Because U.S. News loves rankings so much, I've indulged in some end-of-the-year, space-filling lists to round out the holiday season. There were no fancy spreadsheets or number-crunching machines involved—just a lone lady self-indulgently judging college news.
10. More Duke lacrosse fallout
The repercussions from the Duke lacrosse scandal trickled into 2007: The Chronicle and Paper Trail marked the ordeal's anniversary in March with a body count (the team's season, coach, 88 angry professors, and racial dialogue are among the wounded), while other colleges pinpointed a "Duke effect," where "every time a high-profile athlete makes headlines for the wrong reason, images of three Duke players are evoked." In April, the charges against the three accused players were dropped, and the team—whose season last year was canceled—saw their comeback "Cinderella season" end at the hands of Johns Hopkins in the national championship game in May.
Duke's law school announced in September a new criminal justice center, while the local prosecutor on the case, Mike Nifong, has been under continuous fire, was disbarred in June, and even spent a day in jail for contempt of court. Next up: lots and lots of lawsuits.
9. Impostor students
Coming out of the California Redwood-work, impostor students from UCLA and Stanford made the headlines. First, a 36-year-old man faced trial in February for posing as a UCLA student for two years, living in a frat house with a roommate, and playing rugby. Next was Stanford's Azia Kim, who duped RAs and roommates by sneaking into dorms via open windows and tricked the ROTC into supplying her with equipment and training. To tie it all up with a pretty bow, there was Elizabeth Okazaki, who faked it as a physics grad student at Stanford for four years, then when caught in May, hightailed it down south to fool the UCLA philosophy department into granting her affiliate status for the semester. Eventually, luck and a dead cat ended Okazaki's charade in the fall.
8. Berkeley tree sitters
These UC-Berkeley activists have been sitting in trees for more than a year now—but between court orders, two naked photo shoots, raining poop, and falling people—these cats keep the Paper Trail pages full. They also happen to do a decent job in cleaning out UC security funds to the tune of $367,000.
You thought the brutal tasing at a UCLA computer lab was newsmaking last year? A University of Florida student at a John Kerry event did his best to one up 2006 and bring Taser use to the forefront of college security issues. The Oxford English Dictionary named "tase" (as a verb) as runner-up for word of the year—a form most popularly heard in the Florida student's oft-quoted proclamation, "Don't tase me, bro."
6. Ahmadinejad protests
Columbia University hosted the Iranian president in September amid thousands of protesters in New York. His visit highlighted the murky issue of campus free speech and thrust Columbia president Lee Bollinger into the harsh, but familiar glare, of criticism: "Is it OK to invite an odious foreign leader to speak at your campus as long as you make it clear to the audience how despicable he is before you hand him the mike?"
5. Jena Six and hate crimes
Whether deserved or not, the Jena Six case captured the imagination of college students everywhere. It inspired the young to action, and also gave others a new way to be hateful and obnoxious: This year saw an alarming number of nooses hung on campuses. Throw in the Don Imus/Rutgers women's basketball team fiasco and various other blackface incidents, and you've got yourself a notorious year for racial insensitivity.
Mark Zuckerberg is now a bajillionaire, thanks to Microsoft founder and fellow Harvard dropout Bill Gates, but the Facebook founder is also reeling from the sting of bad public relations. Beacon was a disaster, and users are increasingly unhappy with the networking site's escalating dismissal of privacy concerns. And with great wealth comes great likelihood of litigation—the most alarming of which involves former classmates of Zuckerberg who claim he essentially stole Facebook from them. The legal battles rage on, but if Facebook continues its spotty PR record, these geeks may be soon be fighting over the remnants of a once great empire.
3. Antioch College
It was a close call for Antioch College when its board of trustees decided to shutter the school because of dwindling enrollment and falling revenues. But alumni of the small Ohio liberal arts school don't give up so easily and launched an intense fundraising drive to save the institution. The campaign worked, but other financially troubled schools are still staring down the writing on the wall.
2. Student loan scandal
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo did students everywhere a favor by blowing open a student loan scandal that involved payoffs, kickbacks, and luxury gifts to college aid officials from student loan providers. While the scandal first came to light in October 2006, it wasn't until April when heads began to roll. Among the casualties were aid officials from Columbia, the University of Southern California, Texas, Johns Hopkins, and even the Department of Education. Now what can we do about that pesky rising tuition I've been hearing all about?
1. Virginia Tech
The Virginia Tech massacre was easily the seminal story of the year. It's forced every school in the nation to reconsider security and mental health responsibilities and priorities, and has spawned an entire industry of text-messaging alert systems. The gun control issue saw a small resurgence, as did mostly unfounded fears of retaliation against the Asian American community. The shooting made school administrators especially antsy soon after the event—canceling class or expelling students at almost any hint of trouble. The year 2007 had plenty of important stories in higher education, but unlike most news stories, the trauma of Virginia Tech won't soon be forgotten.