You are here

Beyond the News

Stories making headlines in higher education.

Shake up at Auburn; Campus Magazines take off; Book Review:Sustainability on Campus; UC system expands; Ruckus offers legal downloads; UCF hosts new reality show; Textbook copy scheme; Alumni get web portal; Trump may start online school; Open source business solution; Spouses on the payroll; Colleges sell surplus online; A gift that keeps on giving ; Professor Manson?; Penn State cleans up its act; Study: College completion down.
University Business, Oct 2004

Interim Auburn University (Ala.) President Ed Richardson is on a firing spree. His latest move was the dismissal of Janet Saunders, the executive director for affirmative action and equal employment opportunity. Her duties will be folded into the Human Resources department.

Earlier in the year, Richardson fired Betty Dement, vice president of the Alumni Association. In all, he has fired 14 administrators and coaches since being asked to lead Auburn. "The firings have affected morale," says Willie Larkin, chair of the university's faculty and senate. "Everyone wonders if they will be next." Larkin expressed opposition to Saunders' termination because she acted as an oversight to the Human Resources department. By lumping EEO efforts into HR, the department will be left overseeing itself.

Richardson has defended his actions by explaining to the media that they are part of a necessary restructuring. Richardson stepped into the job in January after President William Walker was reportedly forced out by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. Richardson, the former state Superintendent of Education, was handpicked by Riley, and came to Auburn in January with two goals: to get Alabama's largest state university off the academic probation imposed on it by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and to clean up its sports program. This spring, the NCAA charged Auburn men's basketball program with multiple recruitment violations. Richardson has since fired basketball coach Cliff Ellis and wrested away control of the Athletics Department from Director David Housel, who plans to retire in 2006.

Critics have charged that Richardson has overstepped the role of an interim president with his bold actions. Richardson counters that although he has agreed to lead Auburn for only two years, he is "not a half-president." Then again, the question of what constitutes proper leadership has been a problem at Auburn for a while. Last year, the Board of Trustees was accused of micromanaging Auburn and allowing a core group of trustees to wield large influence over the board and the president. This was one of the reasons SACS put Auburn on probation in the first place.

Move over, Cosmopolitan and People. A new handful of start-up magazines are sprouting up on campuses nationwide, including National Geographic Traveler on Campus, iCaramba U, GenZ, and Sports Illustrated on Campus. It's no surprise that students, given their $122 billion spending power, are the objects of many publishers' interest. "Students are the most lucrative demographic," says Laura Nakoneczny, public relations director for the National Association of College Stores. "Not only do they have discretionary income, but they are developing spending habits that will continue after college."

Most of the publications will be distributed free as inserts in college newspapers or into bookstore bags. NG Traveler on Campus, which launched this fall, will reach 750,000 students on 143 campuses, including Notre Dame University (Ind.) and Tufts University (Mass.). iCaramba U, geared towards Latino students, boasts a 100,000 BPA-audited controlled circulation and targets two million students at schools such as Harvard University (Mass.), UCLA (Calif.), and Rutgers University (N.J.). CO-ED, a quarterly lifestyle magazine, will hit over 1,000 college bookstores in January and GenZ, another lifestyle magazine, boasts a 1.5 million circulation and is distributed twice a year. Between the Lines

The growing movement toward environmental responsibility on college campuses reflects not only a practical pursuit but a far-reaching cultural transformation as well. Sustainability on Campus is an interesting collection of personal narratives that chronicle mistakes as well as celebrate successes. With contributions by faculty, staff, administrators, and a student, readers will see how institutions of varying sizes--from two-year community colleges to prestigious research universities--approached sustainability on their campuses. Motivational stories on how the subject schools created systemwide initiatives and promoted greater ties within their communities will serve as a blueprint for going green.

--Tim Goral

In a farming town nestled between San Francisco and Yosemite National Park in California's Central Valley are the beginnings of UC Merced, the UC system's newest campus. The 7,000-acre campus, which is set to open for classes in fall 2005, will host a freshman class of 1,000. The university has already generated much student interest. About 600 high school juniors have already sent their SAT scores to the school. The university is expected to have 6,000 students by 2011 and reach its 25,000 capacity by 2030.

With the recording industry still threatening action for illegal downloading, a growing number of schools are trying to fend off lawsuits by offering students subscription music download services. Napster, which almost single-handedly gave downloading its bad reputation, has been reborn as a legitimate service that counts at least a half-dozen schools among its subscribers. And Napster is not alone. Apple's iTunes Store, Real Networks Rhapsody, and Microsoft's new Music Store, among others, all offer downloads for a price (99 cents or less), with varying degrees of ownership.

One of the newest entries is the Ruckus Network, founded by MIT graduate students David Galper and Vince Han. Ruckus is targeted exclusively to the college market, and features movies as well as music. It also offers online chats and the ability for students to share their own music, photos, and video. "It has the core content that students want, coupled with community features and tools that administrators tell us help build community and bring students closer together," says Galper. More than 1,500 students were interviewed to determine the type of content the service offers.

The Ruckus servers reside within the subscriber university's network and the content has been licensed from its copyright owners. For $5 a month, users can download and listen to as many songs as they want, but the content remains "tethered" to their computer. "If you have a laptop you can take the tunes with you," explains Galper, "but you can't move them to a portable device or burn them to a CD. When you cease to be an authorized member of the service, the tracks will expire and no longer be playable."

Northern Illinois University was the first to sign on this fall, and Galper says other schools will be joining the service in coming months. "This is a compelling student amenity for schools, and is well within the realms of legality--which is important for all parties involved."

From the makers of the reality TV series The Bachelor comes Big Man on Campus, a new college reality show being taped at the University of Central Florida. Set to air on the WB network next January, the show follows a male UCF student who will date about a dozen female UCF students for several weeks. It's no surprise why UCF was the chosen campus, says Tom Evelyn, a UCF spokesman: "We have good weather, attractive students, and a lively campus and off-campus community."

The university, in turn, will benefit by gaining national exposure to an audience that is the typical age of its incoming students, Evelyn says. But there are risks involved. "Some faculty and administrators think it's a crazy idea," he says. There's concern over how the students will be portrayed, and whether the filming will affect the education process. "We made sure to set specific guidelines and they assured us that the filming would not be disruptive," he says.

The university is also going to receive a location fee of $10,000. "This will either go right back into academics or be used to create a scholarship," says Evelyn. Unlike other reality shows, the end reward for both parties will not be a ring, or a rose, or $1 million. The happy couple, instead, is rumored to receive a scholarship of some sort.

Some Texas college students are heading to borders for their textbooks--and we don't mean the famous bookstore chain. According to Jules Frapart, general manager of the Bookbee bookstore in Brownsville (Texas), it is not uncommon for cash-strapped students to pay full price for textbooks at his store, then drive to a Mexican border town where they duplicate the books at copy shops--just outside U.S. jurisdiction. Then they return the books to the store for a refund.

Frapart, who used to manage the South Texas Book Company at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, says he's seen this trick before.

"We started seeing students purchasing a book from us and copying it for about a fifth of the price and then return the book," he says. "It's still prevalent."

It costs $10.50 to duplicate a 300-page book at a typical Mexican copy shop, and binding costs an extra $2.36.

Much like the recording industry has done, book publishers can sue for copyright violations. Mari Fuentes-Martin, dean of students at UTB-TSC, says students who illegally copy books can face disciplinary action. More often, she says, if a bookstore knows the book has been copied, it simply refuses to refund the money.

Plymouth State University (N.H.) is pushing campus portal technology in a new direction. In early 2005, the school's 21,000 alumni will have their own portal for conducting online meetings, catching up on school news, registering e-mail accounts, and learning about local chapter activities. The alumni portal is Plymouth's way of providing a lifelong connection to the school, says Joe Long, director of alumni relations.

During the past few years e-mail messaging and marketing have brought a new level of sophistication to alumni outreach, but dedicated alumni portals are still rare. More colleges and universities are building portals overall, however. The Campus Computing Project 2003--which provides the latest statistics--reports that 45 percent of public universities have campus portals, up from 28 percent in 2002. Private schools have been launching portals, too, but at a slower rate.

Long sees the alumni portal as a way of uniting local alumni chapters and pushing news that wouldn't be of interest to the general public. The workings of the board and the results of board elections are some examples. Of course, alums will be encouraged to donate online and will be able to check their donation totals throughout the year.

Plymouth is doing a soft launch of the alumni portal this fall. A full-scale rollout will be complete in February when the portal is advertised in the alumni print magazine.

Billionaire real estate developer and reality show star Donald Trump has filed papers in August to secure the trademark for the name "Trump University." According to the papers, the venture will provide "educational services in the nature of conducting online courses in the fields of business and real estate."

Beyond his A-list celebrity status though, Trump's businesses have been plagued recently by a number of problems, which leave critics to wonder whether his name on a business degree will carry any real cachet. As has been widely reported, the Trump casinos are being restructured under a bankruptcy protection plan that strips Trump of his majority stake.

A team of partners is working on open source financial software that may someday save colleges and universities money. The National Association of College and University Business Officers is joining Indiana University, the University of Hawaii and r-smart group in forming the Kuali Project. The four are pooling resources to create an economical but comprehensive financial system to handle general accounting, accounts payable and receivable, and other business applications.

The Kuali Project comes on the heels of the Sakai Project, which is a similar open source effort for course management. And where Sakai was loosely named after the Iron Chef who appears on the TV show of the same name, Kuali stands for "humble utensil that plays an important role in a successful kitchen."

The higher ed software administrators who are pushing these two new open source initiatives may have a sense of whimsy about their efforts, but they are dead serious about saving money. Kuali, which is modeled after Sakai, will freely give away its source code. Higher ed institutions that use it will, in essence, eschew the licensing fees for commercial financial management systems. This could save 10 to 20 percent of the total cost of ownership for a financial system, says Brad Wheeler, associate vice president and dean of IT at Indiana. Universities pay $10 million and more to install and license such systems, he estimates.

Unlike Sakai, Kuali has not yet asked for a partnership fee. (Sakai is asking partner colleges and universities to give $10,000 per year to the project, which will entitle them to more say-so and software support.)

Kuali partners are investing $2.5 million in the project and expect to offer software within the next two years.

Learn more at, or

The spouses of presidents lead busy lives--supporting their partners, entertaining, promoting the university. In years past they were expected to fulfill their duties gratis. Today, it is not unusual for the spouse to end up on the payroll. Take, for example, Bowling Green State University (Ohio), which reportedly hired wife of President Sidney Ribeau to be an interim assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs. Paula Whestel-Ribeau will earn $66,000 per year to--among other things--accompany her husband to university events. His annual salary, by the way, is $286,443.

Those who might question the coziness of this arrangement should know that Edward Whipple, vice president of Student Affairs, sought her out to apply for the job because Ribeau is not only a Bowling Green alum, but also a former employee. Mixing the duties of first lady with the mission of student affairs seemed a perfect fit. "I have seen more of this kind of thing recently," says Judith Auerbach, president of Auerbach Associates, an executive recruitment firm. "There is real work here. The board might even expect a spouse to take on official duties." She posits that it might not be easy to uncover compensation arrangements because most colleges and universities do not want to draw attention to them.

Looking for a way to make good money off your surplus items, including dorm furniture, lab equipment, and other harder-to-price pieces? Internet auction sites like eBay and Amazon could be a lucrative option for your institution. Oregon State, Penn State, Michigan State, and Washington State universities all sell on eBay. Penn State has sold everything from pianos to a doughnut machine.

Of course, it takes time, space, and personnel to photograph, describe, and store each item for sale. Some schools have opted to create their own auction sites. The University of Wisconsin generated about $280,000 in sales its first year, according to Tim Sell, business manager for the school's surplus sale operation.

Some 450 Penn State University students and staff attended an August rally for laundry. Seriously. With the Penn State Blue Band playing the school's fight song accompanied by shouts of "Penn State, Wash Clothes!" led by the Nittany Lion mascot, the school unveiled its new line of Maytag washers.

The students, mostly resident and community assistants, plus the school's housekeeping staff, were invited to the school's Bryce-Jordan Center for what they thought was a routine housekeeping training session. But once the band started playing and the chants begun, the students and staff got into the spirit of the event. Maytag even sent its famous TV commercial pitchman. "Mr. Ol' Lonely," the Maytag repair guy and his apprentice to the event.

Penn State purchased 350 new commercial energy-saving washers that are estimated to save the school more than $100,000 in energy costs and an estimated 14 million gallons of water annually--a reduction of more than 50 percent.

In addition, the machines use less water and extract water faster than top-loading machines, resulting in less drying time for students and less utility costs for the school.

And no doubt a larger benefit for parents: less laundry to do at home during weekends and breaks.

If you see a guy at the next faculty meeting with snow-white skin, blood-red lipstick, shaved eyebrows, and a weird contact lens, don't be alarmed. That's just how Professor Manson dresses--Marilyn Manson, that is. The rocker is one of the celebrities who have signed on to teach a class on Stand In, a program slated for the fall lineup of MTV's mtvU college cable channel. Manson will use his airtime to discuss music and marketing. Rap star Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, who led a highly successful voter registration effort this year among inner city youth, will teach civics and politics. Other guest teachers include the Rev. Jesse Jackson, author Frank McCourt, and presidential candidate John Kerry. Formerly known as the College Television Network, mtvU was relaunched in January.

Sometimes gifts can't be measured in dollar amounts. That's the case with the Northrop Grumman's gift to the University of Central Florida. Sure, on paper it amounts to some $24 million, but in reality the defense contractor's gift--$22 million in intellectual property including patents and patent applications, plus $2 million in equipment--will help position UCF as a leader in developing super-small computer chips.

The gift will fuel UCF's College of Optics and Photonics' research in extreme ultraviolet lithography, a process that computer chip manufacturers expect to begin using in about four years because it will allow for smaller, denser features to be imprinted on chips. "This now gives us a platform to train the future scientists and engineers who are going to be needed as this new form of lithography comes into being," say Martin Richardson, who will be the first Northrop Grumman Professor of X-Ray Photonics at UCF. "We can now broaden our optics program into a program of major impact in the extreme ultraviolet lithography field."

UCF and Northrop Grumman have worked together on research related to lasers, communications systems, and land mine detection systems.

The good news is that more high school students are taking courses that prepare them for college. The bad news, says James Hunt, chair of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, is that "these improvements have not been reflected in significantly higher college enrollment or completion rates."

That assessment is highlighted in the Center's new report, "Measuring Up 2004: The National Report Card on Higher Education," released last month. The biennial Report Card measures the nation's and each state's performance in providing education and training beyond high school. Only "slightly more" students who enroll in college are completing two- or four-year degree programs than was the case a decade ago, says the report.

Patrick Callan, president of the National Center, says that other countries have been doing a better job of providing higher education access and baccalaureate degree achievement than has the United States over the past decade.

"We can no longer attribute all of our college access and quality problems to the failure of public schools," says Callan. "The fact is high schools have improved over the last 10 years and we haven't seen commensurate higher education gains."

One reason? "College has become less affordable over the last decade," says Hunt. "At a time when we should be encouraging eligible students to attend college, we are making it more difficult for students and their families." The report, he says, is "a wake-up call for the nation, the states, and for our colleges and universities."

Measuring Up 2004 evaluates each state according to five areas: preparation for college, participation, completion, affordability, and benefits (that is, the economic and civic benefits that accrue to a state that has a more highly educated population).

Key findings include the fact that 44 percent of the states have improved academic preparation, but just eight states have improved participation (the number of people continuing education beyond high school). Nineteen states have shown a decline in the participation category. For the full report, visit