Duke University Alumni Magazine

We asked the seniors in a seminar on magazine journalism to reflect on the books they'd like to read now that they're not bound by undergraduate reading requirements.

"I'd pick anything by Wally Lamb," says Shannon Chany. "I've read She's Come Undone and was severely blown away; I've read it four times." A reflective Jeff Lam is drawn to Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom, which describes the renewed relationship between the author and his old college professor. "It is a book about taking time out of your life to find meaning in your life."

From some class reading assignments, Emily Gates developed an interest in author (and Duke parent) Tom Wolfe. One of her post-graduation goals is to read Wolfe's rollicking treatment of the Sixties, hippies, and the drug culture in America, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Ben Sands wants to read a modern classic, On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. "As I prepare for my life 'on the road,' I am interested to hear Kerouac's fresh and challenging take on the order of things," he says. With personal and professional interests in mind, Alexis Sherwin is looking forward to Rachel Carson's environmental classic, Silent Spring. "I have heard so much about it and, since I am entering law school to study environmental law, I hope it will serve as a source of inspiration," she says.

Kelly Malcom observes that, at least for a while, she may be luxuriating in reading opportunities. "Seeing as I am still unemployed, I will have ample time for reading," she reports. The first book she'll pick up is the latest edition of the career advice guide What Color Is Your Parachute, "then maybe something by Iyanla VanZant or Deepak Chopra to get in touch with my spiritual side. Finally, I've been dying to read one of the much-touted Harry Potter books, which the under-ten set has been raving about. Gotta stay young!"

What does the Elian Gonzalez case teach us about the rights of children to speak in judicial proceedings in which they have an interest?

It is generally the case in U.S. law that children are not entitled to be heard in legal proceedings, including those in which they have an interest. This doctrine is premised upon two related notions.

First, children are as a legal matter presumed to be incompetent, and only competent persons are entitled formally to participate in legal proceedings. Children are thought to lack the knowledge, experience, independence, and wisdom necessary to make good judgments and choices about their lives. The law is particularly concerned that younger children are often developmentally incapable of distinguishing truth from fantasy, and are often if not always influenced in their thinking by those adults who care for them.

The only exceptions to this hard-and-fast rule exist in some (but not all) states, where adolescents who are found to be "mature minors" may be heard even when they disagree with their parents, and where children about ten or older are asked their views in divorce custody disputes. Significantly, even when these children are permitted to speak, their opinions are not determinative.

The second notion underlying this doctrine is that a child's parents are uniquely situated because of their biological and emotional ties to the child, and their investment in the child, to determine what is in the child's best interests. Because of this, parents have an almost absolute right to raise their children as they wish. This natural right also resides in the Constitution and can only be abridged where there is solid evidence of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. It cannot be abridged by a child when the child disagrees with his parents.

Federal immigration law largely mirrors this well-established domestic law. If an accompanied or unaccompanied minor has a lawful parent either in the U.S. or in his country of origin, and there is no good evidence that this parent has abused, neglected or abandoned the child, the parent will speak for his child in immigration-related proceedings, including in asylum proceedings. There is an exception to this rule that permits a child to speak for himself, against the wishes of his parents, "in an appropriate case" where there is evidence that the parents are ignoring the child's "well-founded fear of persecution" in his country of origin. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which administers these regulations, has never interpreted or been required to interpret this particular provision to apply to children under twelve.

Thus, the INS's categorical position in the Elian Gonzalez case is that it need not even consider that the boy has filed a petition for asylum. While he did write his name "Elian" on the bottom of such an application completed by his Miami relatives and their lawyers, his own decision (if it could be called that) to do so is legally irrelevant. Moreover, those relatives and lawyers have no legal basis to substitute for his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, since he has never been found to have abused, neglected, or abandoned Elian.

--Doriane Lambelet Coleman, a child law specialist, is senior lecturing fellow at the law school

"I don't think it's beyond our power to devise a system in which we have clusters of people living near each other who have relatively common goals without creating a fraternity ghetto or a selective living angle in which everyone is off by themselves."

--President Nannerl O. Keohane, in The Chronicle, on the idea of clustering similar living groups in certain West Campus quadrangles as part of new residential plans being reviewed

"What kind of a message is our government sending when a nineteen-year-old can die for his country, smoke, drive, and even vote, but can't enjoy a beer?"

--from a Chronicle editorial, "Open the Taps," calling for the university to lobby to lower the national drinking age as part of a solution to campus binge-drinking concerns

"We all want to believe that we can keep college athletics very pure and that once we pay athletes it would taint that. But I do see kids struggling to get by financially. Obviously, something needs to be done, but we will need to proceed with caution."

--Gail Goestenkors, Duke women's basketball coach, in the News & Observer, in a forum on stipends for college athletes

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