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

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.