You are here

Beyond the News

Behind the News

University Business, Mar 2006

New FCC regulations give the feds

access to internet, phone services

A coalition of 14 education groups led by the American Council on Education filed suit in January against the Federal Communications Commission to block new surveillance rules from taking effect. Behind the concern is the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) that requires telecommunications companies to enable wiretaps by law enforcement agencies. Last fall, the FCC amended CALEA to include broadband access and internet phone services--the kind found at colleges and universities.

The Bush administration contends the new capabilities will help fight terrorism, yet others worry about privacy violations--not to mention the expense of complying with the rules.

"If CALEA requires the replacement of a substantial portion of network equipment, the cost to the entire higher education community could total billions of dollars," the brief reads. Citing the careful long-range planning that goes into technology expenditures, ACE--along with the Association of American Universities, the American Association of Community Colleges, and others--maintains that the compliance target of spring 2007 would require funding to be diverted from other programs, resulting in possible course eliminations and tuition increases.

While economics are at the forefront of the controversy, the suit also speaks to concerns about growing government intrusions on privacy and free speech. Many believe the government's actions cast a pall over constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the National Security Agency, also in January, to stop illegal domestic surveillance. The ACLU was joined by educators who claim the program intercepts vast quantities of international telephone and internet communications by innocent Americans without court approval.

One of the participants in the suit told University Business that colleges and universities should be deeply concerned about the effect of the government's actions on academic freedom. "Professors and students can get caught up in the net of warrantless intercepts of phone and e-mail communications, and this could compromise confidential interviews they may be conducting on sensitive matters," notes Larry Diamond, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "The problem is potentially very serious for political science research but could also affect research in a wide range of other disciplines, including history, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. Keep in mind that the people we are in touch with or whose interviews we are internally communicating about need not be terrorists. If they have been in touch with people who have been in touch with people who are suspected of being terrorists, then, according to what has been reported about this warrantless surveillance program, these innocent people, by two or three degrees of separation, may still be monitored, and so may the researchers who are in communication with them or who are writing back to their professors about them."

Left unchecked, he says, "I think it is likely that over time the power of the government to monitor what we do will expand, and academic freedom will likely shrink in proportion to it." --Tim Goral

In the last few years, the classes passing through the Oregon University System have been incredibly large. "It's been like an egg passing through a snake," says Bob Kieran, director of Institutional Research for the system. Now--although the number of students in the systems' seven public universities hit a record-high 80,888 last fall--the growth is easing.

Oregon is not alone in seeing slowing enrollment growth. Other states, including Connecticut and Texas, are seeing similar trends. In Connecticut, the current year is the fourth in a row with record-breaking enrollment and the eighth in a row with growth. But officials are worried about what's to come. When in November the state's Department of Higher Education released its latest figures noting a .9 percent enrollment increase this year, Commissioner Valerie Lewis commented on the "warning bells." And in releasing the enrollment numbers for its own state, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board expressed concern that the rate of growth among Hispanic students is slowing, falling short of goals by about 30,000 students.

Record growth can't be sustained forever, and many factors come into play, economic pressures among them. Kieran, for one, attributes his state's situation to three things: the flattening out of the baby boom echo boom (the generation of children born to baby boomers), the sheer size of classes in recent years, and rising tuition costs. --Caryn Meyers Fliegler

A grad student's pregnancy has TRAditionally resulted in being pushed out of the academic pipeline. Stanford University (Calif.), following MIT's lead, is the second major U.S. university to develop a policy to help new mothers maintain full-time, registered student status and then return to pre-pregnancy class work and program requirements.

Stanford's childbirth policy, implemented in January, was crafted by Gail A. Mahood, professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences. It states that all registered and matriculated female graduate students who are pregnant or have recently given birth:

are eligible for up to two academic quarters of academic accommodation (i.e., postponing course assignments and exams)

are eligible for full-time enrollment status (including access to health insurance and Stanford facilities/housing)

will be granted a one-quarter extension of university and departmental requirements and academic milestones

In addition, those supported by fellowships, teaching assistantships, and/or research assistantships will be excused from their duties for six weeks--with pay.

"I think Stanford and MIT may very well be trend-setters here," says Barbara Taylor, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources at the University of Arkansas, and president-elect of CUPA-HR, the College & University Professional Association for Human Resources. "It wasn't long ago that stopping the tenure clock for faculty who have babies was a revolutionary concept; now it's fairly commonplace." --Melissa Ezarik

In the history of American higher education, just a few dozen people have donated $100 million or more to colleges and universities. Now, only two months into 2006, at least four donations have already hit that monetary mark.

Oklahoma State University alum Boone Pickens kicked off the giving spree by writing a $165 million check, money that will go toward expanding and rehabilitating the school's athletic facilities. Princeton University (N.J.) may soon attract more budding artists, thanks to a $101 million gift from trustee Peter Lewis to enhance the role of creative and performing arts at the university.

Further down south, energy magnate Dan Duncan gave the Baylor College of Medicine (Texas) a slam dunk worth $100 million. That fund should help develop the college's hospital into a comprehensive cancer center. Johns Hopkins University (Md.) already has a comprehensive cancer center, but with the help of $100 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the university will build a new children's tower at its hospital.

So is $100 million the new platinum standard for advancement? Maybe for a handful of prestigious schools--but smaller contributions benefit teaching colleges and minority-serving institutions too, says Mary Pat Wagner, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Mercy College (N.Y.). "The truly transformational gift can be a smaller gift," she says.

Jack Welch's recent contributions exemplify that point. In January, the former General Electric CEO gave an undisclosed gift to Sacred Heart University (Conn.) for its business school. Just a few days later, Welch donated $1 million to Salem State College, which is located in the Massachusetts town from which he hails. The money will be used to create eight full-time scholarships for Salem residents. --C.M.F.

" The last thing I want is a nurse or doctor working on me who didn't buy their anatomy book." - David Solomini of the student advocacy group Virginia21, which is pushing for textbook market reform.

Educating the Net Generation

Diana Oblinger and James Oblinger, Editors,

EDUCAUSE Resource Center, 2005, 264 pp.; free PDF download

Call them Millennials, Net Gen, OR Digital Natives. For young adults, e-mail, instant messaging, and high-speed internet access aren't really technology tools as much as they are part of the lifestyle. Administrators who are proud of their brand-new wireless networks should be warned. Students might not even consider this a "technology" application, write the contributors to Educating the Net Generation. Digital natives are ho-hum about such innovations.

Given that the average 21-year-old has spent twice as many hours playing video games as reading (10,000 versus 5,000), according to the text, educators have to grab these learners with image-rich environments and opportunities to interact with each other.

The book includes pointers and summation lists, including one that sites the

Millennials good points:

They believe it is cool to be smart.

They are focused on grades.

They identify with their parents' values.

Editors Diana and James Oblinger, the first couple of higher ed IT trends, have compiled chapters from guest authors that cover everything from a student's perspective to design trends that foster learning. Diana, a VP for EDUCAUSE, was previously CIO at the University of North Carolina. She has also worked for Microsoft and IBM. James is chancellor of North Carolina State. --Jean Marie Angelo

Hurricane Katrina happened only months ago, yet colleges and universities are already applying the lessons learned. Professor Elizabeth Hammer, chair of the psychology program at Loyola University New Orleans, is teaching a course on the hurricane and the psychology of disasters. Some of her students have experienced trauma themselves. "It has been intense," she acknowledges.

This is one of many ways college students are learning lessons related to the impact of the storm. Loyola offers several courses that touch on the hurricane and its aftermath, including a post-Katrina environmental relations study led by Bob Thomson. Thomson (who is host to a Florida A&M student conducting a broadcast journalism project) takes his students on bus tours. He starts in Metairie, which did not experience devastating flooding. Over the bridge in New Orleans, he shows a city torn apart because of levee breeches.

With an eye to the future, architecture students from around the country are flocking to New Orleans. The Tulane School of Architecture and Architectural Digest magazine are sponsoring a competition for students to design prototype housing in the Crescent City. Tulane Architecture is also building a house in Treme, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the country. --C.M.F.

With more than 13 million international students studying in the United States, it makes sense that this group gets its own publication to help them study and live away from home. World Scholar, launched this fall, does just that.

Among the free magazine's premiere issue features: how the country's post-9/11 policy for processing international students impacts student advisers; battling loneliness; and a humorous look at how American English differs from what readers may be used to. The 100,000-circulation magazine is published quarterly by Uni-Recruitment, whose programs include college recruitment fairs in the Caribbean and the United States. Any institution interested in receiving it can contact the magazine at --M.E.

Sister Diana Stano, president of Ursuline College (Ohio), is doing things a bit differently from most presidents: She's moved into her college's newest dorm.

Starting this month University Business' website will run several journal entries from Stano, offering glimpses into her experience this semester as well as insights into how the design of the $5 million dorm affects student interaction. To read the first entry this month, visit

Register now for UBTech 2018

Register now for UBTech 2018, June 4-6 at the Mirage, Las Vegas. At UBTech 2018, you’ll network with a dynamic community of higher ed leaders who are shaping the future of campus technology and explore topics like cyber security, distance learning, campus learning space design, communications, personalized learning and more. Your UBTech registration also includes a free pass to the InfoComm exhibit hall.

Register now>>