Sitting on the bed in his second-floor Van Pelt College House room, Wharton junior Christopher Clemente looks very different from the man who emerged from the Mannhattan Detention House seven months ago. Clemente's smile has lost its weariness since March 26, and his wire-rimmed glasses and blue and green striped crewneck are a far cry from the worn blue jacket and dirty white shirt he wore the day he was released from jail. The campus atmosphere, galvanized by Clemente's arrest in a Harlem apartment on felony drug and weapons charges, has also become less strained. Last semester such notables as civil rights activist Kwame Toure -- formerly Stokely Carmichael -- and renowned defense attorney William Kunstler led protests on Clemente's behalf at President Sheldon Hackney's house, on College Green and in Provost Michael Aiken's office. Reporters from local newpapers and television stations to ABC News' Primetime Live descended on campus to cover the controversy. And hundreds of students rallied around Clemente, collecting over $15,000 to help bail him out of jail. They charged that administrators -- who suspended Clemente from campus for four weeks, saying he threatened campus order -- mistreated the Wharton sophomore. But When Clemente came back to the University this fall, the case had slipped from the forefront of people's minds. The Wharton junior said Saturday that he felt "awkward" returning to campus in September, and had prepared for the worst. But there were no more protests and no more controversy. Clemente said he did not even get one sidelong glance while walking down Locust Walk. Within two weeks, he was feeling at home again. "Everyone at the University has been very supportive," he said, adding that campus officials helped him register for classes and secure his financial aid when he arrived. American Civilization graduate student Andrew Miller, Clemente's Van Pelt graduate fellow, said yesterday that at the beginning of the semester, he heard stories of students turning and staring at the Wharton junior when his name was read off roll sheets in class. But Clemente said he paid little attention to stares and has tried to focus on his studies. He said he has found it easier to put his case out of his mind than he originally thought it would be. "I do think about it sometimes, but I try not to dwell on it," he said. "I have other things to worry about. I worry about tests. I worry about sleeping." And although he may have changed since the day he was released from jail, Clemente said he is the same person who left the University in December for what started as winter break but what turned into a five-month leave of absence, 11 weeks of which were spent in New York jails. Clemente seems almost to forget that he faces trial on nine felony drugs and weapons charges in January. Miller said that he was "shocked" at the way Clemente has made a transition back to school, adding that he rarely hears the Wharton junior talk of his case. In March, Clemente criticized the University's handling of his situation, but he said this weekend that he holds no grudges against the administration. Ronald Kuby, one of Clemente's lawyers who spoke out against the administration last semester, said Friday that the the campus community has treated his client well. "The sense I get from Chris is that people on campus are respecting his right to privacy," Kuby said. "They're showing their support by treating him like a decent human being." Clemente said he has fully recovered from the multiple stab wounds he suffered while he was being held at Riker's Island prison complex and has started lifting weights again. "I'm trying to get my body back in shape," he said. The Wharton junior said it has become easier to push his case out of his mind as time has passed. He added that he often does not pay attention to the legal wranglings surrounding the case in New York, saying that he learns about most developments from The Daily Pennsylvanian. As his January trial approaches, Clemente said he tries not think about the possibility he will not be back at the University in the spring. Right now, he said, he has more immediate concerns. "I'm a fin major, but I don't like fin," he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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