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Beyond the News


University Business, Oct 2009

Education the main weapon against swine flu

Heath center staff at the University of Georgia have heard from hundreds of students with flulike symptoms.

AS EXPECTED, THE H1N1 VIRUS swept across college and university campuses as students reported for the new semester. Most reported cases were mild until mid-September, when a Cornell University student died from complications related to the flu. “We expected a surge of cases in the fall. We just couldn’t predict how much of a surge,” says Bruce Wright, executive director for health and counseling services at Washington State University. Well over 2,500 people contacted his office to report flulike symptoms in the first weeks of the semester.

At the University of Georgia, Health Communications Coordinator Liz Rachun says 360 students have contacted the health center, but she knows that’s only a fraction of the population that is actually sick.

Published reports say Emory University (Ga.) officials have been able to isolate sick students in an unused dorm?a plan Wright and Rachun say isn’t practical for their campuses because housing is already at capacity and the number of cases is so high. “Then the whole process of sorting the ill from the well was logistically pretty difficult,” says Wright. Students are being advised to self-isolate in their dorms or apartments. UGA’s main issue is this, shares Rachun: “Students don’t want to be isolated, so they don’t come in.” Those whose parents live locally are being urged to go home, where they might receive more attention and be less likely to mingle with other people when they start to feel better, says Steve Harris, director of UGA’s office of security and emergency preparedness.

A pandemic plan originally developed in 2005 to deal with the H5N1 (avian) flu was updated for the current outbreak, which has been proving mild, explains Harris.

WSU had a similar experience when its H5N1 plan was applied to a H1N1 case over the spring, says Emergency Management Coordinator Christopher Tapfer. Officials were able to spend the summer revising it. The planning group’s summer strategy meetings were more important than the actual plan, he adds.

Campus communities are receiving updates through websites and e-mail, while posters on campus stress hand washing and other best practices. UGA is planning a series of shuttle bus ads with its mascot, Uga, sporting a thermometer, while Western Illinois University’s Rocky made a YouTube video. After a parent’s inquiry, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s webmaster, Todd Sanders, created an online map of all the hand sanitizer stations on campus, viewable at

The American College Health Association has gathered a number of resources at “Prepare the best you can,” advises Rachun. “But once it starts, it’s hard to contain.” ?Ann McClure

Barbara Gellman-Danley

CAN ONE ADMINISTRATOR LEAD TWO higher ed institutions simultaneously? Barbara Gellman-Danley will take on this unique opportunity as the new president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College, both in Ohio, effective Oct. 1. This dual position results from a bill passed by the Ohio General Assembly in July that allows for one president to serve both institutions. Gellman-Danley served for 15 months as coordinating officer for the college and university. She has also been vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and System Integration for the Ohio Board of Regents and president of Antioch University McGregor (Ohio), plus she has 15 years of experience in community college leadership in New York and Oklahoma. ? Katherine N. Lapp will head east to Harvard this month after serving as chief business officer for the University of California since May 2007. At Harvard, Lapp will be the chief administrative officer within central administration and on the president’s senior management team, serving also as an ex officio member of the board of the Harvard Management Company, which manages the Ivy League’s endowment. Her past leadership roles have been in city and state government in New York, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s executive director and chief executive officer. ? Henry S. Bienen retired from his presidency at Northwestern University (Ill.) in August and became vice chairman of the Rasmussen College (Ill.) Board of Directors. ? Joseph P. Grunenwald, president of Clarion University (Pa.) since 2003, will retire in June 2010 to help promote technology in the region and support for the university. ? James LaCalle will also retire next year from the helm of Harford Community College (Md.) after 40 years at the institution and four years as its president. ? The National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church has elected Wesley College (Del.) president William N. Johnston as president for 2009-2010. ?Michele Herrmann

A creative solution: The Trash Master has turned a dirty job into a more comfortable one, while also requiring less maintenance work than the former utility vehicle.

A “NEW” VEHICLE AT MONROE Community College in Rochester, N.Y., is turning heads. Dubbed the Trash Master, the modified two-door Chevy Cavalier is equipped to collect trash while providing the driver with heat and comfort during inclement weather?and it’s saving the institution money.

“The car was a farfetched idea, but it’s worked very fine,” explains Ron Fess, grounds supervisor.

For nearly 15 years, the facilities team used an open utility vehicle retrofitted to collect trash around the 300-acre campus. But the unconventional use of the vehicle on asphalt, rather than grass, took its toll. “We were changing tires every six to eight weeks and changing axles three times a year,” says auto mechanic Paul Pfenninger.

This past year, the team spent a month retrofitting a used sedan donated by a local dealership. They carved an arm-sized hole in the driver’s door for easy access to the seven-foot suction hose, cut the car’s roofline in half, gutted the back of the car to its subfloor (leaving fenders and rear bumpers intact), and mounted the vacuum unit to a framework on the subfloor.

“There were no blueprints or drawings,” explains Pfenninger, who worked on the vehicle with a staff horticulturist. Fess simply shared his vision and the design was conceptualized and then tweaked.

Facilities staff also manufactured the 50-cubic-foot metal receptacle for the back of the vehicle. It’s designed to hold four days’ worth of trash, and emptying debris is a breeze: The driver presses a toggle switch in the vehicle to activate a lift system and walks back to open the receptacle door.

IT’S A GIVEN THAT THE current economy and coinciding state cuts are adding financial pressures on higher ed institutions and the shoulders of students attending them. IHEs continue to respond creatively, with a number of them taking new steps to help with tuition costs.

Haley Chitty, spokesperson for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, says the organization is hearing about schools starting up emergency funds as well as offering low or zero-interest loans to students.

Another action being taken is a move from offering merit-based aid to need-based aid. “We’re hearing from institutions that they are reassessing more students’ financial situations to reflect how the economic downturn has changed their ability to pay for college,” Chitty says.

The Pennsylvania State University’s Schreyer Honors College is helping to redirect merit aid already distributed. Officials set up a special fundraising appeal that encourages certain able families to make a gift equivalent to the $3,500 Academic Excellence Scholarship their child is receiving, or any amount that they may choose, to help needy students stay in school. With backing from administrators, parents last year started the appeal, resulting in $120,000 given to 34 students with high financial need.

Other initiatives are emerging. Cleveland State University created the “President’s Opportunity Award,” allocating $600,000 toward a fund to assist first-time freshmen impacted by cuts to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant program. The University of Virginia launched a major fundraising campaign for AccessUVa, its financial aid program supporting students from low- and middle-income families, with the next phase of the institution’s $3 billion University Campaign to focus on it.

Last month, NASFAA unveiled a survey to find out what institutions are seeing in terms of student aid. Sixty percent of 488 respondents reported offering more financial aid. Chitty hopes the survey will help institutions share best practices with each other as they consider changes. ?M.H.

SURGING ENROLLMENT OFTEN LEADS TO new class sections. At Bunker Hill Community College (Mass.), 11:45 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. is the new timeslot for them. Two gateway courses needed for degree completion were added, Psychology 101 on Tuesdays and English 111 on Thursdays, says Colleen Roach, executive director of Communications and Marketing. Despite not being announced until July, enrollments reached 24 and 15 students, respectively.

In researching the idea, BHCC leaders learned finding instructors could be a problem. Yet Roach says both professors for this term are enthusiastic. BHCC is unionized, but because any special compensation for working the “third shift” would have had to be negotiated in advance, the new schedule slot won’t require extra instructor compensation.

The classes are popular enough to have leaders planning to offer more next semester, Roach says.

Other community colleges have offered classes at odd hours as well. Two examples: Clackamas Community College (Ore.) held a welding class from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. this past spring, and Wayne County Community College District (Mich.) started “Project Sunrise to Sunset” in 2008 with some classes beginning before 6 a.m. on weekdays and others running from 10 p.m. to midnight. ?A.M.

SINCE MANY HIGHER ED EARLY adopters of Twitter work in marketing and alumni relations, there’s been little focus on how professors are using it. Faculty Focus, publisher of an e-mail newsletter, surveyed nearly 2,000 professors (almost one-fourth of whom are academic leaders such as deans and provosts) this summer to find out. Nearly a third (30.7 percent) use Twitter in some capacity, with about one in five “very” or “extremely familiar” with the microblogging tool, according to the survey’s report.

How do these professionals use Twitter? Some say it helps them stay current on news and trends and lets them network with colleagues. Others use it to follow conferences they can’t attend in person. One instructor is using it to post extra credit assignments (and has seen a 50 percent increase in students taking advantage of them). Another responds to e-mailed student questions via Twitter, since others may have the same question. A third respondent planned to make Twitter a part of the curriculum this fall for communication and writing instruction.

But many are not convinced of its value. Some stated reasons for not using Twitter:

? “Find it to be more technological clutter in the classroom.”

? “Our school blocks Twitter.”

? “It smells of a fad. By the time I might implement it, it will fall out of favor.”

Those on both sides of the Twitterverse noted that the tool is still evolving. One administrator commented: “I can see a great potential of using Twitter in teaching. It would be a fantastic way to remind students of impending deadlines; it would be a great way for students to meet and ‘follow’ one another. ? Our entire department uses one Twitter account to communicate to our students, staff, faculty, and other community members.”

The full report can be downloaded from ?M.E.

WITH SO MUCH RECRUITING FOCUSED on bringing prospective students to campus, it would be a shame if your campus tour blew the deal.

Consulting company TargetX has carved out a niche service evaluating tours. Here are five common tour flaws, as noted by “Experience Evaluators” Trent Gilbert and Jeff Kallay:

1. Mixed Messages: If prospects hear about the same things in an interview as on a tour, it could not only be a snoozer but could introduce conflicting information. Admissions officers should stick to facts, while tour guides should share student experiences.

2. Toxically Unauthentic Info: You’ll show your best side, of course, but remember that honesty is the best policy. Prospects and parents can see through an act.

3. Stepford Guides: Student guides locked into a script might just spew facts without giving honest answers when prospects ask questions. They will also sound like all the other campus guides. Allowing your students to share their experiences will help make your school memorable.

4. Bubble Boy Syndrome: The campus won’t seem very welcoming if everyone avoids a tour or gives the group the evil eye. Faculty, staff, and students need to know it’s OK to share a warm smile and friendly hello. On a recent tour at Hendrix College (Ark.), four enrolled students stopped the tour to chat, but the guide took it in stride, says Kallay. It made the campus more welcoming.

5. Facilities Bait and Switch: Be proud of your shiny, new buildings, but know that they shouldn’t be the only facilities on the tour. Show the prospects the new upperclassman residence hall AND the freshman dorms, so they don’t feel let down on move-in day. Let your guide show them the real student hangouts.

The takeaway: Be critical of the campus tour, and address any problems identified. “It is amazing how many admissions folks haven’t taken a tour since they interviewed for their job,” says Gilbert. "They need to get out on campus more [and see] what is being revealed about their school.” ?Ann McClure

Free bunks for off-campus residents is a perk that helps keep Mansfield students safe.

IS A COMMUTER LOUNGE ADEQUATE to keep that population comfortable? Mansfield University (Pa.) officials didn’t think so.

“It just made sense,” says Charles W. Colby, associate vice president of Residence Life at Mansfield of the original decision to offer free overnight housing to commuter students. Since its 2007 launch in “an isolated section of a larger dorm,” the Commuter Connection program has proven popular enough to get new digs closer to the center of campus. The move also resolved the issues of a unisex bathroom?instead of 10 rooms on one floor, there are now five rooms each in a women’s and a men’s hall. The new location also has electronic locks instead of keys, so temporary cards are issued and access is at the commuters’ convenience.

President Maravene Loeschke was drawing on her own experience as a commuter student when she proposed the idea, Colby explains. “We wanted to provide a safe haven.” Available for free, the commuter rooms are mainly used during inclement weather, or when students attend an evening event on campus and don’t want to drive home late. Deer encounters are also common near the mountainous campus, which the overnight stays could help students avoid. Guidelines help prevent abuse of the rooms.

Loeschke allocates funds to support the program (residential fees are not used). Colby says he has not heard of similar programs on other campuses but has received many inquiries about how Mansfield’s program operates. While the program can certainly be a success elsewhere, he cautions, “if you are at capacity [for housing] you probably can’t do this.” ?A.M.

Privatizing the Public University: Perspectives from Across the Academy

Edited by Christopher C. Morphew and Peter D. Eckel; 2009, The Johns Hopkins University Press; 224 pp., $45.

More public colleges are cultivating private revenue streams in the face of decreasing state and federal funding. But although states are reducing financial support, they aren't ceding ownership or control, and that's a sticking point for many schools. Privatization has been going on as a matter of survival, with little public discussion about its short- and long-range consequences.

The essays in this book show privatization has its advantages. Private funding may be free from government regulations and oversight. Tuition rates could be on a par with those of private schools. On the other hand, privatization may increase outside influence, or expose the institution to risk. This book doesn't offer answers?in fact it raises even more questions?but it builds a foundation from numerous perspectives on which a serious discussion of privatization might begin. ?Tim Goral

THERE ARE THOSE IN THE media who suggest that some religious institutions have forgotten the roots of their social justice and civic engagement purpose. Yet, for whatever reason, a number of Catholic schools are now adopting sustainability as a strategic driver and an integral part of their academic mission. Indeed, these Catholic institutions are intentionally recruiting and attracting environmental scholars who have a lifelong commitment to saving today’s congregation and tomorrow’s planet.

Just consider the likes of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, the University of Notre Dame, Marquette University (Wis.), and Santa Clara University (Calif.)?venerable Catholic colleges and universities that have willfully centered their missions on long-term sustainability as a common thread in the priority allocation of academic resources, recruitment of new faculty, and enrollment of environmentally engaged students.

Endowed with a bucolic campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, Saint Joseph’s attracts environmental scholars and students with an authentic outdoor laboratory. The college’s energy literacy initiative offers everything from courses in marine science to a well-defined focus on environmental community engagement.

An articulate advocate for the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, Saint Joseph’s president, Joseph Lee, gives credit to faculty and staff “for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, raising global warming awareness, and finding new ways to conserve energy and cut waste.”

For more on the greening of Catholic colleges, see the full version of this column online at

? James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, 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.

Fans at Notre Dames's season opener had a new way to discreetly alert security if necessary.

FOR SOME TIME NOW, CAMPUS emergency plans have been in place to alert students of crises via text messaging. And officials are careful to encourage their campus constituents to report situations that could escalate into emergencies. Now some institutions have gone a step further?asking students to inform university police of possible safety concerns by text. These systems are used mainly during large-scale athletic events, with fans reporting medical emergencies, overly rowdy fans, or problems with facilities.

When students can simply call, why would officials bother to provide another means for contacting security? “This is a discreet way for fans to report information,” says Scott Meyers, the vice president of marketing and sales for In Stadium Solutions, which provides such a service. Whether in a loud stadium or a quiet theater, texting gives patrons and security officers a way to communicate quickly and quietly. “The messages go to a platform, making it easy for security to record what’s been replied to and what still needs addressing,” explains Meyers. When more information is needed, the dispatcher can have a conversation with the tipster instead of having to decipher a single, often vague, message.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, one of the first universities to implement text-based reporting, Chief of Police Owen Yardley says phone calls are still the best way for dispatchers to get complete information but that texting certainly has its place. Anyone with a cell phone and Short Message Service capabilities can initiate the message by texting to 41513, keyword “UNLPD.”

Mike Seamon, director of game-day operations for the University of Notre Dame, says choosing the service for his institution was a “no brainer.” He adds, “It’s an empowerment tool for fans. We wanted to enhance our communication with the fan base as well as give them multiple ways to give feedback.” For the football season opener against the University of Nevada on Labor Day weekend, Notre Dame hosted a sold-out crowd of 80,000. Being able to report disruptive behavior discreetly could have kept people safe from potential backlash, Seamon says, adding that close to 100 texts were received from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on game day. “It’s a quick, easy, clear means of communication. It’s the cutting edge.” ?KeriLee Horan

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