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Ballot Box: Collegiate support; Priorities; Lessons in democracy?; 'Dynamite event; Youth think

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More than 230 higher-education leaders last week endorsed Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas for President.

"As far as we can tell, this is unprecedented,'' Joseph Duffey, the president of American University, said at a news conference.

The endorsement list, which was published as an advertisement in The Chronicle of Higher Education, includes current and former college presidents, deans, and trustees at institutions ranging from nationally known universities to community colleges.

In their letter, the officials criticized President Bush's education record and said they believe Mr. Clinton "will provide the leadership needed to reinvigorate America's most important intellectual and economic resources.''

A similar letter was issued Oct. 15 by 100 faculty members at Georgetown University, where Mr. Clinton earned his undergraduate degree.

In a poll taken last week at the College Board's annual forum in New York, 81 percent supported Mr. Clinton.

President Bush was backed by 14 percent, and the independent candidate Ross Perot by 4 percent.

The 297 respondents represented 16 percent of the 1,818 forum attendees.

About 79 percent of Clinton supporters said they are strongly committed, and 97 percent said he would have the best effect on education. Of Bush backers, 72 percent are strongly committed, and 65 percent think he would have the best educational impact.

Donna E. Shalala, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, outlined her vision for a children's agenda at the College Board forum.

The speech was given deeper significance by Ms. Shalala's close connection to the Clinton circle.

Ms. Shalala, often mentioned as a potential Secretary of Education in a Clinton Administration, is particularly close to Mr. Clinton's wife, Hillary, whom she succeeded as chairwoman of the Children's Defense Fund.

Ms. Shalala called for full funding of Head Start, enhanced preschool and parenting programs, and universal access to immunization and nutrition programs.

She said the next President should encourage systemic reform by supporting performance-based assessment and stressing outcomes, not process.

Although she has been called an "unrepenting liberal'' by one observer, Ms. Shalala sided with conservative critics of school bureaucracies.

"We have tolerated the kind of waste that would be disastrous in the marketplace, and it is disastrous in our marketplace,'' she said.

News reports have included several incidents in which the Clinton and Bush campaigns have been accused of trying to use students as campaign props while suppressing political dissent.

According to The Associated Press, Macon Central High School students who went to hear Sen. Al Gore, Mr. Clinton's running mate, at the Georgia school were forced to give up both Republican and Democratic signs at the request of campaign workers, who cited security risks. Once inside, they were offered new Clinton/Gore signs.

Bush supporters seated near the stage were reportedly asked to remove Bush campaign buttons from their clothing.

National Public Radio told the story of a 10-year-old from Salisbury, N.C., who declined to attend a Bush rally with his 5th-grade class after the students were told to bring "welcome Bush'' signs and his teacher told him he could not make a pro-Clinton sign.

The Washington Post reported that students from McKinley High School in the nation's capital were angered when they arrived at a Bush rally, after they were reportedly lured to Richmond, Va., by what they thought was an invitation to sit in the audience for one of the Presidential debates.

A letter signed by the chairman of the school's social-studies department reportedly told parents about "a wonderful opportunity for our youngsters to see political actions from the primary source.''

An appearance by Mr. Gore at a Fort Collins, Colo., high school was canceled last week after a "crude explosive device'' was found in the gym where he was to speak, according to news reports.

Mr. Gore reacted to the threat with aplomb.

"I was really looking forward to a dynamite event at the high school,'' he told reporters. "We were really going to blow the roof off.''

Mr. Clinton edged out Mr. Bush by only 286 votes out of 748,677 votes cast in a poll overseen by the Nickelodeon cable channel.

Mr. Clinton received 284,334 votes; Mr. Bush, 284,048; votes; and Mr. Perot, 180,295.

Children voted through a toll-free number, at Target Drug Stores, or at Nickelodeon's studio in Orlando, Fla.

A recent poll sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools asked students at 65 schools, "What woman on the political scene has the most potential to be the first woman President?''

The largest group of votes went to current officeholders and candidates for high-profile posts.

But the individual who got the most votes was Ms. Clinton, who was named by 20 percent of the girls.-J.M.

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