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Beyond the News

Stories making headlines in higher education.

University Business, Jul 2005

A handful of IHEs are addressing the needs of their students with alcohol or drug addictions through the development of "recovery dorms."

Offering group therapy sessions and a sober environment, these recovery dorms are safe havens for students who would otherwise seek off-campus treatment for their substance abuse, or worse, not get treatment at all. They are not to be confused with the alcohol-free dorms, which unlike recovery dorms are prevalent across campuses nationwide. While there is a growing number of college student addicts--they make up about 10 to 12 percent of the college student population, according to several studies--only a few IHEs, including Case Western Reserve University (Ohio), Rutgers University (N.J.), and Augsburg College (Minn.) offer this kind of sobriety-supporting living environment.

Case Western opened its recovery dorm to seven students last August. "It's a place where students can live together and participate in the collective experience of recovery," says Jes Sellers, a psychologist and director of University Counseling Services and Collegiate Behavioral Health at Case Western. Typically, the kinds of students living in the recovery dorm would be placed in an outpatient facility, hospital, or community treatment center, for a semester, Sellers says. "The problem with this scenario is after receiving off-campus intensive treatment they get thrown back into the same drinking/drug environment they were in before." As a result, they often relapse, he says.

Staying on campus to receive treatment can actually benefit these students, Sellers says. "While we cannot protect students from external threats or real life events, we can try to help them understand the threats that face them," he says. "In terms of whether to go to a frat party we might advise them to seek an alternative way to have fun."

Every student in the house is assigned an individual treatment plan and, at the minimum, must have regular contact with a therapist or counselor and attend weekly group therapy. It should be noted that students cannot be forced to live in the recovery dorm. At the same time, Sellers says that only a small percentage of students actually express a desire to live there. "The need for more students to participate in this is greater than the interest."

But that's not to say the students are unhappy with this living situation. Because the program is so new, there is little concrete evidence of the students' recovery rate. But Sellers says he is very pleased with students' progress so far. "Anecdotally we are getting a lot of positive comments like, 'This is really a great experience. I'm glad I'm here,'" he says.

One little-known Alaskan college is in the national spotlight because of a lawsuit claiming that the school is nothing more than a Bible college that illegally received congressional "pork" funds totaling $1 million.

Alaska Christian College is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church and has 37 students. According to recent reports, the school does not administer English or math courses, but does offer certificates in biblical studies and general studies after completing the first and second years.

The Anchorage Daily News penned an editorial criticizing the congressional appropriations, which were doled out in chunks in 2004. "Alaska's congressional delegation might just as well have put a $1 million check in the church collection plate," the newspaper ranted. But $1 million is considered a hefty sum for a college of ACC's size and critics like the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) criticize the appropriation as being a violation of the separation of church and state.

The college's president, Keith Hamilton, dismisses the group's claims, saying that it is a Christian college, not a Bible college, because it does offer courses in physical education, chorus, and the like. He says the school's mission is to help students make the transition from high school to college. The college has applied for accreditation starting in 2007.

According to Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF, a hearing has been scheduled in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, and the case is expected to be resolved by the end of this year.

Charles William G. Bowen, Martin A. Kurzweil, Eugene A. Tobin, University of Virginia, 2005; 472 pp; $27.95

William Bowen, former president of Princeton University (N.J.) follows his 1998 analysis of affirmative action, The Shape of the River, with this new title, co-authored with Eugene Tobin, former president of Hamilton College (N.Y.), and Martin Kurzweil, a research associate at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Bowen, now president of the Mellon Foundation, and Tobin, its program officer, make a case for affirmative action based on an analysis of 19 "elite" universities. The bottom line: Two years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court gave the OK to consider race in admissions, yet IHEs still fail to tap the talent of minority and lower-income students.

The authors argue for more flexible admissions practices for needy students, a de-emphasis on legacy admissions and athletic recruiting, and more support for K-12 school districts that serve the poor.

--Jean Marie Angelo

Armed with iPods, laptops, and PDAs, today's college students are no strangers to high technology. Recent college stores' sales of technology products attest to this. According to the National Association of College Stores' (NACS) 2005 Industry Financial Report, which drew upon information from the financial reports of 336 IHEs, technology sales increased by $100 million during the 2003-2004 academic year. Hardware sales soared to $820 million (up 9 percent from last year); software sales increased by $221 million (up 5 percent) and PC supplies grew to $174 million (up 14 percent).

"This is evidence that technology has truly married itself to higher education," says Laura Nakoneczny, director of public relations for NACS. She says it also proves that the college store's purpose extends beyond selling textbooks. "We have found that some students don't even buy the required textbooks for classes, let alone purchase them at the college store," she says.

At the same time, college stores are not quite ready to compete with the CompUSAs and Best Buys of the world just yet. "College stores still come first when it comes to textbooks and second when it comes to the specialty technology stores."

The survey also revealed that online college bookstores' sales grew 13 percent from 2003-2004, while insignia sales remained stagnant compared with previous years. "Neither findings are surprising," she says. "College students don't want their entire wardrobe to have their college's insignia. They're much more inclined to go to Abercrombie & Fitch," she says. As for online sales, "stores are still competing with but there's no concern about online sales' continued success."

Boston College (Mass.), a Roman Catholic Jesuit school, took another step to further the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students this spring when it agreed to rewrite its welcoming statement of nondiscrimination.

Administrators did so at the request of Grace Simmons, president of the undergraduate student government, who noted that the statement's initial wording said nothing about sexual orientation, giving students the impression that gays and others were not welcome on campus.

The new statement, issued May 1, says that, "Boston College extends its welcome in particular to those who may be vulnerable to discrimination on the basis of their race, ethnic or national origin, religion, color, age gender, marital status, veteran statues, disabilities, or sexual orientation."

Still, BC drew the line at actually rewriting its policy on non-discrimination, notes Jack Dunn, BC's public information director. By law, religious institutions in Massachusetts are not required to endorse policies that are deemed in conflict with their values. Openly endorsing homosexuality in its policy would be in conflict with Catholic teaching. In this case, BC wanted to provide wording that said it is more welcoming, but did not want to open itself up to contrary legal interpretation given its exempt status as a Catholic school.

Even so, BC's new welcoming statement is an important move, and one that follows administrators' OK last year to allow Allies, a GLBT supportive student group, to meet on campus. The administration ultimately allowed the group to meet after several months of negotiations. Allies, which initially wanted to advocate for gay students, agreed to keep its focus only on support and education for gays and others.

"Advocacy would run counter to the Catholic Church's teachings on homosexuality," says Dunn, explaining why the group's mission needed to be finessed. Allies met throughout this past school year, drawing 50 to 100 students, he says.

Over the last three years, many freshmen at Chapman University (Calif.) have been getting more than just academic advising. They have been given coaches--not counselors or therapists--but personal coaches who meet with them on campus once a week to help them achieve their academic and personal goals. These coaches are contracted by Inside Track, a student coaching firm that was founded in 1999. The purpose of the coaching program is "to provide the student with constant feedback and support. Most critically, they are also provided with additional motivation," says Saskia Knight, vice president and dean of enrollment at Chapman. She adds, "even the best students (as measured by GPA) are not necessarily all intrinsically motivated. A coach who can provide positive feedback, support and clear objectives makes the student more successful."

While students are not required to meet with their coach, she says very few students opt out. Students may talk about anything, including roommates, deadlines, homework, financial aid, problem resolution, and so on. "They also have a thematic approach which highlights various themes each week like Health or Finances," she says.

To test the success of Inside Track's services, the university conducted a pilot study with two groups of similar students, one of which received Inside Track coaching. The other group did not receive any coaching. At the end of the term, the school found that the Inside Track group had better retention rates, higher GPAs, fewer failed classes, withdrew less, and made it to the provost's list more frequently.

While it's not a traditional method of college counseling, "The (Inside Track) concept made sense because personalized education is a hallmark of Chapman University," Knight says.

Stanford University (Calif.) is the latest hacker victim in higher ed. On May 11, cyberattackers working from a remote location accessed the computer system that runs its Career Development Center, putting the Social Security numbers and identities of close to 10,000 individuals at risk.

Specifically, the security breach exposed data for about 9,600 students and clients who have used the center's job outplacement department since 1995, and 300 recruiters. In some cases, the recruiters had given credit card numbers to post career opportunities with the center. Once the center's IT administrators detected the breach they temporarily disabled the center's system and sent letters to those whose files were compromised.

In a public statement, Stanford said there is no evidence that any particular records were stolen. Still, it called in the San Jose F.B.I. field office to investigate the incident. There were no more details disclosed about the breach at press time.

Neither Lance Choy, director of the center, nor Susan Weinstein, university privacy officer, would say more about the event or the investigation, citing security reasons.

Adding to the irony of the situation is the fact that Stanford recently announced its participation in a consortium of colleges that are dedicating resources to better protect higher education data from cyberattacks.

The consortium's acronym, TRUST, stands for Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology. It also counts the University of California Berkeley, and Smith College (Mass.) among its members.

An Ohio educator wants to take Jay Leno for a spin and change his mind about community colleges while she's at it.

Betty Young, president of Northwest State Community College (Ohio), has invited Leno, host of The Tonight Show, to go motorcycle-riding as part of an effort to help reform the image of community colleges in the collective mind.

Like Leno, Young is a motorcycle enthusiast. She says that as a member of the growing group of non-traditional students (she received five degrees starting as a 28-year-old single mother), she is offended by the continuous mocking of community colleges and its students by nationally known entertainers.

"People like Jay Leno discount the very important work we do and we want him to quit (doing it)."

So Young took it upon herself to extend Leno an invitation to ride, along with a picture of herself on her motorcycle, but she hasn't heard back from him yet. University Business could not reach Leno for comment.

Young isn't the only educator outraged that community colleges are the butt of jokes. American Association of Community Colleges President George Boggs says AACC has sent letters to Leno every time he has demeaned community colleges on his show. But, according to Boggs, Leno has never replied.

"I'm not sure if that's going to change his behavior," Boggs admits, "but he needs to know that we find that unacceptable."

To read a copy of one of AACC's letters, visit

Trump University? The real estate mogul, Donald Trump, has decided to create an online university, with the intention of churning out entrepreneurs with "street smarts."

Courses on communication, entrepreneurship, leadership, marketing, negotiation, real estate, self-assessment, and wealth accumulation that last six to 10 hours and cost $300 are part of a curriculum intended to school students on what it takes to succeed in the business world.

Students can "attend" courses, which are produced on CDs, at their leisure. Each course includes video teachings by Trump, and faculty from elite schools round out courses. But students do not receive textbooks or grades--or degrees.

Critics of online education have condemned Trump U. for taking what they consider the quick-and-easy of online courses to a new low. One critic, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute at Yale University (Conn.), was originally asked to be president of Trump U., and later, a board member. Though Sonnenfeld declined the opportunities, according to USA Today, he predicted Trump U. would be a "commercial success."

Trump has said he hopes students will learn from his successes as well as his failures.

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