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"Damages are available only where the behavior is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies its victims the equal access to education..."

--U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, ruling that schools can be liable for student sexual harassmentEDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

Princeton Rules

Hail to the new ivy league champ of exclusivity! Harvard University, the perennial No. 1 in the hard-to-get-into category, has been supplanted by Princeton University.

Princeton accepted a record-low 10.8% of the 14,874 high school seniors who applied for admission this fall. Harvard sent "yes" letters to 11.3% of an applicant pool of 18,160, the second-highest in its history. Last year, Harvard's acceptance rate was 12.3%, vs. 13.1% at Princeton.

Despite its high rejection rate, Harvard is aggressively marketing itself. In May, it sent out nearly 50,000 letters to high school juniors with strong records. "We are writing to offer congratulations on your academic achievements and to encourage you to consider Harvard," the letters begin.

Some college counselors say the university just wants to increase next year's applicant pool to reclaim the exclusivity crown from Princeton, breaking even more teenage hearts. However, Harvard spokeswoman Sally Baker says that the university has mailed out similar letters for years. She adds that the only reason for doing so is "to attract the best candidates."EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

A Settlement Built Ford Tough?

Lawyers in a $3 billion california class action against Ford Motor, which is accused of making faulty ignition systems in some vehicles, are displaying the legal equivalent of road rage.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Michael Hausfeld claims Ford won't settle because it fears that to do so would encourage more class actions. Hausfeld claims Ford lawyer Don Lough told him that "this is just one battle in a war against class-action suits. We couldn't settle, even if we're wrong, until we cause you pain."

Lough won't confirm or deny the incendiary statement. But in an attempt to clarify what he may--or may not--have meant, Lough says: "All settlements have to cause pain to both sides." Meanwhile, he accuses Hausfeld of breaking a court-ordered silence by discussing a possible settlement and intimates that Hausfeld's fees are the main stumbling block. Since the judge determines the fees in class actions, not the lawyer, says Hausfeld, that's ridiculous.

At any rate, with suits in five other states over the same issue awaiting the outcome of the California case, both sides might well continue bickering until all 22 million vehicles in question are scrap iron.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

Air Force One: Training Jet

The hunt is on for a host of airplane mechanics whose certifications may be bogus. Military investigators say they fear the suspects received Federal Aviation Administration certification from the discredited St. George Aviation school in Sanford, Fla., and went on to work on Air Force One and other military craft.

In a federal trial that ended May 20, school owner Anthony St. George was convicted of fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors said he helped more than 1,800 mechanics, many of them in the military, achieve certification by giving them answers to the FAA test. That raised alarms for Richard Messersmith, supervisor of the Defense Dept. unit in Orlando now tracking down the mechanics. An undisclosed number working on the Presidential jet have already been pulled.

Messersmith insists safety isn't an issue because the military also provides specialized training for mechanics. But Kevin Whitmore, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, disagrees. "All aspects of aviation were touched by this case," Whitmore says, adding that safety is exactly what is at stake. The FAA says it will have the St. George mechanics working on civilian planes retake the test.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

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