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Short Takes - Former Dean Sues Amherst, Alleges Racial Discrimination

By Dan McGuire
News Editor

Amherst College and its former Associate Dean of Admission Michael Whittingham continued their court battle over charges that he was discriminated against on the basis of race when he was rejected for promotion and later fired.

Whittingham, who is black, wants a summary judgement on his charges that Amherst discriminated against him by not picking him for the post of senior associate dean of admission and then pressured him out of his position after he filed a grievance over the promotion.

Whittingham said that the college took "adverse employment actions" after the grievance, including false performance evaluations, enhanced scrutiny of his work, and a failure to comply with the college's dispute resolution mechanisms.

Documents filed by Amherst said that Whittingham's termination, which took effect on Dec. 1, 1994, "was the only option open to the College" and denies his charges of discrimination. Amherst's motion said that Whittingham "was someone who others in the office found uncooperative, untrustworthy, and continually difficult to deal with."

A final ruling on this case is expected this month.

[The Amherst Student, Nov. 20]

Student charged in Net hate crime

Richard Malachado, a former student of the University of California at Irvine, was indicted on 10 federal hate-crimes charges after he allegedly sent threatening e-mail messages to Asian students and staff at the school. The charge says that Malachado, who is Hispanic, was intended to intimidate the recipients because they were Asian.

The message, which was sent to about 60 people from a campus computer cluster said, "I will make it my life career to find and kill every one of you personally" if the recipients did not leave campus.

Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Michael Gennaco said that the case marked the first time the government had tried to pursue a hate crime committed using the Internet.

[The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 22]

Northeastern to recover money

Northeastern University officials are negotiating to recover $150,000 that they paid to U.S.A. Group TRG to design a computer database after the company decided that the task could not be completed.

"It became apparent that they would not be able to complete the product as envisioned within any reasonable time frame," said Bob Murray, manager of media relations for the U.S.A. Group.

Northeastern, along with 16 other universities, lost money in the transaction. None of the universities plan to sue the company. "The idea is to come out as well as one can and not have a suit," said George Harris, vice president for information services at the school.

[Northeastern News, Nov. 20]

Exorcism leads to beating

Two women allegedly beat a female Mississippi College student to exorcise her of demonic spirits last month.

Rebecca Burk, a student reporter for a Mississippi paper, said that the dormitory's director told residents about the attack at a meeting. She said that the director said that Sandy Mergenschroer had been attacked and choked that morning in an effort to "beat the demons out of her."

The director allegedly identified the attackers as Lesha Bates, the victim's roommate, and Holly Douglass, an alumna. A college spokeswoman called the incident an "altercation" among the women.

"They have not shared with us exactly why this occurred," the spokesman said. Two of the women involved were ordered to move out of the dormitory, officials said. Howell Todd, the president, denied Burk's story, which involved accusations of anti-Semitism against Mergenschroer's attackers, and said the attack had not been motivated by religious differences. Mergenschroer is Jewish.

The local police chief said that no assault charges were filed but that Douglass was charged with trespassing. Mergenschroer suffered only a bruised cheek and did not require medical attention, college officials said.

[Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 6]