Smart Talk, Dec. 27 

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Asked about new Hog football coach Bobby Petrino's frequent job changes, University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long was quoted in the New York Times: “We understand that it could happen to us,” he said. “But I think that we're getting a different Bobby Petrino than may have been at other places. Certainly I think that we have an older, wiser, more mature Bobby Petrino.” Commented Times columnist William Rhoden, “All things considered, that's not saying much.”

Of dogs and eagles

In Newsweek magazine's online report last week on David Huckabee's firing from Boy Scout camp after he and another counselor hanged a dog (a criminal investigation was discouraged by the governor and his lawyer), the Huckabee presidential campaign made a couple of points: David Huckabee “regrets” the incident and was later made an Eagle Scout.

Which reminded us of our report in 1998, prior to the dog hanging, of David Huckabee's scout project: To build a kiosk in War Memorial Park. Questions had been raised about how much effort the 17-year-old Huckabee put into the project. Steve Smith of the state Game and Fish Commission Foundation, who had the idea of putting Huckabee to work on the kiosk and whose organization paid for it out of state “Hooked on Fishing” funds, said the teen-ager had spent 100 hours in planning meetings, helped drill the steel supports and helped nail the shingle roof.

The hours in planning, it turns out, might have been an exaggeration: The kiosk was designed by the city parks department; staff memory there is that there was one meeting, two at most, at the park, to show Huckabee and others the plans. That, apparently, satisfied the Scout organization here.

Cafeteria blues

Harding University senior Lucas Watson has learned the hard way that the private college in Searcy is stricter about student speech than a public university.

Watson, a Georgia native concerned about what he believed to be overcharges on his debit-style meal card at the student cafeteria, distributed 300 flyers in August asking other students to ask for receipts when buying food. For that, he said, he received a letter of reprimand. In the fall, he added to his record a curfew violation in which he gave a false name to a security officer. Then, final straw, he made a video spoof about the quality of cafeteria chow and posted it briefly on-line.

“It was very much a parody,” Watson said. School officials weren't amused. He was summoned to the dean's office in early December and told he would be suspended from school unless he chose to leave voluntarily. Dr. David Collins, the dean of students, told the Times he couldn't comment.

“They said, basically, your pattern of disrespect and going against authority are not in concurrence with the mission of Harding University, so we're going to kick you out,” Watson said. Though Watson said it looks like h'll be sitting out at least one semester — he learned he would be dismissed after the deadlines to transfer to other schools had passed — he plans to complete his education elsewhere.

“It will likely be a state school, where I'm covered by the Bill of Rights,” Watson said. “It's a small document, but it means a lot.”


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