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Lamar Alexander, the former Secretary of Education who's now running for President, has been invited to speak at a New Hampshire college's spring graduation ceremony. But the commencement address scheduled for next month has caused a bit of stir at the school.

Some students and faculty members at Plymouth State College say the institution should treat all Presidential candidates equally. Mr. Alexander's speech, they say, could give him a slight political advantage in the state that holds the nation's first primary.

Others, including Donald P. Wharton, the president of the college, who extended the invitation to Mr. Alexander, argue that the address will bring some prestige to the school, which has some 3,600 undergraduates.

Mr. Alexander, who is seeking the 1996 Republican nomination, would be the school's first graduation speaker "of national stature," said Doug Norris, the director of news services.

Moreover, he said, the candidate is expected to discuss education and not deliver a perfunctory stump speech.

It was awkward at first, but Senate appropriators in Washington quickly mastered proper computer etiquette in a cyberspace chat session on technology with teachers, who were in Boston for a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference.

Last week's demonstration, which used the Public Broadcasting Service's mathline, was part of a hearing of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

"Federal leadership sets the tone that technology is important to education," said Kathleen Fulton, a project director at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.

Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, R-Ore., the chairman of the full Appropriations Committee, said that as a former political-science major, the experience for him was "mind-boggling."

"Teachers need to work with each other in support of change, and this medium provides much more equal access to our rural population," said Bob Kenney, a math specialist at the Vermont education department.

"Today's hearing shows us that if you cut too far back, you'll jeopardize our economic future and disadvantage our students," said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who chaired the hearing.

--Mark Pitsch & ROBERT C. JOHNSTON



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