Wandering Eye: The University of Oregon's shady behavior in a sexual-assault case, new e-cig data, and more

Back in January, a sexual-assault survivor at University of Oregon filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school for its handling of her case, which involved three basketball players cornering her in a bathroom and raping her multiple times. The school had filed a counterclaim against her that sought to recover legal expenses from the complainant. Though the university later dropped the counterclaim, Katie Rose Guest Pryal points out in The Chronicle of Higher Education an "ugly, frightening sliver" of a legal quirk in the case: "The Oregon administration accessed the rape survivor's therapy records from its counseling center and handed them over to its general counsel's office to help them defend against her lawsuit. They were using her own post-rape therapy records against her." You would presume that such records would be protected by medical privilege, but it turns out that, thanks to a loophole in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, universities can use the records from their campus health clinics without a student's consent in a few instances, including when the student sues the institution. The columnist's advice? "Students: Don't go to your college counseling center to seek therapy. Go to an off-site counseling center. If, God forbid, you've been sexually assaulted, try to find a rape-crisis center . . . You simply do not have adequate privacy protections if you go to a college-provided counselor. Sorry. (Or, in the University of Oregon's case, sorry not sorry.)" (Anna Walsh)


Here's a case that could be used to illustrate many things about vehicle stops, search and seizure, and civil rights: Police in Las Vegas stopped Robin and Beverly Bruins, an older white couple from Washington State, driving their '62 Impala with 1962-issue plates. They took Robin to jail, charging him with stealing the car. The cops were wrong; the car was theirs. But because they didn't understand year-of-issue license plates, and then because of a keystroke error on the VIN, they thought the Impala was a stolen car, and so they went into Cop Mode, pointing guns, shouting conflicting orders, and generally keeping themselves safe as they terrified the couple. A CBS affiliate has the story, with video of the arrest, and it shows the cops questioning their own actions. The Bruins plainly did not look like car thieves. They did not act like the sort of people who had stolen a $30,000 classic car. They had no prior arrests. Beverly Bruins had a broken leg. "We live our lives so we don't get into situations like this," she told the TV reporter. So the Bruins are suing for civil-rights violations because police did not use their judgment—which was correct—in order to go easy on the older, white (and innocent) couple. Scott Greenfield picks up the case on his "Simple Justice" blog, where he relates it to recent Supreme Court decisions on search and seizure. And he puts Cop Mode in the correct context: "Exercising discretion can be scary, as you could let a heinous elderly criminal with no criminal record go free, and all the cops at the station will make fun of you. Better to arrest and let someone else sort it out. Then, it's not your fault." Good thing the Bruins didn't have a couple grand in cash on them. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


study published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology compared the contents of cigarette smoke to the vapor released by puffing electronic cigarettes, and to ambient air, and produced results showing "mainstream cigarette smoke delivered approximately 1500 times more harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) tested when compared to e-cigarette aerosol or to puffing room air." (Disclosure: After decades of heavy smoking, this writer used e-cigs to quit, and hasn't had a conventional cigarette in 11 months.) Anti-smoking public-health researcher Michael Siegel of Boston University says on his blog that the study "adds to the abundant and growing body of evidence that electronic cigarettes are orders of magnitude safer than tobacco cigarettes and suggests that brands of e-cigarettes that do not overheat the e-liquid may be associated with very minor absolute health risks." Studies, such as this one in the New England Journal of Medicine, of the vapor produced by high-heat e-cigs show the presence of cancer-causing formaldehyde, but, as New York Times columnist Joe Nocera points out, vaping at formaldehyde-producing voltages produces such an unbearably bad burning taste, users won't inhale the aerosol. Let the studies continue, but may they be useful, realistic, well designed, and informative, not political, as too many on this subject appear to be. (Van Smith) 

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