Briefly: News from spring break

State assembly kills bill regarding Catholic Church oversight

In light of concerns over its constitutionality, state legislators killed a bill in the General Assembly that would force the Catholic Church to give lay leaders more control over parish finances. Senate Bill 1098, known as An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Corporations, drew widespread public outrage culminating in a rally of thousands in Hartford. The bill, called “blatantly unconstitutional, insensitive and inappropriate” by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, will not be reconsidered during this legislative session, currently scheduled to end June 3.

—Zeke Miller

Simmons surfaces as challenger to Sen. Dodd

Former Second District Congressman Rob Simmons has announced he will seek to challenge Sen. Chris Dodd in 2010. The Republican confirmed his candidacy to numerous news outlets last week. Simmons, who lost his congressional re-election bid in 2006, is the first Republican to declare for the race. Others who have indicated they may seek to challenge Dodd include State Sen. Sam Caligiuri and CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow.

—Zeke Miller

Owner of local night club Alchemy arrested for assault

Rommerro Farrah of West Hartford, proprietor of the downtown nightclubs Alchemy and Elevate, was arrested by New Haven Police Department officers last week for his role in the assault of Stephen Lunn, a patron of Club Elevate. On Feb. 1, Lunn was ejected from Club Elevate by six club employees, who chased Lunn across the street and assaulted him, according to a press release by city spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga. Mayorga said a police investigation found that Farrah kicked and punched Lunn in the assault, which left Lunn with a broken nose and multiple lacerations to his face. A call to Alchemy requesting to speak with Farrah was not returned.

—Harrison Korn

Last week, shooting sends local man to hospital

Early Tuesday evening a man was shot while sitting in his car at the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Dwight Street, two blocks from the University, the New Haven Police Department said. At 5:30 p.m., the perpetrator walked up to the male victim’s car and shot him in the shoulder. The victim was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

—Harrison Korn

Quinnipiac poll shows tie between Dodd and Simmons

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and potential 2010 challenger former Congressman Rob Simmons are tied in a hypothetical matchup, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released March 10. The poll also showed Dodd leading over other possible Republican contenders, including State Sen. Sam Caligiuri and CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow. Approval ratings for Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 remain high, with 75 percent and 81 percent, respectively. According to the poll, Connecticut voters also support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana by a margin of 58-37, and opening liquor stores on Sundays with 54 percent supporting.

—Zeke Miller

Various local projects vie for federal stimulus funding

Connecticut officials released a list of projects they hope will receive funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including millions of dollars worth for New Haven. Proposed funding allocations include $10 million for transit development at the 360 State St. site, $2.9 million for repair of the Shubert Theater and $5.7 for renovations of Crown Street. The list, prepared at the behest of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, is still undergoing revision, and final allocation decisions are expected to be made in the next few months. Funding for Tweed Airport has yet to be announced.

—Zeke Miller

AutoAdmit defendant’s lawyer asks Conn. court to dismiss case

An attorney for a defendant in an online defamation lawsuit filed by two Yale Law School students has asked a District Court judge in Hartford to dismiss the case. Joseph Fortner, legal counsel for defendant Matthew Ryan, argued March 6 that the U.S. District Court in Hartford lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, in which Ryan stands accused of posting defamatory comments regarding the students, Brittan Heller LAW ’08 and Heidi Iravani LAW ’09, to Web site AutoAdmit.com between 2005 and 2007. Ryan has never been to Connecticut, Fortner argued, and the Web site is run on computers in another state.

—Derek Tam

Jones LAW ’93 tapped as Obama green jobs adviser

Van Jones LAW ’93 will serve as Special Advisorfor Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to President Barack Obama beginning March 16, the White House Council on Environmental Quality announced. Jones, founder and President of nonprofit organization Green for All, which creates green jobs in impoverished areas, authored 2008 New York Times best-seller, “The Green Collar Economy” and served as keynote speaker at this year’s Rebellious Lawyering Conference, held last month at Yale Law School. In his new position, Jones will help shape President Barack Obama’s climate and energy proposals, ensuring that the policies will provide equal protection and equal opportunity for affected workers.

—Derek Tam

MIT admit rate drops to record-low 10.2 percent

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology admitted a record-low 10.2 percent of applicants to the class of 2013, a 1.3 percentage point drop compared to last year’s 11.6 percent admit rate. Only 1,597 of this year’s 15,661 total applicants were offered admission to MIT, compared to 1,554 of last year’s 13,396 total applicants. MIT saw a 17 percent increase in applicants this year, and, in an interview with the MIT student newspaper, Dean of Admissions Stewart Schmill attributed this rise partly to the university’s new partnership with QuestBridge, a program helping match high-achieving low-income students with top universities.

—Raymond Carlson

Harvard endowment payout to budget drops

The contribution of Harvard’s endowment to the university’s budget will fall 15 percent, or $52 million, over the next two years. More than half of the budget of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences depends on the endowment. Harvard’s fund, the largest of any American university, is expected to decline 30 percent this year, compared to a 25 percent projection at the second-richest, Yale. Yale’s endowment payout will fall about 6 percent from $1.164 billion in the current fiscal year to $1.105 billion in the 2010 fiscal year.

—Isaac Arnsdorf

Cornell announces bond sale to raise funds

Squeezed both by its falling endowment and reduced funding from New York State, Cornell University will try to raise up to $500 million by selling bonds. Cornell President David Skorton announced March 6 that he would authorize the sale of taxable bonds to raise capital for the school. The move follows similar liquidity crunches at peer schools such as Harvard, which have resorted to dumping private equity holdings on secondary markets at huge discounts. Yale’s Investments Office has so far avoided a similar cash shortage, and University administrators say they are committed to maintaining Yale’s top credit rating.

—Isaac Arnsdorf

Court rejects motion to throw out Korean suit

The Connecticut District Court has rejected Yale’s motion to have a lawsuit by Dongguk University against it dropped, the Korean Daily News reported March 12. The Korean university — to which Yale accidentally verified the authenticity of a fabricated doctorate — filed a suit against the University last March, seeking at least $50 million in damages for harm to its reputation. Yale’s motion to dismiss the suit called the incorrect verification an “honest mistake” that was unintentional and had insubstantial consequences. “The court decision to reject Yale’s request tells us that the U.S. court at least does not see the issue as an ‘honest mistake,’” a Dongguk University spokesman told the Korean Daily News.

—The Yale Daily News

World Economic Forum recognizes prof.

Yale economics professor Aleh Tsyvinski will join the World Economic Forum’s 2009 class of Young Global Leaders, a group of 230 people drawn from government, business, academia, nonprofit organizations and the arts. Tsyvinski — whose research focuses on macroeconomics and public economics, with a special focus on public policy, taxation and regulations of financial markets — says he is the first person from Belarus to be named a Young Global Leader, although he was considered an American by the nominating committee. Tsyvinski, 31, is one of the youngest tenured full professors at Yale.

—The Yale Daily News

Yale professors to use Novel Research Award for nanotechnology

Thanks to a $300,000 Novel Research Award, Tarek Fahmy, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and Joseph Craft, professor of medicine and immunobiology, will embark on a three-year project to develop a therapy with nanoparticles that target pathogenic immune cells. The nanoparticle delivery system will consist of biodegradable particles approximately the size of viruses that target malfunctioning cells and interfere with their communication processes using the drug mycophenolic acid in model systems of lupus.

—The Yale Daily News

Contractors jailed for misapplying University funds

Two women affiliated with a now-defunct Arlington, Texas-based employee benefits consulting business accused of misapplying University funds have been sentenced to 60 days in prison, 60 days of house arrest and 10 years’ probation, the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram reported March 14. Jeanne Baker, 62, and Robin Birdsong, 53, pled guilty to diverting University funds to pay salaries and expenses for their firm, ERN Holdings Inc., which folded in October 2002.

—The Yale Daily News

Elis attend conference

University President Richard Levin, four Yale faculty and several students from the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies attended the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change, at the University of Copenhagen from March 10-12. The Yale delegation included Office of Sustainability Director Julie Newman and professors William Nordhaus, Mark Ashton and Karen Seto. Levin chaired the opening day’s plenary session and participated, along with Newman, in a workshop on creating green universities. The Yale delegation’s participation also included Nordhaus’ speech on global warming policies and a session on reducing carbon emissions chaired by Ashton.

—Jessica Letchford

Playwright Milan Stitt ’68 dies at age 68

Milan Stitt ’68, who was chairman of the playwriting program at the School of Drama from 1987 to 1993, died of liver cancer March 12 in Manhattan. The playwright was best known for his critically well-received Broadway drama, “The Runner Stumbles” and the Circle Repertory Theater, where he was head of the play development program that launched the careers of several Off Broadway playwrights. After the Circle Repertory closed due to lack of funding in 1996, Stitt became the professor of dramatic writing at Carnegie Mellon University, a position he held until his death.

—Danika Fears

School of Music names grant winners

School of Music Dean Robert Blocker announced the first winners of the recently inaugurated alumniVentures program, which provided $100,000 in grants to School of Music alumni. The four winners of $10,000 grants, Lars Frandsen ’92, Mildred Rosner ’56, Margot Schwartz and Terri Sundberg ’86, have started musical programs as a form of public service. Over 300 grants, ranging from outreach programs to recitals, were proposed to a committee led by Deputy Dean Thomas Masse ’91. Though the economic recession may force the School of Music to reduce funding for the program, Dean Blocker said he plans to continue alumniVentures next year.

—Danika Fears

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