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November 30, 2006

Student group evaluates campus safety

In light of recent assaults and robberies on the Twin Cities campus, the Minnesota Student Association--the student governing body representing undergraduates--joined with campus police and neighborhood residents to conduct a "safety walk" last night, the Minnesota Daily reports:

Four groups of students, accompanied by neighborhood residents and police officers, walked the campus Wednesday night looking for broken lights and other safety issues, in hopes of creating a safer campus. The Minnesota Student Association joined with University police and surrounding neighborhood residents for a safety walk around the Minneapolis campus and parts of the Marcy-Holmes and Southeast Como neighborhoods.

"The Night of Safety" was organized by MSA officials because of the influx of crime this year, said Adam Engelman, chairman of MSA's Facilities, Housing and Transit Committee.

"Safety has always been an issue on campus, and, in my mind, this year it would be the No. 1 issue," Engelman said. "I have friends who are changing their walking patterns at night trying to avoid certain areas; it is a serious thing."

MSA representatives were the only students who participated in the event.

Throughout the two-hour walk, participants focused on five areas where security could be improved: lighting, landscaping, emergency communications, physical hazards and vandalism.

Participants recorded their complaints on slips of paper and forwarded concerns to the Department of Central Security, which will work to address the complaints.

Changes coming to student loan industry?

After years of operating in a favorable political environment, student loan companies woke up November 8 knowing that changes in Washington would probably mean trouble for their industry, which has enjoyed a close working relationship with Congressional Republicans (thanks, in part, to their sizable campaign contributions to key GOP lawmakers).
The Democrats are promising that one of their first acts come January will be to cut interest rates on federal student loans in half — from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent for many loans — and to raise the maximum Pell Grant by more than $1,000. Davis said the interest rate cuts are likely to pass through Congress and, if widely supported, would unlikely be met by a presidential veto.

“There’s a heavy symbolic importance for Democrats, and it’s going to happen in the first 100 days because it has political cachet,? Davis said.

Kennedy has said he plans to reintroduce legislation that would provide incentives to colleges that switch to the direct lending program. He is also proposing to cap a borrower’s college loan payments to no more than 15 percent of a family’s income.

The U.S. House of Representatives leadership plans to take up similar legislation, the Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act, introduced last year by Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), incoming chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The bill aims to increase spending on Pell Grants and reduce the deficit, in part by giving colleges incentives to switch with no added taxpayer cost. Kennedy has said that the STAR Act would promote competition between the FFEL program and the direct loan program and would encourage colleges to pick the less expensive choice.

Read the whole story on Inside Higher Ed.

November 29, 2006

University event explores stem cell research

One of the many lessons imparted by this month's midterm elections is that stem cell research is a divisive issue that's not going away.

Emotional--some might say over-the-top--political ads from both ends of the political spectrum offered voters conflicting and probably incomplete information upon which to cast their votes.

How will the sudden and dramatic change in our political landscape affect funding and research on stem cell therapies?

Headliners, a new series of lectures featuring University experts discussing today's most pressing issues, will feature University stem cell researcher Meri Firpo discussing the future of stem cell research next Thursday, December 7, at 7 pm in the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the St. Paul Campus.

Click here for more info, or to register for $10 per person.

November 28, 2006

A.I. Johnson Scholarship applications available

Any U of M degree-seeking undergrad in any major is eligible to apply for the A.I. Johnson scholarship. Applicants must be interested in public service and commit to completing a public service internship during the 2007-2008 school year. Find more information here.

Applications must be received by February 15, 2007.

November 27, 2006

3 more opportunities for your student to get a flu shot

A reminder from Boynton about 3 upcoming flu shot clinics:

This year, due to the high volume of vaccine produced, public health officials are strongly urging everyone who can safely receive an influenza vaccination to do so. Keep in mind that by receiving a vaccination you are not only protecting yourself from a serious respiratory infection but you are also protecting those close to you. Do it for the herd!

The last walk in flu clinics are being held on:
November 27 10 am - 4 pm Boynton Health Service
November 29 10 am - 6 pm Coffman Union Great Hall
November 30th 10 am - 4 pm Boynton Health Service

These clinics are open to all University students, staff and faculty.
This is a free service to all University students, staff and faculty.
There is a $25 charge for all non-university patients.

Clinics this year have been provided through Boynton Health Service,
Employee Benefits, School of Nursing and College of Pharmacy.

Edward P. Ehlinger MD, MSPH
Director and Chief Health Officer
Boynton Health Service

November 22, 2006

Gophers headed to Tempe; watch for student trips

The Minnesota Gophers football team has accepted an offer to play in the 2006 Insight Bowl, to be played in Tempe, AZ on December 29th.

The Alumni Association has worked with a charter company to put together 4- and 5-day trips for alumni and other fans to travel to Tempe for the game and its festivities--find more information at U of M Bowl Central.

There will also be more economical bus trips available for students who'd like to travel to the game, and as soon as I have more information on these tours, I'll post it here.

I know that students who've traveled to Music City Bowl games over the past couple of winter breaks have returned with wonderful memories--this year's warm and sunny location should be even more fun and attract even more students.

College costs among "pocketbook" issues new Congress to address

From today's Washington Post:

After retrieving control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years, Democrats will set out to redefine the domestic agenda through policies they say would address the economic needs of middle- and working-class Americans.

Striving for a few quick legislative victories in January and longer-term goals whose details -- and viability -- are not yet certain, Democratic lawmakers want to shift the dialogue on Capitol Hill to workers' pay, college tuition, health-care costs, retirees' income and other issues that touch ordinary families.

November 20, 2006

Beware of scholarship search service solicitations

At this time of year, college students and college-bound high school students may be beset with offers from companies offering to perform scholarship searches on their behalf for a fee.

Students are cautioned not to fall for these solicitations; all the information they need should be available at no charge either from their financial aid office or on the web.

Today's St. Paul Pioneer Press has a story about one local student's experience with a scholarship search service.

The Pi Press also offers the following tips for students looking for new scholarship sources:

• Never pay for scholarship information.

• Talk to your high school or college advisers. If they don't have the information you're looking for, they'll know where you can find it.

• If you're searching for scholarships on your own, here are some reliable Web sites:

• fastweb.com
• finaid.org
• collegeboard.com
• freschinfo.com
• gocollege.com

November 17, 2006

Lame duck Senate to hold hearings on tax breaks for college tuition

For more than a year now, the leaders of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee have investigated the management and compensation practices of charities and, more recently in the wake of a scandal at American University, colleges and universities. So when word leaked out this week that the panel planned another hearing on college issues next month, the widespread assumption was that colleges were about to get more scrutiny along those lines.

Not exactly. Colleges’ tax practices are in for more examination in the months and years ahead — from the Internal Revenue Service (more on that below) — but the Senate Finance Committee seemingly has a different target in mind for its December 5 hearing: federal tax breaks for college tuition.

A Finance Committee spokeswoman confirmed late Thursday that in one of their last acts while their party still controls Congress, the panel’s Republican leaders would hold a hearing “that looks generally at whether tax breaks for tuition and universities’ efforts to help low- and middle-income families are helping in an era of ever-increasing tuition.?

That statement was generally consistent, though somewhat vaguer, than what one Washington higher education official was told the subject of the hearing would be: “a look at the relationship between federal tax provisions and tuition increases.? In other words, do federal policies that give taxpayers a deduction or credit for money they spend on college tuition — like, for instance, a proposal by the new Democratic majority in Congress to “make college tuition deductible from taxes, permanently? — lead colleges in turn to raise their tuition?

Read the entire story, from Inside Higher Education.

November 13, 2006

Daily continues to look into why students turned away from the polls

I can't imagine anything more disheartening for a young first-time voter than going to the polls to exercise his or her right to have a say in the direction this community, state, and country take over the next two years, and being turned away. Especially in a state that allows and encourages same-day voter registration.

From today's Minnesota Daily:

For students, apartment managers and election officials, providing acceptable proof of residency for students living off-campus in future elections is raising concerns.

"Students are considered, in many cases, a transient population," said The Melrose Executive Director Jennifer Dilley. "So it's more difficult for a student to establish their permanent residence."

Confusion ensued on Election Day after students living in off-campus apartments were initially unable to use copies of leases and billing invoices as proof of residency.

Minnesota election laws state utility bills students use must be "original," but election officials didn't accept bills from select apartment complexes.

And here's the perspective of a graduate student who served as an election job in a local precinct, also from today's Daily:

I worked as an election judge at the Ward 2, Precinct 4 polling station that was in Coffman Union this past election. I am writing only as a person that was there, and I do not represent the secretary of state, the city of Minneapolis or any officials. I wanted to write in about my observations on the voting process. I love my job as an election judge; I love being a part of the process of people voting. It was difficult for me to work at a polling station that had to turn many potential voters away.

First, there was a lot of misinformation that had been circulated to students. Many of the students in the residence halls were told that they were already registered, and this was not the case. Minnesota state law allows colleges and universities to provide a list of all students living in their residence halls.

This list is used as a verification of address and then the students only need to show their student ID. However, this is a special case for students living in the dorms. I spoke with many students who were under the impression that they only needed to show their U Card, even if they didn't live in the dorms.

Other students came in and said that they had been told they could vote there because they were a student, regardless of where they lived. This is not true. You need to vote where you live. I realize for many students the "where they live" part can be confusing.

Many students still count their parent's house as their "where they live." However, according to the state of Minnesota, you are a Minnesota resident after living in Minnesota for 30 days. All of the students living on and around campus are Minnesota residents in the eyes of the state, and that is why they can register to vote at their current address. The lines drawn for the precincts are a bit confusing, and the precincts are small enough so that your next-door neighbor or the person across the street could be voting at a different location than you.

Second, there were students who did not have the proper form of identification in order to register to vote on the day of the election. Minnesota is one of six states that offers same-day registration, a fact that I believe contributes to our high voter turnouts.

In Minnesota, you can register to vote by mailing in a card before the election. On this card you provide information about yourself, answer two short questions and affirm the oath that you are who you say you are and that you are eligible to vote.

If you register on the day of the election, you need to have a photo identification and proof of address. If you have a driver's license or state ID with your current address - great! If not, like so many of the students around campus, then you would need photo identification and a utility bill. The types of utility bills are limited by state law and though it would make sense to have something such as a lease as a proof of address, it's not in the law.

The other option is to have a voucher. With this system, you need to know one other person who is registered or can register to vote in that precinct and they sign a form vouching for you. To the many students who were frustrated on Election Day, please know that Minnesota does try to accommodate as many people as possible and that registering in advance is the easiest course to take.

I would ask two things. Because so many students on campus are first-time voters, and even if they have voted before they might be first-time Minneapolis voters, I believe that the Minnesota Daily should run a story just before Election Day that talks about how to vote and where to vote, citing specifics from the city of Minneapolis and the state (such as correct forms of ID, where to vote, how to know where to vote, etc). Also, I would encourage students to register to vote ahead of time. This saves a lot of time at the polling station and it does not matter if you have a utility bill.

And just a note, because so many times this ends up feeling like an "us versus them" conversation: Election judges take their job seriously and it is our job to follow the laws and procedures. I want everyone who is eligible to vote to be able to go out and vote.

November 12, 2006

Students' off-campus behavior may soon be subject to code of conduct

...reports the Star Tribune:

University of Minnesota students who run afoul of the law off-campus soon could be punished under a new student code of conduct presented to the U's Board of Regents on Thursday. The current code allows university officials to slap sanctions on lawbreaking students only if they commit their misdeeds on campus. Such sanctions could include withholding a diploma, expulsion from university housing or from the U itself, or revoking admission to the U. Such actions are over and above any law-enforcement actions against students.

Gerald Rinehart, vice provost for student services, said the amended conduct code isn't the result of any particular incident but merely part of an effort to review and update university policies. He said the new off-campus jurisdiction would probably result in no more than four to five cases added to the university's disciplinary docket a year.

In reviewing such cases for possible sanctions against students, Rinehart said, the university would concentrate on behavior that threatens the health and safety of students and staff. That could include sexual assaults, other assaults and stalking. U officials would not be looking to punish students for minor off-campus arrests and citations, such as those for underage drinking, he said.

Rinehart said the amended policy, which the regents are slated to act upon next month, would help control student behavior close to campus, and would help in some special instances. One would allow the university to change class schedules to separate students involved in off-campus sexual assault cases.

"That's caused no end of problems for the alleged perpetrator and the alleged victim," he said.

No link--this is the whole story.

November 9, 2006

Daily round-up, Part II

Students are taking advantage of a buyer's market in real estate near the U, says the Daily:

High rent near the University drove finance and entrepreneurial management junior Alex Ablamunets to take out loans and make a joint purchase of a Riverview Tower condominium on the West Bank in September 2005.

Ablamunets and his roommate were able to get low financing, making his $450 monthly payments comparable to average rent.

A high number of homes for sale on the market and near 40-year-low mortgage rates are attracting buyers who may have previously rented.

That means for some young, first-time buyers with money in the bank - or with parents who have some - now looks to be the time to buy property.

The shift toward a buyer's market comes after a five-year housing boom in which buyers were attracted by low interest rates and sellers and developers could demand higher prices.

Tom Blomberg, a broker for Prudential Sundial Realty Incorporated, said from a practical standpoint, the real estate market turn-down is fairly minor.

"It's made pricing for buyers better. It's made competition better," he said. "So, I think in the end, it helps to give the market some strength from which to start going back up again."

Another housing option for students is serving as a Community Advisor in one of the University's residence halls:

Housing and Residential Life now offers a spring, summer and fall opportunity to submit applications to be a community adviser - a live-in student whose job is to create a sense of community and to be a role model for residents.

Previously, the application process occurred in the spring. Summer and fall deadlines are in May and October, respectively. Accepted students receive a room, a meal plan and a stipend.

The application process is quite in-depth. Applicants

must complete a five-week, eight-session leadership workshop as part of the application process, which Anderson said lets housing officials learn more about the candidates than in the one or two interviews they had before.

He said though the workshop is time-consuming, the applicants who participate seem more serious about getting the job.

It also shows candidates more about the job than they could learn on paper, he said.

"To be sitting in a job you don't like two weeks after starting is a horrible place to be, especially when your housing is tied to the job," Anderson said.

Before the workshop, Anderson said there were more applicants, but they seemed less prepared for the job, and more community advisers would leave in the fall because the job wasn't a good fit for them.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart offers some sobering advice about personal safety for students living near campus:

Large house parties not only attract students from high schools and other college campuses, but also attract people to the area who have more sinister motives. For these folks, alcohol-impaired students wandering in the dark represent opportunities - opportunities for robbery, assault and other crimes, which are more difficult to get away with in the sober light of day. Alcohol is all too often a factor in assaults on students. Alcohol impairs judgment so students might pay less attention to their surroundings or decide to walk home alone - actions that can make students targets for criminal opportunists.

We ask students to keep personal safety in mind as they go about their daily lives. Students can review safety tips at the UMPD Web site at http://www1.umn.edu/police/prevention.html.

Not everyone who becomes drug- or alcohol-impaired is going to end up in the hospital. Our research shows that the likelihood of injury, assault, or sexual violence is much higher for students who report binge drinking than for those who abstain or drink in moderation. As one of the Boynton Health Service posters says: Alcohol is the most common date-rape drug. Of course, for students under 21, there can be additional consequences related to having a criminal record. This isn't rocket science - getting drunk and getting into trouble go hand-in-hand.

We are pleased that thousands of students are choosing to participate in Gophers After Dark and other fun, safe and healthy activities. And we want students living in our communities to be able to enjoy their freedom and privacy without having to worry about "getting busted." Our expectation is that students will use common sense, respect one another and their neighbors, and act responsibly. We are sure that these expectations can be met while having fun and having lively social gatherings. It is simply a matter of maintaining some balance between the exercise of personal freedom and individual responsibility

Timely advice; there was recently another late night assault near campus:

Two University alumni returning to campus for homecoming festivities were brutally attacked early Sunday.

George Miserendino, 26, said he and a friend called it a night at about 1:20 a.m. and started walking home when they noticed three men following them in the 1700 block of University Avenue Southeast.

A verbal confrontation ensued, which quickly came to blows, he said.

Miserendino said the attackers knocked him unconscious while hitting his friend several times. The friend managed to tackle one attacker and held him down until police arrived, he said.

"These guys were looking to hurt somebody," Miserendino said. "There're sick people out there."

Miserendino suffered multiple injuries, including a broken nose in two places, a fractured skull and eye socket, a concussion and a separated jaw, he said.

An ambulance transported him to Hennepin County Medical Center for treatment, according to the police report.

So far, police have arrested one suspect - the man Miserendino's friend held down - for felony assault causing significant bodily harm, Minneapolis police Lt. Greg Reinhardt said.

No further arrests have been made, but the investigation is ongoing, he said.


Round-up of articles from the Minnesota Daily--Part I

I haven't done one of these omnibus posts in a while...

Thousands of University students voted on and around campus on Tuesday, although not quite as many voted as in 2002 and 2004, the Daily reports:

On the third floor of Coffman Union, groups of students were getting in line outside the Mississippi Room doorway to vote.

The line at noon was about 20 people long and by 4 p.m., 471 ballots had been cast, according to an election judge.

This election, 788 people voted at Coffman, down from other midterm elections.

In 2002, another midterm election, 1,791 voted at Coffman. In the 2004 election 2,111 voted, but presidential elections traditionally draw more voters.

Voting statewide was down about 80,000 votes from 2002 and 2004, but vote tallies were not yet finalized by the state canvassing board, which meets Nov. 21.

Not all students were able to exercise their right to vote, however. Election judges turned away about 100 students living in off-campus housing complexes near campus, stating that the students had insufficient proof of residency:

By mid-afternoon on Election Day, a Hennepin County judge ruled in favor of the students, but it is unclear how many returned to the polls.

Journalism junior Andrew Cummins, who lives at University Commons, said he went to the polls Tuesday but was turned away because his lease and an addressed letter were not proper identification.

He said he did not return to vote because he was unable to find someone to confirm his residency.

"I don't understand how a lease isn't a proof of residence, but a cell phone bill is," Cummins said.

DFL spokesman Nick Kimball said approximately 25 Melrose residents were turned away at the polls, despite providing a utility bill.

Kimball said the students contacted the DFL Election Protection Program, a service which enables citizens to report polling problems while also providing legal assistance to voters whose rights were suppressed.

Lawyer Alan Weinblatt was contacted about the voting discrepancy Tuesday afternoon. He said students couldn't register because their utility fees were charged to Melrose apartments instead of billed directly to students from the utility company.

The issue was brought to the attention of Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, he said, but Kiffmeyer decided the utility bill was improper verification.

Ms. Kiffmeyer did not win re-election as Minnesota's Secretary of State; perhaps Secretary of State-elect Democrat Mark Ritchie will be able to ensure that college students are not disenfranchised in the next election.

Here's the whole story, and a letter to the editor from one of the students affected, and one of the election judges involved in the controversy.

I will have to finish this entry this afternoon--look for Part Deux.

November 8, 2006

SASS offers end-of-semester workshops

The Student Academic Success Services office has scheduled a workshop designed to help students end the semester on a successful note:

SASS Workshop 11/28/06 End-of-Semester Support for Students

The close of the term can be stressful for students (and difficult to stay focused on Finals). Student Academic Success Services (SASS) office is offering a workshop to help with last minute finals preparations. Please encourage students to consider this informative and practical 1 hour workshop.

Cram Jam: Rockin' Last Minute Test-Taking Strategies for Finals
Location: Eddy Hall 202
Date: Tuesday, November 28th
Time: 11:00 – 12:00 pm

Forgot forthcoming fertilization final because you were flipping flanks with friend Frank? Sometimes things arrive more quickly than planned – like your final tomorrow. This workshop will look at some effective strategies students can use for last minute test preparation. This workshop will also present key strategies for taking tests – even the ones for which you are well prepared. General test taking strategies and last minute cramming tips will be addressed to help you get your groove on for finals.

REGISTRATION*:

call 612-624-3323 or go on-line @ www.uccs.umn.edu/outreach/dsp_midsemester.html

* Seating is limited and students will be enrolled on a first-come-first-served basis.

... coming soon ...for students on Academic Probation ... SASS is taking requests for enrollment in its LASk 1101 course (Academic Success - 1 cr.) for Spring 2007. Have students contact Scott Slattery to arrange a screening (612-625-4568)

Motorist Assistance Program available on campus

Students, staff and visitors to the Twin Cities campus in need of automotive assistance are in luck.

A free service for unsuspecting victims of flat tires, locked cars and dead batteries, MAP is staffed by heroes disguised as PTS personnel. They are specially trained in-house to assist those on the Twin Cities campus who are legally parked in any university parking facility. More than one student employee has been able to take the skills they learned and find purpose (as well as employment) after leaving the university.

"I'm proud to say that we have a consistent success ratio of 96 percent. As of the end of September, we're at a total of 35,024 assists," states Art Kistler, MAP's program supervisor. Throughout the lifespan of the program, PTS staff members have successfully performed more than 19,792 jump starts, 11,159 lock-outs and 2,757 tire services.

That success rate translates into many satisfied souls among the university community. "It never ceases to amaze me how happy and relieved people are when we come on the scene," remarks Tony Bittner of Fleet Services, which handles St. Paul calls.

I have used MAP's services myself (flat tire) and can vouch for how helpful and professional their representatives are. Click here to read the rest of the story about MAP in UMNews, and if your student has a vehicle on campus, make sure they know it's available.

How the new Congress will affect higher education policy

Inside Higher Ed takes an early look at the how the leadership change in the House of Representatives--and possibly in the Senate, too--will affect higher education:

Democrats, who captured the House of Representatives and made significant gains in the Senate (control of the Senate remained in doubt early this morning, with key races in Montana and Virginia undecided — check back for updates), have vowed to aggressively push an agenda that includes helping students and families better afford college, an effort that higher education officials (and of course student groups) very much support.

But while Democrats may be likelier than their Republican counterparts to seek to ratchet up spending on student financial aid, it is doubtful that they will be any less inclined than Republicans are to hold colleges accountable on a range of fronts, including the prices they charge students and the quality of the education they deliver. So the outlook for higher education may be a decidedly mixed one, college lobbyists and other observers of Congress and higher education speculated as they awaited the election results Tuesday.

The full impact of the changeover in the House and the Democratic gains in the Senate, which end 12 years of full Republican control of Congress, won’t be clear for months. Divided government could result in deadlock, or moderation that results in compromise and some progress.

Among the uncertainties are what effect partial (or more, if the Senate flips) Democratic control will have on the renewal of the Higher Education Act, which has languished in Congress; whether the power shift will leave the work of Margaret Spellings’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education dead in the water; and how much the takeover will change the climate in Congress for for-profit colleges and lenders, both of which have gained from their relationships (forged in significant part through campaign contributions) with Republican lawmakers.

Read the whole story.

November 6, 2006

Internet fraud and identity theft

Attorneys from University Student Legal Service will present an informational session entitled "Do's and Don'ts of the Internet." They will cover privacy issues, fraud, and identity theft.

Date: Wednesday, November 15
Time: 12:15 - 1:00 p.m.
Place: Coffman Union 325

Employment opportunities with FBI

Short notice, but this Wednesday, a recruiter from the FBI will speak about career and internship possibilities with the agency.

Date: Wednesday, Nov 8
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Place: Law 25

Is your student interested in health careers?

The Health Careers Center offers 1 credit courses for undergraduates interested in exploring careers in the health sciences.

Students can enroll in online or classroom-based courses that will allow them to:

*assess their career interests, values and behavioral styles
*explore professionalism and ethics in health care
*learn about health-related majors and career paths, and
*create their own career and academic action plans

Encourage your student to visit the Center's website for more info.

November 3, 2006

U's Legislative Network encourages voters to support the U

Next Tuesday, November 7th, Minnesota voters--including U students and their Minnesota parents--have an opportunity to show candidates at the state and national level that investing in higher education and the University of Minnesota are high on voters' list of priorities.

Polls will be open from 7 am until 8 pm on November 7th. Click here to find your polling place.

The State of Minnesota allows voters who have not registered ahead of time to register on-site on Election Day, as long as they have one of the following to prove their eligibility:
• Valid Minnesota driver’s license or ID card with current address
• Utility bill due within 30 days of Election Day with name and current address along with a Minnesota driver’s license, Minnesota ID card, military ID card, student ID card, or passport
• Registered voter from the same precinct to vouch for voter's address

Students may also bring:
• Student photo ID, registration, or fee statement with your current address
• Student photo ID if you are on a student housing list on file at the polling place

For more information, visit the Legislative Network's website.

U searching for ways to address alcohol abuse

From Inside Higher Ed:

The charm may have gone out of smoking, but a survey released Thursday suggests that students in Minnesota remain a hard drinking crowd. The study’s author said the results show that tobacco reduction programs can be effective, but that campus health officials have to think up creative solutions to lessen binge drinking.

“We’ve tried to reduce the binge drinking rate with no success,? said the study’s author, Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service, which serves students and others at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.

The study explored alcohol and tobacco use among 7,638 undergraduates at 12 Minnesota colleges and universities during the spring of 2006. Most of the colleges showed significant drops in current and daily tobacco use by students from the previous survey in 2005. Current use was defined as smoking within the last 30 days. From 1998 to 2006, daily tobacco use among students at the University of Minnesota dropped from 9.8 percent to 4.6 percent, and current use fell from 41.8 percent to 26.4 percent.

Ehlinger said that students at University of Minnesota probably have slightly lower rates of smoking than do other students in the state because Minneapolis recently put in place a public smoking ban.

But he acknowledged that the colleges have had far more trouble lowering the rates of high risk drinking, defined by the consumption of five or more drinks in one sitting. Almost 48 percent of males reported having engaged in high risk drinking within the previous two week period, as did almost 40 percent of females.

Policies have failed to lower heavy drinking, which Ehlinger called an “intractable problem? at campuses in Minnesota, which he attributed — though he admitted it was speculation — to the “drinking culture? that he said is pervasive in states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota. “They are the highest drinking states in the union,? he said.

Read the whole story and reader comments.

November 2, 2006

Students heading to the polls in record numbers, survey says

They’ve been labeled politically apathetic, but college-aged students are planning to vote in record numbers on November 7, according to a poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

Thirty-two percent of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed in the biannual poll on politics and public service said they “definitely will be voting? in the midterm elections, and three in four said the likelihood that they would cast ballots was at least 50 percent.

Young voter turnout has hovered around 21 percent in the last four midterm elections, an institute official said. Since the voting age became 18, the best non-presidential election turnout was 1982, when roughly 27 percent of this demographic group participated.

For the first time in six years of polling, the institute sought out 18- to 24-year-olds who are not attending a college or university. About half of the 2,546 people surveyed between October 4 and 16 were enrolled in an institution. Among all voters in the age group, recent college graduates were the most likely to say they “definitely? planned to vote, with the least likely being people who never attended college or are in high school. Undergraduates and graduate students were the subgroups most likely to indicate being “politically engaged or politically active.?

Read the rest of the story, from Inside Higher Ed.