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As applications loom, UMass-Amherst still seeking admissions director

The last time the University of Massachusetts at Amherst had a permanent, full-time admissions director, Bill Clinton was in the White House, David Scott was chancellor of the campus, and the university had just announced plans to start using a controversial "point" system to deal with race in admissions. Five years later, the state's flagship public college, which received more than 16,000 undergraduate applications last year, still has no head of admissions. After Arlene Cash left for a job at the University of Arkansas in January 1999, an interim director served for eight months; since then, the duties have been divided among several people. "It wasn't a solution; it was survival," said Javier Cevallos, the former vice chancellor of student affairs, and now president of Kutztown (Pa.) University. A search in 2000 failed to find the right candidate, and another planned for 2001 was postponed as budget problems mounted, said Cevallos. With a month to go before student applications start pouring in, the new vice chancellor, Michael Gargano, said this month he plans to launch another search in January. UMass is facing a particular challenge this year: Admitting a diverse class without its point system, which had to be dropped after the Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action this summer.

ACROSS TOWN . . . Forty years ago today, in one of his last speeches before his death, President John F. Kennedy exhorted Amherst College students and faculty to remember that "with privilege goes responsibility," and pointed out that private colleges were taking half of their students from the wealthiest 10 percent of the United States. Today, when Anthony W. Marx is inaugurated president of the 1,600-student college, he plans to deliver a pointed address that harks back to Kennedy's words and laments that not enough has changed. Amherst spends one-fifth of its budget on financial aid, which half its students receive, he said in an interview last week. But "it's still the case that a vastly disproportionate number of our students come from the wealthiest parts of America . . . and that raises some questions for us about how we're doing as a college and a society." Marx, who came to Amherst from Columbia, replaces Tom Gerety, who took a job heading New York University's Brennan Center for Justice. How does he plan to attack the imbalance? Marx doesn't have a specific plan, but said he'll pursue the question with alumni, trustees, and faculty.

LAW SCHOOLS VS. THE PENTAGON: It looks like momentum is building for the group of law professors suing the Pentagon over the Solomon Amendment, which lets the military force schools to allow its recruiters on campus. Boston College Law professor Kent Greenfield, who is spearheading the fight, expects a federal judge to decide any day now on whether to issue an injunction against the US Defense Department. (An injunction would let law schools resume barring recruiters from the military, whose "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates many schools' nondiscrimination rules.) Opposition to the Solomon Amendment is snowballing. New York University Law School has gone public as part of Greenfield's group, whose membership of professors and schools is largely anonymous. Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale have filed their own lawsuits. And now Harvard's president, Larry Summers, and law school dean Elena Kagan are under pressure to join the fray. Last week, 47 of Harvard Law's 81 faculty members sent Summers a letter urging him to "initiate or join litigation" challenging the law. Another 14 law student organizations sent a similar plea to Summers and Kagan. A spokeswoman for Summers said he hadn't had time to give a considered response, while Kagan could not be reached for comment. But in a letter to the community a few weeks ago, Kagan wrote of her "deep distress" over the issue. "The military's policy" banning openly gay service members, she wrote, "is a profound wrong -- a moral injustice of the first order."

Marcella Bombardieri and Jenna Russell of the Globe staff compiled this report. Question? Tip? E-mail

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