what others are saying

Early mistakes by students should not hurt financial aid

The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times:

Federal education policy has denied nearly 200,000 college-bound students federal financial aid because they had prior drug convictions.

The Clinton-era law that went unenforced until President Bush took office requires students to acknowledge whether they have ever been convicted of possession or selling illegal drugs. Students are asked on their college-aid application about drug convictions. They can be declared ineligible for at least a year for a single count of possession with penalties increasing to indefinite disqualification for more than one conviction.

Students for a Sensible Drug Policy analyzed U.S. Education Department data to find that 189,000 applicants had been refused federal aid since the question was added to application forms in the 2000-01 school year. The numbers are a very small percentage of the millions of students who have applied and obtained federal aid over the years.

But release of the report renews questions about the wisdom of a policy that can prevent men and women from obtaining a college education for a single mistake made in their youth.

Federal aid to pay for soaring college expenses can decide whether some applicants, especially the poor, will attend college - an avenue to better their lives and maybe those of their families.

College officials and many organizations want the provision repealed. It is time for Congress to do that.

Justice is seldom served in many high-profile cases

Glasgow (Ky.) Daily Times:

Call it the age of ''Law & Order'' justice, where verdicts of guilt or innocence are determined before a case has curled its way through the halls of justice. As if they could be packaged into a 60-minute television court drama, where prosecutors and defense attorneys take turns releasing relevant tidbits of information proving their arguments to the general public.

Where media outlets, feeding on the frenzy and fishing for greater market shares, ask the general public for yes or no answers to such questions as: ''Do you think the Duke University lacrosse players are guilty?''

It's a frightening time in the search for justice in America when a properly placed ''leak'' of information about a high-profile ongoing case or a pending trial appears to lead the public to presumptions of guilt before innocence.

In Durham, N.C., these elements seemed to have the buggy pulling the horse in recent weeks.

A black exotic dancer alleged to have been raped by a number of white lacrosse players at an off-campus party on March 13.

Finally, the perception of Duke rooted in history of being only open to ''rich, white kids.'' This perception of the university is so persistent that it is referred to as ''The Plantation'' - a hearkening to an ugly era in the United States - in the Durham area.

All these elements will likely make for a riveting episode of some television court drama in the future.