Three short comments:

• First, a tip of the editorial cap to the area high school students who’ve been named National Merit semifinalists.

Earning that distinction is among the toughest things for high school students to do, and seven young people from our area have done it.

Five of those seven are at Manhattan High, continuing that school’s tradition of producing outstanding students. They are Ava Chae, Samuel DeLong, Jenna Keeley, Abrar Nasser and Ronan Tanona. Flint Hills Christian’s Michaela Crow and Wamego’s Margaret Benson joined the parade of high-achievers this year.

Those schools, the parents of those young people, their teachers, and the communities that support them should all feel proud. But more than anything, it’s a testament to the work done by those students, and we hope they can feel proud.

• Second, the whole protest outburst at KU makes me extremely uneasy.

Last week, protestors began demonstrating outside a fraternity at the university down the river. A member of that fraternity has been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman there last weekend. But nobody has been arrested, much less charged, and much much less than convicted, of any crime. So far, all we have are allegations. Yet protesters are calling for the person to be kicked out, and thousands are calling for the fraternity to be shut down. Participants at the protest have been quoted in news reports as saying they’re disappointed by the lack of response by the fraternity and the university, saying they haven’t held the young man accountable.

Certainly, if there was a rape, the rapist should go to jail, and there’s reason to examine the fraternity’s role. But, not to put too blunt a point on this, but...what if the guy didn’t do it?

Isn’t that the starting premise of the criminal justice system?

• Finally, we regret the passing of Cheryl Collins, a true gem in our community, earlier this week. She was the director of the Riley County Historical Museum, an important institution, and was consistently helpful and insightful.

She made local history relevant and interesting, and in fact, vital. It wasn’t that she asserted herself in contemporary political debates with random historical facts. It’s that she managed to convey how fascinating our collective past here really is, and that had a way of informing discussions.

We at The Mercury felt particularly close to her because of that enthusiasm, and because we relied on her knowledge to help us connect our current stories to their deeper roots. We also knew her because her husband, GW Clift, is a longtime contributor to the paper, as a theater critic and commentator on all manner of local arts.

We pass along our condolences to GW, and to their son John, and to Cheryl’s extended family. She has made our community much richer, and we’ll miss her.

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