The Behrend beacon. (Erie, Pa.) 1998-current, October 15, 1998, Image 4
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 Advisors 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- 9288. Postal In >rmation A view from the lighthouse Extra alleviate problem 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be received no later than spm Tuesday for inclusion in that week’s issue. computers crowding 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 content 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 students? 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 policy. 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 dent? 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 tion. 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 tion chief executive officer, art collector, patron of cancer research, citizen-dip lomat, a man of many accomplish ments - and a habitual liar. Editorial 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 fcuu UNSFbRTSNWLIKE CONDUCT' 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 low. 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 book. 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.