BEHIND The NEWS
BIKE SHARING ON CAMPUS IS HARDLY a new concept, but the University of Denver and the city are proving you can put a new tire on an old ride. DU spokesman Chase Squires says they believe “this is the first time a private university and a city have partnered like this for a bike program.”
The student senate’s sustainability budget contributed $30,000, and then-seniors Mary Jean O’Malley and Zoee Turrill raised another $20,000 for the campus pilot. The city program, patterned on a program in Paris, begins next spring and will be run by a nonprofit, which a million-dollar donation from the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee got started, Squires explains. The DU bike library now has 40 bikes and two kiosks. Ultimately, the city will have 40 kiosks and 600-plus bikes. With 100 miles of paved, off-road trails that cross the city and connect to hundreds more miles of dirt trails, bikers will have lots of excursion options.
O’Malley and Turrill developed an informational packet outlining donor incentives, such as bike and kiosk advertising, says O’Malley, adding that “we met our goal easily” and the packet didn’t seem to be needed. As the fundraising effort officially opened in front of the campus Sustainability Council, on which O’Malley and Turrill served, there were immediate signs of momentum?with the dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics donating $5,000 from that department’s budget. And it was all downhill from there. ?Melissa Ezarik
DESPITE THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND Reinvestment Act, the national economy is still gloomy. As the new school year starts, the downturn is continuing to send reverberations through higher ed.
For some, the situation is exacerbating existing problems. A “summer cash flow shortage” at Lambuth University (Tenn.) meant not being able to meet payroll for a few months. As of mid-August, employees had only been paid through June. “We got here on our own, but the bad economy has made our problems worse,” says spokeswoman Alicia Russell. “It’s harder to get loans from banks. It’s harder to get donors’ dollars.” The new school year brings the buzz of students returning to campus?and tuition payments. “We have a balanced budget for the fiscal year starting in July. We see our financial problems being a thing of the past,” she says.
Things are not as bad at Guilford College (N.C). When the economy started to tank last year, officials cut $2.7 million from the budget and focused on admissions, says President Kent Chabotar. “Our first-year traditional class is 50 percent North Carolina for the first time I can remember.” The turmoil in public institutions both in and out of state caused more students to take the private route, he theorizes.
Public institutions are doing their best to respond to state budget cuts. Grabbing national headlines on a regular basis are the money-saving furloughs states are imposing on employees at public colleges and universities.
Most public announcements about furloughs focus on shared pain and pulling together during this hard time. But University of Wisconsin-Stout Chancellor Charles Sorensen is crying foul over the furlough implementation there. Employees at two- and four-year institutions in the University of Wisconsin system face four furlough days over the next two years, but unionized teachers, also paid with public funds, in the Wisconsin Technical College System and in K-12 don’t. This amounts to a pay cut for university faculty, while teachers in other sectors are receiving raises, Sorensen points out in an online editorial. The campus community is happy the chancellor spoke up for them, says spokesman Doug Mell, adding that administrators are trying hard to mitigate the effect on students. Yet scheduling 8,000 days of time off is difficult. Class time doesn’t usually have to be cut, but a lot of professors’ workloads?such as grading and research?takes place out of class.
“[Furloughs are] a temporary fix for a long-term problem,” say Gary Rhoades, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, noting a long-term trend of shifting funds away from instruction and toward administrative needs. The AAUP’s online “Financial Crisis FAQ” helps guide members. “The biggest concern [we hear] is that colleges and universities aren’t exploring all the options for saving money,” he says. “Furloughs won’t enable institutions to move personnel resources to the production workers?faculty, researchers, student services.”
Although state funds may be decreasing, they often make up less than half of the budget; the revenue streams of tuition, fees, and grants are stable or increasing, Rhoades points out. Chabotar agrees with some of Rhoades’ points but says higher ed has grown so complex that staff support is necessary. Like aircraft carriers, faculty “need picket ships and supply lines. That is what administration is,” he argues.
It seems higher ed has to weather this storm a while longer. ?Ann McClure
PURCHASING TEXTBOOKS RANKS HIGH ON a college student’s expense list?and low on the want-to-do list. But a cost-savvy option is getting more attention these days: renting.
Chegg, BookRenter.com, and Cengage Learning offer rental services as affordable alternatives to buying books. And Follett Higher Education Group has now gotten into the rentals game, with the launch of a new pilot rental program. Bookstores at about a dozen institutions, including Grand Rapids Community College (Mich.), the University of North Texas, and Coastal Carolina University (S.C.), are participating. Through the program, students pay 42.5 percent of a textbook’s price and can opt to purchase it afterward. Twenty percent of titles?most of them in the humanities (more conducive to rental, as they remain current longer)?are available. “We thought it would be important to come up with other options for these students,” says Elio DiStaola, director of public and campus relations at Follett.
As for the business decision behind allowing rentals, which campus bookstores have traditionally shied away from, DiStaola acknowledges the risk. “But we hope we can turn around the downward trend in sell-through. ? By offering yet another cost-saving option?beyond used and digital?we can equip more students with the required materials for each of their classes.” The pilot program, he adds, allows the company “to take a measuring stick to the exact results and tweak if necessary prior to expansion. We’re confident it can work financially.”
Charles Schmidt, a spokesperson for the National Association of College Stores, has heard of a few institutions with rental programs and says the numbers are slowly increasing. He suggests those interested in starting a program begin with books for one or two introductory courses and get faculty buy-in by emphasizing the savings for students. “They are the ones selecting the books and have to agree to use the same edition for multiple semesters,” he says.
Bookstores will face another change next year. The Higher Education Opportunity Act will require colleges and universities to disclose information in courses about textbook costs and revisions made. Close to 30 NACS members have applied for federal grants created under the act, says Schmidt. ?Michele Herrmann
IN WRITING A SERIES OF columns this year on new models of higher education leadership regarding sustainability, it struck us how overlooked distance education has been in the broader sustainability conversations on many campuses and how little seems to have been written about it as both a wise and strategic choice from this perspective.
No bricks, no mortar, no travel, no paper. Distance education has been green from the start and will be green forever, according to John Flores, executive dean at the Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University (Fla.) and long-serving executive director of the United States Distance Learning Association. “Like renewable energy, recyclable materials, and solar power,” he says, “distance education was green long before it was fashionable, much less required.”
In fact, the Fischler School routinely works to conserve these resources in its annual planning and budget cycles. Flores explains, “Online eliminates commutes, saves gas, and limits CO2 emissions. And have you ever stopped to consider how much air-conditioning a single class on a hot evening requires?” He invites readers to visit www.usdla.org or www.fischlerschool.nova.edu for more information or to continue the conversation.
?James Martin and James E. Samels are authors of Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Martin is a professor of English at Mount Ida College (Mass.) and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance.
GENE DEISINGER HAS BECOME VIRGINIA TECH'S deputy chief of police, following his tenure as associate director of public safety and deputy chief of police at Iowa State University. At Virginia Tech, he also will assume the new role of threat management director, overseeing and coordinating university efforts for campus violence prevention and threat assessment. Deisinger knows his field well. He co-authored The Handbook for Campus Threat Assessment and Management Teams (Applied Risk Management, 2008) and is a subject expert for the FBI and Secret Service. ...
The University of Massachusetts has named Ken Udas chief executive officer of UMassOnline, its online learning consortium, beginning Sept. 14. He was executive director of Penn State World Campus, created by The Pennsylvania State University in 1998, which offers distance education programs to learners on all seven continents. Udas has a lengthy track record in distance learning. He directed the SUNY Learning Network, a partnership of State University of New York institutions, and was e-learning director at The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. ...
Neal J. Smatresk has become the ninth president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, after having served as acting president following the demotion of former president, David Ashley, in July. He had been executive vice president and provost. ...
Frank Brogan, Florida Atlantic University’s president and the state’s former lieutenant governor, is now chancellor of the State University System of Florida. ...
Marcia G. Welsh has assumed the role of provost and vice president for academic affairs at Towson University (Md.). ...
Wendy B. Libby is the ninth president, and first woman in this post, at Stetson University (Fla.). ...
The Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities has named Kimberly R. Cline, president of Mercy College (N.Y.), to its 2009-2010 board of trustees. ?M.H.
TEN BELMONT UNIVERSITY (TENN.) STUDENTS spent 40 summer days learning about the United States?and did homework along the way. They traveled with two professors on a sleeper bus during “40 States in 40 Days: Rediscovering America,” a part class, part cross-country road trip with the assignment of finding out what it means to be an American.
Sociology professor Ken Spring came up with the learning experience after chatting with a colleague about how American college students often trek off to Europe but seem not to explore their own country. He thought it would “be cool to teach a class on American culture.”
Counting as two courses, one in English and another in sociology, the journey included visits to historically and culturally significant sites. Day two in Little Rock, Ark., for instance, included a stop at Little Rock Central High School, a landmark in the civil rights movement. Around Independence Day, the group saw reenactments of public readings of the Declaration of Independence in Boston and Philadelphia.
Before starting off on the 9,300-plus mile journey, each student was assigned three stops on the trip and charged with researching the location’s history and determining the specific sites to visit. Students facilitated evening discussions about what they saw and then blogged about the day’s experiences, at www.belmont.edu/40states. They also had to write post-trip research papers.
Whether there will be another “40/40” course is uncertain, but Spring says the group’s experience shows the concept has strong potential. “I do think it’s important to continue to share this story and have this course,” he adds. ?M.H.
THEIR FIELDS MAY BE GREEN, but collegiate athletic departments are lagging behind institutions as a whole and professional sports teams when it comes to the other kind of green. Nearly three out of four of the 97 athletic departments responding to a survey reported that sustainability initiatives are a “very high” or “high” priority for their institution as a whole. About the same amount expect more of an emphasis on environmental programs in their departments in the future. But there’s much work to be done, as less than half (44 percent) of respondents said that sustainability is currently a very high or high priority for the athletic departments themselves.
Mark McSherry conducted the survey, which was released by the American Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) as part of a Harvard University Extension graduate course. He compared responses to those from a similar survey of professional sports teams, who also seem to have greater dedication to sustainability. For example, 47 percent of professional teams are currently measuring or planning to measure their greenhouse gas emissions, while only 9 percent of the college athletic departments are doing or planning to do so.
“Professional sports teams see the business opportunity and branding benefits of going green,” McSherry says, adding that collegiate athletic departments have “unique leverageable assets when it comes to implementing sustainability programs,” as well as “an existing structure to obtain this revenue.” Corporate sponsorships, green advertising, and targeted alumni donations all offer potential revenue?although based on responses on how green efforts will affect the bottom line (see chart), athletics leaders aren’t convinced. “I hope that higher education leaders can see the business potential of developing a green game plan within athletics,” McSherry says.
It may help to be more informed about the campuswide game plan. While more than 40 percent of respondents said a representative from athletics serves on an institution-wide sustainability committee, nearly 8 in 10 did not know if their institution had signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
As McSherry, who plans to conduct the survey annually, reminds the higher ed community, “through their high visibility and close connection with fans, collegiate athletic departments have an incredible opportunity to move the ball forward on sustainability.”
The full survey report can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/l938mm. ?M.E.
IT’S HOT. IT’S BASICALLY AN inferno in a bottle. But then again, what would you expect from a hot sauce made from the spiciest peppers on the planet? How about a catchy product whose sales raise money for research at New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute?
Earlier this year the institute partnered with Columbus, Ohio-based CaJohn’s Fiery Foods to create Holy Jolokia hot sauce. The main ingredient is Bhut Jolokia chile peppers, certified by the Chile Pepper Institute and confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest peppers on earth.
“I love it. You certainly get a nice smoky flavor from the peppers,” says Mark Gladden, a self-described chile fanatic who also happens to be the major gifts officer at NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. He’s part of a team working to promote Holy Jolokia and the work done by the Chile Pepper Institute.
At approximately one million Scoville Heat Units, Bhut Jolokias are 100 times hotter than jalape?o peppers. The sauce they create has become CaJohn’s (ahem) hottest seller.
“We didn’t want to make it too hot, because we wanted people to enjoy it and be able to taste the uniqueness of the Bhut Jolokia,” says Paul Bosland, the Chile Pepper Institute’s director and widely recognized as the world’s foremost authority on chile peppers. “I think this is a fun product, and it brings a lot of publicity to New Mexico State University. It helps further cement New Mexico as the chile capital of the world.”
University officials hope that Holy Jolokia hot sauce sales, paired with other institutional fundraising efforts, will generate enough money to create an endowed chair in chile pepper research as well as upgrade and expand the facilities used by the Chile Pepper Institute.