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Florida Libel Defendant Hurt in Car Crash

From University Wire

The defamation trial against the University of Florida's oldest leadership honorary and two of its members is scheduled to resume today without one of the defendants - a situation that could hinder the progress of the trial.

Defendant Peter Vlcek, a 42-year-old Florida Blue Key member, missed Thursday's trial session because he was in a car accident that left him in Alachua General Hospital for more than a day, Jacksonville attorney Barry Bobek said.

Bobek is representing Student Body President-elect John McGovern, also accused of posting defamatory flyers as part of a Blue Key campaign maneuver against UF graduate student Charles Grapski, 32. Grapski, the plaintiff, ran for student body president against Blue Key member Kevin Mayeux in the spring of 1995.

Gainesville police records state that at 9:14 a.m., Vlcek was driving south on State Road 24 when his 1987 Nissan pickup truck was hit from behind by a 1991 Mercury, driven at about 40 mph by Christopher Kilgore of Middlebury.

The impact caused Vlcek's head to slam backward into the truck's rear window, Bobek said. Vlcek's car then was thrust into the intersection and hit again, this time from the right by a second car, police records show.

Vlcek, who has a history of heart problems, also suffered heart palpitations that may have been a slight heart attack, Bobek added.

Vlcek was returning from Jacksonville, where he spends each night visiting his ailing mother. The on-again, off-again UF law student was admitted into the hospital at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday and was released Friday, according to hospital records. He was back in Jacksonville as of Sunday night, Bobek said.

UF law professor Joe Little, Grapski's pro bono attorney, said Vlcek - who is representing himself - called him and indicated he would attend today's pretrial meeting by telephone.

Bobek was not sure what Vlcek's health could mean for the future of the Alachua County trial, which began April 6 and was expected to end by Wednesday. His focus, he said, is McGovern and the charges that he and Vlcek altered Grapski's criminal record to make him look like a child molester and posted it on flyers throughout campus.

"From what I hear from all parties, there needs to be closure," Bobek said. "The case needs to be done with."

Little said there will be some consideration given to Vlcek's situation. "He could be removed from this case and then tried later in a separate case," Little said. "But until the judge issues an order of some kind to delay the trial, we're still on."

[ Independent Florida Alligator, 4/13/98 ]

Minnesota Hunger strike goes on

Hunger strikers showed no signs of ending their standoff this weekend after rejecting University administrators' responses to protester's demands for additional resources for the University's Chinese program.

University President Mark Yudof, Executive Vice President and Provost Bob Bruininks, College of Liberal Arts Dean Steven Rosenstone, and several other senior administration officials attended the meeting. After an hour, they declared the meeting at an impasse and stormed out.

Members of the Chinese program, Progressive Student Organization and several University cultural centers are fasting to protest understaffing in the Chinese program. The program has two tenured professors and two temporary professors to teach 21 majors and pre-majors. CLA is extending offers to candidates for a third tenured professor to begin teaching fall quarter.

The protesters demand that the Chinese program - which is currently a program within the East Asian Languages, Literatures and Linguistics department - be recognized as an independent, equal department. The hunger strikers also demand the University advertise for a fourth tenured professor for the program.

University officials did not meet the students' demands. The meeting focused on the appointment of a fourth tenured professor. Issues of equal treatment and departmental independence were not discussed.

To convince the students to end the hunger strike, University officials prepared a written response to highlight past and present investments in the program. Rosenstone noted his September 1997 decision to approve a third tenured faculty position in the program. The search to fill that position is ongoing. Two candidates have already turned down the position and the college is awaiting an answer from a third candidate.

In February, Bruininks allocated to the program an 18.1 percent budget increase. The change will take effect in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1998.

In response to the strike, a $50,000 China Studies Scholarship Program was established Thursday to increase enrollment in the program.

The written response said the appointment of additional faculty will be considered in the future as enrollment increases to justify the investment.

"There are lots of other departments in the college that are also increasing in the number of majors," Rosenstone said. "I also have to worry about protecting the students in those programs, and that's hard."

Protester Ben Ridgway said he was not impressed with the administrators' response. "I feel like the student scholarship is a bribe to ignore the fourth position," Ridgway said. "It's not necessarily what we were asking for in the first place."

The protesters said that they would continue their strike into the weekend. Students who were feeling dizzy or lethargic said that they would drink juice and soup broth so that they could continue to study and work.

[ Minnesota Daily, 4/13/98]