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June 28, 2006

This week in the Minnesota Daily

A number of interesting stories and opinions in today's Minnesota Daily, including a cover story on Governor Pawlenty's proposal to provide Minnesota high school students who graduate in the top 25% of their high school class two free years of tuition at any state college or University, and an additional two free years for students majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math:

The program, dubbed Achieve, would begin in fall 2007 if the Legislature adopts it. Any family with a gross income of $150,000 or less would be eligible, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

University professor Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs’ Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, called the proposal “pretty generous,? but said he was concerned that the proposal did not include a way to fund the program.

“Any time a politician makes an attractive proposal without telling how to pay for it, you have to be skeptical,? Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he could not think of any way the state would fund the program.

Given that the state legislature is now out of session until fall, the proposal cannot be addressed until then.

The governor is running for re-election this fall.

The governor's challenger in the September Republican primary will be Sue Jeffers, familiar to many around the U's campus as the owner of the popular bar and eatery Stub and Herbs, and a vocal opponent of the city's smoking ban for restaurants. The Daily profiled Jeffers a couple of weeks ago, and I confess that I didn't read to the end of the article. If I had, I would have noted here her opposition to the proposed light rail corridor along University Avenue, and to the U's funding and support of student groups:

Jeffers said she does not support a new light-rail transit line through the University Avenue corridor, which she sees as "an obscene waste of money."

The proposed line would link downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, with stops at the University.

But Jeffers said mass transit does not encourage new development, solve traffic congestion or pay for itself. Instead, she said, light-rail transit lines harm small businesses during construction and increase crime in the area.

Jeffers said University tuition under Pawlenty has gotten out of control. One way to keep college costs down is to reduce the amount of funding that goes to student groups through student fees, Jeffers said.

"Did you know the University has a goat club?" Jeffers said. "There's a phenomenal amount of these clubs that are out there. Well, they need to be self-sufficient. If you want to have a goat club, then all the goat people get together, chip in your five bucks and you can have your goat club." Jeffers said she heard about the club a few years ago from a bar patron.

"When did it become the University's role to sustain student groups?" Jeffers asked.

Besides the parades, speeches and festivals Jeffers has to get through, she was able to reduce the remaining stages of her campaign to one step.

"Kick Tim Pawlenty's butt," she said.

In this week's Daily, Student Activites Office adviser Erik Dussault offers to clear up some of Jeffers' misconceptions about student groups:

Jeffers suggested that the “phenomenal? number of student groups need to be self-sufficient. In fact, while student groups may apply for grants or other funding resources on campus, they are all self-sufficient.

When student groups register through the Student Activities Office, they do not automatically receive any funding. To register, they are required to have five members and pay a $20 fee.

Registered organizations can request funding from the Student Services Fees pool; however, only about 30 of the 700 annually registered groups apply. University students coordinate the public fees process each year, making all fees decisions and allocations and they welcome debate.

Additionally, the “goat club? Jeffers refers to is most likely the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Sheep, Goat and Llama club, devoted to giving veterinary students experience working in their field of study. This club is self-sustaining. It receives no money from the college or the University. Each member pays a $5 fee to belong, and they also raise funds through activities, such as selling T-shirts.

Next, a Daily editor sits down with President Bruininks to find out what he's working on this summer--the short answer is the stadium, other building projects, and the strategic positioning process, but you can read the full interview here.

And finally, staff, students and visitors to campus are being treated to free lunchtime concerts on Northrop plaza throughout June and July, as part of a campus tradition dating back more than 50 years:

“Summer at Northrop? was launched in 1954, when the Minnesota Orchestra performed for University students, faculty and staff members during their lunch hour on Northrop plaza.

The original event was in appreciation of the University’s offering of Northrop as the orchestra’s temporary home.

In the 52 years that have followed, more than 20 concerts from local and international artists have taken place annually through June and July. This year 24 free concerts are scheduled, including salsa, country and jazz.

If you expect to visit campus this or next month, check the concert schedule.

June 27, 2006

Internet research tutorial

The internet can be a wonderful research tool for college students, but how can students determine whether information they've found is legitimate and credible?

A friend forwarded to me this interesting new website developed in the UK, which guides college students through a tutorial on developing internet skills to help with studying and research:

The tutorial offers practical advice on evaluating the quality of websites and highlights the need for care when selecting online information sources to inform university or college work.

“Students are increasingly turning to the Internet to find information for their coursework or assignments, but they can be naïve in the sources they choose. There is concern among lecturers and librarians that students often degrade their work by referencing inappropriate information sources and by failing to use the key scholarly materials that they should be using.? (Emma Place, University of Bristol, co- author of Internet Detective).

The tutorial adopts a film noir detective metaphor to offer a light-hearted guide to developing Internet skills to help with studying and research. It takes around an hour to complete and is divided into the following five sections:

• What’s the Story? – aims to help students recognise the need to develop advanced Internet skills for university and college work

• The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – explains why information quality is an issue on the web, especially for academic research, and raises awareness of Internet hoaxes and scams

• Detective Work –gives hints and tips that help students evaluate information found on the Internet.

• Get on the Case – enables students to try out their Internet Detective skills with practical exercises

• Keep the Right Side of the Law - warns students about the dangers of plagiarism, copyright and incorrect use of citations and referencing

Internet Detective was originally developed in 1998 with funding from the European Union and was translated into a number of different languages by national libraries and research organisations. The original version was withdrawn in 2005, but there was a high demand for its return, as issues of information quality and overload on the Internet persist.

June 26, 2006

Campaigns finding new uses for Facebook

Since the popularity of Facebook, MySpace and the other social networking sites among high school and college students has been getting so much press over the past several months, I don't suppose any of us is surprised that marketers and others who want access to young potential customers are setting up their own accounts.

Even politicians are getting in on the act, with Maryland gubernatorial candidates setting up their own accounts in order to woo young voters, the Washington Post reports:

The campaign for Maryland's next governor has surfaced on Facebook.com, the popular social networking site used more often to get dates than to learn about political candidates.

According to profiles on the site created by college-age Democratic campaign workers, Douglas M. Duncan is interested in "Thinking Bigger!" Martin O'Malley is interested in "Moving Maryland Forward," and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is interested in "Getting terrible haircuts."

Hmmm... "getting terrible haircuts"?


On Facebook, anyone from a supported college, high school or company with a valid e-mail account can create a profile, including a fake one like that of Maryland's governor. Although Ehrlich has found himself lampooned on Facebook, the campaigns of both Montgomery County Executive Duncan and Baltimore Mayor O'Malley have given the site their blessing, allowing campaign volunteers to create candidate profiles in an attempt to reach college-age voters.

"In 1968, Bobby Kennedy showed up and hung around the student center, and Gene McCarthy did the same. Facebook is the student center of college students these days," said Phil Noble, founder of PoliticsOnline, a Web site that examines the relationship between politics and the Internet.

University's suggested guidelines for online networkers

In response to the recent spate of news articles about social networking sites like MySpace, not to mention the incredible popularity of Facebook on this campus, the Office for Student Affairs has developed some guidelines for students who using these types of sites.

The guidelines will be distributed to all incoming freshman (and their parents) in a printed format at Orientation, but the guidelines are also available online for other parents and students to view here.

Now that many students have returned home for the summer, their families may be noticing some big changes. If your student's return has raised any issues that you'd like to ask other parents about, feel free to post your questions here in the comments section or e-mail them to me (Julie) at pblog@umn.edu, and I'll post a new entry for you.

June 14, 2006

Round up of articles from the MN Daily

Some interesting topics in this week's MN Daily (yes, I said this week's--it's published weekly, not daily, during the summer).

First up, this probably comes as no surprise, but the internet has changed the way students gather information. They turn to the internet before the library, often using the internet to point them towards appropriate library resources:

“Why wouldn’t (college students use search engines)? It’s easy and it’s broad-based,? said Cathy De Rosa, vice president of marketing and library services for the Online Computer Library Center, a nonprofit computer library service and research organization that conducted the report.

Linh Nguyen, a French and English junior, is among the 2 percent of college students who use the University’s library Web site to find information before search engines.

“You can trust the information from the library’s Web site more then the stuff you find on Google,? Nguyen said.

Still, college students use library resources more than the general public. While 90 percent of college students have a library card, only 72 percent of the general public have one, according to the report.

Read the entire story here.

Next, the Daily takes a look at the plight of undocumented immigrants who struggle to pay for higher education, including a profile of University junior Abraham Castro who was able to use a full scholarship only after he obtained legal status:

And for Castro, like many students who arrived in this country illegally, one of the most glaring uncertainties of life in the United States is his future after high school.

“People wonder why Latinos have low graduation rates,? he said. “But when I found out I might not be able to go to college, I felt like dropping out too.?

A 2004 graduate of Highland Park High School, Castro had taken International Baccalaureate classes and earned a full academic scholarship to the University.

Instead of celebrating like most high school graduates would, Castro started looking for a job.

“Getting the scholarship was almost more of a disappointment because I was pretty sure that even though I got it, I couldn’t use it,? he said.

And finally, in reponse to an article about the archictecture firm chosen to design the new football stadium, a Daily columnist makes a plea for potty parity in the new structure:

A new and shiny Gophers football stadium seems inevitable, so now it’s time to consider emerging issues and controversies surrounding its construction and completion. This not-quite-theoretical stadium of the future will be filled with our hopes and dreams, but we also could create new problems unless we think hard, together, about this big cool stadium and build the damn thing right. One of the most important issues surrounding stadium construction will be something called “potty parity.?

You’ve never heard of potty parity? Um, pull up a seat, (so to speak) and you’ll hear all about why it would be a horrible act of gender discrimination to build a stadium with anything less than a ratio of 2-to-1 women’s bathroom facilities to men’s.

No, really. “Separate but equal? is not equal, not when you consider the average rest room wait time for men and women. Potty parity is based on this commonsense biological reality. It is a movement (so to speak) that has spread across the country and even the world, founded on a groundbreaking 1988 graduate thesis by Sandra Rawls of Virginia Polytechnic Institute.


June 13, 2006

Advice for new college grads from a financial columnist

This is the season for giving advice to graduates as they enter the workplace. Instead of listening to yet another recitation of the usual admonishments to "change the world," "carpe diem," or "wear sunscreen," those graduates — unless they are already trapped on the nonpaying internship hamster wheel — need to hear how to manage their paychecks.

Parents may have tried this. And many will undoubtedly send this article to their children.

But, dear graduate, before you wad this up and toss it next to the keg still sitting there from last week's party, consider this: If you think it is tough living on very little now, imagine what it will be like when you are old and sick.

Surveys say most of you already suspect Social Security will not be around after mom and dad deplete it sometime during your peak earning years. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old favored a system of privatized retirement savings accounts.

Read the rest of this New York Times column.

June 9, 2006

One in 6 college students have intentionally injured themselves at least once

...a new study finds, Reuters reports:

One in six young adults have injured themselves intentionally at least once, according to the largest US survey to investigate the practice among college students.

Self-injurious behavior can include scratching and pinching oneself, cutting, swallowing poison and even breaking bones. People who injure themselves say it helps relieve distress.

"It's a harbinger of distress, in all likelihood, and inability to cope positively," Dr. Janis Whitlock of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

"There's a fair degree of consensus that self-injury is fundamentally self-medicative," she added, noting that injuries trigger the release of natural opiates known as endorphins, resulting in an immediate sense of calm.

The practice is more common among young women, students who are bi-sexual or unsure of their sexual orientation, and students who have been abused emotionally or sexually, the study found, and 36% of the students who had injured themselves said that no one ever learned of their self-harming behavior.

Given the reluctance of people who injure themselves to get help, the researchers write, it is "critical" for health professionals to find ways to recognize, treat and prevent self-injury. Based on the findings, they add, medical and mental health providers might make it standard practice to ask their older adolescent and young adult patients about self-injurious behaviors.

Signs that a young person may be harming themselves may include dressing inappropriately for the season, for example wearing long sleeves and long pants in the summer months, and wearing adornments that cover the wrists, Whitlock said.

Parents who do discover that their child is injuring him or herself should try not to react with "horror or incredulity," she added. "For a lot of self-injurers there is a high degree of shame associated with the behavior, and that's one of the reasons why they're so secretive. Adults need to sort of be aware and know how to respond in a way that's not judgmental or reactionary."

Student volunteer to be recognized by Congress

Here's part of the story from the Minnesota Daily, which profiles several students who serve the community as volunteers:

University student Jaymes Grossman will receive the Congressional Award Gold Medal on June 21 at Capitol Hill, partially for his community involvement. His 16-year-old sister, Jansina, also will receive the award.

College students across the country volunteer thousands of hours of their time each year - some for school credit and some, like Grossman, out of the goodness of their hearts.

Grossman chose to volunteer with the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) Association because his uncle has had the disease, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, for eight years.

Grossman didn't volunteer to get the award, but said it is "awesome to be recognized" for the volunteer work he's done.

Students interested in volunteering and receiving college credit for their efforts can check out the Community Engagement Scholars Program on the Community Involvement and Service Learning website.

MySpace, Facebook info to be used to help build profiles for NSA

New Scientist has the story:

"I AM continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves." So says Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley-based maker of encryption software. He is far from alone in noticing that fast-growing social networking websites such as MySpace and Friendster are a snoop's dream.

New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming "semantic web" championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.

Americans are still reeling from last month's revelations that the NSA has been logging phone calls since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The Congressional Research Service, which advises the US legislature, says phone companies that surrendered call records may have acted illegally. However, the White House insists that the terrorist threat makes existing wire-tapping legislation out of date and is urging Congress not to investigate the NSA's action.

Meanwhile, the NSA is pursuing its plans to tap the web, since phone logs have limited scope. They can only be used to build a very basic picture of someone's contact network, a process sometimes called "connecting the dots". Clusters of people in highly connected groups become apparent, as do people with few connections who appear to be the intermediaries between such groups. The idea is to see by how many links or "degrees" separate people from, say, a member of a blacklisted organisation.

Thoughts?

June 2, 2006

Many at heightened risk of identity theft due to recent losses of personal data

In the most recent (that we know of) loss of information that could allow thieves to steal the identities of unsuspecting consumers, a contractor for the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan company reportedly lost computer hardware containing the personal data of about 1.3 million people, CNET News.com reports:

The equipment, which was not identified, contains the names and Social Security numbers of the borrowers, the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan company said in a statement Tuesday. The hardware was lost by an employee of Hummingbird, a enterprise software company hired to prepare a document management system, it said.

The information was prepared by the loan company in January for use by Hummingbird. The data was encrypted and password-protected, but subsequently decrypted and stored on the now-lost hardware by the Hummingbird employee, Texas Guaranteed Student Loan said. However, the lost hardware does require a password for access.

"The data was protected through security measures, and given the technology that would be required to retrieve the data, Hummingbird believes that any misuse of the data is extremely unlikely," Toronto-based Hummingbird said in a statement Wednesday.

The equipment was lost on May 24, and Texas Guaranteed Student Loan was notified by Hummingbird two days later, according to the financial institution's statement.

The incident is the latest in a long string of data security breaches. Last month, data on 26.5 million U.S. veterans was seized following the theft of hardware from the home of a government employee. Others who have lost such data include the Metropolitan State College in Denver, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Los Angeles' Department of Social Services, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

College students are particularly vulnerable to identity thieves. One reason is that they often don't monitor their credit closely, especially if they have no reason to suspect that someone has obtained access to personal data such as their social security number. Experts say that when identity theft occurs on campus, the victim is often unaware of the crime for months after it occurs (or begins). Consumers are entitled to a yearly free credit report from each of the big 3 credit reporting agencies, and experts suggest staggering their requests every 4 months so that consumers can catch any errors or fraudulent information as quickly as possible.

Scroll back to May 5th to read some more safety tips we suggest you share with your student to protect themselves against identity theft.