Friday, November 30, 2007

Blog wrap-up

When I learned on the first day of class that we were to keep a blog for the majority of the semester, I felt somewhat uneasy about it. My first fear was that I had no idea what to write about. As of yet, I’m not really an expert on anything that I would have been able to keep a blog on. (A Red Sox or Seinfeld blog would have been difficult to sustain, especially when having to do some original reporting or taking photos). After settling on a blog on higher education, I was still fearful that I would not be able to either come up with enough material on my own, or find enough information on the web to post four or five times a week.

Thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, and sites like EdNews.org and The Boston Globe and The New York Times education sections, finding the material was simple. As the weeks went on, I grew to enjoy posting. At first I thought it was going to be a pain to post so many times a week, but I really got into after a while. Doing this assignment has opened me up to a new world of digital media that I hadn’t participated in much before. I knew what a blog was, of course, but never really read any on a consistent basis. The Chronicle of Higher Education news blog has become one of my favorite websites to visit, as the posters are varied and the stories come from all corners of the country and world. I really enjoy having my own little piece of the web where my opinion can be heard, even if no one really reads it yet.

There wasn’t much I disliked about this project except that sometimes I wouldn’t feel like posting on a given day, but knew I had to in order to maintain an average of four posts per week. One thing I might have done differently was try to include even more sources of information in the blog, but since the Chronicle news blog usually had so many interesting stories to pick from, I liked to pull information from there the best. Another thing I could have done differently was try to include some more original reporting. The only time I really did this was for Assignment #5, but I found the experience of interviewing my dad on a pertinent higher education issue interesting, and would enjoy interviewing other college professors and lecturers on higher education issues as well.

I’d say the only surprise that came out of this project for me was that I enjoyed it. At the beginning of the semester, I kind of dreaded the thought of having to post so much, but found posting on a regular basis enjoyable once I got the hang of it. The only person I shared my blog with was my dad and he thought it was great. I also put a link on my Facebook page to the blog, but haven’t received any comments about it from friends or family. Perhaps if I keep it up longer and try to promote it more, it will grow a little in readership.

I think I will continue my blog, though I know I won’t post as many as four to five times a week. Instead I'll probably post once or twice every week or two, or when an issues really catches my eye. I really got a lot out of this experience because I learned a lot about media on the web, about blogs and blogging, and how to set up a podcast. Even though I want to be an elementary school teacher, if I ever switch back to journalism or do it as a side job, having these tools will be valuable, as digital media seems to be the way the news business is moving. Even as a teacher, I could set up a blog on my classroom experiences that may help other teachers, or it could be used as a way for me to receive advice from more experienced teachers on certain issues.

In general, I’d never had much interest in blogs before this assignment, but now enjoy reading education news blogs and even some general news blog as well. I don’t think they should be a replacement for professional, objective journalism, but they’re an interesting supplement to whatever is going on and can also help people understand the current issues as they’re happening.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

College sports are all about the dollar signs

Why do college football coaches make more than college professors, or doctors, or lawyers, or even teachers? I know the answer, but it doesn’t seem right to me. According to this article on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, the salary of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno has finally been revealed after a five-year legal battle. He makes $512,644 a year. Yes, he is in his 42nd year as a coach there, which is pretty remarkable, but paying him an annual salary of over half million? Come on.

I realize a lot of the money comes from private donations to the football program and such, but the inflated salaries of college coaches, and all coaches and athletes, professional or not, is just ridiculous. (Iowa State head football coach Kirk Ferentz makes $2.84 million a year). These guys make more than doctors, lawyers and other highly paid professionals in our society. Don’t even get me started on the contrast between professional athletic salaries and those of teachers, human services workers and others who truly make a difference in society and do it because they love it, not for the pay.

I was walking to the library on campus today and saw two signs displayed in front of a building advertising the men’s hockey and men’s basketball games this weekend. This is fine, but I saw no accompanying sign advertising the women’s hockey game, which is also at home this weekend, nor have I ever seen signs advertising the female versions of these two sports on campus. Women’s sports don’t draw as large a crowd as men’s sports, but perhaps part of the reason for this is that NO ONE KNOWS WHEN THE WOMEN’S GAMES ARE! Would it really set the athletic department back so much to buy two more sandwich boards to advertise the two other winter sports? Or perhaps urging students to go see the swimming & diving team (all women), as it is a perfect 6-0?

College sports are supposed to be a thing of opportunity and growth for athletes and are now nothing but a business. Take for example the Northeastern football team, which is a full scholarship team (80 scholarships). An average of 25-30 guys play per game (mostly the same ones). Don’t those other 40-50 scholarships seem like kind of a waste? It might be different if the football team actually made money for the school, but at 3-8 (2-6 Colonial Athletic Association) the future doesn’t look too promising. Yes, those men are getting the chance to go to a great school such as Northeastern for free. Many of them may not be able to afford it otherwise, but what about the other high school athletes who have dreamed of attending Northeastern, but need a scholarship to come here? Their hopes may be dashed because their athletic team (men’s or women’s) may not have enough scholarships to go around.

I hate how college sports have become a business, and that the learning and growth that a student can take away from participating in a college sport is now more about the dollar signs than anything else.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NC Community Colleges must admit all illegal immigrants who meet admission standards

Here’s an interesting post from the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog that deals with a particularly controversial issue, and also ties into the Republican debate which aired tonight in which many of the questions centered around illegal immigration. (At least the part I saw, that is. I turned it off after about 15 minutes because I couldn’t stand listening to them any longer).

A new law now requires all 58 campuses of North Carolina Community College to admit illegal immigrants who meet the requirements for admission for regular applicants (being at least 18 years old or having graduated from high school). The post states that more than 20 of the NC Community College campuses currently have written or unwritten policies excluding illegal immigrants from admission.

I really have no problem with this new policy. Though I don’t know a ton about it, illegal immigration doesn’t really bother me if the illegal immigrants are here to try and better their lives, and eventually take steps to becoming legal citizens. Both parents of a person I know entered the country illegally to find a better life, and have lived here for over 20 years. His father is now a legal resident, and his mother gained U.S. citizenship last year. They're aren't criminals, they pay their taxes, and they don't suck up free healthcare or welfare. They were simply in search of a better life, and knew American could give that to them.

Illegal immigrants who apply to any college should be accepted if they meet the admission criteria. I know I’m being really idealistic, but I just wish we could live in a world where borders and nationalities weren’t so important. Illegal immigrants come to the U.S. to find a better life and if that means taking an “American” job of scrubbing toilets at the nearest McDonalds, or taking classes at a local community college, then so be it.

When it comes down to it, we are all human beings looking for a good life and happiness. Why does it matter so much if someone entered the country legally or not? All U.S. citizens are descendents of immigrants, or are immigrants who have been granted citizenship. Why does it matter so much that our ancestors got here first so long ago?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NY Medical College will stop using live dogs in labs

I’m a dog-lover, so this article that I found on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog made me happy. Officials from New York Medical College, the only medical college in the state to still use live animals for instruction in labs, have said that they will stop using dogs for study. Previously, students used the dogs to study the heart and the college’s president, Karl Adler, explained why:

“The reason why the dogs were used in the past is that the students could actually see a beating heart, and understand the physiology of how the heart works. It’s the only internal organ where there’s actually movement that you can understand the physiology of.”


High-tech advancements have been made that allows students to study the heart without cutting open dogs. One method that will be used is that the students will be able to attach electrodes to each other’s chests and watch video of how their hearts work. Another method is the use of simulators to imitate cardiac arrest or the effects of certain drugs. Protest from students, animal-rights groups and politicans also factored into the college's decision to stop using dogs. The article doesn't mention whether dogs were the only live animals used in the labs, or if other live animals will continued to be used as well.

I had no idea that some colleges still used live animals in teaching labs, especially dogs. I love the furry creatures, so it saddened me to read this and think about all those who had been used before this college made its decision. It also upsets me to think about those creatures, dogs or otherwise, that will still be killed in the 11 medical colleges in the U.S. that still use live animals. I know animal testing has been a big part of the advancements made in medicine, and that without it I probably wouldn't be here today, but I feel using live animals in teaching labs is wrong.

I’ve never been much for dissection and such things like that, but at least those animals I had to poke and prod in high school were already dead. I’m sure the dogs must be anesthetized when they cut them open, but still. I can’t imagine having to cut open a live dog to watch its heart beat. Yuck.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Transgender student almost denied homecoming king title

A transgender student at Pasadena City College, who was recently elected homecoming king, was nearly denied his title because of his pierced ears, or at least that’s what the homecoming committee wanted students to believe. The student, 24-year-old Andrew Gomez, is transitioning from a female to a male, and ran to set an example for other gay, lesbian and transgender students. After winning, he was denied the title because he has pierced ears, the homecoming committee said. After students protested, Gomez was given back his title as king.

The fact that the homecoming committee used blatant discrimination against Gomez and then tried to disguise it under some bogus ruling is sickening. If you’re going to be narrow-minded and prejudiced enough to discriminate, then do it, but don’t try to hide it under some made-up rule. I’d bet anything that at least one of their past homecoming kings has had one or both ears pierced, as it’s fashionable for men to do so nowadays. Look at how many professional athletes and music stars, especially rappers, have their ears pierced.

The truth of the matter is that the homecoming committee did not want a transgender student as their king because of bias toward straight, “normal” people. I commend Gomez for running when he could have faced much ridicule, and also commend the other students who protested the homecoming committee’s ruling and got it overturned.

The fact that Gomez even got elected shows a growing tolerance for people with different lifestyles in this country. Someone commented on the story that he/she thought the only reason Gomez got elected was so people could make fun of him, but I don't think this is the case. The students who lobbied against the homecoming committee's decision on Gomez's behelf shows how the country's young people are becoming more open-minded than ever before.

Check out the story on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog here.

College class sizes are growing. What's being done about it?

I found this article on The Boston Globe’s website yesterday and thought it interesting. It’s a well-written article and it’s too long to summarize all the components of it, but it’s basically about the growing class sizes of institutions of higher education, and what is being done to continuously foster meaningful learning even with enormous classes.

The University of Colorado is used as examples of growing class sizes in this article. I thought some of my classes here at Northeastern were large, but I was blown away by the class sizes of Colorado. At Colorado, one of the chemistry classes is so huge, that the only place where all the students can take the final at once is at Colorado’s basketball arena, the Coors Event Center. There are 33 classes with 400 or more students, and three of the courses offered have over 1,200 students.

The article mentions that there are currently over 18 million college students in America, and the numbers are projected to grow as time goes on, which I think is fantastic. The only drawback is larger classes, but new technology is being invented to help combat students getting lost in the crowd.

One interesting piece of technology is a device called a “clicker,” which is a handheld voting device now being used on more than 700 campuses across the nation. With the use of the device, professors can stop a class mid-lecture and pose multiple choice questions to the students. If the class does well, the professor moves on. If the class doesn’t do well, he or she can stop and review the material the students are struggling with.

I don’t agree with large classes sizes in general, but at some colleges it's inevitable because colleges have to schedule large classes in order for all students to be able to complete their coursework, especially for the introductory courses. If some classes have to be large, then it is good to see that something is being done to help professors stay a little bit more connected with their students, and to help those who may get lost in the crowd.

Should public relations be part of a college's journalism curriculum?

Last week I held a Q&A with my dad, Paul Della Valle, on whether public relations should be a part of a college's journalism program. Paul Della Valle is an award-winning journalist who currently owns and operates Central Mass Magazine, and also occasionally teaches a Journalism 1 course at Northeastern University.

Check out the Q&A here.

This post is to fulfill Assignment #5.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

UMass Chancellor to meet with student strike leaders

I hadn’t heard about this until I read this story today on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, but apparently students at UMass-Amherst have organized a strike for several reasons.

The University’s chancellor has agreed to meet with 10 student strike leaders a week until February to discuss the student demands, which according to the post are: “a drop in student fees, more attention to diversity, the withdrawal of routine police patrols from dormitories, and a greater student say in the use of campus space.” The poster wrote that the students had organized a strike, but doesn't say whether it was actually enacted or not.

The poster also doesn’t mention how the students are carrying out the strike, but I imagine it must be that they refuse to attend classes or campus activities. If that’s the case, then I can imagine that the students’ grades might suffer. I get angry at some of the things Northeastern officials do sometimes, but I don’t think it would be worth risking my grades for. Whatever the outcome, I hope the students’ needs are addressed and perhaps this will spur a movement among college officials across the state to be more attentive to student concerns.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Northeastern and Jarg Corp. sue Google

Here’s an article from the Northeastern News on how the university and another corporation are suing Google for copyright infringement.

Northeastern and Jarg Corp., a private search technology company, filed a lawsuit against Google Nov. 6 claiming that the company has used a database system that Northeastern professor Kenneth Baclawski patented in 1997, a year before Google supposedly began using the technology. Baclawski and Jarg Corp. president Michael Belanger founded the company in 1998, and it has exclusive rights to the patent.

Belanger said his company was alerted to the possible infringement just over two years ago when a Boston area law firm that uses the technology noticed similar aspects between the technology and a Google presentation. Google officials obviously deny the allegations.

Since I don’t know whether or not these allegations are true, I can’t pass judgment on whether this is a good move by Northeastern. Since Google is such a huge corporation now, Northeastern could get a lot of money out of a settlement if they win. Hopefully Northeastern does win and lowers my tuition a little bit. Yeah right.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New scholarship fund aims to help veterans obtain an education

I found this story about a new scholarship fund to help veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan pay for college on the Chronicle of Education news blog. The scholarship is intended to help fill the gap between benefits veterans receive from the GI Bill and how much it actually costs to go to college these days.

The first 11 scholarship winners were announced yesterday, and in another month or so at least one veteran from every state and the District of Columbia will receive scholarships in varying amounts.

The scholarships are appropriated by Scholarship America, whose mission statement is: “To mobilize America, through scholarships and educational support, to make postsecondary education possible for all students.”

A man named Jerome Kohlberg, who served in World War II and went to Swarthmore College and Harvard Business School under the GI Bill, has put up $4 million for the initial funding. The scholarship fund aims to cover veterans’ needs until Congress passes the new GI bill which will cover the costs of modern college tuition.

This fund is a great way to help veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan help get their lives back on track after coming back from war. Many young men and women, especially those from the inner city, join the armed forces after high school because they have no way to pay for college and have no other options. Higher education is one of the most important goals a person can strive to achieve in life, and this should help those people get the educations they need to be successful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

So this is where my tuition is going…

I read this article on The Boston Globe’s website today about how former Northeastern president Richard Freeland is the highest paid private college president, according to the latest survey done by the Chronicle of Higher Education on the salaries of college presidents. Freeland received $2.3 million from Northeastern after stepping down last year.

Several specialists explained to the Globe that the survey result is misleading, because the money Freeland received refers to a decade of delayed benefits now being lumped into one large sum of money. Though the $2.3 million wasn’t just a gift from the university for Freeland, consider this quote from the Globe article on how much the university was paying him in the first place:

In 2006, Freeland received a $514,500 annual salary and a $107,295 expense account, according to the Chronicle survey, which was released yesterday. The survey found that in 2006, 81 presidents of private colleges earned $500,000 or more, compared with just three a decade ago.


So this is where my tuition money is going. I realize that universities need to shell out some dough for qualified professionals to take on the job as president, but over a half a million a year? Colleges do need to be competitive, but that’s just absolutely ridiculous. As is the $8.9 million home Northeastern bought for new president Joseph Aoun last year.

I’ve been getting fed up lately with Northeastern’s obsession with the U.S. News and World Report rankings. All that business with Aoun’s inauguration last year was absurd and cost the university over $300,000. All of the banners they hung up and the lights on the Krentzman Quad, which looked nice at night, but were just ugly pieces of equipment sitting there during the day, where completely unnecessary.

I don’t know how other colleges spend their tuition and endowment, but I don’t like what Northeastern has been up to over my three years here. Aside from the lucky few on full scholarships, Northeastern students are paying a huge sum of money, either from financial aid, loans or their family’s pockets, to go here, and it seems as though the university is throwing it away on bloated salaries instead of using it to better the academic and social experience of its students.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"To Tase" wins second place in Word of the Year contest

In a follow-up to the whole Andrew Meyer tasering scandal that came out of the University of Florida in September, the word “to tase” won second place for the Word of the Year contest to be added to the Oxford dictionary. The word that won was, “locavore,” (which I’ve never heard of before). It means “a movement that encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food.” I found this article on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog.

It’s interesting that the simple phrase, “Don’t tase me, Bro!” uttered by Meyers in the heat of the moment could have garnered so much attention. Now there are shirts being sold online with that slogan and some have called it a “cultural landmark of our generation.” I don’t know about that, but it’s funny nonetheless.

Monday, November 12, 2007

University of Iowa plans to offer more Friday classes to help curb "Thirsty Thursdays"

A contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog posted a story today about a new initiative to combat “Thirsty Thursdays” at the University of Iowa. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences announced that it will pay departments to switch classes to Fridays in order to help curb late-night drinking and partying on Thursdays. The departments will get $20 for every student who enrolls in a new Friday class.

I liked this story firstly because of the way it was written by the author, Elyse Ashburn. It’s short enough that I can post the whole thing here:

Students at the University of Iowa who party all night Thursday won’t be sleeping all day Friday anymore. At least not if the university has its way.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has decided to pay departments for switching classes to Friday, reports the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Departments that move at least two classes to Friday will get $20 for each student who enrolls in a switched class.
The incentive program is designed to cut down on the number of students who load up on classes earlier in the week and then get loaded on Thursday night, the Press-Citizen reported.
Has the university hit on a way to curb “Thirsty Thursdays” or just a recipe for empty classes?


The way she wrote it was concise and playful enough for a story like this, without going overboard.

As for the actual story itself, I like what Iowa is trying to do, but I don’t know if it will work. With the typical class schedule here at Northeastern, MWTh, MW, MTh or TF, I’ve know a lot of people who try to avoid taking Friday classes solely for the reason that they don’t want to get up on Fridays after having been out late the night before.

If students are stuck with having to take a class on a Friday, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will stop going out late on Thursday nights. They just either won’t go to class the next day, or somehow suffer through it. Either way doesn't bode well for the student's education.

I don't think it's acceptable to just not offer classes on Fridays, because it is a five-day week and should be treated that way. The only way I see student drinking being curbed on school nights is a societal shift in our attitude toward alcohol, which would take a lot more than starting to offer more classes on Fridays. I think Iowa has the beginnings of a good idea here, but don’t think it’s going to be as effective at curbing late-night partying as they would like.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Some high schools drop AP course offerings

Many college students use AP credit when entering a place of higher education to help them speed up their academic careers and graduate earlier, thus saving more time and money. But some high schools have decided to drop AP courses from their curriculum, according to a post on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog. Some high schools, mostly private ones, have concluded that AP courses don’t actually benefit from AP courses in college, and that they don’t provide teachers with enough teaching flexibility.

I don’t see how high schools could even consider dropping AP courses from their course offerings, as I see them to be nothing but beneficial to students in college. Many students end up graduating a semester or two early because of their credit going into college, which affords them time for things like internships or study abroad opportunities without extending their normal stay at college.

A website called ExcellenceWithoutAP.org was debuted today, listing schools that either dropped AP or never had it. Some of the schools listed still offer one or two AP courses, which I think underscores their importance. The website says that many of the schools on the list have graduated students to selective, high-ranking colleges, but how much does that help them when they get there?

I think it’s safe to say that most college students at selective colleges have at least some AP credit, except for those who come from schools on the website’s list. This puts them at somewhat of a disadvantage to their peers and ensures that they will have to spend more time and money on introductory college courses that they could have taken in high school.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Adirondack Semester teaches students about life in the wilderness

I read an article on the New York Times website today about a program called “Adirondack Semester” at St. Lawrence University in New York. The program runs every fall, and it’s aims are to get students into the wilderness and “and give them a break from what he called rampant consumerism and consumption of ecological resources,” said Baylor Johnson, the program’s director.

A group of about 10 or so students participate in the 16-week semester, first going on a trek through the High Peaks mountains to find a small village of yurts (pole tents on wooden platforms), which become their new homes.

Students take classes in nature writing, the ecology of the Adirondacks and woodworking, and live off water they haul to the campsite from Lake Massawepie, and food from a nearby farm.

Two St. Lawrence employees with wildlife survival expertise live with the students at all times, and university professors drive an hour to the site, canoe across a lake to get there, and hold all their classes outside (except when the weather is bad; then they hold them in a yurt with a wood stove). Students travel to Tupper Lake every other Thursday to get supplies, and sleep in zero-degree sleeping bags every night.

This is such an intriguing idea that this university, and a few others, have come up with. Personally, I don’t know if I would do it, not even because it means I’d be cut off from the Internet and TV, but because it seems like a long time to go out in the wilderness without seeing friends or family, though it is a really interesting idea and must be a great experience. The students who do it really seem to have liked it. Here’s a quote from one of the women who completed the program in 2004:

“ ‘The first time I came home, I was literally paralyzed by the lights and sounds,’ she said. ‘It was around the holidays, and people were being rude and pushy. I literally froze and thought, “This is for nothing.” ’

She added, ‘What it’s done for me is make me think about what I really need to make for a fulfilling life.’ ”

Grant given to math and science teach training program

Here’s another story I found interesting about training future teachers in higher education. According to a post on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, The Carnegie Corporation of New York has given $200,000 to help fund better education for future math and science teachers at public universities.

The Carnie Corporation gave the grant to the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, known as Nasulgc, which announced Monday that the program, called the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, is going to be devoted to better preparing future math and science teachers.

Officials from Nasulgc said the project aims to set up an online clearinghouse of practices among teacher-preparation programs that show potential, and will also measure the progress of each program to gauge the number of new math and science teachers by state.

Though I’m not interested in being a math or science teacher, I feel like this is another good example of strides being made to better prepare teachers and attract them to good programs. I like reading stories about new teacher education programs and grants because it shows how institutions are continuing to realize the importance of education and well-trained teachers in our society.

Good educations have proven to be good for the economy and society as a whole, but they start with good teacher and teacher-training programs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bush nominates Harvard professor as Vatican ambassdor

A professor at Harvard University was recently nominated by George W. Bushto be the U.S.’s ambassador to the Vatican. The professor, Mary Ann Glendon, teaches courses in the fields of human rights, legal theory, comparative law and constitutional law.

The article also mentions that this is just the second time a person from Massachusetts has become a Vatican ambassador, as former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn held the position from 1993 to 1997 under the Clinton administration.

Glendon is a reported anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage scholar who wrote a book in 1987 criticizing the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. Bush announced his nomination Monday, but the Senate has to vote to confirm her as the next ambassador. I don’t know how strict the Senate is on ambassador nominations, but I don’t know if I see this one going through with the Democratic majority that’s in the Senate now. I wonder how many times in history a pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage ambassador has been sent to the Vatican. My guess is not often, but that's just speculation.

While I don’t agree with Professor Glendon’s views, I think it’s pretty neat that a professor from Massachusetts has been awarded this honor. When I saw the link on EdNews.org to the Boston Globe story (“Harvard professor is Bush’s pick as Vatican ambassador”), for some reason I immediately thought Bush had picked a man, because that's the vibe I get from him generally, so it’s also interesting to see that he picked a woman.

Monday, November 5, 2007

NSSE survey results released today

Almost 40 percent of first- year college students report a parent or guardian intervening on for them to solve a problem at college, says the results of a new research study released today. These parents, who are considered to go overboard when trying to help their college-age children, are often termed “helicopter parents” by college administrators. Thirteen percent said it happens frequently.

This was the first time that any sort of actual research has been done to get figures on how often students communicate with their parents, student study habits and how often “helicopter parenting” happens. The survey was done by the National Survey of Student Engagement, and the article, from The Boston Globe (the link was from EdNews.org), lists some of its findings:

“- About seven in 10 students said they communicated ‘very often’ with a parent or guardian, with electronic means being the most common. The proportion was about the same for seniors and freshmen. ‘Very often’ was not defined as a specific number of contacts.
- Well-educated parents aren’t more likely to be helicopter parents. Poorly educated ones also intervene at about the same rate as others.
- There’s an upside to intervening parents. Their children are more engaged in college life, happier and reporting getting more from the experience.”

This article caught my attention because I never really thought about this kind of research. Certainly different parents “let go” of their college-age kids at different rates, but I’ve never even really heard of someone’s parents as being what the article refers to as “helicopter parents.” It’ll be interesting to see if there is any more sort of research done looking into this concept in the future.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"Reach" looks at shifting education for new teachers


This article appeared in the New York Times, but I found the link to it on EdNews.org. I found it particularly interesting because I’m studying to be a teacher myself right now.

The article, titled “Rethinking How to Teach New Teachers,” is basically about a new program based in Napa, Calif., called Reach, that is shaking up the world of how to teach future teachers.

At most colleges, education students spend countless hours in the classroom learning the theory and practice behind teaching, and significantly less time actually teaching or in classrooms. According to the National Education Association, there will be an estimated need of two million teachers in the next decade alone. The article also mentions that, according to many education experts, new teachers feel so unprepared after getting their initial license, that 50 percent of them quit the profession after five years.

Reach is a two year program that starts education students off in the classroom on the first day with a teaching mentor at their side, then works to apply what they learned in the classroom to theories of educational practice. Another important part of the program is that students are “in schools with strong leadership,” and that 10 to 12 students start the program in a “cohort” and spend the next two years together, helping teaching students to bond, bounce ideas off one another and give advice.

At Northeastern, I feel as though I will have gained more classroom experience than some prospective teachers who got their degrees at other colleges because of co-op, but still feel like I won’t be as prepared as I would like. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about my remaining education classes (five, plus a semester student teaching with a seminar; I've taken two thus far), and think, “I’m really supposed to know what I’m doing after that?”

I feel like having the opportunity to get involved with a program like Reach would be beneficial to all future educators, and a chance I would jump at if I had it. That program’s structure and aims seem amazing to me, and hopefully more colleges will hop on the wagon of more experience for future educators to go along with all the classroom learning they endure.

University of Georgia says "Every Drop Counts"

Here’s another somewhat bizarre story from the world of higher education that I found on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog.

Apparently Georgia is suffering from such a severe water shortage, that the University of Georgia at Athens has started a new campaign called “Every Drop Counts,” where they urge students not to flush “if it’s yellow.” At Saturday’s homecoming game, the university had attendants standing guard in every bathroom to ensure people flushed right.

This story reminded me of when I used to have to do the same thing at my best friend’s lake house as when I was in middle school and high school, because they didn’t have a proper septic system yet.



This story might be a little too strange to be posting on a higher education news website, but I guess that’s the “uncommon news gets attention” factor of journalism at play. I also liked the title of the posting, “U. of Georgia’s New Team Color: Yellow.” It definitely caught my eye.

I think it’s great that the university is doing its part to try and conserve water, but it just might be a little smellier now in the University of Georgia bathrooms.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fee spikes at some New Jersey colleges

This is a really short story from NJ.com, but it still raises a few ethical questions. I found the link to this story from EdNews.org.

Some New Jersey colleges have started raising student fees in order to generate more money for the colleges without raising tuition, to avoid tuition caps. The author gave a couple examples, such as these: at William Paterson University, students pay $650 annually to fund a building they may never even see before graduating. At Rutgers University, students pay $286 a year to fund tickets for sporting events they may not ever attend.

I take issue with this because it’s simply not fair. I know universities must charge students to an extent to help fund campus activities and such, but these charges are ridiculous. The story also mentions how at some of the state’s public colleges, fees total over $3,000 a year. At least when students pay tuition, they know what they’re paying for. Students shouldn’t have to fork over large amounts of money to fund a building that will never benefit them, or for tickets to athletic games they have no interest in seeing.

Perhaps the colleges could focus more on fundraising from alumni who are interested in giving for the sake of giving. Making each student pay thousands of dollars in fees during their tenure at the university just to avoid tuition caps is unacceptable and perhaps there should be a fee cap as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Colorado State helps preserve historical remains in Iraq and Afganistan

Here’s a story coming out of Colorado State, which I found on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, that shows a positive idea coming from this terrible War in Iraq.

One of the university’s researchers and a graphic artist will begin designing a deck of playing cards to distribute to soldiers depicting historical artifacts, relics and ancient sites from Iraq and Afghanistan that could potentially be destroyed by the war. Each card will show a different site, relic or artifact and/or give advice on how to help preserve them.

One of the examples the author of this post gave was that the five of clubs, for example, says, “Drive around, not over, archaeological sites." The creators also hope the cards will help restrict the amount of trade in artifact looting and the story also mentions how over 50,000 decks of cards will be distributed to soldiers. This is a great idea on many counts.

It raises awareness among U.S. soldiers about the need to preserve historical artifacts in the countries they’re occupying, and also raises awareness among the people back in America. It also supplies soldiers with a form of entertainment if they didn’t already have a deck of playing cards. If they did have a generic brand of cards, these decks give them interesting facts and ways to preserve important artifacts.

We may be in the middle of a war in the Middle East, but preserving ancient artifacts, relics and sites is still important part of preserving the history of the human race, which has thousands of years of records hidden in those artifacts and sites.

I think soldiers will appreciate the effort by the Colorado State team and even if they don’t adhere to the suggestions of the deck of cards, hopefully it will make them more conscious of helping preserve remains of human history.

Monday, October 29, 2007

UNH professor cleared of charges

This posting on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog caught my eye simply because the title was a complete alliteration: “Angry Academic Acquitted After Attack Against Administrator.” The use of the literary device by the author is pretty neat, and the story itself is somewhat bizarre.

A University of New Hampshire professor was cleared of two criminal charges, stalking and disorderly conduct, in connection with an alleged attack on an administrator at the university in June. The professor, John Collins, went on an angry tirade, blaming the administrator for a parking ticket he had received. He was found not guilty of the charges but still faces another court hearing for the restraining order the administrator took out against him after the attack, citing that Collins threatened to kill her.

This story is just such a strange one coming from the world of higher education that I felt like including it on my blog for a laugh. I guess people will try to do anything to get out of a parking ticket these days, although one person who commented on the posting suggested that perhaps the woman’s claims were false, and that if Collins had shown anger, it may not have been to the extent she said he had.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Towson cuts special admissions program

I read on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog about this story today. Towson University has decided to drop its “Academic Special Admissions Program,” a program designed to draw more men to the school, that it instituted during the 2005-06 school year. Towson’s student population is currently 63 percent female and 37 percent male, according to Collegeboard.com.

The program, which has already proven ineffective, had less strict standards for male students,and in my opinion, was completely unfair. The program’s main purpose was to give male students admission who did not meet the university’s standards for high school grades, but did well on the SAT.

One of the Chronicle’s articles discovered that the male students admitted under this program had an average GPA of 2.8 but an average SAT score of 1222, and students who have to meet the college’s regular standards had an average GPA of 3.4 but an average SAT score of 1075. Only 70 percent of the students admitted under this program stayed at Towson for more than a year, which is 15 percent less than students admitted under regular standards, according to the Baltimore Sun.

This program was used as an experiment, but the fact that Towson even implemented it in the first place angers me. Male students shouldn’t be expected to meet lower standards just because the college is trying to draw more of them in. Bentley's student population is 59 percent male, 41 percent female, and Wentworth's is 82 percent male and only 18 percent female, but you don’t see their officials lowering the standards for women to draw more to campus. Admissions standards should not be adjusted for applicants based on sex.

This program goes back to my last post about how time and time again, it has been proven that high school grades are much better predictors about college performance than SATs scores, so the way Towson officials designed this program doesn't make much sense. It doesn’t surprise me that the dropout rate among the students admitted under this program was higher than for regular students.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

University of California may abolish SAT subject tests

I read on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog today that the University of California may drop its SAT subject tests requirement for in-state students. Currently, applicants have to take two tests in different subject areas, but UC’s Board of Admissions and Relations With Schools said the tests the tests don’t accurately represent African American and Hispanic students and the requirement:

“contributes very little to UC’s ability to predict which applicants will perform well initially at UC.”

This is a positive step for colleges who are starting to move away from standardized tests as a strict condition for judging applicants. While having a standard measuring tool for prospective students can be useful, it shouldn’t be one of the biggest factors in determining whether to accept students.

Many time SAT scores are completely inaccurate in predicting how students will fare in college. For example, one of my freshman year roommates got a score of over 1300 points (on the old 1600 point scale) on the regular SAT, then partied almost every night when she got to Northeastern and dropped out after one semester. I got a 1200, and have been doing very well in all my classes here.

Some have also called the SATs biased, and that they scores don’t accurately reflect the capabilities of minorities and students from low-income homes, which I completely agree with. It’s been proven that SAT scores do not predict future performance well and that high school grades are better to evaluate how a student will do in college.

Institutions of higher education should look at high school grades, extracurricular activities, the admissions essay and recommendations over standardized test scores when deciding whether to accept an applicant. It seems over the past few years that colleges have begun to place less importance on standardized tests scores, and I’m glad to see that the University of California is working toward getting rid of the SAT subject tests altogether.

Should professors have advanced degrees?


Check out my podcast about two Northeastern professors who were told their contracts would not be renewed because they don't have advanced degrees in their fields.

Here's the Northeastern News article on this controversy from last May.

I recently learned that Gladys McKie will be back at Northeastern in the spring to teach public relations classes; however, after the spring semester, there has been no decision as to whether she will be allowed to stay at the university.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another death at Rider University

Rider University is looking pretty bad these days, but unfortunately this school's problems aren't isolated to this one campus. After the death of a freshman from alcohol poisoning last spring in a hazing incident, Rider University just lost another freshman, 19-year-old Justin Warfield, from an alleged heroin overdose. I found this story on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog.

The one thing I don't particularly agree with is that the student who allegedly sold Mr. Warfield the heroin, Kiernan Hunt, 19, is being charged in connection with his death. I think he should definitely be charged for possessing and selling drugs, but shouldn't be held responsible for Mr. Warfield's death.

Mr. Warfield was a legal adult who knew what he was doing when he took the drugs. With a death of a young person, it's tempting to try and place the blame on someone else, but Mr. Warfield's addiction is the only thing to blame in this case, not the student who supplied him with the drugs.

In a way, charging Hunt with the connection of Mr. Warfield's death is like saying that a package store should be blamed for distributing the booze that led to an alcohol poisoning death. Package stores aren't held responsible because those consuming their products, whether of legal age or not, are the ones making the decision.

Three students were also charged in the alcohol poisoning death of the Rider freshman last fall. Again, they should be held responsible for supplying an underage person with alcohol, but not suffer any other criminal charges relating to his death.

Even though Rider has been featured in the news lately because of these tragic stories, they're unfortunately seen everywhere. College students are abusing alcohol and other drugs to a great extent, and it's just a matter of time before we here about more of these stories coming from other universities across the country.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Romney proposes more money for certain majors

This story appeared in the Boston Globe yesterday, but I found the link to it on EdNews.org.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t think this article is very well written. The headline and first three grafs all imply that the article will be about one topic, but then diverges into other parts of Romney’s press conference.

I want to write about the beginning, which deals with Mitt Romney proposing that college students who are going into certain fields get more financial aid than students going into other fields. His platform on this is that those who are preparing for jobs that will have a bigger impact on the well-being of society, such as teaching, law or medicine, deserve more money than a student who is striving to become an economist or engineer.

"I like the idea of linking the level of support that we're able to provide to young people going to college to the contributions they're going to make to our society," Romney said.

Even though people in my future profession, teaching, would benefit from this, I don’t like the idea. I don’t think it’s fair that certain people get more financial aid than others when the need is equal. Students who are just as needy shouldn’t be penalized because their passion doesn’t fit into a subjective category.

I can also see a problem with students abusing this initiative if it were put into effect. If a student knows he’s going to get more money for a certain major, he could take his core classes under a different major, say human services, and then switch his major in the second or third year to something that wouldn’t be given extra money, such as engineering.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Commuter Connection

Today I read about a pretty cool thing Mansfield University, in Pennslyvania, is doing for its commuters on the Chronicle of Higher Education website.

Mansfield has an undergraduate population of about 2,900, 60 percent of which are commuters. In an attempt to reach out to commuters and get them more involved in the school's community, Mansfield officials have opened a place on campus called the “Commuter Connection,” which has a lounge for commuters to stay in between classes, a computer room with three computers and a printer, and seven bedrooms the students can reserve in which to stay over night.

Mansfield officials hope the Commuter Connection will help students who have trouble getting to campus, such as those who don’t own a car or their car breaks down, and also hope that it will help students get involved with other campus activities.

One example of the benefit of this new place is that one student, who has class until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, wanted to try the new tango class that was offered at 9 p.m. She previously had no where to go between her classes and the dance class, but can now stay at the Communter Connection until the tango lessons.

Another commuter, whose car broke down during the first week of the semester, stayed at the Commuter Connection for two weeks until he and his girlfriend were able to gather enough money to fix it.

I think this is a great idea if universities can afford to do it without charging the commuters extra for the services. The officials at Mansfield were able to do so because the school’s housing was not full, enabling them to use an unoccupied section of a dorm for the Commuter Connection.

I know several people who commute to the college near my home town, Fitchburg State College, and making friends and getting involved in the campus is not an easy feat for them. My sister, who lives about 30 minutes away from Fitchburg State, has wanted to get involved with campus activities, but can’t find the time or the motivation to drive there and back two times a day.

Fitchburg State is also a big commuter school, and I’m sure people like my sister would love to have a place to stay between classes or after class to go to a campus event or club meeting. This is another example of a good idea at a college that I hope catches on and begins to spread to better the student experience.

The director of the National Survey of Student Engagement, George D. Kuh, sums up Mansfield's aims well:

"Keeping commuters involved, and not just around, is key, says Mr. Kuh. 'We have to be thinking more systematically than finding a way to keep them on campus more hours.'"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

VT-Engage kickoff to honor Virginia Tech shooting victims

I read on the Boston Globe’s website that Virginia Tech will kickoff a community service project today to honor the victims of the shooting that claimed 32 lives April 16.

Though the root of this project comes from an incredibly sad story, the outcome will be people taking an awful negative and turning it into something good for the community, which I believe the victims would appreciate, as many of them were involved in service projects before the shooting.

The project is called VT-Engage, and its goal is 600,000 hours of service with community projects. The idea for the program came from a meeting during the summer with Bryan and Renee Cloyd, whose daughter Austin, was one of the victims.

The project has already garnered more support than ever hoped by the Virginia Tech officials and the Cloyds. Virginia Tech officials hoped for about 60-80 organizations to pledge to sign up – but more than 100 have already agreed to help. The original goal of VT-Engage was to have 300,000 hours of community service, but the alumni said they would match it, raising the number of hours to 600,000.

Two other schools, Boston College’s athletic department and Southwest Virginia Community College have already pledged to help out, and hopefully more will follow. I’d love to see Northeastern and other colleges around Boston start to get involved in this project.

VT-Engage is an example of how resilient the human spirit can be, by taking a terrible tragedy and making good come out of it. It’s no wonder Virginia Tech’s motto is “Ut Prosim” (That I may serve).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dancing check promotes student loan savings law

Here’s an interesting/semi-hilarious look at politicians using generally youth-based internet media as a tool. I found this story on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s news blog.

In a 30-second video on YouTube, California Representative George Miller plays a dancing check for $4,400, which represents legislature signed into law last month. The new law will cut interest on federally guaranteed student loans in half over five years, giving the average student an estimated $4,400 savings.



The best part of this quick video is the writing, with Miller stating:
“I’ll be honest, I’m in to college students. I’m not looking for anything exclusive. I’d just like to get with as many students as I can.”


The end of the ad urges students to check out the Education and Labor Committee’s website “to find out if you’re compatible.” (View the ad on the committee’s website here).

This ad is pretty funny and is an interesting way to reach out to college students. Lately I’ve been seeing more political figures use youth-centered media to reach out to the young voters. Governor Deval Patrick, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and more smaller-time politicians all have Facebook profiles. It’s definitely an intriguing and I think smart way to garner the attention and support of college students.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Patrick proposes bill to fund state and community colleges

This is an exciting bit of news for state and community colleges in Massachusetts. The article is from The Boston Globe’s website, but I found the link to it on EdNews.org, a leading website for news across the educational spectrum.

Governor Deval Patrick proposed a 10-year, $2 billion higher education bill to the legislature Wednesday. Whether it passes remains to be seen, but the bill would allocate funds to Massachusetts’s state and community college campuses for new academic buildings or renovations. Patrick hopes this bill will help bring the state education system up to the standards of the rest of the country and world.

The article mentioned a few of the projects included in the bill, such as a new academic building at UMass-Boston ($100 million), a new science lab at UMass-Amherst ($100 million) and a center for design innovation at Mass College of Art ($25 million).

I hope this bill will pass but I’m not so sure it will, as Governor Patrick has proposed a few highly expensive bills lately, like the five-year $10 billion plan he revealed in August for transportation repairs and the recent plan to build three casinos in Massachusetts, which will undoubtedly cost a lot. This bill is referred to as a “bond bill” in the article because it says the plan will rely on borrowed money, but I’m not exactly sure who or what they plan to borrow from.

Though the price tag is quite high, this is a great bill for improving Massachusetts’s state colleges and I’m glad to see the governor spending some money on education, because it’s definitely one of the more important issues in Massachusetts. Spending money on state and community colleges is good because a lot of students on the lower-income side can’t afford private colleges, but should still have the opportunity to get great educations at state and community colleges.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Presidential plagiarism

I read a story about the president of Southern Illinois University on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog today. Basically, a faculty committee was assembled to decided whether the president’s dissertation, from when he was a student in 1984, was plagiarized. The committee agreed that the president, Glenn Poshard, used words that were not his own without citing them, but said he made “mistakes and errors” instead of actually calling it plagiarism and taking disciplinary action.

To me, it seems like Southern Illinois is just trying to save face. Though what constitutes plagiarism was ill-defined in the student handbook at the time, Poshard did cite some works while not citing other, so this shows that he knew what he was doing, which is also shown in this quote from the article:

"Mr. Poshard argues that he was a ‘novice’ in his field and therefore ‘did not want to assert his own voice.’ In addition, the president of the university says he received no training on the meaning of plagiarism."

I think Poshard should step down because he obviously plagiarized part of a huge project to receive his degree. Presidents of universities should be the pinnacle of academic standards, and not taking action when the college’s president is found to have plagiarized sends an awful message to the students. Even if the dissertation was turned in 23 years ago, it really shouldn’t matter. He plagiarized and should be punished for it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Collegian editor will stay at post

J. David McSwane, the editor in chief of the Rocky Mountain Collegian who approved the controversial editorial I wrote about Sept. 27 will be keeping his job, The New York Times reported Monday.

After McSwane and his staff ran the four letter editorial, “Taser this. F--- Bush,” in extra large font, some were immediately calling for him to resign, while the newspaper also lost a substantial amount of money in advertising. McSwane said he wouldn’t resign and is proud to head a paper that respects First Amendment rights.

I’m glad to hear that McSwane isn’t going to be fired. Like I noted before, I think what he and his staff did was an immature way to get their point across, but that they should still have the right to publishing an editorial such as the one they did.

I liked this quote from Collegian writer, Aaron Hedge, who was assigned to cover the controversy, summing up how the staff felt during the last two weeks:

“The staff was unsure whether or not they would keep their leader, so when we had support we were on top of the world, and when we were chastised we felt like we were walking through a vat of peanut butter. There was no calm medium.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education news blog

I’m particularly fond of the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, where I get many of the ideas for my blog posts. I wouldn’t call this a “traditional blog,” as it includes posts from more than one writer every day.

The bloggers post about five to 10 stories a day about news in higher education from around the country and sometimes from around the world. The site is updated with new posts throughout the day, featuring a wide range of topics. For instance, today there is a post about Latin American students flocking to Australia for a college education, and also a post about how the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education voted to approve a new contract agreement with the state.


Some of the posts are written from a strictly news point of view like this one on consumer groups trying to get colleges to curb credit-card marketing. Some also have a bit of opinion or humor injected into them, like this post on a group of students who hung up posters saying they hate Muslims in an attempt, they claim, to expose “Islamophobic racism.”

The full text of each days posts is listed on the homepage, but you can click on the link for a specific posts and there is space to comment on the article. The blog archive, dating back to February 2006, is listed on the side of the page and makes it easy to find posts from other dates.

The blog is just one aspect of the entire Chronicle of Higher Education website, which also lists the entire contents of the current issue and news according to category, such as athletics or money management. Overall I think this news blog is great because it encompasses news from around the country and sometimes the globe, and the posts are by many different writers, so you can get the perspective of not just one writer, but many all in one day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The future of testing in higher education?

A new testing center at Penn State has been built to help prevent cheating and aid professors in test design, I read on the Boston Globe's website today. After swiping their campus ID, students' photos pop up onto the attendant's screen, along with information on what kind of materials the student can use for the test, such as scrap paper or a book.

There are 160 cubicles for testing, all equipped with a computer that only lets the student access the test and nothing more. Along with helping to prevent cheating, professors can use items that might not be possible with a paper exam, such as graphics, animation and sound files. The center, which is set to open in the spring, will also help professors because they can use time outside of class to administer the exam.

I think this is a cool idea overall. As cheaters get more sophisticated, using technological advances such as text messaging and other ways to cheat on tests, developments to help prevent cheating must get more sophisticated as well. I feel like this kind of testing could be the wave of the future and more universities will begin to institute methods such as the ones being used at Penn State. Testing solely with computers is also a great way to save some trees, and I know that writing essays on a computer is way less time-consuming and much neater than writing them with a pen and paper when tested in class.

The only drawback I see to this is for those who are more comfortable with paper tests to ones on a computer screen, but I feel as this catches on over the years, future college students will be more comfortable using technology and feel less bothered by testing on a computer. My generation is kind of in between on this issue. In elementary and middle school computers where not very advanced and we didn’t have much exposure to them, but caught on to the new advancements of technology quickly in the last five to 10 years. I feel that we will be able to adjust accordingly should this kind of testing become the new wave of the future.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

UMass student sues over grade

Do I even have to note how ridiculous this story is?

Brian Marquis, a 51-year-old student at UMass-Amherst is suing the university for a grade he got in his Problems in Social Thought class, the Boston Globe reported. Marquis, a paralegal seeking his bachelor’s in legal studies and sociology, thought he should have received an A minus in the class, but received a C because the professor graded on a curve. His case was dismissed by the US District Court in Springfield, so he’s taking it to the federal level, saying the school violated his contractual and civil rights.

Being arrested for the color of your skin is a violation of civil rights. Not receiving a C in a course that your professor felt you deserved.

Marquis said based on his scores on tests and papers that he should have received an A minus, but his professor graded on a curve and gave him the grade that he thought reflected Marquis’s work. Marquis said he’s suing the university because the C could bring down his GPA and make him less attractive to law schools.

I can understand feeling as though a grade is unfair, and in this case maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. Marquis, who enrolled in UMass-Amherst in spring 2006, said his GPA is about a B-plus. This C will bring it down, but not enough that it’s going to destroy him and his prospects for law school. If the professor says he’s not going to change it, it’s time to suck it up and put it out of your mind.

The reporter on this piece, Jonathan Saltzman, does a good job of summarizing how ridiculous lawsuits have gotten out of hand these past few years:

"In an era when the courts are asked to decide who owns a record-setting home run ball and who is to blame when a cup of hot coffee from a fast-food restaurant scalds a person, it seems perhaps only modestly surprising that a grade dispute leads to litigation."

I know it’s disappointing to not get the grade you felt you deserved, but grades and GPA aren’t everything and at that point it’s time to suck it up and move on.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

UNH professors vote for possible strike

Professors at the University of New Hampshire have voted, 194-55, in favor of a strike if contract negotiations cannot be reached with the university, reported the Boston Globe yesterday. The main concerns of the strike are opposing views on health care benefits and pay. The vote doesn’t necessarily mean the professors will go on strike, but serves as a way to bring the administration’s attention back to negotiating, said Dale Barkley, the president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Whether the union will actually strike or not, I always get a bit angry when I hear stories like this. I don’t know the particulars of this situations or what it’s like to be a professor at UNH, but teachers and professors striking to better their contract negotiations just seems wrong to me. I do someday aspire to be a teacher and know that I’ll most likely be in a union, which is one thing I don’t particularly like about the profession. Unions like these need to consider who they’re hurting most when they strike: not the administration, but the students.

Is better pay and/or health care benefits really worth putting students’ educations in jeopardy for however long the teachers are striking? For some teachers I think the answer is yes, for others, teaching is really all that matters to them. Obviously in a union if a teacher is outvoted they have to go along with the strike, but unions should do all they can to avoid a strike because the real losers in the deal are the kids

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Rutgers helps out

I read on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog that Rutgers University has announced a program that give assistance to economically disadvantaged eighth graders from local school districts. Rutgers will pay for students to attend campus events, give them college-planning advice and test preparation, and guarantees the students with a full-ride if they are admitted in the future.

I love hearing about programs like these that give hope for college to economically disadvantaged students. Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, but if a student can’t pay for school or has to work to pay tuition, there is a much lower chance of successful higher education for these students.

I wrote in my blog post from Sept. 16 that I hope more schools will follow Northeastern’s lead in trying to help out students with less than ideal situations and it looks like Rutgers is doing just that. Hopefully these students will gain some insight into the importance of education through the aid of Rutgers and conquer their life circumstances.

Monday, October 1, 2007

More Blacks and Hispanics in jail than college dorms

I read on the Diverse Education website that more Blacks and Hispanics live in jails than college dorms, according to a government report, although the number of commuters combined with those who live in dorms do outweigh the number in prison.

Reading this makes me sad and is another reminder of how important education is and why I want to get into the field of urban education. The president and CEO of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, had this to say on the report:

“It’s one of the great social and economic tragedies of our time. It points to the signature failure in our education system and how we’ve been raising our children.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. Our society’s values are so messed up that we idolize sports stars and rappers and trivialize the importance of education and values, which frequently makes children feel embarrassed about being good at school and not good at something like sports.

It is so important for teachers and parents today to try and instill the “right” values in children. I use the word “right” in quotes because there can be many different values that contribute to the intellectual and compassionate development of children and adolescents and not everyone’s values are the same, but some, such as the importance of education and striving to be a good person, are unquestionably the kinds we should be teaching our kids.

I’m a sports fan and enjoy watching TV or listening to music, but I try not to place these people above the real heroes in our society. This is part of the reason why I’ve moved away from sports journalism as my career choice into am now exploring the possibility of being a teacher. I’m not interested in other fields of journalism besides sports writing, but I feel like I’ll have more of a positive impact on society by being a teacher, especially in an urban environment where the lack of caring, qualified teachers is astounding.

Hopefully in the next couple of generations we’ll see a shift in some of these socioeconomic inequalities and start teaching kids the values that matter.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Collegian says, "Taser this."

By now you’ve probably heard about the editorial in the Rocky Mountain Collegian at Colorado State University in response to the tasering of Andrew Myer at the University of Florida that has sparked another debate over free speech.

The editorial, which appeared in Friday’s edition of Collegian contained four word: “Taser this. F--- Bush.” The paper’s already lost $50,000 in advertising and many are calling for editor David McSwane to step down, which he has refused to do, defending his actions as freedom of speech.

McSwane said he and his staff were trying to spark a debate with this editorial and they certainly have, but never expected the kind of response they’ve received. (Though I suppose McSwane probably wouldn’t have sanctioned the editorial had he known people would be calling for his head).



I’ve been on an editorial board that’s trying to make decisions about what to write for the week’s editorial and can understand how it might have seemed good like a good idea at the time. I do, however, think it was an unintelligent move, as using expletives to get your point across makes you sound uneducated. Smart people should be able to express themselves in a compelling way other than using profanity.

That being said, I still don’t think McSwane should be forced to resign or asked to step down. Just because he is the editor doesn’t mean the blame should fall solely on him and though what the paper printer was ill-advised, it’s still an issue of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

It’s not exactly a secret that Bush isn’t well liked by the majority of citizens these days and if the Collegian editorial board wants to write something like that to express themselves, they should be able to. I think they should have done it in a classier way, but the issue of freedom of speech still stands.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Credit cards equal cash for some Iowa Universities

I read in the Chronicle of Education news blog that the Des Moines Register reported last week that Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have been marketing credit card companies to students in order to produce millions of dollars for the universities’ private alumni organizations.

The university officials said the money they collect through these business dealings benefit the institutions and the students, but some universities have come under fire for this practice recently in investigations looking into the relationships between colleges and their dealings with loan companies.

I don’t have a problem with this kind of business scheme because college students are old enough to make decisions about credit cards and how often, if ever, they should use them. Here at Northeastern, credit card companies are not allowed to set up booths on campus to try and recruit potential users.

I appreciate that Northeastern officials are trying to protect their students and think this policy is fine, but also think the policies used at the Iowa Universities is fine too. If they want to market credit cards to their students in order to generate money for the university, go for it. Students have the choice of opening that piece of mail with a credit card offer or signing up for one at a booth on campus and need to learn how to be responsible with their money.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rider needs a reality check

Rider University in Lawrence, New Jersey, has implemented a new alcohol policy this fall after the death of freshman Gary DeVercelly last spring. The university has made many changes to its previous policy that I doubt will have any real effect on binge and under-age drinking.

DeVercelly died from alcohol poisoning after attending a party at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. As part of the new policy, freshman must attend a 90-minute seminar on the dangers of drinking, alcohol has been banned on campus except for a few choice places, there are harsher penalties for those who break the rules, and “watchdogs” have been placed in sorority and fraternity houses.

Rider needs a reality check. These new rules and penalties are not going to help curb under-age and binge drinking; all they do is protect the university from liability. College kids are going to drink, whether it’s legal or illegal, and making freshman attend a 90-minute seminar on the dangers of drinking is going to do nothing more than make their eyes roll to the back of their heads.

When I was a freshman at Northeastern we had to complete an online course in alcohol education that absolutely no one took seriously; it was just seen more as a boring waste of time. We’ve had that information drummed into our brains since middle and high school.

The only way there is going to be a substantial change in college students’ attitudes and behaviors toward alcohol is if there is a societal shift that stops glamorizing it, which I doubt will ever happen. All that’s going to result from these new policies is more rule-breaking and perhaps an even heightened desire to drink illegally (the whole forbidden fruit syndrome).

Now, students’ parents will be immediately notified for illegal possession or intoxication instead of after two warnings, and students will have to go to an alcohol education program or face expulsion. Rider officials will nab some kids on this, but my guess is that partying will be taken off campus, as shown here in a quote by Rider freshman David Kraus:

“I was looking forward to partying. But now I don’t think I will. At least not on campus.”

Monday, September 24, 2007

Jena 6 protests

Last week hundreds of students from historically black colleges and universities held peaceful protests to draw attention to the injustice of the Jena 6 case. The case is somewhat complicated and would take too long to explain, so I’ll let you read the story for yourself.

Many are calling the protests the “Montgomery bus boycott of this generation.” In Atlanta, hundreds of students from Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College marched through downtown traffic to support their cause before heading down to Jena on buses. Many wore shirts that said “Free the Jena 6” and sang as they marched. Broderick McBride, a Morehouse freshman led the singing as his group marched into downtown Jena and told Diverse Education magazine:

“This march is bigger than the Jena 6. This is the start of a movement that will liberate our people.”
This march is hopefully just the start of something big and it seems that college campuses are where this movement is going to find its roots, leaders and supporters and continue to grow. There are still enormous problems of racial bias in this country, especially in the South, and the charges brought against the six students are completely excessive and unfair. I commend the students leading the protests for taking a non-violent approach.

I don’t feel like violence should go unpunished, but this fight was just one of a series of many white and black fights that happened after the noose incident. Singling out this group and this specific brawl is not right. I’d be willing to bet if six white teenagers beat up a black one in Jena the most they would get is a slap on the wrist.

This is an exciting time for those involved in civil rights and it will be interesting to watch the development of the case and the development of this movement as it comes out of college campuses. Add Seymour Jr., who covered the protests for Diverse Education magazine closed his article with a quote from Spelman College freshman Markieta Woods, which I would like to close with as well because I like it.

“We want them to see that our generation isn’t stagnant and we do want to make change.”

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Professor says he was fired for thoughts on Adam and Eve

A professor at Southwestern Community College in Des Moines contends he was recently fired for teaching students in his western civilization class that the story of Adam and Eve is a myth and not something to be taken literally, the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog reported. The college wouldn’t reveal whether or not the professor, Steve Bitterman, was fired, but he says the college took the side of students who were upset by Bitterman’s comments. Bitterman talked to the Des Moines Register and had this to say:

“I’m just a little bit shocked myself that a college in good standing would back up students who insist that people who have been through college and have a master’s degree, a couple actually, have to teach that there were such things as talking snakes or lose their job.”


I may be a little biased because I don’t believe in organized religion, but I totally agree with Bitterman on this one. That he was allegedly fired for giving his opinion on a story from the Bible is completely ridiculous and shows the beating freedom of speech has taken over the last few years.

It reminds me of Andrew Meyer being tasered last week at the John Kerry forum at the University of Florida for getting riled up when he was asking the senator a few questions. Meyer was doing nothing unconstitutional and wasn’t a danger to anyone, but paid a price for expressing himself, just as it seems Bitterman has.

The college, located in an historically Republican state, apparently feels it's dangerous to take into account the viewpoints of others and let professors deviate from the mainstream thought. I like to think nothing like this would ever happen in liberal Massachusetts, but with the state of this country right now, I’m not so sure.

Friday, September 21, 2007

No more boring application essays! Well, hopefully...

I know my last post was also about Tufts, but this story was too interesting to pass up. According to an article on the NPR website Tufts, in an attempt to stem the tide of boring, generic college essays, has begun offering optional essay questions on its application that are far from the norm. One of the options is to write a short story titled "The Disappearing Professor" or "The End of MTV." Tufts officials feel this will give the admissions employees better clues to who the student is and his or her creativity.

Some say this admissions process doesn't work and isn't a good tool for evaluating leadership, like Howard Gardener, a Harvard professor and author:

"The essays might indicate whether you have a quirky kind of mind, whether you can think about things outside-the-box, so to speak, whether you might be an interesting person to have on campus. But it's probably not the right way to assess leadership or practicality or creativity, in my view."

I don't see how this wouldn't be an excellent tool for assessing creativity and since these essays are optional, an applicant who chooses to take a chance instead of going the typical safe route, could be more of a leader and independent thinker than those who choose the traditional questions.

I would have loved to answer a more creative question when I applied to Northeastern. My essay, about how my dad has been one of the most positive influences in my life, was well-written but mundane and generic. It's hard to answer a boring question creatively and I felt like I couldn't express who I really was through that essay. It was more about detailing events of life and how they affected me.

For those who say leadership and other important qualities can't be assessed from these creative essays, I say look at the student's extracurricular activities, like if the student was on student council or the captain of a sports team. I would love to see more colleges start instituting this policy and give applicants the chance to stand out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tufts travel arrangements

Tufts University just announced that it will no longer let outside companies pay partial or full fees for employee trips to overseas study sites, which is a common practice at many universities, an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education website said. Last month the New York State attorney general's office subpoenaed several universities and independent travel companies to investigate whether these trips influence the travel choices available to students. Tufts said it changed its policy in order to avoid inappropriate appearances and the treasurer and vice president of finance also said: “We've been really silent on the issue of these relationships and felt we needed to specifically provide guidance to everyone at the university” and that there was no evidence of offense by Tufts. Practices similar to these were recently uncovered at some colleges that were making arrangements with student loan companies. The deals worked well for the colleges and loan companies, but unfairly limited options for students.

This leads me to wonder how many other colleges around the Boston area still receive funding from outside travel companies and if that limits the travel options available to students. Tufts claims it has done nothing wrong and I have no evidence to prove otherwise, but it seems somewhat suspicious for the university to suddenly change its policy a month after these investigations began. It will be interesting to see if other Boston-area colleges follow suit or if any sort of wrongdoings will be uncovered in the coming months or years. It seems to me like universities would be likely to give an extra plug to the companies that pay for trips for employees over those who don’t. I think it’s unfair to students but also understand the world that we live in. It’s just business.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Heisman hopeful

The last time a football player from the Boston-area won the Heisman trophy was before I was even born, when Doug Flutie won it at Boston College in 1984. But that could all change this season. Quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 985 yards and seven touchdowns over Boston College's first three games could bring some pride back to Boston this year. With Ryan at the helm, the Eagles are now 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference to begin the season.

It's interesting that coming out of high school, most major colleges didn't give Ryan a second look, but Boston College was one of the few to give him a chance. That just goes to show how you don't always know someone's true potential from the numbers they put up on paper, in sports or in academics. Ryan's now on pace to throw for 3,940 yards and 28 touchdowns over BC's 12-game schedule. Let's hope he's good enough to bring that trophy back to Boston.

(All information courtesy of Sporting News).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Torch Scholars Program

Northeastern recently instituted a new scholarship program called the Torch Scholars Program. After reading about the program on the Chronicle of Higher Education website , I loved the idea and wonder why more schools don't offer such a scholarship, especially schools around the urban environment of Boston. The Torch Scholars Program is for high school students who normally wouldn't meet Northeastern's admission standards.

The applicants are typically part of the first generation in their families to go to college and some have tragic life experiences that may have hindered their on-paper success in high school. With this scholarship, Northeastern hopes to increase the socioeconomic diversity among its students, the Chronicle of Higher Education article said.


Some may be opposed to this scholarship because they feel students should have to meet the same requirements they did to get into Northeastern, but I am not one of those people. These prospective students have their own criteria to meet that most Northeastern students do not, such as undergoing a series of intense interviews and take a personality test, among other requirements. Reading the stories of some of the recipients on the Torch Scholars Program website is heartbreaking and a true testament to how much these students deserve the scholarships.

I say more colleges should follow Northeastern's lead and identify those high school students who may not have the highest high school GPA, but deserve the chance to prove themselves at a school like Northeastern and rise above the disappointing circumstances of their lives.

Friday, September 14, 2007

An introduction

"Education is not the filling of a pail,but the lighting of a fire." - William Butler Yeats

Welcome to my blog on issues of higher education, specifically around the Boston area. Education plays a tremendous role in everyone's lives, whether formal or otherwise and while universities are a typically a place of learning and growth, they can also be a place of tremendous controversy. I hope to examine and provide commentary on some of these issues, ranging anywhere from issues of diversity to school housing. Though I aspire to be an elementary school teacher one day, college is hopefully where future students will be headed and the world of higher education is intriguing place to explore.