Behind the News
<i>Program could potentially track students from grade school to workforce.</i>
The recently released draft report by the U.S. Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education calls for the creation of a "national student unit record tracking system" to collect longitudinal data on college students-and that doesn't sit well with educators.
"This information would be linked to individual students through a unique identifier. It could be potentially tied to information from the student's high school or elementary records and follow the individual into the workforce," said David Warren, president of National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
Warren was joined in a July 6 teleconference by David Shi, president of Furman University (S.C.); Katherine Will, president of Gettysburg College (Pa.); Christopher Nelson, president, St. John's College (Md.); Loren Anderson, president of Pacific Lutheran University (Wash.); Ralph Wagoner, president of the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America; Rolf Wegenke, president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; and Rebecca Thompson, legislative director of the United States Student Association.
The panel discussed the proposal as well as the results of a NAICU-sponsored public opinion survey conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Ipsos Public Affairs. Sixty-two percent of the respondents opposed such a database, while 60 percent also believed collecting this student data is costly and intrusive and does not solve any pressing issue.
"The public is opposed to it, and the House has already shown its opposition in the Higher Education Act. The commission would do well to reconsider [this idea]," said Anderson.
"Such an unfunded mandate from the government to the higher education community for such a record keeping process will pose an onerous burden on higher education," said Shi, noting that the plan contradicts the commission's stated goal of reducing the federal regulatory burden on higher ed. Estimates of the cost to upgrade existing databases to comply with the program go as high as $1 million, but would certainly be at least several hundred thousand dollars per institution.
"Why does the Department of Education insist on pursuing such a database when the law currently precludes it under FERPA, and when the Congress has voted categorically not to go forward with it?" Warren asked. He said the government has a "rapacious appetite" for data, yet it doesn't use the voluminous amount of data already available in a constructive way.
"This is not a partisan issue," Wegenke stressed. "It is a matter of student privacy and the security of personal information."
-Michael Zweiback, assistant U.S Attorney, Los Angeles, speaking about prosecuting hackers
This spring Ohio University joined the not-so-exclusive club of institutions dealing with the aftermath of data breaches. For this school of nearly 17,000 undergraduates, a potentially costly lawsuit got thrown into the mix.
A month after current and former students were notified of the system leaks, alumni Donald Jay Kulpa and Kenneth David Neben filed a class-action suit in the State of Ohio Court of Claims. Besides seeking judgment that the university's acts and omissions in the wake of the discovery were negligent and deliberately indifferent to the plaintiffs' constitutional right to privacy, the suit requests "class-wide relief in the form of a court-administered credit monitoring and/or identity monitoring" as well as expenses, should an identity crime occur. -Melissa Ezarik
COLLEGES THAT CHANGE LIVES:
40 Schools That Will Change the Way
You Think About Colleges
By Loren Pope
Penguin Books, 2006; 320 pp; $15;
Administrators itching to read the advice that today's prospective students are getting may want to take a spin through this book. Author Loren Pope, a former newspaper editor and college administrator, has compiled a list of schools that provide transformational experiences for students-whether through inventive course requirements, intriguing majors, new facilities, or faculty-student learning opportunities.
None of the schools are in the Ivy League, and many don't have instantly recognizable names, yet they have outperformed most Ivy League IHEs on several fronts, including in the percentages of graduates who become scientists and scholars, says Pope.
The book provides chapters on each of the colleges and universities, offering insights as to what practices, offerings, and facilities make them stand out. Some of the schools bend toward the intellectual, while others go out of their way to enroll students who are adept in non-academic ways.
Pope makes some broad generalizations. Discussing out-of-work Harvard grads, he says, "The Ivy alums didn't know how to handle nonsuccess; the graduates of these colleges would." In Pope's view, students from, say, Ohio Wesleyan just fare better in the face of challenges. -C.M.F.
Much attention has been focused on Louisiana and the Gulf Coast states as they prepare for another hurricane season, but the lessons learned from Katrina apply to other areas as well-Binghamton, N.Y., for example.
Hit by record rainfall in June that caused massive flooding, thousands of residents in Binghamton and 12 other counties were forced to evacuate to higher ground. Within hours, Binghamton University's Event Center had become the largest shelter in the area.
"Once it became apparent that the Binghamton area would be severely hit late Tuesday night, June 27, the Red Cross swung into gear, contacting the Broome County Emergency Services, who then called us to ask if we would be willing to offer shelter to evacuees," says Gail Glover, director of media relations at the university. The school quickly activated its campus emergency response team, which began setting up the center. Shortly after midnight, evacuees began arriving.
Glover says the team set up cots and prepared the building for flood victims. The university's food service vendor, Sodexho Campus Services, provided a constant supply of coffee, donuts, bagels, and fruit. "They kept the food coming, serving hot breakfast, lunches, and dinners throughout the time the center served as a shelter-almost six days," says Glover.
A student volunteer ambulance service worked with University Police and the Environmental Health and Safety staff to provide medical care.
On Wednesday, the call went out on campus for volunteers. Within minutes, 45 staff and faculty members arrived to join the crew, which would grow to 250.
At its peak, more than 1,800 evacuees registered with the Red Cross, making the Binghamton University Events Center the largest shelter ever in the Northeast.
"The key to all this was that our university response team was able to play a major role in dealing with some of the most devastating flooding our area has seen," says Glover. "A lot of folk will spend the next few months putting their lives together again, but we hope the smooth and calm atmosphere we were able to coordinate between our team and the Red Cross at the Events Center was able to offer flood victims a small bit of comfort." -T.G.
There's been much said about the Millennial Generation-they've had parents dote on them, praise them, and demand perfection in return. They are the next "great" generation, according to demographers, who have warned all who have gone before that members of this up-and-coming group are entering college and the workforce expecting instant gratification and the ability to make a difference before paying their dues.
Apparently not enough attention has been paid to this new generation's sense of social responsibility.
According to the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, 83 percent of the 264,000 incoming college freshmen surveyed in fall 2005 had volunteered during the previous 12 months. This is the highest percentage in the 40 years that CIRP has been conducting its Freshman Survey. CIRP, which is part of the Higher Educational Research Institute, based at the University of California, Los Angeles, also reports that 66 percent of this same surveyed student group say it is very important to help others who are having difficulties-the highest percentage in 25 years.
"The Indian Ocean tsunami occurred during their high school senior year, and Hurricane Katrina hit the southern Gulf Region in August, as many students began college," says John Pryor of CIRP.
"This cohort will likely have a special affinity for social responsibility as a result," adds Sylvia Hurtado, director of the research institute.
Keeping in step with the trend, the Association of American Colleges and Universities has launched a new phase of its social responsibility program. Its Core Commitments initiative, designed to foster personal and social responsibility on campuses, will use a new $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to help students and IHEs. The association and its Core Commitments initiative aim to interweave personal and social responsibility into academic life, explains Carol Geary Schneider, AAC&U president.
AAC&U is issuing a call for applications among colleges and universities and will select 20 to work as a consortium. They will be charged with figuring out how to include social responsibility and ethics in each undergraduate's learning. -J.M.A.
Micro Economics Made Fun
What do a stranded alien race and microeconomics have in common? No, not a Spielberg blockbuster. The answer we're looking for is college credit. That's right, beginning this fall, students at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, can earn four college credits by playing an online video game that teaches the principles of microeconomics.
The game is called ECON 201, and players assume the identity of aliens who must survive after crash-landing on a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Earth. The aliens face challenges based on economic principles such as scarcity and sustainable growth. Along the way, they review historic examples of how the planet coped with similar problems in the past.
"Ultimately we teach that economics is a way of thinking," says economics instructor Jeff Sarbaum, who is academic advisor for the course. "We know that today's students live in a multimedia world, so ECON 201 is also designed to provide the visual excitement and intrigue to keep them engaged. I've used gaming modules in my face-to-face classes, and I've found that those are the days that students seem to enjoy the most and also learn the most."
The game is being beta tested before the fall semester. See it at web.uncg.edu/dcl/econ201. -T.G.
The point of an alumni board is to give graduate a voice in their college's development. But sometimes people don't feel that is being accomplished and they challenge the status quo. Most recently, the Dartmouth board has been challenged with petitioned candidates beating the Alumni Association's board choices two years in a row. The independent candidates say the college administration has sacrificed free speech to political correctness and are turning the school into a mini Harvard. Adding to the tempest is the Alumni Association's decision to revise its constitution-some say to thwart the challengers-so that petition candidates must collect more signatures to run. Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council for Trustees and Alumni, said this is illustrative of a growing number of alumni who are concerned about their institutions. She suggests institutions address concerns of alumni and not view the messenger as an enemy. "They shouldn't be viewed as 'outsiders,' " Neal says, "They are all alumni." -Ann McClure
When American Medical Association physicians met recently to shape their health-care agenda, concerns about student depression, substance abuse, and suicide-and what institutions of higher ed are and are not doing about them-were a major discussion driver. According to an AMA report, colleges are becoming overburdened by stress, depression, and alcohol- and other drug-related problems among their students. Adequate prevention, screening, and follow-up interventions are often not implemented or not integrated into campus policies and services.
For example, while nearly all colleges provide general student alcohol education programs, recommended routine screenings for alcohol use and campus programs designed for student substance abusers are much less common.
And with the complex problems of suicide and suicide-related behaviors on campuses, the report notes, IHEs can't rely solely on campus counselors or community mental-health centers.
A few of the suggested strategies:
Facilitating agreements between administrative, academic, and health units to address targets of mental health and suicide-related interventions.
Ensuring that college counseling professionals are prepared to work with psychiatrists, primary-care physicians, community mental-health workers, substance-abuse professionals, other related professionals, and other campus departments.
Developing a compassionate mental-health leave policy, similar to medical-leave policies for students with life-threatening conditions, to ensure that students can resume their studies once their symptoms are managed.
Enlisting student "heroes" (such as athletes, actors, and peer leaders who have personal experience with anxiety, depression, and related problems) to help send messages to students about recognizing depression and getting help.
Targeting both the general campus population and identifiable at-risk populations (i.e., Greek organization members, athletes) through programs.
The report can be found online at www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/16411.html. -M.E.
What's just 10 centimeters cubed and represents the pride of the Bluegrass State?
KentuckySatellite, or KentuckySat, an itsy-bitsy satellite that is emerging out of a major joint effort between Kentucky universities and agencies. Institutions behind the satellite include the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, Morehead State University, and the University of Kentucky, among others.
The KentuckySat project took off this summer when seven students traveled to NASA Ames Research Center in California to work on designing the satellite.
The students will bring an engineering model back to Kentucky this fall, when additional students and experts will begin building a flight model. The satellite's principal ground control will be located at Morehead State.
Other universities have launched satellites before, but KentuckySat represents the first statewide effort, according to Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, managing partner of the project. The goal, he says, is to "engage in a series of design and launch efforts hopefully every 12 to 15 months, so that a new group of students will continually have an opportunity to engage in this."
Once KentuckySat heads out to space in 2007 (likely on the back of a missile with its warhead removed) any educational institution in Kentucky will have access to its data and photos. Then, from a piece of equipment no larger than a piece of fruit will emerge larger lessons on satellites and telemetry. -C.M.F.
President Bush's veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, his first veto since coming to office, may have dealt a serious blow to university medical researchers.
The veto comes in the face of widespread public and congressional support for lifting the restrictions on stem cell research put in place by Bush in 2001. One problem, say scientists, is that the small line of stem cells allowed for research since 2001 have mutated in the ensuing years, and they are fast becoming unusable in research. The bill would have expanded the allowable line of stem cells, while protecting against "fetal farming," or harvesting embryos expressly for research purposes. Although the bill had broad support, it appeared that Congress could not muster enough votes to override the veto.
According to the Gallup Poll, a majority of Americans-typically 60 percent or more-favors using stem cells derived from human embryos for medical research.
"The president's decision to veto the bill is a disappointing development, though not unexpected," says Dennis O'Shea, executive director of communications and public affairs at The Johns Hopkins University (Md.). "It prevents us from opening up new avenues of research with federal funding, which affect not just Johns Hopkins, but stem cell researchers across the country, making it more difficult to pursue promising leads in the fight against disease." -T.G.
Robert Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities called the veto "a setback for science" in a statement on behalf of the AAU. "By hobbling American stem-cell scientists, this veto will leave the U.S. trailing research being performed elsewhere in the world," Berdahl said. "This is not only slowing down the development of cures but also making America less competitive in what may be the most promising area of biomedical research in this new century."
Administrators who stand by diversity as a key component of higher education have a new tool to help them establish legally defensible admissions policies.
With race- and ethnicity-based programs continuing to face public challenges, the manual, "Admissions and Diversity After Michigan" (College Board, 2006), is timely. Attorneys Arthur Coleman and Scott Palmer of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Holland & Knight penned the manual to offer guidance on developing and implementing programs that will stand up in court.
While the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with major affirmative action issues in its University of Michigan decisions of 2003, it left many specifics unaddressed. "The whole issue of diversity, which at some level could be quite a nebulous concept, needs to have some real parameters, some real facets of accountability, and some benchmarks by which you can evaluate success," says Coleman. The manual arose out of the two-year-old Access and Diversity Collaborative, which-overseen by the College Board, several associations, and 33 institutions-gathered enrollment management and legal experts in seminars across the country. "What we heard consistently and loudly was the importance of institutional leadership," says Coleman.
The guide offers clear directions to leaders who increasingly are integrating diversity into the lives of their institutions. The free manual is available at www.collegeboard.com/diversitycollaborative/background.html. A print copy costs $15. -C.M.F.