at
the earliest possible convenience.
I would encourage all those who
read this column, especially fresh
men, to tell their SGA representatives
how you feel about them electing
your representatives for you.
Testrake is a junior political science
major. Hi\ column appears c . c ry
three weeks in the Beacon.
states have also had initiatives that
would prohibit gays and lesbians from
teachingjn public schools.
The last accepted American preju
dice is still strong, as Matthew
Shepard’s tragic and premature death
has shown. There is already a call
from gay rights activists for a federal
law on hate crimes. Although it is
hoped that this would happen, the his
tory of hate crime in the United States
shows that it is likely that it will not.
Despite the horrific circumstances of
this crime there will still be those cry
ing that a law against hate crimes will
be special rights. How many people
have to be assaulted or killed until it
is realized that hate crimes laws are
not a special right?
Rajotte is editor in chief of the Bea
con. Her column appears every three
and a woman about half his age. De
tails of that affair, by the way, would
be published after Hammer’s death
by a later biographer, as well as by
many other journalists.
Maybe I made the correct ethical
choices, maybe I did not. But I did
not publish or withhold mindlessly. I
used the vacuum-cleaner approach on
information gathering - and then used
the contents of the dirty bag judi
ciously after emptying it.
Media critics have every right to
carp about journalists’ publishing
details about the sex lives of Congress
members who are Clinton detractors.
But those critics ought to recognize
that journalists have a difficult job as
they decide where to draw the line.