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December 12, 2006

Students should protect themselves from identity theft

Today's Minnesota Daily looks at the threat of online identity theft.

A survey conducted by The Minnesota Daily found that 80 percent of students are concerned someone could steal their identity using information found on the Internet.

Identity theft often occurs among University students, said Carol Jacobsen, a paralegal with Student Legal Services who specializes in the crime.

The most common way of stealing information is backpack and purse stealing, she said. Contacting people via e-mail - phishing - is the next most common.

Phishing "is a good way to gain information," Jacobsen said. "The thieves work in the privacy of their own dwelling; they don't have to leave home to do that kind of identity theft. That's the scariest thing about it."

Information can also be stolen through poorly managed personal documents, Jacobsen said.

Last May, I wrote and posted the following information about identity theft; you may want to review it and share it with your student.

People aged 18 to 29 are the group most commonly victimized by identity theft. That was the surprising finding of a recent survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Thirty-one percent of the victims of identity theft fall into that age group.

Although college students may think they are unlikely victims—usually working part-time and owning few assets—they are actually attractive targets. Students are uniquely vulnerable to identity theft because of the public availability of their personal information, their easy access to credit--many receiving daily or weekly credit card solicitations in the mail--and their lack of attention to credit issues. The FTC survey found that almost ninety percent of the identity theft cases at universities occur without the victim realizing it for several months.

Identity thieves use the personal and financial information they gather about their unsuspecting victims to assume their identities and acquire credit in their name. Victims can eventually clear their names and credit histories, but it can be a lengthy and time-consuming process.

In some cases, thieves gain access to victims’ checking routing numbers from the bottom of their checks and withdraw money directly from their accounts.

So how can you help your student protect his or her reputation, credit history, and bank account? Here are a few suggestions you can discuss with your student:

• Make sure the door to your room or apartment is always locked.
• Do not give your credit or debit card numbers, your personal identification numbers (PINs), or passwords to anyone, even your roommates or close friends.
• When choosing a PIN, don’t use obvious numbers such as your birth date, last four digits of your social security number, address, or any consecutive numbers.
• Remove unnecessary personal information from your checks, such as middle name, phone number, social security number or driver’s license number.
• Do not give out personal or financial information over the phone or the internet unless you know with whom you’re doing business.
• Beware of “phishing,? e-mails that look like they come from your bank or other business institution and ask recipients to “verify? or disclose their banking information.
• Shred or tear into small pieces pre-approved credit offers that arrive in the mail before throwing them in the garbage or recycling bin.
• Monitor your banking, credit card and phone statements and report any unauthorized activity.
• Monitor your credit report. Consumers can receive a free copy of their report yearly from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

Additionally, don’t let your student get in the habit of giving others access to his or her passwords and PINS. If you need access to your student’s University student records for financial or other reasons, ask the student to grant you guest access by logging in to One Stop and clicking on Parent/Guest Access rather than asking for the account’s password.

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.

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

October 12, 2006

New public safety alert for St. Paul campus

In its entirety:

There have been two recent robberies along Cleveland Avenue on the St. Paul Campus. One occurred near the intersection of Buford Avenue and the other was near the intersection of Doswell Avenue. Both locations are just south of Bailey Hall. They occurred as follows:

-Just before 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 10, 2006, a young adult visitor to campus was robbed near the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Buford Avenue. One of the suspects implied that he had a gun. The victim was not injured and the suspects fled with his wallet and backpack and departed in a dark colored mini-van being driven by a third suspect. The suspects were described by the victim as being two males in their late teens to early twenties, approximately six-feet tall, of light build, and of East-African origin. One was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, and the other was dressed in dark clothing.

-Just after 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 11, 2006, a student was robbed near the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Doswell Avenue. The victim was approached by two males who demanded the victim's book bag. One of the suspects held something to the victim's back while the suspects wrestled the victim to the ground. The suspects took the victim's book bag and ran westbound on Doswell Avenue from Cleveland Avenue. The victim was not seriously injured. Both suspects were described as being males in their early twenties, approximately 5' 6" to 5' 10" tall with medium builds and dark complexions. One suspect was described as wearing a brown striped thigh-length long-sleeve shirt and blue jeans and the other was described as wearing an orange long-sleeve shirt.

Cleveland Avenue is a busy thoroughfare in the afternoon, and it is hoped that somebody witnessed the incidents as they were driving or walking by. Anyone with information regarding the suspects or the vehicle in either incident is encouraged to call the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) at 612-624-COPS (2677) to assist us in solving this crime.

The UMPD urges people to immediately call 9-1-1 to report suspicious activity. While crime overall remains stable on campus, robberies have occurred in and around the University area at all hours of the day and days of the week. If confronted by a robber, be cooperative. Take note of any descriptors and physical attributes you can, and give them to the police dispatcher as soon as possible after the incident so that police are able to respond quickly in an attempt to apprehend those responsible.

Greg Hestness
Assistant Vice President of Public Safety and University Police Chief

September 26, 2006

Open forum on personal safety and crime in neighborhoods

Update: We've had a couple of comments on this topic, so I'm bumping this entry, originally dated 9/20, up to the top, to allow others to read the comments below and add their own.

In light of the recent assaults in neighborhoods near the U's Twin Cities campus, we'd like to offer parents and community members a place to share information, resources, and suggestions to enhance student safety on and around campus. Feel free to add your comments below and read what others have written.

I've printed this list here before, but you may want to review the following common-sense safety practices with your student. The University Police Department's website offers good safety tips covering a variety of situations, including these for people on foot around campus:

AVOID walking through vacant lots, alleys or other deserted areas. Choose busy streets.

ALWAYS walk in well-lighted areas when walking at night.

ALWAYS walk in the middle of the sidewalk and facing on-coming traffic.

DO NOT walk or jog alone.

AVOID wearing headphones when jogging or walking in public.

AVOID reading when standing or walking on a sidewalk.

DO NOT overload yourself with packages. Keep your hands as free as possible.

KNOW the neighborhoods and neighbors where you live and work.

KNOW what stores and restaurants are open late.

KNOW where the police and fire stations are located.

ALWAYS carry your purse close to your body and keep a firm grip on it.

AVOID pickpockets by carrying your wallet in an inside coat pocket or front-trouser pocket.

Students might want to check neighborhood crime statistics on the Minneapolis Police Department's website. There, anyone can pull up city-wide crime statistics for the entire city, broken down by neighborhood, or access precinct-wide maps showing crimes that have been reported during the past week. The University's east bank is in the 2nd precinct, and the west bank is in the 1st.

September 19, 2006

223 cited for underaged consumption since school started

The UMPD, the Minneapolis Police, the State Patrol, and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department have been collaborating to curb underage drinking on and around campus.

Watch the report from today's KMSP Fox 9 morning news.

September 16, 2006

Crime Alert from the UMPD

Posted in its entirety:

posted: september 13, 2006

In the early morning of Saturday, September 9, 2006 there were three separate incidents in which male victims were approached by a group of males and physically assaulted on or near the East Bank of the University of Minnesota. In two of the incidents the victim was assaulted with either a baseball bat or a stick. At least two of the victims needed to be hospitalized due to the extent of their injuries. These incidents were not robberies and there is no other apparent motive. Times and locations were as follows:

*12:30 AM, 16th and University Avenue SE, (University Police Case)
*2:00 AM, 12th Avenue SE and Como Avenue SE, (Minneapolis Police Case)
*2:15 AM, 12th Avenue SE and Talmadge Avenue SE, (Minneapolis Police Case)

The suspects in the incidents were all males. The reported number of assailants in these cases ranged from 5 to 15. Members of the University community who are walking in and around the campus at night are reminded to be aware of their surroundings, travel with a companion(s), and use the free Campus Escort Service which can be accessed by calling 612-624-WALK. Carry a cell phone if you have one and do not hesitate to call 911 on or off campus if you observe suspicious circumstances or are in fear. Minneapolis and University of Minnesota Police are in continuous radio communication, either or both will respond.

If you may have seen a group as described around that time, in that location, or have information on any of these incidents, please contact the Minneapolis Police Tips Line at 612-692-8477, Sergeant Erika Christensen of the Minneapolis Police Department at 612-673-3407, or the University of Minnesota Police at 612-624-COPS.

September 14, 2006

Facebook to broaden membership to everyone with a computer

Facebook users are protesting plans by the wildly popular online social network to open its membership to all computer users, on campuses and off.

Reports of the expansion first emerged on Tuesday, and students have already started using the site to complain about the proposed change: Facebook groups with names like "Don't Let Facebook Go Public" and "Facebook for Students Only!" already boast hundreds of members.

When it was founded in 2004 by a group of students at Harvard University, Facebook allowed only people with valid college e-mail addresses to register -- a restriction that gave the site an air of privacy missing from broader social networks like Friendster and MySpace.

In the past year, the network has quietly loosened its registration requirements. First Facebook allowed high-school students to sign up, as long as they were invited to do so by a member of the site. More recently the network opened its membership to employees at a handful of well-known companies, including Apple, Microsoft, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But neither of those expansions changed the perception, common among college students, that Facebook was something of a private clubhouse on the Web. Many college officials have said that students continue to post contact information and incriminating pictures on the site without considering that the material may be viewed by authorities or potential employers.

Not very exclusive any more. Read the whole story at The Chronicle if you have a subscription.

August 31, 2006

Off-campus fires often fueled by alcohol use

Today's USA TODAY examines the causes of recent fatal fires at off-campus residences across the nation. They found that alcohol use was a common denominator:

One-quarter of these fires followed a party, and in 59% of them, at least one of the dead students had been drinking, the USA TODAY analysis found. In 21 cases in which an autopsy report showed the deceased's blood alcohol content, the median level was .12%, and the highest was .304%. A person with an alcohol reading of .08% is considered by the nation's traffic laws to be too drunk to drive.

Students who have been drinking and then go to sleep may be especially vulnerable if a fire breaks out:

Experts say that alcohol can deaden sleeping students to the sounds and smells of danger.

"Even if you wake up in time, you may not make a rational decision. You may go down a hall toward a fire instead of away. You may not remember where emergency exits are," says Steven Avato, a special agent and certified fire investigator for U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"It makes your decision-making process much harder, if you are able to respond at all."

Read the whole story.

In addition to talking to your student about alcohol use, the Parent Program offers the following fire safety points you may want to discuss with students living in off-campus dwellings:

*Are smoke detectors working? Check batteries. Do not disable smoke detectors.
*Are there fire extinguishers? Do you know how to operate them? Are they in working order? Can you reach them easily?
*Think about an escape route from each room. If the doorway to a room is blocked, what is your alternative route? If you had to exit the room through a window, would you need a fire ladder?
*The most common causes of fire are candles, cigarettes, and halogen lights. Never leave candles burning unattended and never put anything (paper, fabric, etc.) over a halogen light.
*If wiring is exposed or if you notice problems with light fixtures or appliances, contact your landlord immediately for repairs.

August 24, 2006

Student borrowers' privacy compromised by glitch in government software

From the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — The Education Department said Wednesday that it would arrange for free credit monitoring for as many as 32,000 student loan borrowers after their personal data appeared on its website.

Terri Shaw, the department's chief operating officer for federal student aid, said the people involved were holders of federal direct student loans who used the department's loan website — http://www.dlssonline.com — between Sunday and Tuesday.

It is the latest in a string of data thefts and security breaches affecting more than a half-dozen federal agencies in recent months.

Education Department officials blamed the breach on a routine software upgrade, conducted by contractor Affiliated Computers Services Inc., that mixed up data for different borrowers when users accessed the website. Since Sunday, 26 borrowers have complained.

Read the whole story.

August 16, 2006

Campus and Metro Transit officials discuss designing light rail line for maximum safety

In light of the August 7th Hiawatha line collision, the line's third in three years, officials are discussing how the proposed light rail line that will cross the University's campus can be built with optimal safety in mind, the MN Daily reports. The proposed Central Corridor line will run under Washington Avenue, and Metro Transit Chief Operating Officer Vince Pellegrin

said this along with the measures already in place should make for a safe rail line for the campus, even with the large amount of pedestrian and bike traffic.

Pellegrin said the preliminary drawings for the Central Corridor line include "good lines of sight" for the drivers and speed restrictions, things he attributes to the Hiawatha line's safety record.

The warning systems that would be in place on the new line include lights, horns, gate arms and even a light that tells the train's driver whether the signals at the crossing are working. These systems would be at vehicle and pedestrian crossings.

There are more warning signals with the light-rail trains than with other trains because unlike a freight train, the light-rail train is hard to hear when it approaches, even though it can travel faster, according to Metro Transit.

"We've gone the extra mile to integrate warning signs in our systems," Pellegrin said.

June 26, 2006

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 9, 2006

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.

May 5, 2006

College students vulnerable to identity theft

People aged 18 to 29 are the group most commonly victimized by identity theft. That was the surprising finding of a recent survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Thirty-one percent of the victims of identity theft fall into that age group.

Although college students may think they are unlikely victims—usually working part-time and owning few assets—they are actually attractive targets. Students are uniquely vulnerable to identity theft because of the public availability of their personal information, their easy access to credit--many receiving daily or weekly credit card solicitations in the mail--and their lack of attention to credit issues. The FTC survey found that almost ninety percent of the identity theft cases at universities occur without the victim realizing it for several months.

Identity thieves use the personal and financial information they gather about their unsuspecting victims to assume their identities and acquire credit in their name. Victims can eventually clear their names and credit histories, but it can be a lengthy and time-consuming process.

In some cases, thieves gain access to victims’ checking routing numbers from the bottom of their checks and withdraw money directly from their accounts.

So how can you help your student protect his or her reputation, credit history, and bank account? Here are a few suggestions you can discuss with your student:

• Make sure the door to your room or apartment is always locked.
• Do not give your credit or debit card numbers, your personal identification numbers (PINs), or passwords to anyone, even your roommates or close friends.
• When choosing a PIN, don’t use obvious numbers such as your birth date, last four digits of your social security number, address, or any consecutive numbers.
• Remove unnecessary personal information from your checks, such as middle name, phone number, social security number or driver’s license number.
• Do not give out personal or financial information over the phone or the internet unless you know with whom you’re doing business.
• Beware of “phishing,? e-mails that look like they come from your bank or other business institution and ask recipients to “verify? or disclose their banking information.
• Shred or tear into small pieces pre-approved credit offers that arrive in the mail before throwing them in the garbage or recycling bin.
• Monitor your banking, credit card and phone statements and report any unauthorized activity.
• Monitor your credit report. Consumers can receive a free copy of their report yearly from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

Additionally, don’t let your student get in the habit of giving others access to his or her passwords and PINS. If you need access to your student’s University student records for financial or other reasons, ask the student to grant you guest access by logging in to One Stop and clicking on Parent/Guest Access rather than asking for the account’s password.

May 2, 2006

Crime Alert posted by UMPD

In its entirety:

On Sunday night, 4/30/2006, a University of Minnesota student had parked his car in Dinkytown and was walking toward Sanford Hall when he was approached by two juvenile male suspects. The suspects struck the victim on the head with a rock and took his wallet before fleeing the area on foot.

Victim was able to continue walking to Sanford Hall, where emergency medical personnel and police were called to assist him. Victim was transported to the hospital by paramedics due to the nature of his injuries.

Suspects are described as two young males. Suspect one is a mixed-race male, stocky build, between the ages of 15 and 25 years who was wearing a blue Minnesota Timberwolves jersey at the time of the robbery. Suspect two is described as a black male between the ages of 15 and 25 years with a lean build, a black sweatshirt and dark pants with white shoes.

University police are investigating the incident further, and request that anyone who may have information, or could be a witness, contact investigators via 612-624-COPS (2677).

Relevant updates to this investigation will be posted on the internet at http://www.umn.edu/police or sent out via crimeweb.net.

April 19, 2006

Helmets and headlights available

This beautiful warm weather is bringing out bike riders all around campus. Students who are using their bicycles to get around this spring can purchase a package of a bike helmet and a headlight for $20 in the pharmacy at Boynton Health Service.

The national "Helmets and Headlights" program is intended to increase the safety of bike riders on university campuses. According to recent statistics, 85 percent of all injuries from bicycle accidents could be reduced by simply wearing a helmet. Also, 10 percent of all bicycle ridership is at night, yet evening accidents comprise 50 percent of all bicycle accidents.

You might also want to encourage your student to review the University's campus bike rules on the Parking and Transportation Services website. To get your student started, here are Parking and Transportation's "Top Ten" biking rules:

Top Ten Campus Cycling Rules
1. Never ride on campus sidewalks (unless it is designated as a bike lane with pavement markings).
2. Always yield to pedestrians.
3. Ride on the right with traffic.
4. Obey all traffic signs and signals.
5. Rent a completely-enclosed bike locker to keep your bike safe from theft and guarantee your parking spot.
6. Lock your bike with a cable and lock as well as a U-lock to deter theft.
7. Never lock your bike to a handrail (unless you want it to be impounded).
8. Never attach your bike to trees, fences, bus shelters, or patio furniture.
9. Don't leave your bike unattended for an extended period of time. Bikes will be tagged and removed if they have been abandoned.
10. Take advantage of the designated bike paths and lanes whenever possible. Be sure to follow the directional arrows on the pavement.

April 3, 2006

Safety in the neighborhoods--tips and upcoming events

Whether your student is currently living in one of the neighborhoods adjacent to campus, or living at home or in a residence hall and thinking about moving into the neighborhoods next fall, now is a good time to talk to him or her about safety.

By this time of the school year, students living off campus may have been lulled into a false sense of security because of their familiarity with their surroundings. Those who moved into apartments or off-campus houses last fall they may have initially, while getting used to their new environment, followed recommended safety practices like avoiding using headphones when walking so they can be aware of the people around them and walking with friends or using escorts when they need to go out in the evening. But as students grow comfortable in their neighborhoods, sometimes they don't think these precautions are necessary anymore.

You may want to remind your student living off campus to continue to follow common-sense safety practices. As anyone who has lived for some time in an urban environment can tell you, as the weather gets warmer, crime goes up. The University Police Department offers good safety tips on its website, including these for people on foot around campus:

AVOID walking through vacant lots, alleys or other deserted areas. Choose busy streets.

ALWAYS walk in well-lighted areas when walking at night.

ALWAYS walk in the middle of the sidewalk and facing on-coming traffic.

DO NOT walk or jog alone.

AVOID wearing headphones when jogging or walking in public.

AVOID reading when standing or walking on a sidewalk.

DO NOT overload yourself with packages. Keep your hands as free as possible.

KNOW the neighborhoods and neighbors where you live and work.

KNOW what stores and restaurants are open late.

KNOW where the police and fire stations are located.

ALWAYS carry your purse close to your body and keep a firm grip on it.

AVOID pickpockets by carrying your wallet in an inside coat pocket or front-trouser pocket.

If your student lives in or is considering renting in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, the neighborhood association will be hosting a meeting this Saturday, April 8th, 9:30 a.m.-12 noon at the First Congregational Church at 500 8th Ave SE to kick off its summer campaign for neighborhood safety. Students are welcome to attend this meeting, at which neighborhood crime trends and crime prevention will be discussed.

Students looking for a place to live next year might want to check neighborhood crime statistics on the Minneapolis Police Department's website. There, anyone can pull up city-wide crime statistics for the entire city, broken down by neighborhood, or access precinct-wide maps showing crimes that have been reported during the past week. The University's east bank is in the 2nd precinct, and the west bank is in the 1st.

The Minneapolis Police Department will also be holding a personal safety workshop at Northeast Middle School, 2955 Hayes St NE, on Wednesday, April 26, from 6 - 8:30 p.m. The workshop is free. If your student would like to register, he or she can call (612) 668-1515.

March 30, 2006

Fraternity suspended for hazing

The University of Minnesota has a zero tolerance policy on hazing, and on Wednesday suspended a fraternity for activities it believes falls into this category, the Minnesota Daily reports:

University officials suspended St. Paul’s FarmHouse fraternity Wednesday until spring 2007 for what they say was hazing.

According to a University report, FarmHouse members were involved in “degrading behavior? that could have resulted in physical harm. Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said two students, who are former FarmHouse members, brought forward a complaint against the fraternity in late February.

Because of privacy issues, specifics of the charges were not discussed publicly.

The suspension means the University will not recognize the chapter as a registered student organization until at earliest spring 2007, when its case will be reviewed. The greek community’s Interfraternity Council also suspended the chapter, which means FarmHouse isn’t allowed to take part in any academic, social or recruitment events.

The University prohibits hazing not only on campus property, but also in conjunction with any campus-affiliated group or activity. Students who feel they are being subjected to hazing are urged to speak up immediately or to notify the Student Activities Office at (612) 624-6919 or the University Police at 612-626-2677. If you suspect your student has been or is being hazed, you are also urged to call the Student Activities Office or the University Police.

March 28, 2006

Have you talked to your student about personal safety?

Yesterday, MSA and GAPSA--the first organization represents University of Minnesota undergraduates, and the second represents the U's graduate and professional students--and the Office for Student Affairs held a housing summit which brought together students, U officials including the University police, and residents of adjacent neighborhoods to discuss issues facing the community. You can read more about that meeting here.

During a discussion of crime prevention, a police official stated that U students unused to living in an urban environment can present an easy target to criminals:

One of the likely reasons students are targets, said Steve Johnson, deputy police chief for the University, is that incoming students don’t know how to behave in an urban environment.

“We see 9,000 new students every year — they are like lambs to the slaughter,? Johnson told summit attendees.

He said many students need to become informed of how to be safe and appropriately behave in an urban environment.

The University Police website offers some simple tips on personal safety that you may want to go over with your student, especially if your student is living in a residence hall now but moving to an off campus dwelling for next year:

Do not use your full name on your answering machine or mailbox.

Do not leave a schedule of your times away on your answering machine.

Know your neighbors and which ones you can trust in an emergency.

Do not open your door without checking to see who is there first. Be wary of unexpected visitors.

Ask for ID from repair persons; preferably a photo ID. Call the employer to verify if you are still not satisfied.

Never give personal info to telephone solicitors.

Always keep an extra phone in your bedroom and in other rooms of your apartment.

Do not let strangers into your room or house to make a phone call. Make the call for them.

Use caution when using ATMs.

Always be prepared to let go of your purse, especially those with a shoulder strap, to avoid injury.

Avoid being alone if you are upset or intoxicated.

Always stand near the controls in an elevator and know where the emergency button is. If you are assaulted, hit the emergency button and as many floor buttons as possible.

There are more safety tips, to cover a variety of different situations, at the UMPD's website.

Yesterday's was actually the first of two housing summits--the second, to focus on student rental issues, will be held on April 10 and will be open to the public.

March 14, 2006

National study finds hazing still prevalent

At Freshman Orientation, parents of students thinking about joining fraternities or sororities often ask about hazing. A national study finds that these are not the only parents who should be concerned.

The study, which was conducted at four unidentifed New England institutions of higher education, found that hazing is common not only in Greek communities, but across a wide range of organizations, including athletic teams, bands and performing arts groups, and more informal student groups engaged in behaviors often considered to be hazing.

What do varsity athletes and band aficionados have in common? Both groups often haze new members of their groups through raucous drinking games, sometimes to the point where a new member gets sick or passes out.
That’s according to preliminary findings of a national hazing study, presented Monday at the NASPA conference for student affairs administrators, in Washington. The study, led by two University of Maine researchers, Elizabeth J. Allan, an assistant professor of higher education leadership, and Mary Madden, an assistant research professor, was conducted with students and staff at four New England institutions of higher education, which were not identified. While the study thus far presents some interesting findings, administrators looking for answers to combat hazing will have to wait several more months — or even years.

To date, the researchers have analyzed answers from 1,789 students who completed 70-question Web-based surveys, which included questions about both college and high school experiences related to hazing. Hazing was defined as a dangerous behavior — unrelated to qualifications for a group — that one was compelled to engage in to be part of a group. One in 20 students said they had been hazed at their current institution, but a much larger number of students reported experiencing behaviors that the researchers considered to be hazing.

“Our goal was to examine the extent to which hazing occurs across a range of student groups and within diverse types of colleges and universities,? said Madden. For phase two of the study, the survey will be refined and used to explore institutions nationwide. Finally, in phase three, the researchers hope to present intervention models that administrators will be able to utilize.

You should know that the University of Minnesota has a zero tolerance policy with regard to hazing. Hazing is also against the state law of Minnesota. Additional information, including the state law against hazing, can be found here. Students who feel they are being subjected to hazing are urged to speak up immediately or to notify the Student Activities Office at (612) 624-6919 or the University Police at 612-626-2677. If you suspect your student has been or is being hazed, you are also urged to call the Student Activities Office or the University Police.

Revealing too much online can come back to haunt you later

I know, I've posted on this topic before. But a recent St. Paul Pioneer Press article reveals the real impact that posting too much personal information on an online social networking site like Friendster, Facebook, Xanga or MySpace can have on your student's future:

Three-quarters of 102 executive recruiters surveyed last fall by ExecuNet, of Norwalk, Conn. said they use search engines as part of the process to uncover information about job candidates. More than one in four said they have eliminated candidates because of what they found about the person on the Internet.

There's an explosion in the amount of personal material being launched into cyberspace by people who seemingly have no qualms about revealing details of their sexual escapades or not-so-hidden desires.

They'll carry digital cameras to bars and parties and post photos of drunken friends to their Web pages and to those of their friends. On one MySpace posting, a 19-year-old Wisconsin woman writes about her pastimes: "I def. like to party … I don't smoke but I drink a lot … like a lot."

In a few years, Internet searches on job candidates will become even more commonplace, predicts Minneapolis employment attorney Tamara Olsen. She advises those who bare their souls and, um, other things online should consider the consequences.

"The Internet is like a billboard or painting on the side of a building," said Olsen, who advises companies on electronic communication issues. "But because people are doing the communicating from a computer in their bedroom, they think of the Internet as private. Right now we are in a funny place where people are posting private things and they have no idea how public it really is."

In Minnesota, it is generally not unlawful for an employer to take into account personal information found on the Internet in making hiring decisions. Of course, it's illegal to make hiring decisions based on sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. In most cases, job candidates will never know the reason why they were turned down or that the employer was looking at their postings in the first place.

Students may need parental guidance to help them understand the possible consequences of exposing their behaviors to the entire world. I leave you with this quote from later in the article, from an 18 year-old college student:

"Whether or not they are going to or not, that's fine but I don't think it's any of their business...You get to the point where, then you have to start watching what you are doing in your private life. It just seems ridiculous."

March 9, 2006

Round-up of Minnesota Daily articles

For those U of M students lucky enough to be spending next week in warm, sunny climes, today's Minnesota Daily offers advice from University health experts on dealing with three risky behaviors associated with spring break:

drinking:

High-risk drinking during spring break can lead to negative consequences.

One of the biggest concerns about partying is that students underestimate how intoxicated they are, said Dana Farley, director of health promotion at Boynton Health Service.

“As their (blood alcohol) level increases to over .12 … about 90 percent underestimate their level of intoxication,? he said.

At this level of impairment, students tend to make bad decisions and are more vulnerable to crime, he said.

having sex:

Spring break parties can lead to unintended promiscuity. Students risk contracting sexually transmitted infections for the thrill of a one-night stand.

Dave Golden, director of public health and marketing for Boynton Health Service, said students often count on the odds that they won’t catch an infection.

“But eventually their luck is going to run out,? he said. “That we clearly, clearly see.?

Golden said Boynton gets more students coming in with sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, after spring break.

and tanning:

One of the fastest growing groups of skin cancer patients are women 35 and younger. This might be why dermatologists don’t support tanning.

“We’re anti-tanning,? said Matthew McClelland, a resident of dermatology. “Tanning is a sign of sun damage.?

He warns that long sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.

“People who are young don’t think about skin cancer down the road, but melanoma can be fatal,? McClelland said.

Daily columnist John Hoff weighs in on making productive use of spring break:

If your spring break plans include earning a paycheck, catching up on homework or other admirable plans to be productive instead of drinking and sunbathing on South Padre Island, Texas, you aren’t alone. In fact, despite a persistent stereotype of boozy collegiate debauchery in sunny climates, more students at the University will spend mid-March visiting family, completing their taxes and filling out forms to apply for financial aid than drinking a margarita the size of a goldfish bowl while sunbathing in Cancún, Mexico.

A U of M CA mourns his 16 year-old cousin, who recently died of a drug overdose, and urges University community members to intervene if they see a friend or neighbor becoming dependent on alcohol or other substances:

As a community adviser, I witness a lot of the same attitude with respect to other things like alcohol and pot. At the beginning of the year, I see people start off well, build a social circle and enjoy themselves. As the year wears on, however, I often see the same people regress into a shell of who they were. More than seeing their grades suffer (which they often do), I witness a destruction of what made them who they were. I gradually see less and less of them in their sober state, as they forget about the dreams they had but have now given up on. Gradually, I lose the ability to connect with them as I am left with little to talk about — the relationship becoming nothing more than a hello and goodbye.

I really do not want to appear prudish or naïve with regards to alcohol on campus. Drinking can be fun, and I like going to the bars as much as the next person, but then again, drinking is not the default activity for me when I’m bored. I also think I appreciate how alcohol can change a person’s life even before it becomes an addiction. In any case, I wish people might be conscious of how addiction — to anything — can originate in the most innocuous of circumstances, but then consume what was once a life full of potential.

I cling to the belief that no matter the background of a person, they possess the ability to rise above the gloom that dependency casts on them. If you have a friend who seems to hit the bottle a bit too frequently, talk to them. If it is a matter of the social pressure to partake, hey, I didn’t drink until I was 21, simply because people expected the opposite.

With Christopher’s death, I suppose I have thought about alcohol and its effects on people because examples of its risks abound all over the place. I could talk of addiction and how it makes people I know — and knew — hollow remnants of the past. I could talk about the abuse that has happened as a result of alcohol in the homes of friends of mine. I could talk about the slow, almost imperceptible erosion of goals due to the increasing importance of alcohol in the lives of people I know. I could talk about the real reason CAs write people up for alcohol — and it is not from a desire to do more paperwork or to be a “policeman.?

And finally, students criticize Housing and Residential Life's policy for moving students between residence halls without the students' consent. Housing and Res Life explains that students can be reassigned for any reason, but usually it is for behavior, health or safety reasons:

Coordinator of Residential Life Wachen Anderson said the University has the right to move students when necessary.

The University Housing and Residential Life signs a contract with students guaranteeing them a bed, Anderson said. That contract also indicates that students can be reassigned for any reason, she said.

Anderson did not comment on any specific issues, but said students could be reassigned because of something as drastic as flooding, but is more commonly done for behavior, health or safety issues.

Anderson said student reassignment is common and said about 50 students dealt with reassignments last academic year.

“There is typically something precipitating it,? she said. “It’s not just, I don’t like my roommate anymore.?

Anderson said having students moved takes a lot of consideration but typically is done for a good reason.

“We have a pretty good cause to move someone,? she said.


March 3, 2006

Are scholarship search offers legit?

Recently, the Parent Program has received emails from parents who have received solicitations from a group offering scholarship searches for a fee--the group promises results "or your money back."

The University's One Stop resource quotes the Federal Trade Commissions's list of characteristics of possible scholarship scams. Please review this info before making any kind of financial commitment.

One Stop also lists some trusted scholarship sources.

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 PD....so 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.

and
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 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.