Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Tip For Good Reporters: Knox Was Really A Fake Exchange Student In Europe

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters


This is the first in a multi-part series focused on provable realities in response to an inflammatory three-page report in the New York Times almost exclusively channeling dishonest and repeatedly-refuted Knox PR.

A Damning Question For Knox

Your book contains myriad easy-to-disprove false claims.

One repeated incessantly throughout was that you were a legitimate student, on a well-funded exchange program, on the same basis as Meredith. 

As always, I had gone to my mom first. She’s a free spirit who believes we should go where our passions lead us. When I told her mine were leading me 5,599 miles away from home, to Perugia, Italy, for my junior year of college, her unsurprising response was “Go for it!”....

Now I had to convince my dad. He’s a linear thinker who works in finance. He’s into numbers and planning. As practical and organized as he is, he’d have a lot of questions. So I approached him armed preemptively with the answers….

“Dad,” I said, trying to sound businesslike, “I’d like to spend next year learning Italian in a city called Perugia. It’s about halfway between Florence and Rome, but better than either because I won’t be part of a herd of American students. It’s a quiet town, and I’ll be with serious scholars. I’ll be submerged in the culture. And all my credits will transfer to UW.”

This mantra of earnest intentions appears again and again throughout the book.  You would return from Europe academically far down the road, and only one more year at college away from a dazzling career of some kind.

What total nonsense. How absurd.

  • First, to those fellow students who knew you in Seattle and Perugia, all of this comes as a very big surprise. See the quote at the top above. You were mainly known for voraciously chasing boys and drugs, and any academic ambitions and career ambitions came a distant third and fourth. Perugia at the time had the reputation of being one of Europe’s easiest drug cities; was that as some acquaintances think the real reason you made a beeline to it?

  • Second, you were utterly underfunded for a full academic year in Europe which costs Americans on average maybe $20,000. Why did your accountant father and math teacher mother not do the sums, see the huge shortfall,  and absolutely insist that you apply for the grants and scholarships that are readily available? How did you propose to work legally in Europe to make up the shortfall, as all Americans working in Europe require a work permit? (And what of your fingering Patrick for the murder, after he took a risk of losing his bar business in hiring you illegally?)

  • Third, there is no way that your “study year” in Perugia (if it was to be a year, which is highly doubtful)  could represent your junior year at university. There is no way “all” your “credits” could be transferred to the University of Washington, because (1) the School for Foreigners (a non degree issuing junior arm of Perugia University) does not even issue credits that count for American universities; in fact it is only a glorified language school (nice, but no better than several in Seattle) which allows in anyone who wants to study there. And (2) unlike Meredith you were not even enrolled at the main university, so zero prospects of transferring credits from there.

Your status was in fact that of a loose cannon and quite the opposite of a typical American studying abroad. You had almost zero study load to keep you out of mischief and off drugs; compare that to Meredith’s 40-50 hours a week. You were really, while denying it, taking a year off from your studies and career in Europe, as this account  by an academic counselor makes quite clear.

The media have now repeated countless times that Amanda Knox was on a “study abroad program”.

In fact, as these things are defined, she was not. It is precisely that she was NOT on a study-abroad program that she was able to adopt a lifestyle that seems to have led her to where she is now.

To go on a study-abroad “program” means that you attend an organized and SUPERVISED curriculum and agenda, most often with peers, faculty and/or at the very least a local administrative staff person assigned to periodically look after the participants’ behavior and well-being.

In fact the University of Washington does not even have a study abroad “program” in Perugia.

It merely suggests to UW students that the Universita per Stranieri is a possible destination and place for students to go on their own, and if asked helps out with some administration.

Knox took the “non-conformist” path to study abroad. I recall reading that she did not want to go on a program so as to not follow the herd, so to speak. So she did study abroad, but cheaply, and outside an organized program by the University of Washington. She was basically in Perugia on her own.

This is characteristic of at least two type of people, those who are adventurous, exploratory and want a true full-immersion experience into the cultural side of the host country (usually Italian majors), and those who want to be untethered and to have total freedom and no one to answer to so they can do as they wish.

Her casual attitude to her studies and other strong hints in her behavior and writings suggests that she was the latter type.

And presumably her biological parents understood all of this and signed off on it, even before Amanda Knox ever left Seattle.

Parents especially should know that if Knox had attended a UW-operated or US-University run study abroad program with supervision, her attendance in class would have been monitored, and any behavior that would upset roommates may have been reported.

In these programs for the most part there are strict housing rules such as no overnight guests, let alone bringing guys home to sack up with. Most of the time roommates will complain on the spot or get back to the American administrators that they have an out-of-control roommate bringing guys home, drinking excessively, or doing drugs.

In addition, programs with the proper supervision have enough of a presence to let the participants know that someone is at least checking up now and again. And as a result they watch their behavior.

Furthermore, in well-run programs, students are given significant preparation about living in the specific host country and city with pre-departure materials and perhaps meetings, talking with ex-participants, and attending an extensive multi-day orientation where staff and even local police lecture them about the many pitfalls of living in a foreign and new environment away from home.

They are reminded that the laws are different in other countries, and more importantly that there are some bad people walking the streets. They are told to enjoy themselves and learn, but also to be careful, stay alert, stay out of trouble, and so on.

I myself work in study abroad and we know what unleashed unsupervised colleges students get themselves into. We are trained to look for potential problems and we visit all students accommodations at least once per month and speak with everyone there.

We have open-door counseling and professionals with years of experience on staff. We watch out for all our students regularly”; we know what behavior to look for, and when to intervene, at least most of the time.

Yes, it costs more to attend the Universita per Stranieri or any overseas university through a US-college or US-university monitored program with local on-site staff and supervision.

But the situation Amanda has created, or at least found herself in, is much less likely to happen to students on a supervised and accredited study abroad program.

Let’s face it, at the age of 20, 21, or 22, many young adults are still really more or less kids. Naive and vulnerable, especially those who have yet to explore their “wild side”, they sometimes see this as an opportunity to make up for lost time.

This is exemplified in the fact that many pass out from drinking in the days after they arrive. Bottom line, they need guidance, and no more so than when they are 8000 miles from home and on their own.

Knox took the “I am too good to go on study abroad program with fellow students” route and the cheapest way overseas.  And it is not proving so cheap anymore.

Her biological parents really should have known better. All parents should either make sure the students are mature enough, or make sure they have a structured environment that can assist them while abroad. It is well worth the extra cost and peace of mind.

So the media should please get this straight from now on.

  • Amanda Knox was NOT on a study abroad “program” while in Perugia.  She was at most “studying abroad” as that term is used very loosely.

  • She took a leave from the University of Washington to study Italian at what is essentially a glorified language school which anyone can attend.

  • She was totally unsupervised in a high-risk situation where it would have seemed obvious to any supervisor that she was looking to break away.

  • And she most likely would have had a very difficult time getting any credit for her studies from the University of Washington at the conclusion.

So. The worst possible deal for any student abroad. The parents signed off in advance.  It seems to have exploded on Knox. And poor Meredith died.

In fact so scary was your semi-connection to the University of Washington with its zero control and potential huge liabilities that SINGLE HANDED your irresponsible and dangerous arc in Perugia sparked reforms in universities throughout American

Mirroring a nationwide trend, the University of Washington is overhauling how its students and professors interface with foreign countries….

The UW study abroad experience today involves much more oversight than it did two years ago when Amanda Knox left on an unsupervised European adventure that quickly degenerated into a nightmare.

When Knox, who is on trial for murder in Italy, left her familiar U-district environs in late summer 2007, she embarked on her own independent study in Umbria with very few guidelines or institutional oversight.

She arrived in the tolerant student melange of Perugia, a vibrant college town with temptation at every turn and many paradoxes (drug deals and party plans are often made on the steps of the cathedral).

A month later, the honor student’s pub-crawling, pot-smoking college shenanigans had taken a very serious turn and she was being hauled off to the Capanne penitentiary, where she remains today, pleading her innocence as the trial and controversial accusations against her plod forward.

Once her troubles began, the university tried to offer support, but had very few official guidelines to follow for responding to the kind of complicated legal-judicial matter Knox faced.

It’s different now….

In the wake of several negative overseas episodes, officials are busy raising awareness about the positive impact the UW is having worldwide and taking steps to improve communications, regulation and emergency preparedness for its students abroad.

Compared with two years ago, international education officials are more closely tracking who, where and what study-abroad programs involve. The university has new rules:. The department chair has to sign off on the program. Insurance is required. So is a cell phone. No program money can be used to buy alcohol, just for starters.

“There’s a much more formal process now,” said Taso Lagos, a UW professor who teaches international communication and manages a study-abroad program in Greece. “With administrators that are very aware, with lines of communication open and policies in place if something happens.”...

The UW’s growing commitment to international education—- even in a budget crisis—is reflected in some developments. [UW Vice Provost for Global Affairs Stephen Hanson] was named a vice provost in January, and in the spring, the UW dedicated an entire wing of the Gerberding Hall administration building to growing an international mission and profile.

This year, a travel security and information officer is coming on board to oversee emergency response and preparedness, as is Peter Moran, a new director of international programs and exchanges who previously worked at the Fulbright Commission office in Katmandu, Nepal.

New guidelines are being put in place to streamline communications, ease financial transactions and institute mandatory training for faculty taking students abroad. The Global Support Project, a rapid-response team with one person from each branch of the central administration, takes on cross-disciplinary international challenges.

Such reforms aren’t unique to UW.

Universities across the country are examining how better to organize study abroad to meet blossoming demand from students (and prospective employers) for foreign experience. Many are turning to independent service providers whose business it is to contract housing, health care or niche risk management services dealing with legal, financial or public relations crises when things go haywire abroad…..

Though the university bore no responsibility for any of the events Knox became entangled in, media across the world continued to mention the University of Washington—whether it was because of character witnesses who were her college buddies, reports of wild off-campus parties Knox attended in Seattle or her studies while in prison.

And it gets even worse. Page 14 of Sollecito’s book says you were not even staying in Perugia for more than one semester or term.

This was maybe three or four days into our relationship. The night before we left [for Assisi], I noticed she was chatting on Facebook with an American friend. I asked who he was. Right away, she explained that she, like Meredith, had left behind a boyfriend when she came to Italy. His name was David Johnsrud, known as D.J., and… they chatted or e-mailed almost every day. D.J. was spending his junior year in China… As the conversation went on, I learned she had just bought a ticket to China to visit D.J. later in the year [this was in October] and my suspicions were confirmed.

That intention to quit Perugia so soon is missing from your own book. Strange.

Your fake front of a diligent, serious, demanding year in Italy appears again and again throughout your book.  It is the whole basis for why you were at least the equal of Meredith and her circle and the others who lived in your house.

For why you would have little time off for irresponsible partying. For why there was no way you could possibly feel jealous or over-competitive toward Meredith.

In fact, both you and your foolish parents acted grossly irresponsibly. And as a direct result, Meredith died.

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Or to previous entry RIP Meredith Susanna Cara Kercher 28 December 1985 - 1 November 2007