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Beyond the News

Stories making headlines in higher education.

University Business, Jul 2006

A slew of higher ed competitions allow students and pros to hack networks.

The recent student competition at Rochester Institute of Technology (N.Y.) could be viewed as a high-tech version of an old childhood challenge.

Students formed teams to build forts. But instead of working with tree branches and piles of leaves they worked with code, routers, and software to protect IT networks.

RIT and IT security company McAfee partnered for the second year to provide students with hands-on experience in building and defending "digital fortresses." During a 24-hour period this spring, students had to fend off network attacks simulated by McAfee engineers. The point of the competition? To prepare the next generation of computer crime-fighters. It is a necessary task, considering that identity theft is a $3.2 billion problem, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

It is even more apropos, considering the unending and embarrassing IT security breaches that continue to happen in higher education. The most high-profile at the moment is the case of Ohio University, where Social Security numbers and data belonging to 137,000 people were in the hands of overseas-based hackers for more than a year. At the crux of the problem was a server containing alumni information that was supposed to be off-line. While staff thought they had taken precautions, the information was apparently online and vulnerable to intruders. The well-reported discovery prompted Bill Sams, the university's CIO, to reorganize his entire department in May.

Then in mid-June, OU was hacked again. This time the data on 2,500 subcontractors and the Social Security numbers of 4,900 others were stolen. In the latest incident, hackers reportedly swiped information on 12 people who had paid for university events with credit cards. It is this type of thing that the RIT competition is trying to prevent.

The institution is joined by others in the effort to beef up IT security instruction. In March, the campus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was host to the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, another event that gauges how well students defend servers and networks. The researchers at Indiana University's Advanced Network Management lab have recently devised "War Games," a series of IT exercises for higher ed professionals who want more real-world security experience. In a role reversal, those who are normally charged with protecting networks try to break through IT security in a virtual setting-the idea being that good guys need to think a little bit more like the bad guys in order to do their jobs better. -Jean Marie Angelo

Sound Bite: 'We have thrived, despite the fact that when the Founding Fathers said, 'We, the people,' they didn't mean me. - Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State, in her commencement speech at Boston Colle

Sometimes OFFBEAT ideas can have big payoffs. Boston University's College of Communication decided to host its first ever Terrier Golf Classic and auction in May. Development Officer Robyn Neeley says the university received such "high-end, fantasy package" donations for the silent auction that organizers decided to put the auction online. Alumni, parents, and friends of the college donated 22 items in total. Fourteen were used for the online auction-four were exclusive to online, three moved to a silent auction at the tournament, and seven moved to a live auction. Online bidders were able to nominate proxies for the live auction. Tickets to the 2007 Vanity Fair Oscar party generated a bidding war that ended with a $30,000 winning offer. The entire auction brought in $55,768, with the full event raising $100,000 for the Dean's Fund. Neeley says the event was a good way to bring in new donors who weren't connected to the school. BU officials are considering repeating the event next year. -Ann McClure


By Wallace Mlyniec

On This Spot Productions,, 2006; 146 pp; $22.95 (hardcover)

or $15.95 (paperback)

When Wallace Mlyniec, a Georgetown University Law Center professor with no architectural or engineering training, was asked to lead a $61 million capital project to complete the center's urban D.C. campus, he had no idea just how entrenched he would wind up. The school's chief financial officer would handle the budget, and an engineer would be hired to provide guidance in contractor negotiations. But a year into the four-year project, the CFO had left and was not replaced. And the engineer was in a post-heart-attack coma. Mlyniec could only keep moving forward.

He became fascinated by the thousands of decisions made in such a project and by the interaction between man and material. Through regular updates to students, staff, and faculty, he shared not only what was happening, but also what he was learning about the building process. This book is a collection of those notes.

With chapter titles like "Concrete Redux" and "Clock Towers," the guide is a brief primer on architectural design and materials. While failing to give advice, the book does offer those embarking on their own projects some perspective on what's to come and the ways they can keep a campus community informed. -Melissa Ezarik

Sound Bite: 'It will have an impact on any pay raise in the higher education system. -Jess Lorona, attorney who helped win $1.4 million for white male professors passed up for raises at Northern Arizona University.

The genocide taking place in Darfur, Sudan, is showing no signs of stopping. Yet an important movement appears to be gaining momentum: Colleges and universities in the U.S., including the University of California, Brown, Amherst, and Princeton, are choosing to divest from companies with ties to Sudan.

Students have spent thousands of hours developing sophisticated campaigns to convince university leaders (as well as those from municipalities, states, and companies) to divest. This has led to a level of success, although some schools have divested from just a few companies instead of taking on many offenders. "I think that many of the university decisions thus far have been symbolic," says Daniel Millenson, a sophomore at Brandeis University (Mass.) and chair of the Sudan Divestment Task Force, a group that has pushed Sudan divestment to the top of IHE agendas. The 10-campus UC system developed a divestment plan in part due to the efforts of task force members.

According to Adam Sterling, national policy director for the task force, up until now "there's been no coordination of schools." The task force, for one, advocates a targeted approach, in which-to avoid divestment-companies with Sudan operations must not provide significant financial support to the Sudanese government, they must provide support to disaffected residents of Sudan, and they must take substantial action to halt the genocide.

"We think targeted divestment is more effective because it maximizes the impact on the Sudanese government while minimizing any potential impact on civilians and fiduciaries," says Millenson. The targeted method differs from the blanket approach, which was used to pressure South Africa to end apartheid and which encourages organizations to stop investing in any business with operations in an offending country. The University of Vermont and the University of Washington announced in June that they are following versions of the targeted approach.

Two private firms-Institutional Shareholders Services and KLD Research & Analytics-have integrated into their investment research lists the targeted criteria. That gives IHEs even more information for evaluating their options on the touchy, but crucial, decisions relating to Sudan. -Caryn Meyers Fliegler

DATA POINT: 37% of upperclassmen rely on their college for financial information, although they are more likely to consult parents, banks, and the internet. -City Credit-ED/Synovate

For the second year in a row Southwest Airlines has teamed with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to provide roundtrip airline tickets to underprivileged students who travel far from home. In addition to a GPA of 2.5 or higher and an essay, this year students must supply a certificate of enrollment or acceptance letter and official transcripts. The program is open to students of all ethnic backgrounds. "We just want more students going to school," explains Lorena Blanco, HACU's director of Development and Marketing. This year the application deadline was June 30 and tickets will be awarded in August. By mid-June 100, applications had been received. Last year, 400 applications were received and 50 tickets were given out, with some students receiving two tickets. There is not a target number to distribute, as tickets are awarded depending on the strength of the application and essay. The tickets have been used for everything from visits home for the holidays to flying parents out for commencement. -A.M.

CLAIMING TO BE first AT SOMETHING is all in the spin. Although there are many degrees and certificates in homeland security available from community colleges and online sources, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says Virginia Commonwealth University is the first major research university to offer a bachelor's degree in the subject. The state approved the degree in May 2005 and the first four students graduated this May. The students were within a few credits of graduating with other majors when they switched gears, hence the quick turnaround. They studied a variety of subjects covering political science, criminal justice, terrorism, and emergency planning. They also received prime internships with the state and have already done many job interviews. By May, 100 students had declared the new major. -A.M.

DATA POINT: 2.5 million borrowers consolidated nearly $70 billion in student loans in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2005, up from $44 billion the year before. -U.S. Department of Education

Interest in creating on- or near-campus retirement communities continues to grow. Recent research explores the perspectives of potential residents and IHEs pursuing these projects.

Moody's Investors Service reports that about 50 university-linked retirement communities likely exist already; many others are in development. The paper, "Retirement Communities Present Opportunities and Risks for Universities," concludes that IHEs must "take a deliberate and strategic approach" to help ensure the success of these facilities. (A copy can be found online at

Potential opportunities include revenue sources such as selling land to a developer and collecting tuition from residents who take courses. A careful approach to these projects would help avoid wasted money and a tarnished institutional reputation, should the project fail.

This "distraction" risk, as Moody's calls it, is one reason schools often hesitate on these developments, notes Gerard Badler, managing director of Campus Continuum, which is creating a network of campus-based communities. "Not many retirement communities have been organized with a high level of school input," he says. Critical steps such as conducting market and internal constituency assessments and developing financing projections could wind up being skipped or mismanaged.

A Campus Continuum survey of 233 baby boomers who like the idea of retiring to a college campus helps confirm that a market exists. Living in a small college town is preferred and more than one-third expressed interest in retiring to an IHE with which they had no prior affiliation. -M.E.

Sound Bite: 'We're seeking your help to reach the students we aren't reaching.' -San Jose State University President Don W. Kassing, explaining why he is recruiting at Bay Area black churches.

The faculty at Fairfield University (Conn.) will be able to share their expertise with the world without leaving the comfort of campus, thanks to a new satellite uplink truck. The $400,000 piece of equipment broadcasts an HD-quality television signal to a geostationary satellite. The university will be able to broadcast lectures and special events to the world, and students will gain "hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment," says the Rev. James Mayzik, director of the Media Center. -A.M.

What's an institution to do when its own students don't have an accurate picture of who they are as a group? Use campus art to promote diversity.

Nine years after offering its first online course, online enrollment had surged to 55 percent of the total student body at Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio. Despite the institution's 9,500 students being from 48 states and 68 countries, students still viewed their university as a local or regional school.

Taking on President Paul Otte's goal of changing the perception problem, 20-year marketing veteran Doug Ross created an exhibit, "Faces of Franklin," featuring hundreds of translucent photographs of actual students spread among window clings and banners, as well as full-size cutouts of students. Acrylic bar graphs tied in the images to Franklin's enrollment growth since 1955. Ross, who is chair of the Master of Science in Marketing & Communications program, designed the exhibit so that students would be forced to walk through it on their way to class. -M.E.

DATA POINT: $13 billion-the amount in job-related training dollars available to higher ed. - Report from Eduventures consulting firm.

After a tragic plane accident killed 10 Oklahoma State University athletes and staff in 2001, the school initiated a series of changes at the request of the National Transportation Safety Board to promote safer travel and minimize risk.

Now a report produced by the American Council on Education (ACE), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and United Educators Insurance builds on that work to provide guidance for all administrators who must address student transportation safety.

The report, "Safety in Student Transportation: A Resource Guide for Colleges and Universities," examines common accident causes and offers travel safety guidelines.

Institutions are encouraged to examine their own risk factors in applying the suggestions to their individual campuses.

The report's recommendations can be applied to any institution, notes ACE President David Ward. "The safety suggestions in the report are specific, but outlined in a way that allows them to be employed flexibly to meet individual needs and campus situations," he said.

Administrators can draw from a number of policy recommendations in drafting their own programs for vehicle travel and air travel, including:

Keeping photocopied records to confirm that the institution checked driver's licenses.

Requiring the driver to have a certain number of years or miles of driving experience.

Checking the driver's motor vehicle history.

Limiting the distance, number of hours, or number of passengers that students may drive.

Prohibiting students from using personal vehicles for institution-related trips.

Prohibiting students and recruits from flying on donated flights.

Prohibiting flying into forecasted hazardous weather.

Limiting the number of key passengers on any one flight.

The full text of "Safety in Student Transportation: A Resource Guide for Colleges and Universities" is available through ACE (, the NCAA (, or United Educators (

-Tim Goral

As part of last month's "Going Green While Saving Green" special section, University Business teamed with E&I Cooperative Services to conduct a wide-ranging facilities survey.

Called "A Study of Facilities & Environmental Considerations: 2006," the survey polled 475 qualifying senior administrators and facilities managers to learn how committed their institutions were to the green philosophy and other issues. The purpose was to gather benchmark data for comparison with annual follow-up studies. The survey was designed by market research firm Martin Akel & Associates and conducted by California-based Wilson Research over a period of several weeks in June. E-mail invitations were sent out with a link to the web-based survey.

While the final report is being prepared for distribution at this month's "Campus of the Future: Meeting of the Minds," a joint conference of the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers (APPA), the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), and the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), we're pleased to present a preview of some of the results here.

For example, the participants were asked how their institution's emphasis on the use of environmentally responsible approaches changed over the last four years when it came to areas such as recycling, reducing pollution, reusable products, and green building designs. Nearly 64 percent said there was a greater or much greater emphasis on environmentally friendly approaches, while nearly a third of the respondents said there was no real change.

When asked to rate their institutions' commitment to green approaches, nearly half the respondents believed there was room for significant improvement. The good news is that the rest believed that a "small amount of improvement" or "no real improvement" was required.

Respondents were also asked how likely their institution was to seriously consider LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for future construction/renovation projects. Encouragingly, about 60 percent said that LEED would at least be considered for future projects.

With outsourcing taking on increasing importance as a cost-saving strategy at many schools, survey participants were also asked about the extent of outsourcing in their institutions. Not surprisingly, food-service/dining services were outsourced more often than any other service. Interestingly, 12.5 percent of respondents said their institution doesn't outsource any services.

The full survey results will be available later this month on the University Business website.

Everyone, it seems, wants to know how to lead a happy life. Students at Harvard have the chance to learn.

The university offers Psychology 1504, or "Positive Psychology," which involves all the exams, papers, and studying that pretty much any college coursework entails. This class also helps students improve their own lives.

When students learn about Robert Emmons' research on the importance of expressing gratitude, they begin to keep gratitude journals. And when they study Amy Wrzesniewski's work on finding a career calling, they work to identify their own callings.

Students don't get graded on such practices, but are encouraged to continue them for life. That connection between the academic and the personal has helped make "Positive Psychology" Harvard's most popular course, according to Tal Ben-Shahar, the professor who has been teaching it for two years. Harvard's offering is one of several around the country that have grown out of the work of Martin E.P. Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the best-selling book Learned Optimism.

While "Positive Psych" isn't typical textbook stuff, it has a significant impact: In one round of course evaluations at Harvard, 23 percent of students said that "Positive Psychology" changed their lives for the better. "They stop taking the good things in their lives for granted," says Ben-Shahar.

Happy students? Administrators can't complain about that. -C.M.F.

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