Behind the News

Behind the News

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Many people have long seen community colleges as bridges to opportunity. But four-year colleges and universities haven't always gotten the drift.

A new grant from a nonprofit foundation is aiming to change the relationships between community colleges and elite four-year IHEs. With millions of dollars in funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, eight selective institutions will launch partnerships with dozens of two-year schools.

The goals: To boost the number of transfer students, fatten financial aid options, and ease students' abilities to settle in on four-year campuses. "This is about recognizing the range of community college students, and creating a pathway for those who are qualified and deserve it," says Joshua Wyner, vice president of programs for the foundation.

The grants-totaling $6.78 million and complemented by $20.5 million from the grantees-will affect students in several ways. The four-year institutions (Amherst, Bucknell, Cornell, Mount Holyoke, UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan, The University of North Carolina, and University of Southern California) will enroll a combined 1,100 additional low- to middle-income community college transfers over the next four years.

The institutions will also assist 2,100 community college students with issues of access and information. The hope is that ideas sprouting from these efforts will serve as inspiration for other institutions, say foundation executives at the foundation, which is hosting a national conference on replication strategies this June. "A lot has been written over the last few years about the lack of low-income students at elite colleges and universities," says Wyner. "This strategy had not been mentioned as a way of bridging the gap."

With many selective colleges yearning to draw more diverse student populations to their quadrangles, the grant project serves the needs of students as well as colleges. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, more than 47

percent of black college students, 56 percent of Hispanics, 48 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 57 percent of Native Americans are enrolled at community colleges.

"We know that there are a lot of really bright and talented students out there at community colleges and high schools who don't think about schools like Amherst, either because they don't know about us or because they think they can't afford it," says Stacy Schmeidel, director of Public Affairs for grant recipient Amherst College (Mass.). "We're trying to say, don't rule us out."

Greenfield Community College in northwest Massachusetts will be among the two-year schools partnering with Amherst to bolster transfers. "The students that this will attract have a lot to teach all of us," says Robert Pura, president of GCC. "I think [the four-year institutions] will be richer as a result of what our students bring to their classrooms." -Caryn Meyers Fliegler

A March Supreme Court decision upheld the military's right to recruit on college campuses, ending one legal battle, Rumsfeld v. FAIR. The decision opened another front in the combat against the government's stance on gays in the military, which violates many IHEs' discrimination policies.

Several law school deans and administrators say that they must now protest the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on a broader scale. The court upheld the Solomon Amendment, which requires colleges and universities to allow military recruiting on campus if they want to receive federal monies. "As long as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is on the books, the underlying problem will continue to exist," says Kent Greenfield, a professor at Boston College's Law School and founder of FAIR, which stands for Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights. FAIR member New York Law School has only allowed the military on campus twice: once after the 9/11 attacks, since the school sits mere blocks from the World Trade Center, and once following threatened suspension of student financial aid. "At this point it's a tactics discussion," notes Dean Richard Mataras. Campus protests and barring military recruiting will be considered, he says. -C.M.F.

Ave Maria University, and its Florida hometown of the same name, generated a lot of press earlier this year, which is a decent feat considering neither has been built yet. The project's benefactors, who include Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan, made a media tour to quash the perception that Ave Maria will be a Catholic town that won't allow citizens or students to buy contraceptives or pornography. They do stress, though, that the town will focus on general family values.

The organizers are building "the first new Catholic university in 40 years" and the town in which it will be located. Considering the two entities are being built simultaneously, town/gown relations over growth shouldn't be an issue, especially since the campus's footprint has already been laid out. Project Coordinator Donald Schrotenboer says the university is currently expected to be the single largest employer in town. The campus will be built to accommodate an enrollment of 600 for the anticipated 2007 opening, with additional buildings already designed and permitted to speed future construction. All buildings will meet or exceed a 122 mph wind load, to account for Florida weather.

Project founders say they will welcome all comers, residential or commercial. So although students might have to go out of town for more wild diversions, they should at least have a variety of pizza places from which to choose. -Ann McClure

It certainly was a long-term asset. But after more than 50 years, the University of Notre Dame (Ind.) has sold its television station. In the deal, Atlanta-based Gray Television acquired all capital stock from Michiana Telecasting Corp., the university-owned company that operates WNDU-TV-providing a healthy $85 million revenue boost for Notre Dame.

The main reason for selling: The evolution of educational broadcasting methods. "The need for a television outlet to get our message out has dissipated over the years," notes John Affleck-Graves, executive vice president of Notre Dame. In addition, it's increasingly difficult for a single-owner station to succeed today; the NBC affiliate's 100 employees have more growth opportunities within a larger company. Gray now owns 36 stations in 30 markets, including 17 in college towns; WNDU-TV is its only college station.

SOUND BITES: American universities [must] address the hundreds of millions of dollars they have invested in companies facilitating the Khartoum government's genocide. -Jason Miller, co-chair, University of California Sudan Disinvestment Task Force, commenting on the Sudan government's human rights abuses in the Darfur region.

Once the decision to sell was made, a former university trustee who had worked in TV advised meeting with the media divisions of major investment banks. Endowment contacts led officials to some private equity investors in the media industry, one of whom recommended working through a broker. The broker set up meetings with potential buyers.

Notre Dame sought a long-term holder who would be a good neighbor-important because operations will remain on campus through at least 2021, says Affleck-Graves.

As for the extra revenue, spending decisions will be made in June. Affleck-Graves says financial aid is a critical need; money will also likely be spent on the library, science equipment, and faculty. -Melissa Ezarik

First came the acceptance letter, then e-mail notification, now podcasting is being used to tell students they've been admitted. Fitchburg State University (Mass.) has become the first known higher ed institution to use podcasts to deliver acceptance notifications. By the end of March, the Admissions Office sent 1,000 podcasts featuring congratulatory remarks from President Robert Antonucci, and original music and video clips. A link to the podcast was included in an e-mail message to each student.

There are other universities pushing the podcast beyond the classroom. Mansfield University (Pa.) plans to incorporate podcasts into its recruitment efforts to high school students. -J.M.A.

A bill that would protect the fundamental principles of the internet has earned support from education groups as well as dozens of internet companies. Introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the bill ensures "net neutrality," or the idea that no one enterprise has more control over access to bandwidth than any other.

Wyden's bill (S.2360) comes on the heels of proposals by telecomm companies to begin charging ISPs and commercial services for access to the internet. Opponents say this practice would introduce unfair advantages for ISPs that can afford to pay, and lead to preferential treatment (and faster speeds) to some content providers over others. For colleges and universities, such a move could hinder research and prevent them from delivering high-quality multimedia instructional material to students, on- and off-campus and in rural areas. In addition, the bill would allow further development of Voice over Internet Protocol services. In one case a telecomm company tried to block VoIP capabilities on its broadband service, claiming it hurt their telephone profits.

DATA POINT: 4.5 million dollars is what the American Council of Education is spending on its national advertising campaign promoting higher education. - Terry Hartle, ACE' Senior VP.

"It's wrong to create an information superhighway that's strewn with discriminatory hurdles," said Wyden, introducing the legislation.

Supporting the bill is a broad-based group of 64 internet consumers, content providers, service companies, and educators-among them the Association of American Universities, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, EDUCAUSE, and Internet2-all concerned that the internet could lose the openness that has made it an engine for social and economic growth. Commercial providers joining the effort include Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and Skype.

"We understand the need for owners of broadband networks to be able to manage traffic on their networks by controlling congestion, preventing viruses and other illegal uses, and appropriately maintaining their systems," says AAU President Nils Hasselmo. "However, for the internet to continue to serve as a powerful force for innovation, it is imperative that it remain open on a non-discriminatory basis to all lawful content, information, applications, and equipment." The bill has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. -Tim Goral

The post-game campus has become too dangerous a place. All too often, students hyped from the big game have taken to rioting in their university towns.

The rioting, also known as fan violence, usually is done by white males who are more likely to act out when their team wins, not loses, according to Jerry Lewis, professor emeritus at Kent State University (Ohio) and a sociologist who specializes in such violence.

The University of Maryland recently closed a policy loophole that tied administrators' hands after a 2005 melee involving UM and Duke students. In the reverie after UM's win of an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball title that year, some students were caught setting a fire near campus. They were marshaled off to criminal court and received probation. But technically the university could not discipline the students because they were not convicted of a crime.

It has taken more than a year, but university regents have given authority to all 13 UM campuses to pursue disciplinary action without having to wait for cases to work their way through the courts.

"There have been serious injuries," Regent James Rosapepe told the media in response to the new decision. "There was hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage." -J.M.A.

A Purchase College (N.Y.) student caused an uproar on campus by appearing on the college's student-run, closed-circuit TV channel in blackface. In published articles, he said his goal was to make fun of another student host who had made fun of him by calling him a loser and "gay." The student and his guests aired comments that included "violent chauvinism, jaw-droppingly racist attitudes, rampant homophobia, and even raging anti-Semitism," according to a description in the student newspaper. The student government responded by canceling all new programming on the channel until formal standards could be created. Purchase President Thomas Schwarz released a statement saying he did not want to shut down the station entirely, or be a censor, but "PTV must be responsibly operated."

Blackface regularly turns up on campuses, usually as part of misguided Halloween costumes, according to reports on www.tolerance.org, which offers advice on how to deal with incidents. Purchase administration held a series of teach-ins covering racism, sexism, homophobia, censorship, and the limits of free speech. -Ann McClure

The True Genius of America At Risk

By Katharine C. Lyall and Kathleen R. Sell

Praeger Publishers, www.praeger.com;

2005; 232 pp; $44.95

Are public universities headed toward de facto privatization? While the authors say such a path may be unavoidable, they also suggest ways to survive that eventuality. As state and federal aid continues to erode, public universities are, out of necessity, turning to other sources for funding. (Public funding of higher education stands at around 30 percent today, compared with 50 percent in the 1970s.) As a consequence, however, lower income students are being shut out of higher education, and the country's economic health will suffer in turn.

Lyall and Sell examine ways to restructure higher education if states remain minority shareholders, and then propose a new model for the "public purpose university" that can maintain excellence even as funding and governance sources change. The time for public dialog is now, they say, before it is too late.

The authors present their case from the perspective of experience. Lyall served as president of the University of Wisconsin system from 1991 to 2004, and was assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Carter administration. Sell served as the University of Wisconsin system's chief budget officer from 1987 to 2002, and in the state's budget office prior to that. -Tim Goral

They vow to keep organizing, they vow to keep striking, but it most definitely is an uphill climb for the Graduate Student Organizing Committee at New York University. They want NYU administrators to recognize their union-and other demands, such as regular pay increases-but the National Labor Relations Broad has ruled that the private university is not required to do so.

The recent decision reversed one in 2000, in which the board ruled that NYU did have to recognize the union, even if it was based at a private university. (Graduate students at public universities already have the right to unionize.) The graduate students' contract with NYU expired in August 2005, and the two sides have been at odds since. The graduate students went on strike. In November, President John Sexton countered with the order: Get back to work or lose your stipend. (NYU pays graduate teaching assistants $19,000 per year, along with granting free tuition and health benefits, according to a spokesperson.) All but a few of the 1,000 graduate teaching assistants now are back at the head of the classroom, according to NYU. About two dozen striking students reportedly received letters in January notifying them that their stipends would be cut.

Those demanding a new contract, and working for the NLRB to once again recognize their union, say they are not giving up the fight. "GSOC strikers are rallying to tell the NYU administration that the spring semester will see as much, or more, disruption on campus as last semester," according to a statement. The strikers have been able to win allies, including Christine Quinn, speaker of the City Council, and an interfaith group calling itself the Religious Leaders for Justice at NYU.-J.M.A.


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