BEHIND the NEWS
<b>EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY</b> has been fined $357,500 by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to comply with the federal Jeanne Clery Act. It's the largest fine ever imposed.
Security On Campus, a nonprofit whose founders spearheaded the act (named for a student who was murdered in her dorm room in 1986) hopes the precedent will give institutional leaders pause.
The penalty is made up of 13 individual fines of $27,500 each. That amount is based on findings that EMU officials violated specific requirements of the act following the campus murder of student Laura Dickinson in December 2006. Originally they said there was "no foul play" in her death, and then they stood by that decision when a male suspect, a fellow student, was arrested last February.
Passed by Congress in 1990, the law requires colleges that receive federal funds to collect and release information about campus crime and to issue warnings about threats to campus safety. According to S. Daniel Carter, SOC senior vice president, in its early years the act was not properly enforced, so the EMU fine "sends a strong signal" that compliance must be taken seriously. Executive Director Jonathan Kassa says the act isn't meant to be "a paper tiger; it has to have teeth." Regarding EMU, Carter adds, "If they just had the right policies, the right checks and balances in place, I don't believe this would have happened."
A DOE report cited four violations of $27,500 each: failure to provide timely warning; lack of administrative capability; lack of timely warning policy; and failure to properly maintain the crime log. The school was also fined $82,500 for each of three years for failure to properly disclose crime statistics, lack of adequate policy statements, and failure to report all required statistics.
EMU officials have requested a hearing, says spokesman Ward Mullens, adding that officials are only questioning how the amount was determined. "We've made positive steps in securing safety," he says. "We don't know if that was reflected in the report as much as it should have been."
Measures include increasing police patrols on campus, enhancing the video surveillance system on campus, and hiring a security firm to augment the Department of Public Safety. Gregory A. O'Dell, deputy chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department, has been named the executive director of Public Safety (pending board approval).
The fine brings the estimated cost of EMU's repercussions from the handling of the tragedy to $3.8 million in severance packages, legal fees, and penalties. The university has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the Dickinson family. -<em>Michele Herrmann</em>
PERHAPS DAVID GUNNELLS NEVER thought his contest entry would become a source of office humor. An information systems specialist at the <b>University of Alabama at Birmingham,</b> Gunnells won <em>Wired News'</em> Saddest Cubicle Contest for his photo and description of a workspace that apparently lived up to that title.
The following paragraph told it all:
<em>"His desk is penned in by heavily used filing cabinets in a windowless conference room, near a poorly ventilated bathroom and a microwave. The overhead light doesn't work-his mother-in-law was so saddened by his cube that she gave him a lamp-and the other side of the wall is a parking garage. Gunnells recalls a day when one co-worker reheated catfish in the microwave, while another used the bathroom and covered the smell with a stinky air freshener. Lovely."</em>
Office conditions aside, the Occupational Health & Safety building, in which Gunnells' sad-looking workspace was depicted, has been under renovation, according to university spokesperson Bob Shepard. Currently, Gunnells works in a private office.
As the contest winner, Gunnells has gotten a lot of media attention, being interviewed or mentioned in local and national stories. While he initially talked to reporters, now he's shying away from further publicizing it, says Shepard. For his "win," Gunnells received a prize from Wired-a RoboMan Webcam. -<em>M.H.</em>
LONG AFTER GRADUATION, PEOPLE SHOW LOYALTY to their alma maters through clothing and home d?cor choices, as well as monetary donations. Why should that connection die when the alum does? Here are a few ways (in no particular creepiness order) that institutions are tapping into the postmortem market:
<b>Initiating life insurance policies.</b> A new twist was added to donated life-insurance policies when Cowboy Athletics, Inc., <b>Oklahoma State University</b>'s athletic foundation, initiated 28 policies. Cowboy Athletics pays the premiums and is the sole beneficiary; donors don't have to worry about an effect on their estate or income. So far all the policies are benefiting athletics, but the OSU Foundation is looking to expand the program, says spokeswoman Carrie Hulsey-Greene. (The transaction sounds straightforward, but it's always a good idea to check state regulations before trying it.)
<b>Paying to have wills prepared.</b> During years of private legal practice, Eric Stuhler, director of planned giving for <b>Lindenwood University</b> (Mo.), noticed people were reluctant to have their wills drawn up. So he developed a program through which the university pays up to $500 for estate planning services in exchange for a $1,000 institutional bequest. During the pilot program, which ended in December, 1,500 information packets were mailed to local alumni aged 35 to 45, resulting in 18 estate plans being drafted. "They wanted to give but didn't know how," Stuhler says. The program cost $5,000 but generated $30,000 in bequests, a potential 600 percent return. He estimates the potential for $300,000 in bequests if the entire alumni base is contacted and 1 percent follows through.
<b>Allowing school emblems on coffins.</b> People aren't usually buried wearing hoodies, but they can still take their school colors to the grave. Collegiate Memorials, a Georgia-based company, has licensing agreements with 52 IHEs for coffins, urns, and vaults. The school gets royalty fees.
<b>Creating cemeteries and columbariums.</b> Named buildings and endowed scholarships ensure alumni are long remembered after they're gone, but some IHEs ensure alumni never have to leave. <b>Norwich University</b> (Vt.), <b>Vermont College,</b> and the <b>University of Notre Dame</b> (Ind.) to name a few, have active campus cemeteries where alumni can be interred. Building a columbarium, or memorial wall where cremated remains can be preserved, is another option, taken by the <b>University of Virginia</b> 16 years ago. <b>Hendrix College</b>(Ark.) is preparing to break ground on one. With construction and maintenance costs, they aren't moneymakers. "It's not a fundraising project," says Mark Scott, director of communication. "It's an alumni relations project."-<em>Ann McClure</em>
AFTER LAST YEAR'S FINANCIAL AID SCANDALS, stepping into the top spot at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) might seem like a risky career move, but Philip R. Day is up for the challenge. He succeeds Dallas Martin, who retired after 32 years as NASFAA's CEO and president. Day arrives at a crucial time for the financial aid industry and plans to further the initiatives that Martin took to improve the integrity of financial aid professionals.
The former chancellor of <b>City College of San Francisco,</b> Day has served as president of <b>Daytona Beach Community College</b> (Fla.), <b>Cape Cod Community College </b>(Mass.), and <b>Dundalk Community College</b> (Md.). He has served on the American Association of Community Colleges and the American Council on Education boards.
In 2001 Day was the founding president of the National Articulation and Transfer Network, a national research and policy development resource. Day had been considered a finalist for the position of president of the North Carolina Community College System last fall, when the NASFAA call came. -<em>Tim Goral</em>
<em>By Ken Starkey and Nick Tiratsoo, Cambridge University Press</em>
(www.cambridge.org), 2007; 239 pp., $45
WANT TO START AN ARGUMENT? ASK A dozen people whether there's any value to a business degree. You'll likely get impassioned opinions from both sides. The authors of The Business School and the Bottom Line walk the middle road, arguing that yes, a business degree can be worth the effort, but the business school world "has lost its educational soul." They examine the rise and function of business schools from the pioneering Wharton School in 1881 to the recent explosion of business degrees (at a time when more than 92 percent of colleges and universities offer business programs).
But, say Starkey and Tiratsoo, that growth has led to fierce competition-at the expense of the business school mission. Their solution is for business schools to break out of their niche and reclaim their relevancy in the broader education picture. They can no longer be rooted in "marketingspeak," but must redefine their framework as "knowledge spaces," breaking disciplinary boundaries and embracing ideas from science, the arts, and humanities. It's a tall order to be sure, but the authors believe the time is ripe for the challenge. -<em>T.G.</em>
WHEN YOU'RE GROWING AN institution, capital projects are usually a must-do. Dominican University, which had 1,800 students a decade ago, now has 3,500, and plans to reach 4,000, was in need of more academic space as part of its master plan to accommodate the growth. Parmer Hall fits the bill-and the campus landscape.
FUNCTION: 124,000 square feet of classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices, serving all six Dominican schools, plus an academic enrichment center and a special needs office.
CHALLENGES: With pitched slate roofs, gables, tall windows, and limestone exteriors, most of Dominican's facilities were built in the early 1920s in the Gothic architectural style. Students report that the collegiate look is one of the primary reasons they chose the university, notes Senior Vice President Amy McCormack. "We get a lot of points for curb appeal from our students, and I think our alumni are very proud of the look of the campus. We wouldn't want to fly in the face of something that has served us well."
The obvious move was to ensure that Parmer looked Gothic. Yet true Gothic materials don't come cheap. And administrators knew the building would need modern features. Could they combine old and new while keeping costs reasonable?
SOLUTIONS: Campus officials "were quite willing to look at alternative ways" of achieving the Gothic look, says James Baird, design principal at architectural firm Holabird & Root and the principal in charge of project design for Parmer. "Ultimately this included using precast concrete rather than limestone and refining the details in order to realize a more cost-effective construction process." The exterior is variegated Renaissance stone (not a natural product but close to limestone in appearance), and a steeply pitched roof uses shingles rather than slate. An estimated $3 million more was spent on Gothic-like elements, but McCormack says it easily could have cost much more than that.
The interior needed to feel open and spacious so that people would want to congregate, says Baird. That meant designing more modern spaces, such as a two-story glass atrium (which, in a throwback to the past, includes a prominent wall constructed in part with limestone from the university's original science building) and a central staircase with metal finishes rather than wood banisters found in Gothic buildings.
Although modern labs require sophisticated air handling equipment that can affect the curb appeal of a building, the design team found a way to tuck the equipment away within the pitches of the roof gables. As people drive by or through campus, the new building certainly looks like it belongs at Dominican.
COST: $38 million
COMPLETED: August 2007
PROJECT TEAM: Holabird & Root, architects; Pepper Construction, builder. -<em>Melissa Ezarik</em>
"WEDDING PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT," a <b>George Mason University</b> (Va.) course since spring 2005, has developed a bit of a reputation-not as a "cake" course, but as quite the opposite. Still, on day one, a number of students arrive expecting an easy elective, says Maggie Daniels, an assistant professor in the School of Recreation, Health and Tourism at GMU's Prince William campus. "It truly is an enjoyable class, but it's a very difficult course. ... I set the record straight."
Those who return on day two and beyond study the foundation of weddings-from history and politics to diversity and culture-and then learn the practice of wedding planning and business basics needed by those in the profession. While only an estimated 10 percent of students intend to become professional wedding consultants, more than half are pursuing a tourism or event management major or minor.
Back in 2003, when Daniels first committed to creating a wedding planning course (based on student demand), it was she who did the pursuing-of department approval, that is. There was the misconception of weddings as a "very fluffy" topic to overcome. Daniels found herself "proving to anyone who wanted to have the conversation that this is a legitimate academic course of study," she says. "I had to show them the research, show them the numbers." Four cycles of content editing later, her department's curriculum committee pronounced the class official. It now resembles a graduate-level course, Daniels adds. Students have gotten an average grade of 72 on both the midterm and final.
Since spring 2007, a book Daniels co-authored has served as the course's main text. The class is offered each semester in two sections (one taught by an adjunct). Originally students had to purchase three books.
The course is evolving in another way as well, as Daniels finishes up the approval process for it to become part of a formal degree program. It has also been picked up by a former colleague, now at the <b>University of South Carolina.</b>
At semester's end, when they've learned more about wedding customs, timelines, budgets, ceremonies, site layout, and other details than they ever thought possible, Daniels says that "students will comment that they're happy this was not a cake course." -<em>M.E.</em>
AFTER FIVE YEARS AND MUCH DEBATE, <b>COLUMBIA University </b>(N.Y.) is gearing up for expansion. In December, the New York City Council approved a proposed rezoning of West Harlem's old Manhattanville manufacturing area for mixed use, which gives the university's $6 billion project a green light.
Over 25 years, the project will transform an area primarily housing warehouses and auto shops into an urban center. The 17-acre area includes four large blocks from West 129th to 133rd Streets, between Broadway and 12th Avenue, along with the north side of 125th Street and three properties east of Broadway, from West 131st to 134th Streets. By 2030, the project will provide 6.8 million square feet of space for teaching, academic research, and civic and commercial activity, along with parking and facilities support, according to the Columbia project website.
Phase one involves building a science center for neurodegenerative disease research, a home for the School of International and Public Affairs, and sites for the business and arts schools. Both open space and a permanent site for a university-assisted public secondary school for math, science, and engineering will be included. Stores and businesses will occupy the ground floor of university buildings.
Some residents of West Harlem still oppose the expansion, citing gentrification and concern about the use of eminent domain for removing commercial property owners who won't sell. Columbia either owns, is under contract to purchase, or is in long-term lease relationships for about 70 percent of the land under consideration, according to Public Affairs Officer Victoria Benitez. In addition, school officials are currently negotiating with area owners to acquire more properties.
Officials have said they will provide equal or better affordable housing in the same community for residents of some 130 residential apartments, and they have secured local sites to provide for a net increase in such affordable units. Officials have promised not to request the use of eminent domain. -<em>M.H.</em>
STUDENTS NEED STUFF. FROM INCOMING freshmen to graduating seniors, there are plenty of opportunities for friends and family to give them gifts. Students at <b>Virginia Commonwealth University</b> can offer a little guidance by building a wish list at VCU Gotta Have It (www.gotvcu.com). The site is a centralized location to store links to shops and items from around the world-even the campus bookstore. Visitors can buy online, print the list, or even just send cash. Cynthia Schmidt, VCU's director of marketing, says students weren't familiar with the idea of a gift registry but are warming up to it since the launch, around Thanksgiving. A percentage of each online sale will go to VCU and be used to benefit students, but Schmidt says officials haven't yet decided how the funds will be applied. If things work out, the hope is that students will continue to use the service after graduation, providing another link to their alma mater. VCU is the only higher ed institution to date with a lifestyle gift registry for its students, according to MyRegistry.com, which powers the site. -<em>A.M.</em>
NO ONE WILL ARGUE THAT TEXTBOOKS ARE EXPENSIVE, AND NO one can forget it, since each semester newspapers run articles stating the obvious. Congress has studied the situation, and some states are considering legislation to control costs. But it's unclear whether one entity is responsible for high prices, or whether a "perfect storm" is really to blame.
Annually, the National Association of College Stores updates a chart on where textbook dollars go. Documenting production and delivery costs, the chart is composed of data collected from college stores in the United States and Canada and from information supplied by the Association of American Publishers.
Although a 2005 government report found that the prices students pay tripled between 1986 and 2004, changes on the NACS chart are "typically very small," says Martha Love, information analyst for NACS. In fact, the largest increase between this year and last is 0.6 cents for freight expenses, from 1.1 to 1.7 cents. The next increase was a 0.4 cent increase in college store operating costs from 6.8 to 7.2. College store income actually dropped half a cent cent to 4.4 cents.
The graphic can be used to show that college stores aren't raking in profits at students' expense. "The cost of a textbook is spread over several areas and multiple entities-the authors, the publishers, and the bookstore," points out Love. "Lowering textbook prices involves more than the bookstore, but is not necessarily within their control." -<em>A.M.</em>
SAFETY STARTS AT THE TOP. That's the assumption behind the new Presidential Leadership Award, which will recognize a college or university president for "success in promoting a vibrant intellectual and social climate that deemphasizes the role of alcohol." The recipient will be a leader who has implemented a comprehensive strategy to bring about change at the institutional, community, and public policy levels. A $50,000 donation will be made to the winner's school, and the president will have the chance to promote campus change nationwide via speaking engagements, published articles, and other initiatives.
Seven organizations, including the American Council on Education, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and Outside the Classroom (which offers alcohol prevention programs and tools for college and high school campuses)-are supporting the award and will be determining the recipient. Nominations are due on April 30. For details, go to www.PLAward.com. -<em>M.E.</em>
<b>MOUNT ST. MARY'S UNIVERSITY</b> (MD.) is being honored in a 200th anniversary commemorative U.S. postage stamp to be released in April. The stamp art features a watercolor painting of "the Terrace," a campus landmark comprising some of the school's oldest buildings. Mount St. Mary's is the second oldest Catholic university in the United States. -<em>T.G.</em>