Top 10 College-Related News Stories of 2011

As the year 2011 comes to a close, college students travel home to count their blessings and celebrate new beginnings. But before the calendar is turned and party hats are donned, it's time to reflect on a year filled with sensational scandals, hopeful uprisings and surprising verdicts. Here are the top 10 college-related news stories of 2011.

1. Penn State scandal

Football fans and members of the Penn State community alike were shocked when Jerry Sandusky,67,  a former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, was arrested on Nov. 5 for seven counts of sexually abusing eight young boys over a 15-year period.. Only four days later, famed football coach Joe Paterno, 84, released an unapproved statement that he planned to retire at the end of the season. Later that day, the board of trustees fired Paterno and Graham Spanier, university president. 

Sandusky was later released on $100,000 bail. Since the grand jury report broke, Paterno has maintained his innocence and only admitted to “horsing around” and doing “some of the things” listed in the report, according to CNN. 

Sandusky now faces 52 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys he met during his participation in the Second Mile program, a nonprofit organization for underprivileged youth. 

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2. Occupy Davis protestors pepper-sprayed

The Occupy movement originated on Wall Street in New York City on Sept. 17, and rapidly spread to over 95 cities across 85 countries. Protestors began to speak their mind on high unemployment rates, corporate greed, corruption, and socio-economic inequality. “We are the 99%” began the slogan of the movement, representing the gap between the wealthiest 1% of Americans and the remaining 99%. 

College students nationwide soon started their own Occupy efforts, including 50 students at the University of California, Davis. In mid November, a group of students gathered on the Northern California campus were approached by UC Davis police officer Lt. John Pike. When they refused to vacate the space, Pike sprayed them with pepper spray, thus launching an outcry from students and bystanders alike. 

News of the dispute quickly reached the national level and has since led to two UC Davis officers being placed on administrative leave. Occupy Davis protestors have vacated campus but continue their efforts here

"Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history," said UC Davis president Mark G. Yudof. "It is a value we must protect with vigilance."

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3. Amanda Knox acquitted of murder

American college student Amanda Knox's lengthy, heart-rending trial came to a close in October when she was acquitted by an appeals court. The murder conviction in the 2007 death of her roommate Meredith Kercher was overturned after four years of detention. 

Knox and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher. Sollecito's conviction was also removed. 

We've been waiting for this for four years,” Giulia Bongiorno, one of Sollecito's lawyers told CBS News. 

Knox claimed innocence throughout her four-year detention period in Italy. In an address to the court, she said, "I insist I'm innocent and that must be defended. I just want to go home, go back to my life." She left prison 90 minutes after the court adjourned. 

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4. Shooting at UC Berkeley

In November, 32-year-old Christopher Nathen Elliot Travis and transfer student at UC Berkeley was shot after refusing to relinquish his weapon. University police responded to a 911 call from a staff member who had seen Travis with a gun in his backpack. Four officers apprehended Travis at the computer lab and, after asking him repeatedly to drop his weapon, shot him 3-4 times. Travis later died from his wounds at a nearby hospital. 

This is one of the most difficult times we have had as a community,” Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said in an address to the Haas school community the next day.  “I want to thank the Haas staff for their alertness in this issue. It was just extraordinary. This sets an example for responsibility and alertness. I also want to thank the police for their very quick response.”

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5. Students arrested for SAT fraud

High school students nationwide stress over the standardized test some believe can make or break their chances at a successful and happy college career. Six students from Great Neck North High School decided to place their fate in the hands of Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a former Great Neck student who attended Emory University.

The six high school students paid Eshagoff up to $2500 to take the test for them, but were discovered when teachers at Great Neck compared their average academic performance to their unusually high test scores. Eshaghoff was arraigned on charges of scheming to defraud, criminal impersonation and falsifying business records. The students were arrested on Sept. 27 on misdemeanor charges.

The young men and women arrested today instead chose to scam the system and victimize their own friends and classmates, and for that they find themselves in handcuffs,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice told NBC New York. 

In November, thirteen more students were arrested for SAT fraud, nine who were accused of paying someone to take the test and four who were accused of taking the test for others. All have pleaded not guilty. 

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