Behind The News

Behind The News

A Race Crisis in Los Angeles; Shaking Up Vending; BETWEEN the LINES; Envisioning Peace for the Middle East; Grants for Katrina-Ravaged Universities; Commission Report Leaves Higher Ed Questions Unanswered; On-Court Dunks Mean Off-Court Wins; Rocker Builds Refuge for Troubled Teens; Newspapers: From College to Corporate; Color Me Protected
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Here's a situation that would make UCLA graduate Arthur Ashe turn in his grave: Los Angeles County has one of the largest populations of African Americans in the country, yet the University of California, Los Angeles, has the lowest number of African American students enrolling this fall of nine UC campuses.

Out of 12,094 students who received admit offers from UCLA for this fall, 244 were African American (a drop of 36 students from the previous year). Only 96 chose to enroll, down 30 from last year. "We are tremendously concerned about these numbers," says Janina Montero, vice chancellor for Student Affairs. "This time we are experiencing quite a bit of a dip."

State law-specifically Proposition 209, approved by California's residents in 1996-forbids the university from taking race into consideration. Is Prop 209 entirely to blame for UCLA's low numbers? That depends on whom you ask.

Some alumni and members of the African American community believe UCLA-which has enjoyed a skyrocketing profile in recent years-places too much weight on academic rank and test scores, putting students from low-performing high schools at a disadvantage. Ever since the UC system began allowing candidates to apply to more than one campus, UCLA's selectivity has grown; it is now among the more competitive public universities in the country. It is also the most popular, with an applicant pool that swelled by 12 percent this year.

The University of California, Berkeley, is also highly competitive, but it has seen its African American representation grow slightly. Susanna Castillo-Robson, acting associate vice chancellor for Admissions and Enrollment, credits several factors, including outreach to prospective students by Admissions staff and by students on campus. (UCLA engages in similar efforts, including the Early Academic Outreach Program, which cultivates a college-going culture among middle and high school students.)

One difference: At UCLA, separate readers consider the academics and personal achievement/life challenges portions of an application. At Berkeley, one reader examines the entire application. "Outreach and recruitment definitely wouldn't work without a fair and effective way of reviewing applicants," says Castillo-Robson.

A subcommittee of UCLA's Academic Senate, which helps set admissions practices, is looking at UCLA admissions data from the last five years to understand patterns in the criteria used to evaluate applicants. Armed with the data, the subcommittee will go to a full undergraduate admissions committee with recommendations. While UCLA and UC Berkeley are friendly rivals, they may work together to improve processes, too.

-Caryn Meyers Fliegler

Nana technology: Technology designed, intended, or that can otherwise be used to improve quality of life for the elderly.
-Andrew Carle, assistant professor for the College of Health and Human Services,
George Mason University (Va.).

A Milky Way might provide a blood sugar boost to students, but an iPod Shuffle can keep 'em up all night.

Columbia University administrators have opted to place iPods as well as other techie offerings in vending machines. Thanks to the move, which was executed by the vending operating company Canteen, students can now insert money into a vending machine and receive a Shuffle, iTunes gift certificate, or burnable CD. (The price for the Shuffle is $80.)

The new offerings sit alongside the usual vending machine fare in a new cyber caf? on Columbia's Morningside Heights campus. Students are encouraged to hook up laptops and gather in study groups, and the new vending machine choices "are things that you would associate with computers," says Christine Torio, assistant director of retail operations.

The musically inclined items might not provide a windfall to the university (sales have been slow), but their mere presence can give students the feeling that the university cares about them-and their tastes in gadgets. -C.M.F.

By Jack H. Schuster and Martin J. Finkelstein

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006; 600 pp; $45;

www.press.jhu.edu/books/title_pages/8994.html

The careers of faculty members at American research universities have changed dramatically in recent years. Life at these institutions has become "destabilized," according to authors Jack H. Schuster, a professor of education and public policy at Claremont Graduate University (Calif.), and Martin Finkelstein, professor of higher education at Seton Hall University (N.J.). The professional, discipline-based scholar now copes with the marketplace, the global economy, and privatization.

"Everything is 'in play,' " say the authors. "Practically every aspect of the life academic is being driven by a host of interrelated developments." These include technological advancements that force faculty to research differently in recent years.

Numerous tables and charts outline trends in hiring, the changes in minority percentages, and salaries for union and nonunion academics. The authors paint a troubling picture. They write, "Overall, faculty salaries, in terms of real purchasing power, have only barely increased beyond the level that had been attained as far back as the 1970s." -J.M.A.

COURSE CATALOG

Two professors and Middle East scholars at the University of Maryland are affectionately known around campus as the "Odd Couple." One is an Israeli, and the other is a Palestinian. Together they teach a class on conflict resolution.

While teaching the course, which they have done for 12 summers, the professors not only work together, but live together in a house near campus and write together in their time outside of the classroom. They debate and discuss Middle East issues each year before the course starts, even the fine points of how to explain various wars, conflicts, and territories.

Their course, "Multitrack Diplomacy: Searching for Common Ground Between Hamas and Kadima," refers to the ruling parties of the Palestinians and Israelis.

"We make this a holistic experience," explains Edy Kaufman, an Israeli-American and senior research associate. Over the course of time Kaufman has become good friends with Professor Manuel Hassassian, a Muslim and a former Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom.

"We've been team-teaching for many years and by now we understand how the other thinks and anticipate each other's arguments," says Kaufman.

The course was originally structured to accommodate 20 students, but it is often expanded to 35. The professors have had to miss only one summer, when Hassassian was asked to head the Jerusalem Task Force for the Palestinian Camp David negotiating team.

"We are determined to go on each year until there is peace," says Kaufman.

-Jean Marie Angelo

Much effort has been made to rebuild states affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year. Recently, UGS Corp., a provider of product lifecycle management software and services, announced it had donated more than $1 billion in software to 50 colleges and universities located in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Hulas King, director of UGS's GO PLM program, says he hopes the news will elicit support from other agencies. Most rebuilding efforts have concentrated on infrastructure, but "we want to build economic capabilities in the region," King explains. "People graduating need meaningful jobs." The support enables students at Southern University (La.) and other schools to gain hands-on experience, says Habibi Mohamadian, dean of the College of Engineering. -Ann McClure

The Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education issued the final draft in August of recommendations to improve access and affordability in higher education. Six drafts of the report had been released in preceding weeks, with some versions eliminating or toning down controversial passages. An early proposal for a national standardized exit exam, for example, was ultimately replaced with a recommendation that schools measure student learning on their own.

The commission also recommended increasing the purchasing power of Pell Grants, raising them to cover 70 percent of public college tuition. Whether this proposal would ever be acted on in the current political climate is unclear. The Pell Grant, which in 1986 could be counted on to pay for as much as 98 percent of an average college tuition, now covers less than 25 percent of tuition, and hasn't been increased since 2001.

Although the report's authors argued against price controls, they acknowledged that a Pell increase addresses only part of the problem. The report urges higher ed leaders to find new ways to control costs, saying tuition should grow no faster than median family income: "Even with significant additional federal investment, there is little chance of restoring the Pell's purchasing power if tuition increases absorb most or all of the new money."

Eighteen of 19 commission members voted to accept the final draft. The lone holdout was American Council on Education President David Ward, who said he could not support the recommendations.

"There remain several issues of serious concern to me-particularly as I look ahead to the challenges of implementing the report's recommendations, with which I will inevitably be directly involved," he said in a statement. "For example, many of the problems cited in the report are the result of multiple factors but they are sometimes attributed entirely to the limitations of higher education. The recommendations as a whole also fail to recognize the diversity of missions within higher education and the need to be cautious about policies and standards based on a one-size-fits-all approach." Download the full report at www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture. -Tim Goral

Our nation is raising a bunch of fat little PlayStation addicts who can't spell the word 'NBA'. -Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University (N.Y.) professor and author of Quick and Dirty Secrets of College Success, who claims U.S. students are infected with 'Paris Hiltonitis.'

March usually comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. For George Mason University (Va.), March 2006 came in quietly and ended with the roar of cheering crowds.

The Mason men's basketball team beat the odds to reach the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. GMU is the first mid-major conference school since 1979 to make it to the Final Four. While Mason entered the tournament as an 11th seed (16th being the lowest), the team nearly made it to the national championship.

Strengthened by this Cinderella story, GMU is abuzz with future plans. Conversations are taking place on how to expand visibility, grow enrollment, and boost advancement. "We're hoping to capitalize on the school spirit that came out of that," says Daniel Walsch, a university spokesman.

Indeed, hits on Mason's website spiked following the Final Four appearance. Mason T-shirts and hats became ubiquitous. The university's transfer/dropout rates have been shrinking. "Whether they're staying here because suddenly Mason is a lot more renowned, or they like us better than they used to...we don't know, " says Walsch.

The university has major plans for growth, many of which were started long before the Final Four appearance. It is opening another Virginia campus; developing one in the United Arab Emirates; and completing $275 million in campus facilities projects in Fairfax. As for basketball season, it's now less than three months away. -C.M.F.

He once sang songs with names like "Welcome to My Nightmare," "Sick Things," and "No More Mr. Nice Guy," so Alice Cooper knows something about impressionable young minds. But Cooper, whose ghoulish makeup shocked audiences in the 1970s, says that despite perceptions to the contrary, "Kids love boundaries. We used to fight against them, but we really did want to know where we could go," he told the press.

So, to provide a physical and spiritual base for young people, Cooper is raising money for a 20,000-square-foot teen activity center called The Rock, which will be built at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. A longtime supporter of the university, Cooper says the Phoenix area has been troubled recently with a wave of gang and drug activity. "In the middle of all that is a bunch of 12-, 13-, 14-year-old kids that can go one way or the other."

The $3 million center will have a recording studio, basketball courts, rock-climbing walls, a game room, and a concert hall. The project is being funded by the Solid Rock Foundation, a Christian nonprofit organized by Cooper. -T.G.

It was hard to miss all the press after the early August acquisition of Florida State University's student newspaper. The Tallahassee Democrat, a daily owned by newspaper publishing giant Gannett, purchased The FSView & Florida Flambeau for an undisclosed amount. Many wondered: Will campus newspapers lose their very essence as student-run publications if swallowed up by corporations?

The audience of student pubs is no doubt desirable to marketers. And it's a tough one for community papers to reach on their own. "When I've seen local newspapers try to produce a campus edition, for the most part they've failed," says Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, a legal assistance agency for high school and college student news media.

Still, The FSView acquisition is not likely the start of a new trend (or a revenue-generating idea for other institutions to consider). "The idea of Gannett buying a student newspaper is dramatic until you realize it wasn't really a student newspaper in the first place," Goodman notes. Despite its origin as a student-run publication, it was already a for-profit business where the editors haven't necessarily been students.

The paper is one of just a few dozen college-student pubs that are truly independent from their institutions. (Most of these have governing documents stating that students must have final content authority, Goodman notes.)

The Democrat's publisher has said little will change for the student paper, other than that its staff will have access to professional training and networking opportunities. "I wouldn't offhand see any reason why they would want to impose some sort of heavy hand on the editorial product," says Rick Edmonds, a researcher and writer for The Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, future journalists, and journalism teachers. Besides certain budgetary formulas and programs Gannett applies to new acquisitions, "once that part is done, they're pretty much believers of letting local papers be," he says.

"The big question is, are student voices going to be dominated?," Goodman wonders. "Time will tell." -Melissa Ezarik

A school's colors, logo, and insignia help make it and its students quickly and easily identifiable.

A July ruling by the U.S. District Court in Louisiana now allows schools such as Louisiana State University, The Ohio State University, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Southern California, and The Collegiate Licensing Company to protect their "recognizable and historic colors."

The schools sued Smack Apparel Company for infringing on their rights in the collegiate licensing space.

Under the decision, Smack Apparel can no longer use the schools' colors in apparel and must pay damages to the schools and CLC. Michael Drucker, VP and associate general counsel for CLC, explains that protection and control are paramount parts of most trademark plans. He acknowledges the revenue is important because it helps with funding. The ruling did not go as far as listing Pantone colors, but focused on the paired colors used to identify the schools.

"Obviously other schools have similar colors," Drucker says, adding that he doesn't foresee colleges and universities in the suit using the decision against other schools.

Instead, the ruling should "embolden other schools to look a little differently at protecting their rights," since there is now a legal precedent, he says.

-Ann McClure


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