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February 27, 2006

Parent Program shares online course about drinking with other schools

Tomorrow, Marj will be meeting with officials from other universities to share information on our online course for parents about alcohol. The Pioneer Press has a brief article about it.

The University of Minnesota found a ready audience of parents when it built an online course for them about student life and alcohol. Now the class is attracting interest from colleges around Minnesota and the country.

"First Year Seminar for Parents: Alcohol Use on Campus" has drawn about 225 parents. Evaluations show that parents learned about student alcohol use and that they planned to talk to their children, said Marj Savage, director of the U's parent program.

Savage will meet Tuesday with student life and health officials from about 20 universities and colleges, including several University of Wisconsin campuses and the University of Michigan.

A recent report showed that binge-drinking is on the rise at the U.

Forty-five percent of undergraduates reported "high-risk" drinking, according to the Boynton Health Service survey. That was up from 40 percent in a 2004 report and was the highest percentage in 13 years of data. High-risk drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in one sitting.

Parents affect student behavior, says Savage, who helped build the course along with U family social science professor Jodi Dworkin. The course notes that students are less likely to binge if they perceive their parents know what's going on and disapprove.

U of M parents can still enroll in the course at no charge.

"Students suffocate under tens of thousands in loans"

according to USA Today, which reports that the staggering student loan debts many of today's college students are carrying may weigh heavily on their futures:

On July 1, the rate on new federally guaranteed student loans will hit a fixed 6.8%, the highest rate since 2001. It comes as the average graduate owes $19,000. Many undergrads, though, have debt exceeding $40,000.


The weight of debt is forcing many to put off saving for retirement, getting married, buying homes and putting aside money for their own children's educations.

Heavy student debts may also keep young adults from starting businesses, says Diana Cantor, director of the Virginia College Savings Plan. Some graduates will refuse to risk what little money they have on entrepreneurial ventures. And securing loans will now be harder. "It's a real crisis," Cantor says. "You're strapped before you get started."

February 24, 2006

Post from a parent: encourage your students to use their heads

From University of MN parent CJ in South Dakota:

My student has been at the U of M TC for three years...I was NOT excited about this choice, but being the mom, my opinion at 20 didn't matter for much. Last night we got the call that I had been waiting for and anticipating for the last three years, "Dad, I got mugged". It seems that two men came up behind my son near Augsburg College, right off U of M campus, put a metal object to the back of his head and demanded his wallet with EVERYTHING in it. Thankfully, he carries no money, but his bank card, U-card, U-pass, Social Security card, and driver's license is gone. He called the Mpls that IF they try to use his bank card, it will show up stolen. Contacted all the entities like bank, Soc. Security office, etc....the cards can be replaced, my son's life could not.

I know there have been articles and more articles on safety around campus. I know that there is a mass transit system that the student's can use. And so does my son, but these were too slow.....well, he found out the hard way that too slow is sometimes better. He will never feel the same about walking home even in broad daylight, he will never feel the same about seeing young men of color standing on corners, he will never feel the same about anything. Thankfully they didn't hurt him, but it could have been worse, and I shudder to think about it.

Please our students think they are safe, even in twos...they are not. Please encourage your student when walking to do so in lit areas and together. Encourage them to use the bus, even if it does take a few minutes
more, they are worth those few minutes, and our peace of mind is worth that much from them.

I am angry at those men, I am angry with my son, and I am just plain angry. But very thankful that all that was taken was his wallet. So I ask for your own peace of mind and love for your student, write or call and pass on the info about the bus and safety.

February 23, 2006

Unanticipated expenses of living off campus

Today's Minnesota Daily has a couple of editorials of interest to students living off campus, and to their parents. The first takes issue with the recently enacted Minneapolis ordinance addressing unruly parties:

Under the ordinance anyone visiting, participating or hosting a noisy party could be fined $150. To be clear, this means any individual at a party can be fined even if he or she is not drinking or being noisy.

It is true that students need to be more respectful of the neighborhoods they live in, but part of this requires that students are treated as neighbors as well. Rather than be excluded from neighborhood association meetings, students and nonstudents alike should be able to work together to find common ground within their neighborhoods. Far from empowering students, this ordinance will cause more confusion and facilitate less cooperation — especially between students and University police.

The second encourages students living on their own to purchase renters insurance:

Years of accumulating electronics, jewelry and clothes give students a substantial inventory and a strong case to invest in renters’ insurance. Students often underestimate the value of what they own while they overestimate the cost of renters insurance. The policy could cost some students no extra money.

You or your student can check with your insurance agent to see if he or she is or can be covered under your homeowner's policy. If your student is going to purchase his or her own renter's insurance, some things to consider include:

1. What situations are included and/or excluded from the policy? Does it cover damage from fires or floods?
2. Does the policy cover replacement or the actual value of the property? Electronics like computers, televisions, cameras, etc., depreciate significantly over time. A policy that only covers the actual value of a stolen or damaged item may not provide your student with enough money to replace it.
3. Does the policy cover liability claims?

I don't know whether any of the students whose rental housing was badly damaged by a fire last weekend (see yesterday's post) had renter's insurance. The student who was home at the time of the fire has a letter to the editor published in today's Daily, thanking the paper for its coverage and complaining about some of the TV coverage the fire (and he) received.

February 22, 2006

Recent fire highlights importance of fire safety awareness

Last weekend, a fire in an off-campus rental property left the house uninhabitable. Fortunately, no one was injured, though the U of M student who was home at the time didn't know the house was on fire until he heard his neighbors shouting--the student and his roommates had disabled the house's smoke detectors. Read more on The Minnesota Daily's website.

February 21, 2006

What role do parents play in educating college students about drinking?

Next Tuesday, the University of Minnesota's Parent Program and the Department of Family Social Science are convening a workshop addressing the role of parents in addressing college drinking. Representatives from 18 different universities will be attending. We'd like to hear your input so we can incorporate it into our discussion.

What is the appropriate role for parents in addressing drinking among college students? Do you have any tips for talking to students about alcohol? Would you like to work in partnership with the University in addressing alcohol consumption, and if so, how would you like the University to work with you?

Comments, questions, suggestions--all input is welcome.

Easy e-mail access to professors makes them more approachable.

Perhaps too approachable. The New York Times examines how e-mail is changing the student-professor dynamic, and why that is frustrating some professors. Some excerpts:

One student skipped class and then sent the professor an e-mail message asking for copies of her teaching notes. Another did not like her grade, and wrote a petulant message to the professor. Another explained that she was late for a Monday class because she was recovering from drinking too much at a wild weekend party.

Jennifer Schultens, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of California, Davis, received this e-mail message last September from a student in her calculus course: "Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!"

Some professors interviewed felt that students expect them to be constantly available.

These days, they say, students seem to view them as available around the clock, sending a steady stream of e-mail messages — from 10 a week to 10 after every class — that are too informal or downright inappropriate.

"The tone that they would take in e-mail was pretty astounding," said Michael J. Kessler, an assistant dean and a lecturer in theology at Georgetown University. " 'I need to know this and you need to tell me right now,' with a familiarity that can sometimes border on imperative."

He added: "It's a real fine balance to accommodate what they need and at the same time maintain a level of legitimacy as an instructor and someone who is institutionally authorized to make demands on them, and not the other way round."

While once professors may have expected deference, their expertise seems to have become just another service that students, as consumers, are buying. So students may have no fear of giving offense, imposing on the professor's time or even of asking a question that may reflect badly on their own judgment.

Both professors and students interviewed did appreciate that e-mail can be an important learning tool when a student uses it to ask a question or request a clarification:

Still, every professor interviewed emphasized that instant feedback could be invaluable. A question about a lecture or discussion "is for me an indication of a blind spot, that the student didn't get it," said Austin D. Sarat, a professor of political science at Amherst College.

College students say that e-mail makes it easier to ask questions and helps them to learn. "If the only way I could communicate with my professors was by going to their office or calling them, there would be some sort of ranking or prioritization taking place," said Cory Merrill, 19, a sophomore at Amherst. "Is this question worth going over to the office?"

February 17, 2006

Career and academic program exploration event

Is your student still trying to decide on a major or a career path? A free event offered by the Career and Community Learning Center in the College of Liberal Arts will give your student an opportunity to learn about majors available at the U, talk to advisors, take a career interests quiz, and learn about off-campus programs. The event will be held on Wednesday, March 1, from 10 am - 2 pm in the Great Hall of Coffman Union. No registration is required and the event is open to all U students. Click here for more info.

Long breaks make students less likely to graduate

A recent federal study shows that undergraduates who take more than a semester break from their studies are less likely than their peers to graduate, the Washington Post reports today.

Is blogging part of your student's coursework?

The Minnesota Daily reports on the increasing usage of blogs in University classes. Even as personal blogging at the U is decreasing, instructors are using blogs to stimulate student participation and discussion.

Where will your student live next year?

Students thinking of moving into the neighborhoods around the U for the 2006-2007 academic year can compare apartments, houses, and duplexes at the 2006 Off-Campus Housing Fair, held on Wednesday, March 8, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Great Hall of Coffman Union.

The event is co-sponsored by Housing and Residential Life, The Minnesota Daily, and Student and Community Relations in the Office for Student Affairs.

Parents can help their students make a successful transition from living in a residence hall or in the family home to living off campus. Check out our online housing workshop for more information.

February 16, 2006

Discuss book about drinking and adolescents with other parents

Recently, the Student Affairs Book Club met to discuss Koren Zailckas's Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, both a memoir of the author's abuse of alcohol during her high school and college years, and an analysis of the culture of drinking that the author sees as a growing trend among adolescent girls. Zailckas's story illustrates that an adolescent's drinking is not always apparent to the caring adults surrounding him or her, and outlines some of the behaviors and attitudes that parents may want to look for.

The University Bookstores is offering a 20% discount on the book throughout the month of February--you can purchase the book by clicking "Add to basket" on the left side of the screen. Starting on March 1, I will begin posting questions for U parents about college (and high school) students and alcohol use, and hope you will join in the discussion. If you have questions you would like asked, please post them as comments after this entry or email them to me.

Heavy drinking is a growing problem on college campuses, including this one. A recent newsmaking report issued by the University's Boynton Health Service shows a dramatic increase in binge drinking among U of M students.

The University offers resources to educate both parents and students about alcohol abuse. The Parent Program and the Department of Family Social Sciences collaborated to create an online course about alcohol use on campus, which is now being offered at no charge to University of Minnesota parents. The course provides information and support to help family members talk with their student about alcohol use and abuse. It also offers national and campus-based statistics, tips for talking about alcohol, comments from parents and students, online discussion opportunities, and a list of resources available on campus.

The Minnesota Daily reported earlier this week on some of the resources available to students.

February 13, 2006

New Minneapolis ordinance on parties

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council enacted an ordinance that could affect U students who host or attend parties in the city's neighborhoods, the Minnesota Daily reports. Minneapolis police officers are now able to issue $150 civil citations to people participating in parties considered to be "unruly" or noisy.

Students issued on-the-spot civil citations will no longer be subject to the criminal process, which will probably work to their advantage when they begin job hunting. "Several years down the road, if students are asked if they've been convicted of a crime, the student who paid a civil citation can answer no--which would not be true for students who paid a criminal citation," the University's Student Legal Services attorney Bill Dane told The Daily. Student Legal Services attorneys and staff are available to advise students about both civil and criminal citations.

February 10, 2006

Still time to send your student a Valentine

The University Bookstores is offering special Valentine's Day balloon bouquets which can be delivered to your student's residence hall room, apartment, or campus work location.

Also, Radio K, the U's student-run public radio station, will be offering special programming on Valentine's Day. From the press release: "Tune in to Radio K February 14th from noon to 6pm to hear six hours of Valentine's Day-themed music. Join DJs Marcus Lewis and Alison Stolpa from noon-3pm as they play their favorite songs about love and romance. Then stay tuned from 3-6pm as Keri Carlson and special guest DJ Joel Stitzel battle it out- Love versus Anti-Love. Joel will fight for love using romantic songs while Keri will compete for anti-love by playing music about lonliness, heartbreak, and sadness. Find out who will win!"

Sounds like an entertaining show--those out of Radio K's broadcast range can stream it online.

February 9, 2006

Housing and Res Life offering summer positions for students

Attendees at numerous summer conferences and events held at the U will be staying in the residence halls, thus requiring summer assistants to see to the visitors' needs. Summer assistants will receive a single room, paid flex-dine meals, and a stipend of $290 per week, the Minnesota Daily reports. Students can find a link to the applicant information package here.

February 8, 2006

Job and Internship Fair for U of M students

Current U students and recent alumni are invited to attend a Job and Internship Fair on February 20th at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Registration is free and available online.

This is the biggest student career fair in Minnesota, and it is held exclusively for U of M students. Nearly 200 employers will be attending--preview a list of them here.

February 7, 2006

Learning abroad workshop is now online

The Parent Program and the Learning Abroad Center teamed up over winter break to hold a workshop for parents of students considering studying abroad. If you were unable to attend it live, watch it now from the comfort of your own home.

Our mental health workshop and off-campus housing workshop are still available for online viewing. Be sure to fill out the evaluation form after viewing any of these presentations--your feedback helps the Parent Program plan and improve future programming.

February 6, 2006

Educate yourself and your student about online scams

Most of us with email accounts are probably familiar with the money offers that appear in our inboxes from time to time. Offering “commissions? if we agree to have money or other valuables temporarily transferred to our bank account for safekeeping, these solicitations, always marked “urgent,? are easily recognizable by most recipients for the scams they are.

But other scams may not be so obvious. Recently, a University of Minnesota student was contacted with an offer that sounds like a possible variation on the money offer scheme. Needing to sublet an apartment, the student placed an ad on the internet. The student received a response from a person who claimed to be a graduate student currently studying abroad in Thailand, who would soon be returning to the US and needing a place to stay. The “graduate student? offered to send the student money orders for the deposit and first month’s rent, and asked the student to cash the money orders and send the money back to the “graduate student? overseas.

Our student believed that this was a scam and reported it to the police, who said that the money orders the “graduate student? would send would probably be either fake or stolen. Although the U student did not fall prey to this likely fraud, some college students may be vulnerable to online predators of this type.

As a precaution, you and your student may want to review some of the general guidelines to online safety as well as descriptions of some of the most common types of internet fraud. I was surprised to see that some of the unsolicited email I receive is not merely annoying, but also potentially fraudulent.

February 2, 2006

Employers reviewing Facebook profiles

Your student's classmates may not be the only people interested in his or her Facebook profile---employers are increasingly savvy about reviewing the online networking activities of potential employees, as this article from the University of Wisconsin's Badger Herald illustrates.