Behind the News

Behind the News

The stories making headlines in higher education.
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The state that was home to a high-profile affirmative action triumph in 2003 is now home to a ban against race- and gender-based preferences.

Proposal 2, which passed in Michigan with 58 percent of the vote in November, prohibits the state from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. In 2003 the University of Michigan won a hard-fought battle to continue considering race and gender as part of applicants' overall packages.

Since legal challenges surrounding Proposal 2 are ongoing, Michigan's public colleges and universities will not have clarity on how to proceed for months. They are also faced with having to change their admissions policies in the middle of the academic year. For now, they must abide by the law.

The University of Michigan shut down its admissions for a week in early 2007 before agreeing to comply with Proposal 2. (All admissions decisions and financial aid packages offered on or before December 29, 2006, the date a judge lifted a stay on the implementation of Prop 2, will be honored.) A diversity task force will issue recommendations this month.

"There remains uncertainty about how Proposal 2 will be interpreted and applied by the courts," notes Teresa A. Sullivan, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. "However, because of the Sixth Circuit decision and in absence of further guidance from the courts, we will proceed cautiously by adjusting our admissions and financial aid policies such that race and gender will have no effect on the decision-making process."

Geographic diversity, whether a student is the first in a family to attend college, and other factors can still weigh in as part of an institution's admissions process. Wayne State University Law School, for example, is opting to consider such indicators as an applicant's capacity to overcome socioeconomic disadvantage. "I think these are going to give us a class that's diverse in the broadest sense possible," says Jonathan Weinberg, a Wayne State professor who helped draft the policy. "We are under some limitations."

Meanwhile, legal wrangles continue. The group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the implementation of Proposal 2 for six months. "You can't evaluate a human being for who they are separate from their race and their sex," says Donna Stern, national coordinator for BAMN. The American Civil Rights Coalition, which helped Proposal 2 pass, is looking into launching similar ballot initiatives in Arizona, Nebraska, and several other states. -Caryn Meyers Fliegler

Clark University (MasS.) is the latest on a short list of institutions allowing males and females to share the same dorm room. It's not the sign of moral corruption that it might seem at first sight. The new policies are touted as a way to make transgender, gay, and lesbian students more comfortable on campus, and to fight a "hetero-normative" mindset in housing policies.

Both students must request the assignment, and measures are in place to ensure no one is accidentally assigned to a mixed room. Jeffrey Chang, the Clark student who spearheaded the change, has co-founded www.gender blind.org as a resource for other students and administrators considering gender-inclusive policies. He says people from more than 75 colleges and universities have visited the site since its December launch. "Increasingly, we're noticing that college administrators are more receptive to addressing their practices and policies to meet the needs of transgender students and our changing times," Chang says. -Ann McClure

SOUND BITE
Facebook is like walking down State Street naked. You wouldn't walk down State Street naked, right? -Louise Robbins, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, addressing why students should not be surprised that police use student postings to learn about crimes.

Howard Gardner is at it again. The education professor and author's new text, available in April, is on the five "minds" that must be cultivated if society is to successfully face the future. Gardner, famous for his work on multiple intelligences and almost two dozen books on thought and development, claims a new vision for education is needed. Lifelong learning is key to dealing with rapid advances in science and technology, an ever-developing global economy, and new social circumstances that require students and citizens to deal with people of diverse backgrounds. But the lifelong learning he's talking about goes beyond what we have accepted as standard courses of study. It is time for advanced thinking and learning that will serve in all aspects of life.

The five minds he describes are: disciplinary, a mastery of a major school of thought, such as history, mathematics, or philosophy; synthesizing, the ability to summarize diffuse ideas into a coherent whole; creating, the ability to uncover new problems, questions, and phenomena; respectful, a tolerance for differences, and a perceived value in being able to work collaboratively with different kinds of people; and ethical, a concern for society over self-interests. Education will play a part in cultivating these minds, but the family, the workplace, and places of worship will play intricate roles in helping humankind's development. -J.M.A.

First higher ed saw investment courses that allow students to work with real money. Now there are philanthropy courses and seminars that do the same thing, while also helping charities.

Colgate University (N.Y.) has just instituted a new noncredit program that teaches students about charitable giving, says Ellen Percy Kraly, director of the Upstate Institute and a professor. The Brennan Foundation has given the institute at Colgate $50,000 to be used over five years. A group of sophomores there is studying proposals from charities local to upstate New York to best determine how to spend this year's allocation of $10,000.

Groups of students are doing the same thing for credit at Davidson College (N.C.), the University of Mary Washington (Va.), the University of Virginia, and Cornell. Each of these institutions receives grant money from The Sunshine Lady Foundation (www.sunshineladyfdn.org), a nonprofit run by Warren Buffett's sister Doris and managed, in part, by Alex Buffett Rozek, the investor's nephew.

Professor Ken Menkhaus at Davidson led the charge, getting the foundation involved several years ago, says Rozek. "He has done a lot of work on the 'new philanthropy,' " says Rozek, who observes that many "older philanthropy strategies relied only on boosterism." -Jean Marie Angelo

Web cameras on campus are useful for security, but parents are starting to use them to combat empty nest syndrome. A web cam was originally installed at University of Redlands (Calif.) so alumni could virtually visit campus, but officials started receiving happy reports from parents arranging times for their student to appear. "It's a bit strange when I see a couple of students waving at a blank wall across the plaza," says Ron Stephany, VP of University Relations. He also admitted to using the camera to check out how long the lunch line is. Some schools have a "Hi Mom!" setting that will automatically zoom on a specific location, but Redlands doesn't in order to protect privacy and because there is only one camera on campus. Stephany says the cost is minimal, but points out "you can't just put a camera anywhere, it has to be able to connect to the network." -A.M.

SOUND BITE
"This is a good first step to ensure more students have access to affordable higher education." -Craig Munier, chair, National Direct Student Loan Coalition, on the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to cut the interest rates in half on student loans.

When it comes to hiring new faculty and staff, the process can be time-consuming and expensive-especially if the perfect candidate gets hired elsewhere while you're still going through the paperwork. At Drexel University's College of Medicine (Pa.), the typical faculty recruitment process includes rigorous background checks for credentials, education and training, practice history, board certifications, licensure, hospital affiliations, and insurance claims. It's a process that involves multiple departments across the campus, such as human resources, faculty affairs, legal counsel, and risk management. With 40 to 50 new hires each fiscal year, the potential for hiring gridlock is great.

But now, the College of Medicine thinks it has a way to dramatically reduce the time involved. Partnering with Alliance Consulting, the school developed a new tracking system that ultimately transforms this paper-intense, manual process into a secured, paperless, electronic workflow. The system was built around a beta version of Microsoft's Windows Workflow Foundation, which combines a workflow engine, programming model, and developers' tools and is slated for public release this year.

"Since the system was implemented, we have experienced a considerable reduction in the time required to complete the examination of key medical personnel, giving us a significant competitive advantage within the marketplace," says Richard Homan, dean of the College of Medicine.

The system has been operational since last September and improvement has already been noted. "Before the implementation of the system, the hiring process took six months or greater as an average," says Rachel Sparrow, Media and Public Relations manager. "With the new system, the target time frame is 60 days, depending on how quickly we get the necessary information from the candidate. We are still evaluating an average timeframe."

The College of Medicine will be sharing its experience in using this system with the broader Drexel community to see whether other academic units might benefit, Sparrow says. -Tim Goral

It's important for a guide dog to know when to cross the street, but puppies raised on the Rutgers' Cook College (N.J.) campus might be able to discuss animal husbandry and business economics as well. Since 2000, a student-run club on campus has raised puppies for The Seeing Eye, which trains and places the adult dogs with blind people. Pets aren't allowed in dorms, so only upperclassmen in campus apartments can have a dog full time, but the puppies go everywhere else on campus. Puppies aren't allowed in exams, so they can't test their knowledge at the end of the year (or give their raisers answers). Jill Jaycox, the company's liaison, says a campus is a great place to raise puppies because they are exposed to a variety of people and situations. The Seeing Eye places puppies only in the New Jersey tri-state area, but other organizations cover different parts of the country. -A.M.

DATA POINT

200 Number of colleges and graduate schools that offer a class in positive psychology or finding personal well-being.-New York times, January 7, 2007.

No college president in his right mind would want apparel bearing his school's logo made in a sweatshop. But licensing agreements, long-held partnerships, and factors specific to the retail business make putting an end to such circumstances complicated.

The National Association of College Stores (NACS) has issued a research paper analyzing one approach to ending support for companies with ties to sweatshops. The Designated Suppliers Program would require business partners to source licensed apparel only from factories that follow certain workplace rules.

Backed by the Worker Rights Consortium, the DSP has drawn support from a number of IHEs, including the University of California and Columbia University. Yet others have expressed concerns about the program's complexities, and its potential for skyrocketing apparel prices and for opening the door to antitrust lawsuits.

Martin Jischke, president of Purdue University, opted not to support the DSP despite student protests at his Indiana institution last spring. "I am especially concerned about the requirement for unionization," Jischke wrote in a statement.

More discussion about the DSP is likely to surface this spring, says Marc Fleischaker, general counsel for NACS. "There are likely to be additional changes that reflect some of the business and campus?issues that we and others have raised."

The paper can be downloaded from www.nacs.org. -C.M.F.

From the Blowing Our Own Horn department comes news that an article in the July 2006 issue of University Business won an award from the Association of Marketing Communication Professionals.

The article, called "The President Next Door," was based on the experiences of Ursuline College (Ohio) President Sr. Diana Stano, who moved into a residence hall with students for the spring semester.

Associate Editor Caryn Meyers Fliegler was in contact with Sr. Diana throughout the semester and prompted her to record her thoughts in a journal, which was edited into four online installments and as a full-length feature for the July issue.

Stano says her goal was to find out what college students were thinking.

Ursuline submitted the article to the AMCP's "MarComm Creative Awards," where it won a Platinum award in the category of "Magazine Placement/Feature Story." The award is "presented to entries judged to be among the most outstanding of the 5,000 entries submitted on an international basis."-T.G.

During conversations with local officials, legislators, industry leaders, and donors, it never hurts to have proof of how your institution being there enriches the broader community. A growing number of institutions of higher ed are commissioning economic impact research studies so that they can have that kind of data at their fingertips.

"It helps build the town/gown relationship," notes Charles Haywood, a retired professor of economics and finance who spent 35 years at the University of Kentucky as a teacher and administrator. He has conducted a number of these studies for IHEs, most recently Eastern Kentucky University, and for corporations.

"In doing these studies, you go around and talk with the mayor, the county judge-various people who can give you observations about some of the nonquantitative things" indicating the university's impact, Haywood says. When an impact study is released, it can garner favorable press attention and be shared with state leaders as part of an argument for greater budget allocations. For that reason, more public institutions may especially favor these studies, but private IHEs have also embarked on impact research, Haywood says. Studies can be done in as little as three months and for about $10,000 to $20,000, he estimates.

Partnering with area schools is one way to make the research more economical. "It will also give you some consistency of data if you want to compare institutions," notes Michael A. Gerber, president of the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education, which released an impact study in 2006 encompassing 49 Atlanta region IHEs. That study was funded by three foundations and 19-member ARCHE. For maximum readability, he says, the ARCHE study authors "made a conscious effort to tie these numbers back to real people-how individual companies benefit from the presence of these institutions." -Melissa Ezarik

Anyone who's lived in Florida for any length of time probably has a tornado story to tell. It's not uncommon for parts of the state to experience more than 50 tornados a month during peak storm season from June to August. Thankfully, most of them are small and pass with little incident. The worst storms usually occur in winter and spring, however, like the one that hit Daytona Beach on Christmas Day, leaving some of the heaviest damage in a decade in its wake. An F-2 tornado, with wind speeds of up to 159 miles per hour, ripped through the area at midday, destroying mobile homes and causing substantial damage to other structures.

Some of the most severe damage occurred at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where much of the institution's 65-plane fleet was destroyed. Initial estimates put the damage at up to $60 million, including the loss of the school's main administration building.

"You don't really expect that kind of severe weather in off season, but it happens," says Jim Hampton, executive director of communications and marketing. "Our planes can withstand 60 to 65 mile per hour winds. But when you have winds that are twice that, they don't stand a chance. There's no warning-just a minute or two. By the time they realized where the tornado was going to touch down, it was down."

Despite the damage, classes resumed on January 16, just one week late, and planes were available for flight training.

"Fortunately, we have good insurance," Hampton says. "We were left with only about 15 planes that were in good shape. Our guys got on the phone right away with Cessna and some other companies and were able to get replacement planes. The students that were in flight programs could pick right up when they returned to classes."

Campus buildings are another matter though, he says. "We lost our maintenance hanger-it crumbled-and Spruance Hall. It was the nerve center for our administration. It's boarded up now. We don't know yet whether they're going to build a new one or try to repair it."

A campus rebuilding fund has been set up on the university's website at www.erau.edu. -T.G.

Security breaches happen so often in higher ed that there's the potential to become inured. Before skipping a story about just one more incident, consider the recent compromise of data at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The UCLA one is a very serious and different incident," says Joy Hughes, VP and CIO for George Mason University (Va.) and co-chair of the EDUCAUSE security task force. There's reason to believe the hackers of the UCLA database were more adept than most and that they accessed a large number of records.

Late last year, UCLA officials alerted 800,000 people that personal information may have been exposed; a hacker had achieved access to a database of current and former students. (Details are on a dedicated UCLA website, www .identityalert.ucla.edu). In January 2007, officials issued another statement saying that the records of 28,000 people out of the 800,000 were retrieved by a hacker. Although those affected are less than 3 percent of the total with records, Hughes adds that an incident with this much impact is "highly unusual."

Experts say most higher ed hacking incidents involve "kids as young as 14" breaking into databases so they can deposit "root kits" that will allow them to store illegal music and movies. Sometimes higher ed computers are used as "zombies" to send spam. Most hackers aren't skilled enough to actually retrieve records and related data.

With UCLA, a far more sophisticated-yet still at large-hacker or hackers pulled off true datatheft. Hughes adds, "We are hoping that we are able to get some information at the close of their investigation that will tell us how to avoid this." -J.M.A.


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