Columns » Max Brantley

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The Arkansas Supreme Court, closing the door on the Lake View case - Dissenter Tom Glaze was right. The court will be back in 21 years saying the state's schools are still unconstitutional. Did Justice Robert Brown really say, "We offer no conclusion on the precise definition of an adequate education as we deem that to be a matter better left to the General Assembly and to the State Department of Education."? If that's so, how did the court manage to rule schools inadequate in the first place? The majority also said that schools had to be "substantially equal," but they did not have to be identical. This tells legislators just what they wanted to hear. It's fine to let rich districts like Bentonville, Springdale and Little Rock offer 120 high school courses and every conceivable extracurricular activity. It's substantially equal to let a woebegone Delta kid make do with 38 courses, some taught by TV and others by underpaid beginners. The governor is right. The lawsuits have only just begun. "The Hunting of the President" - The documentary movie on the right-wing's success at manipulating national media against Bill Clinton won't do a fraction of the business Michael Moore will do with his "Fahrenheit 9/11." But it is still valuable. It has been noticed by the mainstream media, which remain susceptible to right-wing influence. They are at last biting and barking at President George Bush. Don't underestimate the shame factor produced by such films in explaining the welcome, if belated, press vigor. Nolan Richardson's lawsuit - Yes, he has a sliver of a case. He was fired for exercising his right to free speech. People who approved his firing have been known to tell racist jokes. There were differences in treatment accorded Richardson and white counterparts. It's also true that Richardson was very well paid, his record was deteriorating and his sharp tongue was damaging to the place he worked. But his boss, Frank Broyles, who admitted bandying the N-word about, feared the angry black man. He failed to adequately counsel Richardson or otherwise build a proper record for dismissal. Broyles mismanaged his department, in other words. Chancellor John White, who failed in a coup attempt against Broyles, likewise failed to adequately supervise the Athletic Department. He also lied when climactic Richardson events occurred. It's not strictly about money, as the UA's hired gun, Phil Kaplan, has asserted. Money is just the score in Richardson's grudge match against Broyles. It's about ego and pride and Richardson's bone-deep bitterness. The public humiliation of the university and its huge legal fees have already been some reward for Richardson. He may have to settle for that. But federal Judge Bill Wilson might at least offer a few choice words about the sorry performance of UA administrators if he denies Richardson damages.

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