Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And Now An Excellent Report By Andrea Vogt On America-Wide University Reforms

Posted by Peter Quennell

Andrea Vogt posts this important story on the Seattle PI website.

Ever since we posted this excellent analysis last February of Amanda Knox’s extremely unstructured and underfunded arrangements in Perugia (read also the comments), we have been waiting for the University of Washington and others to move to stop it ever happening again.

Finally, it seems, they have.

Mirroring a nationwide trend, the University of Washington is overhauling how its students and professors interface with foreign countries….

The UW study abroad experience today involves much more oversight than it did two years ago when Amanda Knox left on an unsupervised European adventure that quickly degenerated into a nightmare.

When Knox, who is on trial for murder in Italy, left her familiar U-district environs in late summer 2007, she embarked on her own independent study in Umbria with very few guidelines or institutional oversight.

She arrived in the tolerant student melange of Perugia, a vibrant college town with temptation at every turn and many paradoxes (drug deals and party plans are often made on the steps of the cathedral).

A month later, the honor student’s pub-crawling, pot-smoking college shenanigans had taken a very serious turn and she was being hauled off to the Capanne penitentiary, where she remains today, pleading her innocence as the trial and controversial accusations against her plod forward.

Once her troubles began, the university tried to offer support, but had very few official guidelines to follow for responding to the kind of complicated legal-judicial matter Knox faced.

It’s different now….

In the wake of several negative overseas episodes, officials are busy raising awareness about the positive impact the UW is having worldwide and taking steps to improve communications, regulation and emergency preparedness for its students abroad.

Compared with two years ago, international education officials are more closely tracking who, where and what study-abroad programs involve. The university has new rules:. The department chair has to sign off on the program. Insurance is required. So is a cell phone. No program money can be used to buy alcohol, just for starters.

“There’s a much more formal process now,” said Taso Lagos, a UW professor who teaches international communication and manages a study-abroad program in Greece. “With administrators that are very aware, with lines of communication open and policies in place if something happens.”...

The UW’s growing commitment to international education—- even in a budget crisis—is reflected in some developments. [UW Vice Provost for Global Affairs Stephen Hanson] was named a vice provost in January, and in the spring, the UW dedicated an entire wing of the Gerberding Hall administration building to growing an international mission and profile.

This year, a travel security and information officer is coming on board to oversee emergency response and preparedness, as is Peter Moran, a new director of international programs and exchanges who previously worked at the Fulbright Commission office in Katmandu, Nepal.

New guidelines are being put in place to streamline communications, ease financial transactions and institute mandatory training for faculty taking students abroad. The Global Support Project, a rapid-response team with one person from each branch of the central administration, takes on cross-disciplinary international challenges.

Such reforms aren’t unique to UW.

Universities across the country are examining how better to organize study abroad to meet blossoming demand from students (and prospective employers) for foreign experience. Many are turning to independent service providers whose business it is to contract housing, health care or niche risk management services dealing with legal, financial or public relations crises when things go haywire abroad…..

Though the university bore no responsibility for any of the events Knox became entangled in, media across the world continued to mention the University of Washington—whether it was because of character witnesses who were her college buddies, reports of wild off-campus parties Knox attended in Seattle or her studies while in prison.

They really should be given a name. The Meredith Kercher reforms.


Amanda Knox has attracted a huge amount of attention, obviously through her persona, her actions, as well as the media support (campaign?) that I assume was encouraged by people that believe her to be innocent. However, her co-accused has managed to stay relatively well below the radar. It would be interesting to see similar or more information regarding Raffaele Sollecito’s life. There may well be an interesting story there, tucked away. If both are guilty, then I find it too coincidental that two or three people initiated the psychopathic behaviour. I suspect that only one of them was sick and jaded enough to trigger the events. The other two were caught up in the moment, horrific as it was.

Posted by Terence on 10/07/09 at 11:26 AM | #

Hi Terence. Two excellent points.

On the motivation, Miss Represented, a professional psychologist in the relevant fields, argued on her website way back that if the three of them did it, there were probably three quite different motivations, and then a kind of group swirl took over. AK may have been the one with the most baggage against Meredith, but Sollecito’s grim violence-loving knife-loving mindset seems to fit the knife-wielder profile as well. Both of them seem to show a very cold mindset at times (Knox’s flippant, callous remarks on the witness-stand on her 2nd day there pretty well cooked her in many eyes) which is disguised when they are paying attention by what seems a deliberately warmer demeanor.

On the Sollecito PR. He aint exactly Mr Charisma and it is hard to imagine a bandwagon rolling in his name. To many people he looks dorky and unattractive and he seems to have had few friends and fewer girlfriends before Amanda. Animal porn was found in his dormitory locker along with a lot of violent reading. Knox in contrast did have friends and a relatively normal co-ed life back in Seattle, and for a year or two there she looked pretty nice to some people.

Doctor Sollecito (his father) was always hampered in terms of a crack PR campaign. He could hardly afford to go up too vehemently against the state of Italy, as he actually lives there and not safely on the other side of the Atlantic and US combined. And for the same reason he had to take it easy on police, judges and prosecutors. When he released a video of Meredith’s exposed body out of the evidence file to a Bari TV station, Telenorba, Mignini turned around and had him investigated and may indict him for a criminal action. He has barely said a word since.

The final point as always in this case is one of money. Networks and writers and detectives and lawyers in the US are reaping big profits out of the “Amanda is being framed” meme and this might go on for many years. The media and the economy in Italy seem to work quite differently. No big money to be made there out of sanctifying Raffaele Sollecito.

There is probably little about him that we dont already know and haven’t already posted - other than, was the fatal blow his?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/07/09 at 05:49 PM | #

I don’t understand the violent trend that seems to be emerging among university students. Isn’t brain supposed to triumph over brawn? I just logged in to yahoo and there is a one hour old AP story on yet another science major attacking his lab partner.
A 20 year old woman, stabbed several times ( at least once in the neck) by her lab partner. He then immediately headed downstairs to the student info centre, where he calmly reported having stabbed someone. His victim is alive, but no motive has been given, and friends and fam say he’s “not the type”. Who is the type?
Annie Le is dead because someone else got bent about the way she talked to the lab mice. Has “Willard” been re-released in 3-d sensesurround? I knew some strange-o’s in college, but I never feared for my life in a classroom!

Posted by mimi on 10/10/09 at 04:23 AM | #
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