Top College News Stories of 2011

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Where did 2011 go? It’s hard to believe, but we are only a few days from ending a hectic yet entertaining year. I’ll remember 2011 as the year I came into my own as a journalist, saw Donald Glover (aka rapper extraordinaire Childish Gambino) in concert, and began what I hope will be a lifelong obsession with Rebecca Black. That’s just me of course; the realm of college news this year was full of scandals, initiatives and hipsters. Check out the biggest college news stories of 2011:
1.) Jerry Sandusky Sex Scandal Shocks Nation, Ends Joe Paterno’s Career
Nothing came even close to creating the media firestorm that arose when this story broke. Not only did former Penn State coordinator Jerry Sandusky allegedly molest a dozen children over the course of a decade, but also Penn State officials – including newly disgraced coach Joe Paterno – knew about these crimes and did nothing to stop him. If I ever have to write five CM articles about something, it’s clearly the most important story of the year.
2.) Occupy Colleges A Legitimate Social Movement
As movements go, Occupy Wall Street has shown a surprising resiliency in terms of its staying power. It has gained steam in its quest to bridge the economic gap, even inspiring passionate college students to catch Occupy fever and crusade for lower tuition rates. As an out-of-state student at the University of Maryland currently paying over $37,000 a year, I sympathize.
3.) UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident Sparks Outrage
On the subject of Occupy Colleges, this act of apparent police brutality caught national attention in November. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the video of policemen using pepper spray on Occupy UC Davis protesters peacefully sitting on the ground is priceless. Never underestimate the power of YouTube.
4.) Florida A & M Hazing Ritual Ruled A Homicide
This is another story that proves all press is not good press. On November 19, FAMU drum major Robert Champion was killed during a hazing ritual that involved physical beatings. His death was later ruled a homicide. In a year where a man was convicted of molesting boys he met through a charity, this is still appalling. In an incredibly rare moment for me, this story actually left me lost for words.
5.) Another Virginia Tech Shooting Rocks Campus and Nation
I’m sure Virginia Tech is a safe place to study, but recent history isn’t dong the school’s image any favors. Tech is still recovering from the April 2007 killing of 32 people on its campus (the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history). Now it has to deal with the fallout from the shooting of 39-year-old officer Deriek W. Crouse by 22-year-old Radford student Ross T. Ashley. The Hokies just can’t seem to catch a break.
6.) The Most Embarrassing College Football Preseason Ever
2011 will be remembered as the year the game took a backseat to the shady underbelly of college athletics. There were recruiting infractions at Miami and Oregon, Cam Newton’s dad solicited money from Mississippi State before his son committed to Auburn, and (ex) Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel left the school in disgrace after covering up improper benefits received by (also ex) quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other Buckeyes for selling memorabilia and awards. Good times.
7.) Williams College Tops Forbes’ Best Colleges List
This small private liberal arts school in Williamstown, Massachusetts, took the top honors this year, followed by bigger names like Princeton (2), Stanford (5), Harvard (6), and the University of Chicago (8). One question: where is the University of Maryland? Considering Carnegie Mellon University was number 98, I think I just answered my own question.
8.) Hurricane Irene Ravages Parts of East Coast
Move-in day 2011 for many East Coast schools was threatened this year by the looming danger of Hurricane Irene. I was forced to delay my trip from Pittsburgh to College Park by a day to avoid the storm. While the storm was raging in the D.C./Maryland area, a single gray cloud besieged the Pittsburgh sky. There aren’t many benefits to the Steel City’s erratic weather patterns, but a lack of hurricanes is certainly one of them.
9.) UC Berkeley Racist Bake Sale Too Controversial For Its Own Good
This was by far my favorite headline to write this year. UC Berkeley’s protest against an impending California affirmative action-like bill (which was eventually vetoed) involved throwing a bake sale where goods were priced based on a person’s race or gender. I’m going to file this one under right idea, bad execution.
10.) College Magazine Goes Viral With A Little Hipster Help
2011 was the year that College Magazine gained national attention for its controversial list of the ten most hipster campuses in the U.S. Not only did the inclusion of Georgetown (aka the hipster capital of the world) spark an amusing amount of backlash, but even New York Magazine took notice, calling CM “utterly non-authoritative.” When you’re receiving that much criticism, it’s a sign that people know who you are. Thank you, hipsters of America. It’s because of you that College Magazine is on the path to becoming a household name.
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