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March 9, 2007

Spring breakers urged to be cautious

Advice for spring breakers in today's Minnesota Daily:

Spring break is generally considered a time for college students to let loose and party.

But it is also a good way to rack up criminal charges in foreign lands or get hurt in a fall from a balcony in Mexico.

According to a warning issued by the U.S. Department of State, more than 2,500 Americans are arrested abroad each year. For students, underage drinking, drunk driving and public intoxication are frequent charges.

To avoid trouble, the warning advises students to moderate their drinking and familiarize themselves with the customs and laws of the countries they visit.

Read the entire entry. Better yet, urge your student to read it.

February 19, 2007

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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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.

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.

February 1, 2007

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.

January 22, 2007

Star Tribune series on college men and gambling

Yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune had an interesting cover story on young college men playing poker professionally, some while they continue their studies, and some in place of their studies.

Poker is red hot on college campuses these days. A small number of students have made it a full-time job, turning what is a game for most into a profession where tens of thousands of dollars can come and go in a single night.

Today's college students are among the first to grow up with gambling so accessible. Credit is easily available. Casinos, once relegated to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, are now scattered across 37 states. Poker is a regular feature on cable TV.

Going to the casino has become a rite of passage for Minnesota students as they turn 18. Freshmen play poker in dorm rooms, fraternities and bars host Texas Hold 'Em tournaments, and students hold sports betting pools and use wireless Internet connections to play anytime, anywhere.

"I make a joke that ... the second-best gambling environment in America is the college dorm," said Ken Winters, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied youth addictions, including gambling. "You've got your privacy, you've got your high-speed Internet, you have independence from a parent, you probably now have some credit card money. ... It's like a little mini casino right in your laptop. ... It's almost too easy."

College-age men, especially, have embraced the poker phenomenon.

Card-playing and Internet gambling have increased among college-age males over the past five years, the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found. About 16 percent of them played cards weekly in 2006, up from nearly 13 percent in 2005, and nearly 6 percent of them gambled online weekly, up from 2.3 percent in 2005.

Read the rest of the story--it follows several University of Minnesota men to a poker tournament at Canterbury Card Club. Here's a companion story:

The poker players sparkle like celebrities on cable TV, often sitting coolly in sunglasses while raking in their chips.

The gambling industry sells itself by marketing the kind of high-stakes wins that are routine for only a few. It's a potent lure, and one that many college students -- already high-risk takers -- pay attention to. Some marketing is aimed directly at them: "win your tuition" tournaments, fliers on campus kiosks, offers for fraternity fundraising.

It's not hard to find opportunities to gamble if you're a college student.

The start-up Sigma Pi fraternity at the University of Minnesota didn't even have a house yet when a poker website came calling last summer.

"I thought that your fraternity may be in need of some fundraising, and I might be able to help," read the e-mail from someone who works for Absolute Poker. The message offered to hold an online tournament and donate money for everyone who participated.

"To my knowledge, that was the first piece of advertising our fraternity received," fraternity treasurer Craig Bantz said.

I find it disturbing that before the mentioned fraternity had even moved into a house, an online gambling website had contacted members about setting up a tournament.

December 11, 2006

Student Bowl trip announced

Also, the Goal Line Club (the Minnesota Football Booster Club) is donating 100 free tickets for students to attend the game--first come, first served. Students, go here to request your ticket.

Schoolrider is offering several different options for students to travel to Tempe via bus --packages start at $379 for triple or quad occupancy.

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.

November 9, 2006

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

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.

October 24, 2006

Students attending off-campus parties can be ticketed

even if they're not drinking.

WCCO has a story about a party patrol bust this weekend, in which 15 kegs were confiscated and 250 people ticketed for a party near campus. Two of ticketed students were not drinking--they were designated drivers for their friends--but still received citations for "noisy assembly."

Here's the story.

October 20, 2006

Ninja apple-picking

What could be more fun that apple-picking? Picking apples dressed as a ninja, apparently:

If you have been dying to release your inner ninja, the wait is over. Ninja Apple Picking has arrived. Dress in all black and prepare for a mission worth your while. The event is this Sunday, October 22nd. Meet behind Coffman at 12:30 where you will be transported to AAMODT Apple Farms in Stillwater. Make sure to RSVP to recreation@umn.edu.

The transportation is free, but students will have to pay for the apples they pick.

For more info on this and other fun events for students this weekend, check out the Twin Cities Student Unions website.

Students opt for substance-free living in Middlebrook

This fall, 13 undergraduates, a community adviser, and a U-Crew peer member signed a contract to forgo the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs while living in the University's first Substance Free Living & Learning Community. The group has been supported by educational and social programs presented by Boynton Health Service and by community advisers.

From today's Minnesota Daily:

Susan Stubblefield, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life, said the new community gives students a chance to live in an environment which supports their decision to refrain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

She said University housing officials had been looking at other campuses that have similar substance-free communities for some time, but didn't begin planning the new community until September 2005.

"Over time, we have gotten requests from students that they would like to live in a substance-free community for a variety of reasons, so we started looking at options," she said.

The substance-free community was originally planned to be in Middlebrook and Pioneer halls, but after a majority of the students requested to live in Middlebrook, housing officials dropped Pioneer, Stubblefield said.

Pioneer Hall will be added next year if more people sign up, she said. She expects the community to grow next year as more students hear about it.

Read the rest of the story in the Daily.

October 18, 2006

Question from a parent: how to handle a roommate conflict

A parent writes:

What should we do about a roommate issue? Our freshman daughter’s roommate has her boyfriend living in their room. Since they have been in the dorm there have only been 3 days that he didn’t sleep there. This is very stressful for her and we don’t know how we should help her.

I would suggest starting by reading Scott Slattery's article from our current newsletter, which addresses how students can handle conflicts with their roommates.

Dr. Slattery offers advice on evaluating whether a conflict can be resolved through negotiation, setting ground rules for a residence hall room, and drawing up a "roommate contract" with the help of a community adviser that I think might be helpful for you to review and discuss with your student.

If those efforts are not successful, students can seek mediation through their CA or residence hall director.

Parents whose students have had conflicts with their roommates, what has (or hasn't) worked for your sons or daughters?

October 11, 2006

Gopher Express offers Halloween care package

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Click here for more info or to order.

September 14, 2006

Gophers After Dark offers late night weekend fun

U students looking for fun free or low cost activities on weekend nights need travel no farther than Coffman Union.

That's where Gophers After Dark offers movies, concerts, craft making, contests, competitions, and, most importantly, food, every Friday and Saturday evening during fall and spring semester.

The festivities usually start around 9 or 9:30 and end around 2, and each week's slate of events is posted on the program's website.

This week, the film X-Men: The Last Stand will show 3 times each evening, and there will be a couple of concerts, rock wall climbing, special bowling events, a scrabble tourney, candlemaking, food, and more.

September 6, 2006

Minneapolis to get citywide wi-fi access

Wi-Fi Planet reports:

As reported last week in our Hotspot Hits, the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota is the latest big municipality to pick a partner for installing citywide Wi-Fi. US Internet of Minnetonka is the vendor, and will use mesh equipment from BelAir Networks of Ottawa, Ontario.

Wireless Minneapolis is the name of the overall initative, which will eventually cover 168,000 households within 59 square miles with Wi-Fi for broadband. The cost for end users is expected to be around $20 a month for 1 Megabit per second (Mbps) downloads (more for businesses). Deployment should take about 1,600 to 1,800 BelAir nodes.

The Pioneer Press said on Saturday Sept. 2 that the deployment will have to race against the notorious Minnesota winter -- not so much for the snow, but to do a full site survey to decide where to put the mesh nodes while the interference-causing leaves are still on the trees

How will this affect students on campus?

The Star Tribune also says that the suburbs of Minneapolis not covered by this wireless deal are already looking for their own wireless broadband solutions. At least one (Richfield) and the University of Minnesota (which has no outdoor coverage) are considering using US Internet as well, essentially extending the network to their locations. This would allow seamless roaming for customers in those areas. A 17-city group affiliated with the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission is also considering it, but hasn't made a decision. The twin city of St. Paul is seeking proposals from Wi-Fi network providers.

September 1, 2006

University tightens policies on alcohol in res halls

Drinking in the dorms will be a tougher task this year at the University of Minnesota — even if you're legal.

A new Twin Cities campus policy this fall makes all but one of the traditional dormitories dry. Students at least 21 years old used to be able to bring alcohol into the buildings. The new policy, which took effect this week at the start of the new school year, forbids anyone from taking alcohol into the traditional residences, except for Centennial Hall.

U officials say the change sends the right signal about alcohol and school. Some students say while it won't stop drinking, it may curb some of the problems caused when legal-age students brought alcohol into a building and it got in the hands of underage students. It makes the lives of student-staffers in the halls easier, too, when they can say no beer here, no matter how old.

While it won't end drinking, the new policy sends a "strong message to our students of what our expectations are," said Susan Stubblefield, the U's assistant director of residential life.

Read the entire Pioneer Press story.

August 31, 2006

Homecoming 2006 planning underway

Homecoming is a wonderful time to visit the campus. Students decorate their residence hall lobbies, the Greek houses put up fantastic front yard displays, and the coronation ceremony, the parade, and the football game are fun spectacles for everyone to enjoy.

This year's theme is "Wild Wild Midwest", and the parade and game will be held on November 4. Check the official Homecoming website for updated information.

August 28, 2006

Your student still looking for the perfect totebag? More suggestions

On August 22, I linked to a college style blog that had some suggestions for stylish, yet functional, backpacks and bags for students.

A helpful reader sent me a link to another college student's fashion blog, called What I Wore, and its recent entries on stylish bags:

http://whatiwore.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_whatiwore_archive.html (Scroll down to the entry for 7/29/06), and

http://whatiwore.blogspot.com/2006/08/still-backing-away-from-backpack.html

August 25, 2006

Annual etiquette dinner prepares jobseekers

Sponsored by the college career offices, the Career Development Network, and the Alumni Association, the annual etiquette dinner teaches students how to professionally handle a wide variety of dining situations.

This year's dinner will be held Tuesday, October 10th, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in McNamara Alumni Center's Memorial Hall. Sign-in begins at 5:00. The registration costs $14 and includes a three course meal so that students can practice what they learn.

Registration opens August 28th at http://alumni.umn.edu/etiquette. Students are encouraged to register early as space is limited and this dinner is popular. The dinner is open to University of Minnesota undergraduate and graduate students.

August 23, 2006

Beloit College releases 2006 "Freshman Mindset" list

You've probably seen this list before--each fall Beloit College releases a compilation of cultural milestones that it believes will help illuminate the mindset of incoming college freshmen for University faculty and staff:

For most teens starting college this fall, disposable contact lenses have always been available, wars and revolutions have always been televised, and a stamp was rarely needed for communication.

Born in 1988, incoming freshmen grew up knowing only two presidents, searching for Waldo and eating dolphin-free canned tuna.

Those are some of the 75 cultural landmarks on the Beloit College Mindset List, an annual compilation that offers a glimpse of the world view through the eyes of each incoming class. The list was released Wednesday by this private school of 1,250 in this southern Wisconsin city.

"The list isn't looking strictly for chronological accuracy," said Ron Nief, the school's director of public affairs. "It's more about capturing cultural horizons and world views."

Read the Houston Chronicle story about the list. Here's a link to the list itself.

August 22, 2006

Student blogger on carry-alls for fall

If your student is trying to decide what type of tote, backpack or laptop bag to bring to school this fall, she could check out the recommendations on The College Wardrobe, a new blog written by and for college students.

Facebook, MySpace postings potentially embarrassing to parents

Today's Washington Post reports on the disconnect between parents and students when it comes to what personal information should not be shared onlined. Students' willingness to share intimate details of their lives with their peers (and anyone else who accesses their blogs) can be particularly embarrassing to parents who hold prominent positions, such as lawmakers and corporate heads:

Unlike their parents, today's youth have grown up in the age of public disclosure. Keeping an Internet diary has become de rigueur; social lives and private thoughts are laid bare. For parents in high-profile positions, however, it means their children can exploit a generational disconnect to espouse their own points of view, or expose private details perhaps their parents wish they would not.
According to [a recent] Pew study, among those who blog, 52 percent said they do so to express themselves creatively, and 50 percent said they blog to document and share their personal experiences.

"Many of them don't think they are committing public acts by posting a blog, but the power of search is that it makes it pretty darn easy to find," said Lee Rainey, founding director of Pew. Parents and increasingly school systems are warning children about the implications of posting things on MySpace, for example, he said. But parents are only starting to become aware of their own vulnerability, he said. "Things that used to be inside familiars or within a small audience now have a global audience."

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.

August 14, 2006

Student involvement opportunities

Encourage your student to attend the Community Involvement Fair, Wednesday, September 20th, from 10:30 a.m to 3 pm in Coffman Union's Great Hall.

Students can learn about internshp and volunteer opportunities at more than 80 local organizations working in youth education, political organizing, teaching English as a Second Language, health education, homelessness and other important issues. The event is free, and attendees can register at the door to win a $100 gift certificate from the University Bookstore.

For more info and a list of organizations attending this year's fair, go to www.cclc.umn.edu/CIF.

August 9, 2006

Computer services available to students...

...today's Minnesota Daily reports:

As students prepare for the upcoming semester, some find themselves preparing their computers as well - clearing them of viruses, backing up important data or buying new equipment altogether.

But even the best preparation can't always prevent disaster, which usually comes in the form of a late-night error warning or an ominously blank screen.

Whether students are looking to buy new software, secure a laptop or save whatever is left of a formerly robust MP3 collection, there are many on- and off-campus services that directly relate to students' computing needs.

Students can purchase commonly-used software at a steep discount:

There are some limitations to the deal; only currently enrolled students taking at least one credit are eligible and students aren't supposed to put the software on multiple computers.

But products that normally retail for a few hundred dollars are available to students for the cost of the CD. Microsoft Office can be downloaded for free.

August 8, 2006

Personalize a residence hall room on a budget

Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune has a story about students decorating their residence hall rooms on a budget, and shows two design students shopping at some of our local "big box" retailers (Ikea, Target, and Wal-mart) to compare and contrast:

MCAD students Dan Higgs, 21, of Wauwatosa, Wis., and Sarah Kissell, 20, of Bloomington went shopping with me two weeks ago at Ikea, Target and Wal-Mart in Bloomington. Their assignment was to choose three items from each store to furnish a dorm or apartment. The Star Tribune picked up the tab, but Higgs and Kissell could each choose only one major piece of furniture and everything had to fit in my Malibu.

At Target, Kissell, a graphic design student, praised the selection of vases, picture frames and wall hangings. Higgs and Kissell were pleasantly surprised at how masculine most of the furniture was, but Kissell prefers to shop for chairs, sofas or futons at antique shops or secondhand stores.

Higgs, who's pursuing a bachelor of science degree with a business marketing concentration, likes Target's use of designers such as Michael Graves and Isaac Mizrahi. He picked out a tray table to use as an end table, wall frames similar to the rectangles that catalog retailer West Elm made famous and an egg-shaped wall clock.

At Ikea, Higgs was in his element. The merchandise is functional, versatile and inexpensive. He and his roommates furnished an apartment mostly from Ikea. Higgs was assigned the task of assembling an entertainment center, a job he described as "pretty easy." Experienced at Ikea assembly now, Higgs admits that he still gets a piece or two wrong. He installed the bottom shelf on an entertainment center upside down.

Kissell likes Ikea's design for being modern without trying too hard. "It would be my first stop before Target and Wal-Mart," she said, "but the size of the store is overwhelming." Both liked the room settings that help shoppers mix and match the furnishings.

In a sidebar, the students grade each store's decor offerings. Ikea and Target should be pleased with their report cards; Wal-mart, in the opinion of the graders, has a little catching up to do.

August 1, 2006

All the comforts of home

What's your student bringing to campus? The Washington Post interviews college students and administrators to see what students bring with them when they move into the residence halls.

July 11, 2006

Student tours and tour guides make impression

As a drum major in his high school marching band, Matt Thomas mastered the art of walking backward. And that has turned out to be an essential skill for his job as a tour guide at Tufts University.

Mr. Thomas, who will be a sophomore at Tufts in the fall, is one of a corps of students entrusted with being the university's public face for potential applicants. For despite all the money that colleges and universities spend on brochures, Web sites and other marketing efforts, high school students and their parents often base their impressions of an institution on the young man or woman who has led them around campus for 45 minutes.

"We know that the campus tour has the biggest impact on whether a student decides to apply to Tufts or not," said Kerrin Damon, its assistant director of admissions.

Ms. Damon said the university had done surveys, querying those who enroll and those who do not, as well as students who visited Tufts and decided not to apply. Historically, the campus tour, which is given all year but draws heavily throughout the summer, is cited as the biggest influence on students' decisions, she said.

The New York Times reports that the campus tour is one of, if not the, biggest factor in whether students apply to a university.

Is that true for your student and your family? What was your impression during your campus tour?

July 1, 2006

Build the proposed University Avenue LRT line

...the Star Tribune urges:

Minnesota's 30-year feud over transportation isn't entirely over. Metro and outstate interests still fight over money, and transit still feels a stepchild to roads. But the great "bus or light rail" dispute that left the Twin Cities decades behind on transit development appears to be over. The right answer, of course, is that this region needs both buses and trains, a point that the Metropolitan Council should emphasize today as it officially selects light rail as the best transit option for connecting downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Construction could begin by 2010 and trains could be gliding along University Avenue by 2013. That's a full 140 years after both cities first planned (in 1873) to remake the street into a grand, tree-lined boulevard with fountains, statues and a street railway running down the center. Better late than never.

When the new University line joins up with Hiawatha, the region will have the beginnings of an actual light-rail system connecting key destinations -- the downtowns, the University of Minnesota, the Mall of America, the airport and at least two new sports stadiums. The North Star commuter rail line and a number of bus-rapid-transit (BRT) lines will serve as branches. "We will never be New York where a lot of people can get along without cars, but we can make it feasible for families with three or four cars to get down to one or two, and that's a legitimate policy goal," said Met Council Chairman Peter Bell.

The council's decision to support rail over bus turns out to be not so hard after all. BRT would have reached capacity in 2020, not a good value for $241 million. Light rail costs three times more to build, but it is cheaper to operate, delivers more riders over a much longer span of time and attracts far more development.

June 26, 2006

Campaigns finding new uses for Facebook

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

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

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

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

Hmmm... "getting terrible haircuts"?


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

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

June 14, 2006

Round up of articles from the MN Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire story here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


May 24, 2006

Support for light rail connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul

U of M students and others voiced support for the proposed light rail transit (LRT) line which would connect downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul, the Star Tribune reports:

While many people at a public hearing on the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line between St. Paul and Minneapolis urged its approval, some expressed concerns about its effects on local traffic and its speed.

"Public transportation [for students] is our life blood," said Emily Serafy Cox, president of the University of Minnesota Student Association.

She supports the rail line, but she and others said they hope designers stick with a tunnel where the line crosses the campus. Adding light rail would make the already congested area around University and Washington Avenues in Minneapolis more dangerous, she said.

Monday's hearing was the first of four this week on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Central Corridor line along University between the Twin Cities' downtowns. Construction of the $840 million, 11-mile light-rail line could begin in 2009 at the earliest. It would take two years to complete.

The proposed line would be a boon to future U of M students, as it will cross the East Bank campus, making it easier for students (especially those without cars) to get to both downtowns. It will also connect with the existing Hiawatha Line, giving students rail access to the airport and the Mall of America.

May 10, 2006

2006 U of M Student Film Festival winners now online

here.

April 27, 2006

There's a "Spring Jam" theme to Gophers After Dark this week

The week's musical theme carries over into the weekend, with the recent film "The Producers" showing in Coffman (for free) both Friday and Saturday nights.

Spring Jam band events on both Friday and Saturday start earlier than Gophers After Dark events usually begin (the band competition begins at 5 pm on Friday, and the multi-band concert will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday with the winner of Friday night's competition).

Students can display their own musical talents on Friday night at a Karaoke event in Goldy's Gameroom.

Check out the full calendar of Spring Jam and Gophers After Dark, and encourage your student to join in the fun!

April 26, 2006

Facebook profiles live on as memorials for owners

Xiaomi Qu and Dave Chung had posted on each other's Facebook Web profiles for as long as they'd known each other.

The two University of Minnesota students' messages ranged from the silly ("remember when you went insane last night?") to the sillier ("i saw you today wheee.")

So when Chung, 21, drowned in a Bloomington lake April 14, it felt only natural that Qu would again visit her friend's Web page and post.

The tone, however, changed.

Read the entire Star Tribune story, written by University of Minnesota student Jenna Ross

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 13, 2006

University to establish guidelines for student use of Facebook

This summer, there'll be an addition to student (and possibly parent) orientation information. Student Affairs is working on guidelines for students who want to post their profile on Facebook or other networking sites, UMNews reports. As more and more students are learning, their Facebook profiles may be accessible to a larger audience than they had imagined, and posting unflattering pictures or information could come back to haunt them.

The information will also be made available to returning students, and we'll be posting something about it on the Parent website when it is available.

April 7, 2006

Beautiful U Day just around the corner

Beautiful U Day will be held on April 20th. This yearly tradition brings together students, staff and faculty on each of our campuses to work together on campus beautifcation projects. Here are some highlights from this year's schedule:

Kickoff, 9 a.m. Join President Bruininks for a cup of coffee near the Bulls statues in St. Paul Mall! The President will speak on the University’s work in sustainability.

Curb Appeal Clean-up, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Check in at East or West end of Washington Avenue Bridge. Volunteers will help clean up our campus by straightening up kiosks and sprucing up entryways. Let’s all pitch in to keep our campus beautiful. No experience necessary -- Beautiful U Day and Facilities Management will provide instructions and supplies.

Beautiful U Day Lunch, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Come and enjoy a free lunch courtesy of Beautiful U Day! Lunch will be served at both the Northrop Plaza and St. Paul Student Center area and will include sandwiches, chips, and donated Coke™ products provided to University community.

Your student can see a complete list of activities and sign up to volunteer here.

March 31, 2006

This weekend at Gophers After Dark

...The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe will be showing both tonight and tomorrow night.

Tonight's activities in Coffman include karaoke and board games, but the real action is over in St. Paul, where the St. Paul Student Center will host Casino Night: Monte Carlo from 8 pm - 1 am. Students can take shuttles from Coffman to the St. Paul Student Center between 8 and 2 am.

Tomorrow night in Coffman, students can learn a new craft, listen to a bluegrass band , or bowl with glow-in-the-dark pins in Goldy's Game room. Free, freshly-baked cookies will be served at 10 pm. Starbucks will also stay open until 12:30 am tomorrow night.

Click here to read more about Gophers After Dark.

March 21, 2006

"Mission Improvable" returns to Gophers After Dark

"Mission Improvable," a free improvisational comedy show that was a great hit last year, returns to Coffman Union's Great Hall this Saturday night.

If you're not familiar with Gophers After Dark, it's a program offering free and low cost late night programming for U students every Friday and Saturday night in Coffman Union. Free movies are screened in Coffman's theater (this weekend's film is King Kong), and students can participate in organized activities like speed dating, poker tournaments, trivia contests or craftmaking, or attend comedy or live music concerts.

Other activities this weekend include karaoke, bowling and billiards, jewelry making, and an ice cream sundae bar.

Check out the complete Gophers After Dark schedule here.

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.

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 7, 2006

New online grocer caters to students

Living off campus without a car just became much easier, thanks to the debut of an online grocery store, Gopher Grocery, created specifically to serve the needs of University of Minnesota students, at least those who live in the 55414 and 55455 zip codes. The store carries about 500 products--a mixture of college student favorites such as cereal, frozen pizzas and ramen noodles, and fresh produce, meats, and dairy products.

Gopher Grocery requires a minimum purchase of $25 and charges $2 for delivery, which it claims takes about one hour during its limited hours of operation, listed clearly on its website.

Read more about Gopher Grocery, and students' reaction to online grocers, in today's Minnesota Daily.

March 6, 2006

Ohio State website raises dates and funds for service projects

Enterprising medical students find a way to use the internet to fund their international volunteer work:

Established by the International Health Interest Group at the College of Medicine as a project to help raise funds for international service projects, BuckeyeMatch.org allows students to describe themselves and specifically what they are looking for in a friend or lover. A list of students who match these descriptions will be sent via e-mail.

If the students are interested in contacting one another, the cost is one dollar. This dollar goes directly to IHIG, which advocates and supports the efforts of medical students to go abroad to foreign countries like Bolivia, India, Mauritania and Zambia, to provide health-related services like physical exams, medicine deliveries, help in surgeries and assistance at AIDS orphanages.

"All funds raised through BuckeyeMatch.org will be directly used to help defray the costs of performing volunteer service projects in foreign countries, which can be prohibitively expensive," said Neil Jenkins, spokesman for IHIG.

Dustin Key, a recently accepted OSU student, said he thinks this program is going to make his college career even more fun.

"It's one of those reoccurring nightmares that you go off to college and never really make any friends … but this will help ensure that students who are interested in and looking for the same things will be able to find each other on this huge campus," Key said.