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Beyond the News

The stories making headlines in higher education.

University Business, Aug 2005

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that file-sharing services may now be sued for copyright infringement, but observers are divided on what impact the ruling will have on the practice. Students have long taken advantage of high-speed university networks to trade songs, movies, and software. The recording and motion picture industries have tried to curb the practice with public service campaigns, written warnings to universities, and lawsuits against individuals who distribute copyrighted works. And, while the ruling may spell the end of Grokster and others, it has also opened the way for new legal challenges that some believe may stifle innovation.

Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (, which represented Grokster in the case, says file sharing would continue despite the ruling.

"It's not about P2P. The P2P genie is irreversibly out of the bottle, with the software already installed on hundreds of millions of computers and developers in countries beyond the reach of American laws," he says. Instead, "it's the rest of America's innovation sector that will be living with the Supreme Court's ruling."

Rather than passing down a black-and-white ruling, the court added a confusing twist to the P2P question in the form of "inducement."

Does a particular P2P application do everything it can to avoid inducing infringement? Software developers would have to prove to wary investors and the courts that their applications don't fall afoul of copyright's secondary liability rule.

Mary Dolheimer, assistant professor of business law and business department chair at Elizabethtown College (N.J.), believes the ruling "has muddied the copyright infringement standards even further. The court gave very little guidance on how lower courts should judge whether or not 'inducement' took place," she says. "This is a recipe for disaster, and the court will likely have to give further guidance as federal courts struggle to implement this standard."

For their part, the recording and film industries say they want to encourage services that support a business model for artists to profit from distribution of their works. At a press conference following the ruling, industry representatives argued it would ultimately foster new technology because it clearly spelled out what is right and wrong. Artists will be inspired to new creativity if they no longer have to be concerned that their works would be stolen on the internet, they said.

Ironically, Napster, the service that began the file-sharing craze six years ago, has since re-emerged as a legitimate, subscriber-based music downloading service.

The company has signed deals with several universities to offer legal downloads through discounted subscription rates. Dell, Inc., recently took the idea a step further by teaming with Napster to supply universities with on-site blade servers to store music. The idea, says John Mullen, vice president of Dell's higher education business, is to satisfy students' desire to buy music while alleviating high-traffic demands on the networks. The service essentially "rents" music to users for a monthly fee; once they unsubscribe or stop paying, the songs are no longer playable.

Administrators at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) tried to curb P2P practice by encouraging students to subscribe to Napster at a deep discount. However, a year after the service was launched, students appear to have rejected it in favor of Apple's iTunes Music Store--which doesn't require a subscription--or one of the illegal P2P services.

--Tim Goral

Academic Sharecroppers: Exploitation of Adjunct Faculty and the Higher Education System

Wendell V. Fountain; authorHOUSE, 2005; 158 pp; $21.25

Wendell V. Fountain, a former adjunct professor, full-time faculty member/administrator, and business consultant, exposes the deficiencies in higher education. He maintains throughout the text that university leaders are guilty of exploiting adjunct faculty, students, and the public in numerous ways. He maintains that although adjunct faculty were hired in the 1970s to overcome what was considered a short-term problem, that solution has now become problematic. Visit to order a copy of the book.

--Julie A. Varughese

Read a Q&A with the author at

College students are watching the baseball stats pretty closely these days, especially when it comes to the fledgling Washington Nationals. That's because a promotion sponsored by The Sallie Mae Fund ( promises to donate $750 for each home run hit by the team at home or on the road, and $5,000 for every grand slam, to the Home Runs for College Scholarships Fund.

"By combining the excitement of a new baseball team with the tremendous opportunities in a college education, we hope to inspire young people throughout the D.C. metro area," says Sallie Mae Fund President Kathleen deLaski.

The Home Runs for College Scholarships program will award $2,000 scholarships to financially needy college students who are D.C. area residents with a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher. If things continue as they are, those students may be in luck--as this issue went to press, the Nationals were in first place in the NL East division.

And, while the connection between Sallie Mae and the Nationals is welcome, it's not totally surprising: Sallie Mae Chairman Albert Lord heads one of eight investor groups vying to buy the team (formerly the Montreal Expos) from Major League Baseball. A decision is expected by the end of summer. --T.G.

Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee said that the U.S. Department of Education should rescind a new guideline that allows colleges and universities to use the results of an e-mail survey to measure the demand for women's sports on campuses. Critics of the change in Title IX say college women athletes are being cheated when they are only required to fill out an e-mail survey about their interest in a sports team because they may not realize the importance of filling out a survey.

Jennifer Alley, executive director of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Association (, says the conclusion thus far that a "lack of [e-mail survey] response indicates a lack of interest is appalling." She says that not only does NACWAA disapprove of this method of obtaining information, "but most of the athletics folks have decided that it is not the best way to get information either."

The DOE made the change to Title IX earlier this year. The committee says, though, that the change is not in compliance with Title IX, the federal law mandating that both sexes have equal access to federally-funded educational programs and activities.

"The e-mail survey... does [not] encourage young women to participate--a failure that will likely stymie the growth of women's athletics and could reverse the progress made over the last three decades," Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (, states in a release. The NCAA says the use of an e-mail survey "conflicts with a key purpose of Title IX--to encourage women's interest in sports and eliminate stereotypes that discourage them from participating." --J.V.

No matter how small the type size, it's a disclaimer no hiring manager would miss. Yet, every law-abiding Oregonian with a college degree from a non-accredited institution will now have to draw attention to that fact--on any resume, letterhead, business card, announcement or advertisement in which the person claims to have the degree.

The provision is the latest step Oregon lawmakers have taken in their fight against bogus degrees, diploma mills, and non-accredited institutions in general. While other states have similar laws, the disclaimer requirement is unique to Oregon, as far as Alan Contreras, administrator in the Office of Degree Authorization at the Oregon Student Assistance Commission, knows. His office, typically acting on an outsider's tip, has the authority to levy fines and refer cases to prosecutors.

Even where laws exist, enforcement is no easy task. "Using state legislation to regulate diploma mills is like trying to hit a moving target," notes Christine Walton Siley, senior research and policy analyst at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. "Many are virtual and operate from a P.O. box or from outside the country. They can evade these laws by simply changing their ZIP codes."

As for average job seekers abiding by accreditation laws, some will and some won't, Contreras predicts. Oregon-based resume writer Pat Kendall says most people probably think they'll never get caught. Of the 10,000-plus job seekers Kendall has worked with over the years, only two, who had no degree at all, have admitted to lying about their education. Her warning about false claim consequences didn't phase them. "The only thing that convinced them to remove the degree," she recalls, "was my refusal to work with them if they insisted on including it."

The potential for lying applicants is one reason legitimate IHEs, as employers, should be minding the store. Contreras points to recent situations where senior administrators and faculty at accredited universities have been proven to have fake or substandard degrees. "You are cheating your students if you use someone with fake credentials. And secondly, you are incurring certain legal risks," he reminds.

Another cause for concern: "Bogus schools are the competition. A person who obtains an MBA in 48 hours through a mail-order house is someone who did not get it from a legitimate distance education provider," Contreras points out.

And then there's the bigger picture to worry about, with diploma mills putting the college degree at risk, Contreras adds. "If everybody gets a Ph.D. by mail order and we can run around calling each other doctor, all you've really done is devalued the concept of a college degree to the point that it doesn't mean very much."

--Melissa Ezarik

Six University of California campuses dealt a blow to the National Merit Scholarship program in July when its chancellors and Academic Council decided to pull out of the program. The $735,000 that UC paid to sponsor the national program for the 2004-05 academic year will be folded into UC's own scholarship funds, notes Provost M.R.C. Greenwood.

UC's academic leaders are critical of the program's reliance on PSAT scores--the preliminary tests taken by high school juniors--to determine scholarship selection. A UC statement charges that "using the PSAT exam alone" to select students eligible for scholarship money places too much emphasis on testing and not enough on other factors. Worthy students are being left out. As a result of the reliance on PSAT scores, only 3 percent of 8,000 annual Merit Scholarship winners are black, Latino or Native American, UC officials allege. Last year, 600 UC students received National Merit scholarships. Awards usually range from $500 to $2,000.

The UC campuses dropping out of the program are UCLA, San Diego, Irvine, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Davis. UC Berkeley, Merced, and Riverside were not participating in the program.

A director for the nonprofit National Merit Scholarship Corporation counters UC's claims. PSAT scores are used to screen candidates, but academic records, principals' recommendations, and school and community activities are also considered, insists Elaine Detweiler, public information director.

At this point, the National Merit Scholarship program is not saying whether it will change its pre-screening and selection processes. But UC's authority cannot be ignored. In 2002, UC's then-President Richard Atkinson criticized The College Board's SAT test, saying that it did not adequately measure high school learning. He threatened to drop SAT scores from UC's admissions process. Eventually The College Board re-wrote the test, adding an essay-writing section. For now Detweiler simply says, "We are disappointed they decided to withdraw."

--Jean Marie Angelo

Spelman College (Ga.) shattered myths about women not being scientifically inclined when in July their all-female computer programming team made it to Osaka, Japan for RoboCup 2005, an international robot-building competition. The team did not place, but it was one of only five U.S. teams, was the only undergraduate institution and was the only all-women's institution to qualify for the competition.

One of six team members is pictured above with one of her team's artificially intelligent robot pups, which is programmed to play soccer. RoboCup is a research and education initiative encouraging artificial intelligence studies, and this year about 330 teams from 31 countries participated. --J.V.

It wouldn't be a foolish gamble for IHEs to place their bets on casino management programs, say industry experts. Casino management is a growing industry, with 445 commercial casinos in 11 states in need of qualified professionals. More and more IHEs across the country are adding casino management courses and degrees to their schools' offerings including one Mississippi university.

A judge gave permission last month to the University of Southern Mississippi to create a curriculum for a casino management concentration within the College of Business. Previously, a state law prohibited Mississippi IHEs from offering such classes. New courses will be offered in the areas of financial analysis, legal issues, marketing, operations, technology, and others, as they relate to casino management.

At least 17 other colleges and universities across the nation offer either courses or programs to prepare students for casino work, according to data from the American Gaming Association ( "Clearly, the gaming industry has expanded so much in the past several years, well beyond the traditional gaming destinations of New Jersey and Las Vegas" and has become a nationwide industry, says AGA Director of Communications Holly Thomsen.

Studying casino management at the college-level gives students an edge when applying at casinos for jobs, says Cheri Becker, chair of the department of tourism management at USM. There is also an abundance of jobs available, all requiring different skill sets. Currently, the industry provides some 350,000 people with jobs. But what matters is that a job candidate knows how casinos work.

Prior, the only education a would-be casino employee would have received was the dealer training provided by the casinos themselves, says Thomsen. That's not enough, she adds.

Casinos now house restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and entertainment attractions. "It is like running a major entertainment resort. So you need people that are good at resort management just like at a regular hotel," Thomsen explains. "In addition, there are a lot of regulatory issues that are very specific to the gaming environment. It is valuable to have managers with high-level expertise that are trained with these issues."--J.V.

"The battle is not over." Thus stated a recent release from the Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations (COHEAO) when a House subcommittee approved a bill reauthorizing the Higher Education Act of 1965, which would continue the Perkins Loan program.

The coalition insists there are more hurdles to pass to keep the Perkins Student Loan Program a vital component of financial aid packages. The Senate and President George W. Bush must also approve the bill, H.R. 609, which was enacted by the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness of the House Education and Workforce Committee.

According to COHEAO, more than 700,000 students depend on the Perkins Student Loan Program to finance their education. The program awards low-interest loans to low- and middle-income undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. In February, the president announced the elimination of the popular student loan program with the introduction of his fiscal year 2006 budget.

The president said that with the elimination of the Perkins Loan, the balance from the program could then be applied to the Pell Grant program, which has a $3.6 billion shortfall because of a 37 percent increase in the number of students receiving the grant over the last decade. Even though it now seems the Perkins program will be kept alive, Harrison Wadsworth, executive director of COHEAO, says his group has to keep the pressure on the Senate and the President. If students cannot receive the Perkins Loan, they will be subjected to applying for private loans, for which only half may be accepted. Even worse, students may resort to financing their education with credit cards, leading to more debt because of higher interest rates. He predicts needy students would not be able to attend the school of their choice or would just not attend college at all. "The ones who are hurt the most are lower-income students who don't have access to private loans and other sources." --J.V.

Miami Dade College (Fla.) is taking an unusual step to help stressed students. A new partnership with the Greater Switchboard of Miami will offer a 24-hour confidential helpline for students, their families, faculty and staff. The college is paying the switchboard $65,000 annually to help employ and train additional staffers who can offer counseling for student depression, anxiety, and family pressures.

The project was championed by faculty members Barbara Sussman, associate professor, senior; and Suzanne Pearl, instructor. They wrote the proposal that was ultimately supported by the board of trustees.

"Students share their problems with us, but we are not trained to help them," says Sussman. "We've seen problems get in the way of academic success. Further, we are always asked: How can we improve retention?" Offering free, qualified help is a start, they say.

The switchboard will be open 24/7 to serve the college community, which enrolls 166,000 students. -- J.M.A.

One Massachusetts college is coping with multiple scandals because of investigations into reportedly unusual budgeting practices, an alleged lack of administrative checks and balances, allegations that the president embezzled funds, and a questionable surgical technology program.

The U.S. Inspector General's Office is considering conducting an audit of the city of Quincy, according to recent reports, and may require Quincy College to return sizeable federal grants plus pay fines. President Sean Barry is accused of dipping into the Quincy College Foundation, a private fund that awards scholarships and provides support to the college that had reportedly dwindled by 95 percent over a 16-month period. Barry had been put on paid leave in May, and countered by suing the board of governors for allegedly not allowing his lawyer to attend closed-door sessions. Currently, Martha Sue Harris has stepped in to be Quincy's acting president.

The city's investigation into the matter found the possible avoidance of a competitive bidding process, which is required by law of public institutions. It also claims to have discovered that Barry may have spent $32,000 at the Marriott hotel chain, where a relative works, to accrue rewards on a personal account.

Last year, the director of the surgical technology program was indicted on charges of stealing more than $100,000 from the school by putting ghost instructors on the payroll.

Chief Financial Officer Steve Higgins was quoted as saying that past budgets "sort of misrepresent reality." According to Higgins, the college seemed to be hiding $230,000 in the depreciation line. In an e-mail exchange obtained by The Boston Globe, Vice President Thomas DeSantes e-mailed Higgins and told him that they "used lines to hide revenue and raises. If you want to succeed here, you need to communicate with the President." Higgins later told the Globe that the problem had been fixed and that he does not approve of such practices. The board of governor's chairwoman Theresa Lord Piatelli told the Globe that the fact that the in-house counsel retired is "significant" and she didn't think DeSantes could operate in his current position.

But according to Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel at the American Council on Education, these types of allegations are "extraordinarily rare." He says that the allegation against Barry is unusual considering there are 3,600 not-for-profit IHEs in the U.S. and the number of presidents that actually dip into the till is "miniscule."

Such allegations, however, are not unheard of in recent times. Several college presidents have been accused of using funds for personal expenses including most recently Holmes Community College (Miss.) President Starkey Morgan, who is accused of buying dog food, among other items, with college funds. Steinbach explains that usually the illegal activity involves a president or another higher-up using school funds for personal expenses, rather than a group of people involved in a scheme.

"When instances like this occur, it's almost universally individual," he says. "They don't have companions in pursuit of the embezzlement." --J.V.

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