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February 27, 2007

This may seem obvious, but...

From today's Star Tribune:

Piercing and office may not mix It's no longer unusual for college students to flaunt multiple body piercings. But some say young job-hunters need to tone down their look to be successful in the workplace.

By Cati Vanden Breul, Special to the Star Tribune
College student Jordan Schoephoerster is obviously a big fan of body modification. She started two years ago with a tattoo of a double helix on her lower back. In May last year, she got her nose pierced and wears a ring through the septum. Soon after, she pierced her tongue and wrist.

But when she's waiting on tables at Applebee's, the University of Minnesota junior hides all of that with a clear retainer in her nose piercing and a wristband covering the barbell in her wrist. And until her internship with a high school biology teacher next fall is over, Schoephoerster will hold off on getting her lip pierced.

"I kind of just have to adapt to whatever I'm doing," she said. "Do I always want to be the person I am when just sitting in class, or do I want to be able to do what I want to do later in life?"

Like many young job seekers, Schoephoerster, a genetics and biology major, will have to make a choice between indulging in her personal sense of style and fitting into a traditional work environment. For some college students on the job hunt, leaving a diverse campus and entering the real world can mean hiding a part of who they are -- at least from 9 to 5.

There are no steadfast rules when it comes to piercings in the workplace. Employers' tastes vary and some might not have a strong opinion on body jewelry or tattoos, said Paul Timmins, career services director in the university's Career and Community Learning Center. That's why it's important to research a company's policies before you schedule an interview, he said.

In the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2006 survey, a majority of prospective employers said a weak handshake would influence their hiring decisions more than a piercing would. Thirty-three percent of employers ranked an applicant's handshake as a strong influence, while only 31 percent said a body piercing would have the same effect. Employers cited overall grooming (73 percent) and interview attire (49 percent) as the physical attributes they paid the most paid attention to.

"Every student hoping to make a good first impression needs to realize that everything about their appearance could count," Timmins said. "This could include piercings and tattoos, or things we don't even think of as much, like a handshake or eye contact."

People who view their piercings as an important expression of who they are should talk to prospective employers about company policies and explain their feelings, Timmins said.

"Everyone has to keep in mind that a job interview is a two-way street. We're trying to make the employer pick us, and at the same time, as a good job seeker, we should be evaluating the employer," Timmins said. "Is this a place that would allow me to be myself? Would it allow me to express myself the way I want to?"

As piercing becomes more popular and the workforce younger, employers might become gradually more tolerant, Timmins said.

"It is something that could change over time, but change on things like that does happen slowly. A lot of people doing the interviews have been in the workforce for quite a while and this is all new to them," he said. "They haven't had to consider these questions before as much."

But in the past decade, piercings have become less of an alternative style and more of a mainstream phenomenon, said Alex Levine, owner of the Axis Body Modification Studio near the university's Minneapolis campus. Levine, whose interest in piercing surfaced at age 8 when he decided he wanted to get his ears pierced, has been working in the business almost 10 years and has seen its evolution.

"Piercing has become more accepted, just like tattooing has. It's not as gang-related or drug-related, or whatever people used to associate it with," Levine said. "It's more fashionable. Just in the last three years, you've seen it more in magazines and advertising; before, models wouldn't even be able to wear their jewelry."

On average, six people per day are pierced at Levine's studio, most leaving with a new nose or belly-button ring. Piercings represent different things to different people, he said.

"Some people will do facial piercings as an accessory; they'll get a jewel to sparkle a little bit more," he said. "The ones who have all sorts of spikes in their lip are probably doing it to show that they don't want to fit into society and [want to] go against the grain."

Although piercing has become more of a general trend and is becoming more accepted in some areas of the service industry, Levine said he understands why some employers would take issue with their employees overdoing it.

"I know I'd take someone more seriously if they didn't have six rings around their lip," he said. "A little jewel on the nose or lip is fine, but eight piercings just on your face -- that's distracting."

Schoephoerster is aware of others' perceptions and adjusts her look accordingly. She said she wants to come across as professional in the classroom during her upcoming internship. "I'm supposed to be a role model for these students, and parents have a certain idea of what that role model should look like," she said.

At her waitressing job, she knows her appearance might affect tips and she is afraid of turning off customers by flaunting her piercings. She doesn't feel the need to hide her body decor, however, at her other job as a research assistant in a University of Minnesota genetics lab.

"That kind of environment is way more accepting because I'm not really working with the public," she said, "although I think I might scare my boss sometimes."

Cati Vanden Breul is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.

Today's MN Daily includees Spring 2007 Housing Guide

If your student is interested in living off campus next year, encourage him or her to pick up today's Minnesota Daily. Daily writers researched and toured local apartment complexes to compare prices and amenities, and published their findings in the guide.

Around this same time last year, Kristi Pell, a first-year student living in a residence hall, didn't know where she would live the following year and began scrambling to find a place.

"I didn't want to live in the dorms again," Pell said. "I started looking at apartments around the area."

Pell, now a journalism sophomore, said she decided to live in the Melrose, a nearby apartment complex and a good transition from the dorms.

"It was really stressful," she said. "If you don't start looking right away, everything fills up fast."

As crunch time approaches for students to pick housing for next year, The Minnesota Daily researched and toured some of the large apartment complexes to compare prices and amenities - just as any student would.

The apartments featured are four-person units because most students search with friends.

The Daily also analyzed Minneapolis 2005-2006 police crime statistics to help determine which neighborhood may be safer to live in.

The examination of average home values in different neighborhoods may also provide a sense of the cheapest neighborhood to rent a house.

Apartments vs. houses

Big parking lot or big backyard, security guard at the door or the police, proximity to campus or cheap rent: these are just a few considerations to take into account when choosing between living in an apartment or a house.

But this decision is a bit more complicated.

Most housing experts said each has its advantages and disadvantages, but one isn't better than the other.

Bill Dane, Student Legal Services staff attorney, said apartments and houses support different lifestyles.

Dane, who works with students on legal housing issues, said apartments might have more restrictions to a student's lifestyle. These include rules on visitor limits or how much space is available. But a house comes with "a great deal more responsibility," he said.

Dane said students have to be careful with house leases because they could end up responsible for the entire rent.

"If one of the roommates misses rent, you could be responsible for their rent," he said.

In an apartment lease, students generally don't have to worry about such problems, he said.

Students living in a house have more freedoms, but need to be considerate of their neighbors, he said.

"Not everyone living in the neighborhood is a University student," Dane said. "If your neighbors know who you are, they will treat you differently."

The advantage to an apartment, however, is that they are usually managed better when it comes to maintenance issues.

Kris Nelson, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs neighborhood program director, said houses usually aren't managed as well because landlords have scattered properties.

"If they are professionally managed, they are not the kind students can afford," Nelson said.

However, house tenants get more room and yard area, he said.

One of the biggest differences between renting a house or apartment is the cost.

Architecture sophomore Willy Mattson, who lives in University Commons, said he wants to find a house for next year because the rent is cheaper.

Not only is the price a huge factor, Mattson said, but the number of rooms in the unit is important.

"It's hard to find a five-bedroom apartment," he said.

He said he and his roommates want a house in the Dinkytown area or within reasonable distance to campus. Parking spots would be a plus as well, he said.

"We don't really care about how nice it is, as long as we don't get broken into every other day," he said.

Kristi Pell, a journalism sophomore who lives in Melrose Student Suites, said she wants to live in a house next year because "you get more freedom."

Pell said she doesn't like Melrose's 12-vistor rule.

"It's kind of like a dorm sometimes," she said. "In a house, you set your own rules."

If a tenant is loud in an apartment, the security guard comes, but in a neighborhood the "real" cops visit, she said.

Carol Oosterhuis, Minneapolis's 2nd precinct crime prevention specialist, said home safety depends on several variables and each house and apartment is different.

Oosterhuis said living in an apartment where people prop the door open could cause security problems.

She said tenants in a house have more control of their safety, but living on the first floor creates easier access for an unwanted guest in comparison to living in a fifth-floor apartment.

Safest neighborhood

Southeast Como is the safest neighborhood to live in near campus, according to last year's Minneapolis Police crime statistics.

The Minnesota Daily analyzed reported crime data from 2005-2006 and broke it down into five surrounding neighborhoods: Cedar-Riverside, Como, Marcy-Holmes, Prospect Park and University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus.

Population numbers from the 2000 Census were used to determine the number of crimes per 1,000 residents.

The University neighborhood had the most crimes last year when population numbers were calculated into the analysis, but theft made up about 83 percent of the total.

The University neighborhood had the second least number of violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery and assault) in 2006. Cedar-Riverside had the most with 166, more than three times as many as the University neighborhood.

University Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson said although population is a way to determine the safest neighborhood, the number of people using the area is also important.

Johnson said the University has the highest crimes per capita, but the numbers don't take into account the more than 50,000 students on campus who are potential victims of crime.

The neighborhoods have the same problem because students come for parties, even though they don't actually live there, he said.

Carol Oosterhuis, 2nd precinct crime prevention specialist, said there are other things to consider besides the population of the neighborhoods.

"If you live on a very busy street where there is a lot of activity, it can contribute to the crime stats of the neighborhood," she said, but "you're going to be affected more by who lives next door to you."

Before students sign a lease, Oosterhuis said they should go to the location at night and inspect the surroundings.

"Is the location secluded, are there big bushes someone could hide behind or is it a place with good lighting?" she said.

Cheapest neighborhoods

Cedar-Riverside may be the cheapest neighborhood near campus for students to live in, according to estimated market values for single family homes in Minneapolis in 2005.

The rent price should reflect the estimated market value, but many other variables could affect rent rates in each neighborhood.

The average estimated market value of the four neighborhoods (Como, Cedar-Riverside, Marcy Holmes and Prospect Park) was $217,693. The highest was Prospect Park at $308,294, double that of Cedar-Riverside.

Kris Nelson, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs neighborhood program director, said landlords could easily charge students more than the property mortgage.

If a landlord pays $1,600 a month for a monthly mortgage and they rent the house to six students for $400, which is a reasonable price, they receive $2,400 - a greater return than if they sold it, Nelson said.

"You can make pretty good money by renting to students," he said.

In an ideal market, estimated market value of a house would reflect on how much the landlord charges for rent, but it depends on the landlord, he said.

Average rent numbers were not available, but students and neighborhood leaders said areas where estimated home value is higher, such as Prospect Park, tend to have higher rent prices.

Also, check out our Housing Workshop for Parents.

Student harassed abroad

accuses the Learning Abroad Center of not responding adequately to her requests for help. From the Daily:

When Rachel Jamison received a full scholarship to study in Tanzania for a year, she said University officials told her to expect intense sexual harassment.

An experienced world traveler, Jamison said she thought she knew what to expect.

But repeated rape attempts, catcalls and assaults were more than she could have anticipated.

What's more, Jamison said, is that the University's Learning Abroad Center did little to help her situation. She said the LAC failed to follow the University's sexual harassment policy and told Jamison she must repay the scholarship before she can graduate.

Jamison said she wants University officials and the LAC to issue a public apology, forgive the scholarship initially awarded to her and let her graduate this spring. She also said she wants the LAC to draft a different policy regarding sexual harassment.

"To my knowledge, they either don't have one, or they don't follow it," Jamison said.

Jamison, who returned to the United States last week for safety reasons, studied in Tanzania with the International Reciprocal Student Exchange Program. The program, which is run through the LAC, awards nine University students with a scholarship for the academic year in select countries. In her initial program application, Jamison asked to go to Tanzania.

The exchange program is run through the University of Dar es Salaam, in the East African country's largest city.

The LAC issued a statement regarding Jamison's case but couldn't comment

further for legal and student confidentiality reasons. For students studying abroad, the LAC follows the same University sexual harassment policy as students studying in the United States.

The student charges further:

"I believe they're unprepared, but I also believe once they realized their actions weren't helping me, they've taken steps more to cover up what they've done, rather than protect my own safety or help me in dealing with this," Jamison said.

New ticketing system makes buying tickets easier for students

The computer can verify student status so students no longer have to go to Mariucci to show their U card, the Daily reports:

Soon University students, staff and event-goers will be able to purchase tickets to athletics and arts events online and in person through one on-campus system, possibly using U Cards instead of traditional tickets.

The University unveiled a $300,000 Web-based ticketing system in the Arts Ticket Office in January as an initial test run. The new software will go online for the Duluth campus' fine arts performances in April and debut in the athletics department in June.

Advertising junior V.P. Yang, who works in the Arts Ticket Office, said he has seen a smooth shift to the new system.

"This one is a lot easier to navigate around," he said. "(The transition has) been pretty easy."

February 22, 2007

MN Daily site gets 58000 hits for news of possible Gore doctorate

From the Star Tribune:

When the Drudge Report website published a link Tuesday to a Minnesota Daily story about the possible honorary degree, the piece in the U's student newspaper got 58,000 hits from readers in two days. An average story in the Daily gets about 300 hits, said Editor-in-Chief Anna Weggel.

The story has since been picked up by bloggers and websites taking both conservative and liberal viewpoints. Conservative sites New England Republican and Say Anything were disgusted, with the latter calling the possible award "an honorary degree for junk science." The liberal site the Progressive Daily Beacon merely reprinted the story.

February 19, 2007

Spring break alternative: Y Immersion program

The University YMCA offers trips that take college students to see social justice problems firsthand and learn what can be done about them on a grass roots level.

Destinations this spring include:
Denver (to learn about child abuse and domestic violence)
New Orleans (to help with hurrican relief)
New York (to study human trafficking)
San Diego (to learn about border issues)

Financial aid may be available. Visit the Y's website for more info.

Gophers After Dark celebrates Mardi Gras this weekend

Friday night attendees will be entertained by the music of the Snowblind Jazz Band and treated to an authentic Cajun Cookout, and the night's activities will include decorating festive masks and playing carnival games. For more info, click here.

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Free test day!

Will your student be applying to a graduate or professional school?

If so, he or she may be able to get a leg up on the competition by taking a free practice test (MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, or DAT) this Saturday, February 24.

The practice test is administered by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, and participants will receive a detailed score analysis of their practice tests and strategies to help them prepare for the real thing.

Visit Kaplan's website for more info.

Spring break alternative: learn about union organizing

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) offers a five day internship for college seniors interested in making organizing for workers rights a career.

IRS sponsoring MSA to help students file tax returns

From the Daily:

Even though many students spend their college years in a low tax bracket, there is some on-campus help to get their taxes in on time.

Students can go to Coffman Union every Monday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. now through April 16 to get their taxes done for free by the Minnesota Student Association.

This is the second year the Internal Revenue Service sponsored MSA to do student taxes, said Steve Wang, a 2006 University graduate who helped start the program last spring.

Interested students can drop off their forms and show an ID to MSA members to find out how large their refund check will be - or how much they have to pay back to Uncle Sam. The process takes about an hour.

University considers awarding Al Gore an honorary doctorate

Yep, that's today's headline in the Minnesota Daily.

The article goes on to say that the former vice president hasn't been notified about the possibility of the honor, so I guess it's safe to say it's still in the planning stage.

February 16, 2007

Your student is called for jury duty--now what?

Students who have a drivers license reflecting their Hennepin County address or who registered to vote in the county are subject to be called for jury duty, as a story in today's Minnesota Daily illustrates:

About three weeks ago, Alison Carter got a letter many people dread: a summons to jury duty. The communications studies and English literature senior said she was initially nervous and upset by the letter. A past experience with the court system that confused her record with a criminal's left her with negative feelings about going to court, she said.

"I was a little frustrated" upon receiving the letter, Carter said. "Initially, I was dreading it."

So Carter did what just about anybody would do: she tried to get out of it. Carter said she called and asked to be removed from service because she's a student. She said she thought she'd be able to get out of it because her mom had jury duty waived while she was in college.

Unfortunately for Carter, being a college student isn't an excuse for missing jury duty, said Lynn Lahd, Hennepin County court operations supervisor of the jury division.

Students who attend classes at the U but maintain a permanent residence in a different county or state may be exempt from the jury duty requirement, however.

This link to the Hennepin County Fourth District jury office offers more information for students facing a summons to jury duty.

February 15, 2007

Spring break poses hazards for college women

With spring break coming up in about a month (March 12-16), it seems timely to post this AP story from last March about the American Medical Association's warning to young women about the dangers of spring break.

I'll be looking for and posting some safer alternative spring break trips and activities as I find them (see the first 2 recommendations at the bottom of this e-mail)--and if you have any recommendations, please add them in the comments or send them to me in an e-mail.


Updated: 12:03 p.m. CT March 17, 2006
CHICAGO - The American Medical Association is warning girls not to go wild during spring break.

All but confirming what goes on in those “Girls Gone Wild? videos, 83 percent of college women and graduates surveyed by the AMA said spring break involves heavier-than-usual drinking, and 74 percent said the break results in increased sexual activity.

The women’s answers were based both on firsthand experience and the experiences of friends and acquaintances.

Sizable numbers reported getting sick from drinking, and blacking out and engaging in unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner, activities that increase their risks for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The AMA is trying to call attention to underage drinking among women because their bodies process alcohol differently and put them at greater risk for health problems, Dr. J. Edward Hill, AMA’s president, said Tuesday.

The AMA-commissioned online survey queried a nationwide random sample of 644 college women or graduates ages 17 to 35 last week.

Kathleen Fitzgerald, a 21-year-old junior at Illinois State University, said the AMA’s effort to raise awareness is a good idea, but probably won’t do much to curb drinking during spring break.

“I think a lot of students wouldn’t really pay that much attention to it,? Fitzgerald said. “They would just be like, ‘Duh, that’s why we do it.?’

About 30 percent of women surveyed said spring break trips with sun and alcohol are an essential part of college life.

Also, 74 percent said women use spring break drinking as an excuse for “outrageous? behavior that the AMA said could include public nudity and dancing on tables.

Of the 27 percent who said they had attended a college spring break trip:

*More than half said they regretted getting sick from drinking on the trip.
*About 40 percent said they regretted passing out or not remembering what they did.
*13 percent said they had sexual activity with more than one partner.
*10 percent said they regretted engaging in public or group sexual activity.
*More than half were underage when they first drank alcohol on a spring break trip.

The AMA said the findings highlight the need for alternative spring break activities. For example, the University of Nebraska, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and the University of Wisconsin offer spring break “service? trips.

Gemma Kite, a 21-year-old Lehigh junior, is in Brunswick, Ga., for spring break this week, helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s so much fun. We’re working outside in the sun,? Kite said.

She said many students see spring break as “your chance to go wild and crazy in a different country where no one’s going to know you.? Kite admitted those trips have a certain appeal, and she hopes to take a more party-oriented vacation next year.

“I like to have my fun,? Kite said.

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Here's a link to some U of M Habitat for Humanity trips to get your student started.

And Students Today Leaders Forever is offering its popular "Pay It Forward" tours again this spring break.

Free flu shots today and tomorrow

Boynton Health Service is encouraging all students and staff who haven't received a flu shot this year to be vaccinated at Boynton's free walk-in clinics, today and tomorrow, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the clinic's main entrance.

Mental health resources available

Did you know that nearly half of all college students report feeling (at some point) so depressed that they can barely function? And that about 15% of college students meet the criteria for diagnosis as clinically depressed? Or that untreated depression can lead to suicide--the second leading cause of death among college students.

The University has many resources available for addressing mental health issues, and now a new portal is making these resources easier for students, parents, staff and faculty to access by bringing them all together on one easy-to-navigate website. Click here to see what's available.

February 6, 2007

Governor proposes funding half of U's request

Governor Pawlenty unveiled his proposed 2008-2009 state budget, which funds $90.4 mission of the University's $182.3 million request.

Items that would remain unfunded include $26.4 milion to improve undergraduate education, increased financial support for graduate students, and $67 million in compensation increases:

The governor's budget fully funds a number of investments in key University research areas important to the state, including science, engineering, agriculture, the environment, renewable energy, health workforce and clinical sciences, and competitive compensation and technology.

President Robert Bruininks gave mixed reviews to Governor Tim Pawlenty's biennial budget recommendations, praising the full funding for a number of critical research initiatives, but questioning the lack of funding for initiatives aimed at enhancing the University's education mission and core infrastructure.

"Our budget request is realistic and based on the goal of maintaining and improving the competitive position of both the University and the state," Bruininks said. "We're grateful to the governor for recognizing the need for some critical research investments in key areas, but are concerned that the lack of funding for investments in our educational mission and core infrastructure will put upward pressure on tuition."

"Minnesota's past economic success has resulted in large part because the state has taken an active role and responsibility in funding the U as an integral part of our quality of life," Bruininks said. "As the world gets more competitive, the state's role and responsibility become even more important."

Over the next few months, the house and senate will work to put together their biennial budget bills. While the governor's budget proposal is a start, we need your help to ensure that the University's budget request is fully funded.

Here's more, from the U's Legislative Network.

February 5, 2007

Minnesota-Wisconsin reciprocity affects other students and schools

Yesterday's Pioneer Press covered the Minnesota-Wisconsin reciprocity story from the perspective of smaller public schools in both states:

The University of Minnesota may be losing the most money in the tuition pact between Wisconsin and Minnesota, but that doesn't mean the U has the most to lose in the newest battle over the pact's future.

Thousands of undergraduates in the region's smaller public schools depend on the deal that keeps college affordable for interstate students.

More than 400 Wisconsin students study at Century College in White Bear Lake. Minnesotans make up nearly half the student body at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. And Winona State in Minnesota and UW's other western campuses also are packed with cross-border students.

With talks on the agreement to resume, observers say it's likely some common ground will be found to keep tuition reciprocity, if for no other reason than the worst-case scenario — that the pact ends completely, the states stop the neighborly tuition discount and college costs double — seems unimaginable.

"Reciprocity has tied this geographic region together. Most of us don't see the border, and it would be a real disservice to sort of untangle that," said Alan Tuchtenhagen, admissions director at UW-River Falls. There, the $6,000 a Minnesota undergrad pays annually would leap to nearly $13,000 if the Minnesotan were treated like any other out-of-state student.

Tuchtenhagen says he has taken a few calls recently from anxious Minnesota parents who've heard the U might pull out of the current deal and who wonder whether reciprocity will go away for everyone.

"I think it's going to get resolved. I'm not sure how, but there's so much at stake," he said.

People start to get nervous, he added, "when we tinker with one thing, is it going to affect others?"

The 40-year-old reciprocity deal basically allows Wisconsinites attending Minnesota public colleges to pay the cost of a comparable Wisconsin school. The same applies to Minnesotans studying in Wisconsin.

It chugged along mostly fine for decades. Then six years of steep in-state tuition hikes at the U, including four double-digit percentage increases, threw the deal out of whack. Insulated from those hikes, Wisconsin students now pay $1,200 a year less in tuition than Minnesotans on the U's Twin Cities campus, $1,700 less at Duluth and $2,700 less for the U Morris campus.

The states compensate each other for the costs of reciprocity. Wisconsin paid Minnesota $20 million the past three years. But that money goes to the state's general fund, not to the U directly.

Some lawmakers say the state should simply turn over to the schools the money Wisconsin pays to Minnesota. But U leaders argue that wouldn't fix the basic problem — a Wisconsin student paying less than a Minnesotan for a U education.

There's more.

February 1, 2007

President Bruininks discusses U's goals

in video message to University community. Watch it here.

Low-cost upgrade to Windows Vista available to students

The University Bookstores will be offering upgrades to the new Vista for $8--a pretty steep discount from the new operating system's regular price, which can run as much as $399.

Anyone enrolled in a course at the U and currently running an earlier (legal, of course) version of Windows will be eligible for the upgrade, which will probably be available in May.