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School to Phase Out Mandatory Fitness Requirement

December 7, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Following a good deal of criticism and complaints from its student population  and across the state, faculty at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania voted Friday to make the school's mandatory "Fitness for Life" course optional instead. The school came under fire and received a large amount of unwanted media attention over the last few weeks for their requirement that any student who entered the school in 2006 or later and had a Body Mass Index of 30 or greater would be enrolled in a fitness course to lose weight before graduation.

The course didn't receive much attention until this fall because it was the first time administrators had to warn seniors that they were in danger of not graduating if they did not meet the school's fitness requirement. Eighty students were sent emails that they were required to either complete the one-credit course or show they had lost enough weight to make a dent in their BMI before being allowed to graduate. Critics since questioned whether the special graduation requirement was legal and unfairly singled out a population of students.

In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today, the school's administrators say the requirement will remain in place through the spring semester, and defended the school's initial decision to require a fitness requirement of obese students. Ashley E. Gabb, assistant director of communications at Lincoln University, said in the article that it wasn't the school's intention to have an "adverse effect on students," and that the school remained committed to finding ways to make the student population healthier.

Many schools have programs set up that encourage healthy diets and promoting healthy lifestyles. A number of Massachusetts schools, for example, have been making changes in their dining halls to "sneak" healthy foods past college students. Others also require fitness and physical education requirements. Rollins College, for example, requires three physical education courses of its incoming students, including two terms of elective lifetime recreational activities. (The school offers classes in a wide variety of physical activities, including ballroom dancing, sailing, and weight training.)

A swim requirement is also still popular at many colleges, including Hamilton College, the Washington and Lee University. At many of those schools, students who fail the college's swim test - 10 minutes of continuous swimming, for example, or proof that you can tread water - are required to take a swim class prior to graduation. Most of these schools require some sort of physical education class as part of the general education requirements, so the swim class may count toward that requirement in many cases.

How about your school? What kinds of things is your college doing to make the student population healthier? Do you have  PE requirement? Is this even appropriate to do? Let us know what you think.

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Teaching Assistant Arrested for Dramatic Delivery of Course Evaluations

December 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Everyone knows not to say "fire" in a crowded theater or "bomb" on an airplane. But what about saying "bomb" in a classroom? As a graduate teaching assistant at University of California-Davis learned last week, that might not be such a good idea either.

James Marchbanks, the teaching assistant in question, was arrested last week for making a terrorist threat, false imprisonment, and making a false bomb threat. Why? The graduate student referred to the course evaluations he was distributing to his introductory drama class as a bomb.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Marchbanks reportedly walked into class on the last day with his backpack on one shoulder and told the class, "I have a bomb, this is the last time I am ever going to see you. I am going to leave class before the bomb goes off but you are all going to stay here until it's done," then tossed a packet of course evaluations and pencils on the desk at the front of the class and ran out

The move was widely interpreted as a dramatic and lighthearted delivery of evaluation forms that he felt could potentially destroy his career. In fact, 13 students signed a letter to this effect. Unorthodox teaching methods, relaxed and informal attitudes, and extreme nervousness about their effectiveness as teachers are all pretty standard for graduate students, especially in the arts and humanities, so for many students in Marchbanks' Drama 10 class, his delivery of course evaluations probably seemed on the quirky end of ordinary.

However, a few students took his remarks seriously and decided to file a complaint, even when it became clear that he was alluding to the destructive power of negative evaluations, and not to a homemade explosive device. Campus police obtained a warrant for his arrest and a judge set bail at $150,000, a figure substantially higher than the Sacramento Bee calculated the charges should carry, and a price certainly well out of the reach of what a student receiving a graduate fellowship or assistantship could afford. It was eventually decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime and he was released, but only after he had spent four days in jail.

While few people are likely to argue that Marchbanks deserved jail time for his comments, it does raise questions about what's appropriate to say in a classroom. With multiple incidents of on-campus violence, including a graduate student's recent murder of a professor at the State University of New York-Binghamton, appearing in the media, many already stressed-out students may be more on edge than normal right now. Did students overreact?  Do graduate students need to be more aware of their actions in the classroom as new teachers?  What do you think?

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Student Banned from Campus for Facebook Status

December 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

On Monday, a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was greeted by campus police when she arrived on campus. The reason: faculty members had felt threatened by her Facebook status updates.

Amanda Tatro, a student in the university's mortuary science program, had made a series of Facebook status updates over the weekend that made references to violence and her embalming lab class. Some of her professors were concerned by these updates and called the police. Tatro was escorted off campus Monday and barred from her classes for the first half of the week, finally being reinstated and allowed to make up missed work yesterday after police and the university's Office of Student Conduct deemed her posts non-threatening.

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Tatro posted to Facebook that she was "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy" because "lots of aggression can be taken out" with a sharp embalming tool. She later added she wanted to "stab a certain someone in the throat" and followed that up with an oblique reference to the movie Kill Bill and "making friends with the crematory guy."

To many, this was just blowing off steam to her friends after receiving some bad news. But to professors being bombarded with last minute pleas and thinly veiled threats from stressed students during the finals week frenzy, Tatro's threats could easily refer to them, rather than an ex-boyfriend they knew nothing about. Given recent violent acts and threats on other college campuses, instructors chose to share their concerns with police.

While Tatro's situation was resolved relatively quickly and peacefully, others have faced serious consequences for threatening posts online. If you use Facebook or other social networking sites casually, be aware of who might be able to read what you write. Think about possible interpretations of what you say before you say it, especially if it could be in any way construed as a threat of violence against or a malicious attack on someone you know. If you put something on the Internet, always assume that it's public, and that your professors, peers, prospective employers, high school nemeses, and parents are able to stumble across it. Though public venting can be nice and can help you blow off steam when you're stressed, it can potentially lead to trouble and Internet drama that could last much longer than the original cause of your stress.

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Make the Most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 18, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

By now you've probably slept in, taking advantage of the day off from class. If you venture outside of your dorm room or apartment though, chances are your campus will have a number of activities happening surrounding the holiday. Why not then recognize the work and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in a local activity celebrating diversity? It'll probably be more rewarding than watching reruns all afternoon.

Here are some highlights we found from college observances of Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

  • Former "lost boy" John Bul Dau will speak today at Champlain College tonight. Dau led groups of displaced Sudanese boys after 27,000 of them were driven from their homes in 1987 by the region's violence, and has raised $700,000 through a foundation he set up to open a clinic in Sudan.
  • Northwestern University will feature a performance tonight by Chicago jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis and his trio, as well as lectures, panel discussions, and film, music and theater events throughout the day.
  • Alma College will host a live performance tonight of "The Meeting," a drama about the lives and philosophies of Malcolm X and King.

Some students had planned to make the most of the day off well in advance. At the College of Charleston, teams of 10 students apiece are participating in the MLK Day Challenge, also known as the National MLK Day of Service.  Each team receives $75, a van, and six hours to help a local nonprofit group complete a community service project (painting playground equipment or leading educational sessions in the community, for example) by the end of the day. A number of students from Whatcom Community College will work on two projects today, partnering with Habitat for Humanity and with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association in stream-side restoration.

If you need some inspiration on this important day, check out how some teens in the Silicon Valley are living King's dream. It's never too late to help out, whether it's looking for ways to make change in Haiti or as close as your local neighborhood. Enjoy the day off if you want to, but consider what you can do to help out once you're done relaxing, because there aren't a shortage of volunteer opportunities out there. And if you need even more of an incentive, conduct a free scholarship search to see the number of community service scholarship opportunities out there for college students interested in volunteerism.

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Colleges Reach Out to Students Affected by Earthquake in Haiti

January 20, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Last week’s earthquake in Haiti has had a profound impact on students, faculty, and staff at a number of college campuses. Students and faculty from Lynn University in Florida are still missing in Haiti, while members of other campus communities in the U.S. and Canada have been counted among the more than 70,000 dead. Schools are beginning to reach out to their students who suffered losses in the earthquake, including one college that’s offering free tuition to its Haitian students.

Tallahassee Community College is offering 100% tuition relief for the duration of their education to 35 currently enrolled students from Haiti. After a unanimous vote from the school’s trustees, Tallahassee Community College will begin figuring out the logistics of offering this assistance immediately. The college’s president Bill Law said, “These students will go to school for free. We will keep that in place while they are here,” while acknowledging that there are still details to be ironed out when it comes to getting the funding to the students.

While Tallahassee Community College appears to be first to announce special financial aid for all Haitian enrollees, other schools are reaching out to their students who were affected by the earthquake. Colleges and universities are offering counseling, help contacting friends and family, and assistance finding ways to stay in school for their Haitian students and students of Haitian descent.

The City University of New York and Miami Dade College are also engaging in a variety of special efforts to help their students who are from Haiti or who have family and friends there. CUNY has 6,000 students who are either Haitian or of Haitian descent on its 23 campuses. Miami Dade College Both schools are offering counseling services and are trying to help students stay in school during this crisis. Medgar Evers College, part of the CUNY system, has set up support centers to help students reach friends and family members in Haiti. Students are able to make long distance calls and use computers to try to reach their loved ones.

In addition to aiding in the search for four students and two faculty members who were volunteering in Haiti when the earthquake struck, Lynn University has established a fund to assist members of their community whose lives the earthquake has impacted. The Lynn University Haiti Crisis Fund donation page states the money will provide assistance for 40 Haitian staff members at the school, as well as students and faculty from Haiti.

Students and schools nationwide are engaging in other relief efforts, including holding fundraisers and donation drives for a wide range of charities that are assisting in the recovery effort. Doctors from several medical schools have already arrived in Haiti to assist in treating the wounded. As more time passes and immediate needs are met, there will be more opportunities for students interested in community service and humanitarian aid to help out in Haiti, both through sustained donations and volunteer efforts.

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Are Tattoos Less Taboo on the College Scene?

January 22, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A new school that recently opened in Tinley Park, Illinois, hopes to lure out-of-work art students by offering a two-week intensive program that promises to teach them a new skill—body art.

The school, Bette Baron's Art of Body Coloring School, opened earlier this month, and faced little opposition from the town, which saw it as another opportunity for students seeking vocational schools. An article in the Chicago Tribune today describes how Bette Baron, the owner and a tattoo artist for the last 16 years, opened the school to take her mind off the death of her son, Brian. Her son's face and "Love You Forever Brian" decorate her left arm. "Even housewives are getting tattoos now," Baron said in the article. Students pay $900 tuition fee and $750 for a tattooing kit at the school, and can expect to make up to $100 once they become licensed body artists.

According to the Tribune article and a 2008 poll by Harris Interactive, 32 percent of adults ages 25 to 29 have tattoos. Do tattoos have a place in academia? Sure, ink and piercings been linked to all sorts of things, including deviant behavior, as Texas Tech University's school of sociology reported recently. (They say the more tattoos and piercings you have, the more likely you are to binge drink, fall into promiscuous behavior, get arrested, and use drugs.) Career counselors also usually suggest you keep your body art from public display when interviewing for a new job, especially if there's a dress code and a fairly conservative office staff.

But tattoos are also becoming the way academics express themselves. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently featured a series of scholars' photo submissions that displayed tattoos scholars got to commemorate their work, research, and theses. The tattoos in the series weren't considered taboo, but representative of the spirit and creativity of those academics. They included scholars who got inked with the symbol for the general formula of an ester linkage, coral fish, a double helix, and the phrase "read books" that came down the calves of an adjunct English instructor in Memphis. Lawrence K. Fulbeck, a professor of art who is the author of "Permanence: Tattoo Portraits," even went to Japan to have some tattoos done the old fashioned way—through an hours-long process using needles rather than an electric tattooing drill.

What do you think? Is body art so mainstream that you wouldn't be shocked to see your professor sporting a tattooed sleeve down his arm? Would any of you consider a permanent reminder of your academic work inked on your body?

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College Students Plan Alternative Spring Breaks

March 2, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Spring break is fast approaching. Some college students already have their all-inclusive vacations planned out for beach-side locations like Cancun and South Padre Island, taking the week to relax, kick back, and take a break from campus life. Others, however, have alternative plans, and hope to give back a little in the wake of a number of recent devastating natural disasters.

An article in Inside Higher Ed yesterday describes the plans of David Adewumi, a Pennsylvania State University student who will join 10 of his peers on a relief trip to Haiti. They plan to spend the week of their spring break helping with minor medical care, food distribution and building shelters for those who lost their homes and livelihoods in the recent quake. A group of 20 to 25 students from the University of Maryland, College Park, and Howard University have similar plans to spend their spring breaks in Haiti, training Haitians to build homes using dirt-filled bags.

The earthquake in Chile on Feb. 27 may cause some to divert their spring break attentions to that country as well. Some schools, like the City University of New York, have already expanded their relief efforts to include both Haiti and Chile. (So far, all students who had already been living or visiting in the South American country have been reported safe, including 27 University of Notre Dame students and faculty members, a group of business-school students and faculty members from the University of Tennessee, and students studying abroad from the University of South Carolina at Columbia.)

Organizers of alternative spring breaks say college students' relief trips are nothing new. But the speed with which students have mobilized to assist countries with recent disasters is. Students have expressed so much interest that some organizers, relief agencies, and college administrators worry that the situation in both Haiti and Chile is not stabilized enough to make for a meaningful experience for spring breakers. In the Inside Higher Ed article, Suzanne Brooks, the director of the Center for International Disaster Information, says inexperienced volunteers should wait a year before planning any relief missions to Haiti. "I don’t think it’s impossible that a year from now for spring break there may be some programs up and running, but I really don’t think it makes sense for this year," she said in the article. It may also not be the safest option, other say, or even a wise idea to send more relief agencies out there when those already on site have had trouble finding sufficient food, water, and housing.

Lucky for you, there are plenty of options if you want to organize an alternative spring break closer to home. At Tulane University, "service learning" has become a part of the curriculum, as students work to continue rebuilding a city still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Those interested in local community service opportunities should also be aware that many nonprofits reward those good deeds with scholarships.

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College Experience Becoming Family Affair

March 9, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As the number of returning and adult students continues to grow in an economy where advanced skills are necessary to not only land a good job but keep that job, it was only a matter of time when we'd start seeing more students in school at the same time as their parents.

We've already written about growing community college enrollment. The numbers speak for themselves—nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9 percent over the same period, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Many of those enrolled are returning adult students who want to amp up their skill sets or start on a path toward a new career, perhaps due to a recent layoff or desire to go into a more desirable field. Community colleges have also always been an affordable option for traditional students either looking for a two-year start before transferring to a four-year university, or a two-year associate's program that will get them out onto the market faster. It's only natural then that there would be some overlap, with students and their parents taking courses at the same time.

In Illinois, college students who are 40 and older make up about 23 percent of the community college populations. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune looks at mothers and daughters taking community college courses together, such as Diana Gudowski, a 52-year-old attending Prairie State College in Chicago Heights with her 19-year-old daughter Marissa. The two found themselves on the same campus when the family decided collectively that they could not afford Marissa's first choice, the $30,000 per year St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Marissa plans to complete her prerequisites at the community college and then transfer to Northern Illinois University. Meanwhile, her mother is taking classes toward a bachelor's of fine arts in photography; she already has an associate's from Prairie State in photographic studies. Although their courses don't overlap, their schedules do—the two carpool to campus, as the family shares one car.

"When I got out of high school, I thought ‘Cool. … Now I can take my first class at noon.' But four out of five days, my Mom starts at 8 a.m.," Marissa said in the article.

The article's focus is on mothers and daughters because the female population has been hit harder by the struggling economy. Despite some upturns, there are still more than 15 million people out of work across the country, and many of those are older women with limited educations, according to the Tribune. Are you (or your parents) interested in the community college option? Try our free college search or look through our library of resources for more information.

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College Students Expect More from Dorm Living

March 19, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Not too long ago, the furnishings in a typical college dorm room included things like posters of your favorite band, boxes of ramen noodles for late-night snacks, and a land-line phone. The rogue mini-fridge that you covered with a bed sheet to avoid a fine (as mini-fridges were on the "banned" list, along with candles and stolen street signs) was probably the most controversial item in your shared room.

Dorm living today seems to have undergone a makeover. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune took a look at what college students at the University of Illinois bring with them as part of their dorm experience, including flat-screen televisions (on which they immediately install cable, often in HD), sleek laptops, and cell phones to replace land-lines. In fact, the school no longer even offers connections for land-line phones to students, as it became clear to administrators students just didn't need them anymore. In that article, a school spokeswoman said students didn't even notice they removed phone lines in the rooms; students are now able to get everything they need on their cell phones, including emergency text messages when the school is under a weather advisory or another safety-related incident. In one dorm, according to the Tribune, students are able to get a text message or e-mail when their laundry is done, or when there's an available washer or dryer.

Elsewhere, dorms are changing in different ways, unrelated to changing technologies. Mixed-gender dorms are becoming less taboo, with members of the opposite sex not only sharing bathrooms (taboo enough as recently as the 1970s), but rooms, as well. Students at Pitzer College have the option of choosing a roommate of the opposite sex to dorm with, one of about 50 schools across the country that offer incoming freshmen that choice. Still, few students take advantage of the option, with only about 1 to 3 percent choosing to do so at schools where they are allowed room with the opposite sex.

Dorm cafeterias have also been changing dramatically. Some have begun offering healthier fare in the dining halls, or catering to incoming students' food allergies. Others look more like the local Flat Top, with stir fry stations where students are able to pick and choose exactly what they'd like grilled up for them that day, or brick oven pizza days where students choose their favorite toppings.

What changes have you noticed at your dorm? If you've been away from college for a while and are not returning as an adult student, what do you remember about dorm living from your first year on campus?

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Survey Examines New Community College Students' Perceptions of First Year

March 30, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A new survey looking at entering community college students' opinions on the obstacles they face during their first year found that those students need more guidance to succeed as they transition from high school to higher education.

The study, released yesterday, was the ongoing Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE), which was first given to poll students in 2006. Since then, more than 91,000 students have been polled, with the results used by community colleges to improve preparedness programs and tactics to help new students achieve. The survey this time around looked at data from more than 50,000 students at 120 participating community colleges in 31 states and the Marshall Islands.

The survey looks to examine the first three weeks of new community college students' experiences at their respective colleges. Most of the respondents felt their colleges were doing a good job with the welcome wagons, and making them feel comfortable in their new surroundings. But others still felt more could be done to help them prepare for college, and to navigate administrative processes that seemed complicated at times. The findings included the following:

  • About 72 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they felt welcome the first time they came to their colleges; 25 percent expressed no opinion on this item, which concerned the providers of the SENSE survey.
  • About 49 percent said they agree or strongly agree that their colleges provided them with adequate information about financial aid, while 25 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • About 33 percent agreed or strongly agreed that a college staff member helped them determine whether they qualified for financial assistance; 40 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • About 45 percent agreed or strongly agreed that at least one college staff member (other than an instructor) learned their names, compared with 37 percent who disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • About 23 percent said that a specific person was assigned to them so they could see that person each time they needed information or assistance.
  • About 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they have the motivation to succeed in college, but about a quarter of those students also admitted to skipping class or failing to turn an assignment in at least once.

According to an analysis of the survey from Inside Higher Ed yesterday, the results point to the missed opportunities that face students and administrators on a daily basis on community college campuses. When students were asked to elaborate on their answers using short answers, some said they were forced to make decisions on choosing college courses, for example, with little guidance from their counselors, something they could well enough do on their own. The article also pointed to contradictions in the study; for example, students responded that they enjoyed the access they had to college staff members, but still felt unprepared to navigate college processes.

The providers of the survey suggest more needs to be done to engage students, and that administrators should take regular looks at their processes to make them even more easy to access by students who may need more help as first-year community college students.

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