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Beyond the News

Stories making headlines in higher education.

Making Peace in Georgia ; Rough Waters for Streaming Video? ; Between the Lines ; ASU tries high-tech tours ; Serious Summer Camp ; Anti-Spam Program May Hurt Universities U of Phoenix Accepts Younger Students
University Business, Sep 2004

The battle at the University of Georgia is over, and what a strange one it was. The UGA Board of Regents agreed in midsummer that the University of Georgia Foundation could remain affiliated with the university. The decision followed a year-long dispute between the regents and the foundation, in which the regents ordered the foundation to sever official ties with the university. The foundation countered that it "owned" the right to be the UGA Foundation and that it would continue its mission to raise funds for the university.

It is certainly unusual for a university to break ties with its fundraising foundation, but the UGA situation was anything but usual. At one point President Michael Adams--himself the source of derision from fans and alumni after firing popular Athletic Director Vince Dooley--announced that he was cutting ties with the foundation. That was after the foundation refused to pay him $300,000 in deferred compensation.

As part of the reconciliation, the foundation agreed to pay Adams, but decided that it would remove itself from giving presidential compensation in the future. From now on UGA presidents will be paid with state funds and supplementary donations made by private individuals and organizations.

In other matters, Georgia's attorney general ruled that UGA regents could no longer do business with the university system, after critics charged two regents profited from the relationship.

A California company has demanded that universities that use streaming media technology pay for the right--or risk legal action. Acacia Media Technologies ( has sent letters to dozens of colleges and universities, claiming that their use of streaming media for distance learning and video lectures violates its patents. The company owns five U.S. and 31 foreign patents, which, it argues, cover all forms of Internet-based audio and video streaming.

Some have suggested that schools stand to lose much more in a protracted legal battle rather than paying a licensing fee. James Dias, vice president of marketing and sales for Sonic Foundry (, a company that makes streaming media devices, said he thought it "very unusual" that Acacia would choose to go after the end-user.

"It's a very deliberate strategy," Dias told University Business. "They're making patent claims and sending letters to colleges and universities claiming some patent violation, but they have not directed those claims at manufacturers of the technology, like us."

It's not clear how many schools have been sent letters, but the American Council on Education ( reports that nearly 50 schools have contacted the organization asking how to respond.

Billie Dodge, director of Information Technology at Washington College (MD), says Acacia demanded an annual licensing fee of $5,000, although that price would go up if the agreement hadn't been reached by September 15. Robert Berman, vice president and general counsel for Acacia, likened the firm's claim to that of a university research department. "On the one hand, they like the revenue they make from their patents," he says. "On the other hand, they're saying we should allow them to ignore ours."

By Linda Suskie, Anker Publishing Co., Inc., 2004, 331 pp., $39.95

Assessing student learning is not as simple as giving a test and assigning a grade. Instead, assessment--mastery of a single course or effectiveness of an entire program--involves careful design, execution, scoring, and presentation. Assessing Student Learning takes the reader step-by-step through this process, providing numerous examples and exercises to clarify major points and encourage mastery of the main concepts. Useful for all who deal with student assessment, this book should be required reading for all new faculty stepping into the classroom.

--Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti

Anyone who has ever been part of a large campus tour group knows how tricky it is to process everything the guide says while walking. This fall, Arizona State University will try a new approach--a self-guided audio walking tour of its Tempe campus. The tour was developed in collaboration with Onpoint Systems (, a firm that produces similar audio tours for real estate firms. Visitors will carry Dell ( Axim handheld computers equipped with a wireless headset and GPS technology to see and hear content about the campus. Users select the campus feature they want to visit and, as they approach a building with a corresponding GPS hot spot, an audio program plays relevant information about the location.

Move over, private college counselors and SAT tutors. High school students have found a new way to get a competitive edge. Enter summer camp. No, it's not the kind where you roast marshmallows and sing songs. Rather, it's where students learn interviewing techniques and improve upon their essay-writing skills and SAT scores, often on a college campus. The programs, run by organizations such as ASA, Brighton Foundation, Musiker Tours, and Education Unlimited, range from 10 days to two weeks and can cost up to $3,000.

But, not everyone believes these camps are worthwhile. "I think these college camps are a growing trend--feeding off the hysteria around college admissions," says Susan Smith, an educational consultant based in Mt. Kisco, NY. "My kids enjoy them, but not one of them has gained anything significant."

David Allen, executive director of Brighton Foundation (, which enrolls about 25 students per session, disagrees. "I'm not sure why these programs are so controversial," he says. "It's not any different than students who spend the summer polishing up their chemistry marks or learning to speak Italian." But, does it take the fun factor out of summer? "I won't say that it's as fun as soccer camp," Allen says. "But it's more fun than studying at home with your parents hovering over you."

With all the junk e-mail that crowds our in-boxes these days, a program that curbs spam would seem like a good thing, no? Microsoft ( is working with California-based IronPort ( to develop Bonded Sender, a program that separates "legitimate" Internet marketers and bulk mailers from spammers. Bonded Sender centers on a "white list" of Internet marketers who have posted a cash bond and agree to abide by a set of guidelines. White list members will be allowed to send their e-mail ads to the more than 170 million active Hotmail and MSN users.

But, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (, a group dedicated to "defending freedom in the digital world," there is cause for concern: Bonded Sender would also punish innocent groups--such as colleges and universities--who aren't necessarily sending advertisements, but rely on e-mail lists to reach their constituents. "It absolutely would affect a university's ability to contact alumni via e-mail lists," says EFF Policy Analyst Annalee Newitz. "Bonded Sender programs, at least as they exist at this point, are designed to stop bulk mail, which is any mail that's sent out to a large list of people," Newitz says. "But, this is also the way spam is sent out."

Fees vary by the volume of mail sent, according to IronPort CEO Scott Weiss. But unless a school has paid the fee, the program won't differentiate between spam and a legitimate marketing piece, says Newitz. "The idea is to protect people against spam. However, we believe that this defense reaches far beyond blocking spam and into blocking free expression."

Younger working students can now opt for an alternative to the traditional college experience via the University of Phoenix. The online university previously offered degrees and certificates to older, working adults. Now it has lifted age restrictions to allow all working students aged 18 and over.

While the university isn't targeting younger students, it does believe there is interest among this demographic. "Removing our age restriction was not a marketing decision," says university President Laura Palmer Noone. "It was a decision based on the changing demographics of college students." It's not uncommon, she says, to find 18-year-olds holding down substantial jobs, many of who have an interest in getting a college education. "We're obviously not going to appeal to every 18-year-old," says Palmer Noone. "What we have done is increased the pool from which we can draw students."