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Penn Student’s Plea to Minority Applicants: Don’t Go Here

April 21, 2011

Penn Student’s Plea to Minority Applicants: Don’t Go Here

by Suada Kolovic

After a run-in with racism, a University of Pennsylvania student wrote an open letter to future minority applicants discouraging their attendance at the elite university. African American undergraduate Christopher Abreu said that his time at Penn has been filled with harassment, racism and an overwhelming sense of not belonging. “Ever since I came here, I have been self-conscious...I grew up in the projects, surrounded by crime and drugs. I came from there to here without much help, and in May I will graduate cum laude. But that isn't good enough. I've always felt like an outsider here,” he wrote.

Abreu elaborates that for the most part, racism at Penn was usually subtle and something that most minorities came to accept as a way of life. But two “blatantly” racist encounters with students led to his open plea to minorities. In one incident, he claims four white students spoke to him in mock slang and asked him repeatedly, “You belong here or what?” while in another, Abreu claims that a white student called him a racial slur and asked him where he could, “get some fried chicken.” “I'm lucky that I only have a month left here. The social atmosphere and unwelcoming environment for minorities at Penn is more draining than any class you could ever take,” he said.

Future college applicants, what are your thoughts on Abreu’s personal encounters with racism at the University of Pennsylvania? Do you think that directing blame towards the university is misguided and his solution problematic?

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University of Iowa Professor Under Fire for Brash Email

April 22, 2011

University of Iowa Professor Under Fire for Brash Email

by Suada Kolovic

University of Iowa Professor Ellen Lewin had some choice words to the school’s chapter of College Republicans: F- YOU! According to the Iowa City Press Citizen, the message was sent in response to a mass email from a campus Republican group promoting “Conservative Coming Out Week,” a week for conservatives in Iowa City to “come out of the closet” and promote right-wing values. The events included a screening of the 2002 film “Journey’s with George,” in honor of George W. Bush, a blood drive and an “Animal Rights BBQ.”

Less than a minute after the email was sent, Lewin fired back with “F- YOU, REPUBLICANS.” According to reports, she took issue with the tone of the email which she claimed used the rhetoric of traditionally marginalized groups to announce conservative events. Lewin was also offended by the belittling of animal rights and an event mocking the Wisconsin union protests.

Iowa Federation of College Republicans Chair and IU student Natalie Ginty responded to the vulgar message by requesting a public apology. "We understand that as a faculty member she has the right to express her political opinion, but by leaving her credentials at the bottom of the email she was representing the University of Iowa, not herself alone," she wrote in an email to Anthropology department head James Enloe, reports the Press Citizen.

Lewin complied with Ginty’s request by apologizing for the brash language but insisted that the conservative group’s mailing was unwelcome and distasteful."I do apologize for my intemperate language, but the message you all sent out was extremely disturbing and offensive," she wrote. "I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times." Do you think Lewin let her emotions get the best of her? Or do you think her reaction was justified? Let us know.

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Louisiana Board of Regents Cuts 100+ Programs

April 28, 2011

Louisiana Board of Regents Cuts 100+ Programs

by Alexis Mattera

With the royal wedding set to happen in less than one day’s time, many people’s minds are filled with thoughts of excess, grandeur and all things sparkly. But instead of waking up at an ungodly hour to toast the new bride and groom with sapphire-hued Kate-tinis, the Louisiana Board of Regents has a rather opposite plan: cut more than 100 academic degree programs statewide.

The Regents labeled the programs averaging fewer than eight bachelor’s degree graduates, five master’s degree graduates or three doctoral graduates in the past three years as low-completers and terminated 109 programs directly, while 189 will be consolidated or shaped into new programs. Southern University, LSU, the University of Louisiana and Southeastern Louisiana University recorded the most degrees lost and no public historically black colleges will offer a bachelor’s degree in a foreign language once the programs are phased out; a small sliver of positive news for students is that eliminated programs will remain in place until currently-enrolled upperclassmen graduate.

Though Karen Denby, Regents associate commissioner for academic affairs, said the colleges will be more efficient with class sizes, faculty loads and graduation rates as a result of the cuts, some administrators – like Mike Gargano, LSU System vice president of student and academic support – are still wary about the motivation behind the changes...and we’d assume students are as well. To our Louisiana readers, does this announcement impact your intended major or career path?

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The Plagiarist’s Weapon of Choice

Plagiarism Flagged at Social and User-Generated Websites Most Often

May 2, 2011

The Plagiarist’s Weapon of Choice

by Suada Kolovic

Looking over your peer’s shoulder during a test or copying from the encyclopedia are out but plagiarizing off user-generated sites – ones that your peers had a hand in publishing – is in, according to a recent study.

The findings were released by iParadigms, the creator of Turnitin, a plagiarism-detection service that checks for possible plagiarism by comparing submitted papers to several databases using a proprietary algorithm. The study consisted of analyzing 40 million papers submitted by high school and college students over a 10-month period. Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing at Turnitin says the findings show, “that plagiarism in sourcing work is going the way that everything else in the world is going. People are relying more on their peers than on experts.”

It’s important to note that the study does have its faults. Turninit specifically detects “matched content” and not outright plagiarism. So, while the software will flag material from a paper mill, it will also flag material that has been properly attributed and cited. That aside, here’s the breakdown of study:

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Mork Family Donates $110 Million to USC

May 4, 2011

Mork Family Donates $110 Million to USC

by Suada Kolovic

The University of Southern California has secured a major donation – the fourth of more than $50 million given to the university this school year alone – from Julie and John Mork. The couple donated $110 million to USC to fund the Mork Family Scholars Program, which will provide high school seniors “of extraordinary intellectual talent and capability full tuition and $5,000 living stipends,” the university said in a statement.

John Mork, a trustee who graduated from USC in 1970, is the chief executive officer of Energy Corp. of America, a private company that handles the exploration, extraction, production and transportation of natural gas and oil, based in Denver. “Attending USC is the dream of talented high school seniors from all walks of life,” said John Mork. “We hope this gift will help transform hundreds of young lives.” Julie Mork, who graduated from UCLA, is the managing director of the Energy Corp. of America Foundation, a charitable organization that focuses on children and education. According to the LA Times, about 100 undergraduates will benefit from the scholarships each year.

Now while this is the single largest donation in the university’s history for undergraduate scholarships, it isn’t the Morks first philanthropic gift to the school. In 2005, the family contributed $15 million to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering that resulted in the naming of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science after the Mork family. And this time around, to show their appreciation, USC will place a plaque with the names and images of the Mork family at Bovard Auditorium.

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Illinois State Senate Passes DREAM Act

DREAM Act Passes with Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority

May 5, 2011

Illinois State Senate Passes DREAM Act

by Suada Kolovic

After much heated national debate, the Illinois state Senate passed the DREAM Act, a measure that will give undocumented students who’ve graduated from high school, completed two years of college or military service and have no criminal record a shot at citizenship. The bill passed the Senate by a margin of 45-11, with wide bipartisan support – 11 Republicans supporting the bill alongside 34 Democrats.

It is important to note that the State of Illinois does not have the authority to grant citizenship, but will instead create a “DREAM Fund” – a scholarship account funded entirely by private dollars that will provide scholarships to undocumented students seeking higher education. The fund would also encourage counselors to receive training on educational opportunities for undocumented students, as well as open up college savings programs and prepaid tuition programs to all Illinois residents.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), one of many pro-immigrant groups that descended on Springfield for Wednesday's vote, tweeted "Perfect timing. The state Cinco de Mayo celebration has started in the State Capitol."

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Texas A&M President Too Popular on Facebook

Hits Friend Maximum, Seeks Advice on How to Stay Connected with Students

May 6, 2011

Texas A&M President Too Popular on Facebook

by Suada Kolovic

Having too many friends on Facebook seems like an unlikely problem for the president of a major university to have, but R. Bowen Loftin, the president of Texas A&M, isn’t your average administrator. Mr. Loftin not only has a Facebook account but accepts friend requests from his students. And while you’d assume students would cringe at the thought of friending such an authoritative figure, it’s in fact the exact opposite: He’s so popular that he’s hit Facebook’s max of 5,000 friends.

Diana C. McDonald, the college’s director of social media and marketing programs, says the Mr. Loftin likes the personal interaction of having a Facebook profile rather than say a Facebook fan page. “Our president is definitely not in the ivory tower,” she says. “We definitely don’t want to put him there.”

Mr. Loftin is so distraught that he’s solicited advice on what to do via – what else? – his Facebook wall. He asks his friends, who are mostly students, “I have a lot of friends requests pending, so I am asking for your advice on how best to keep connected to all of you.” And suggestions are pouring in. Some propose Mr. Loftin seek other social networking sites, possibly defriend those who weren’t his real friends or even start a Twitter account. With all the issues students are facing – crippling debt, soaring unemployment rates – is this really an issue a university president should focus on? Would you friend your school’s president?

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Social Media and the Job Market

Online Identity Matters to Potential Employers

May 9, 2011

Social Media and the Job Market

by Alexis Mattera

It’s that time of year again when the inboxes of hiring managers are overflowing with applications from recent college graduates looking to score that coveted first job. But today, in addition to reviewing resumes, cover letters and references, employers are taking candidates’ online identities into account when deciding who will receive an offer letter.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ most recent report on job studies, of the 46 percent of companies surveyed by CareerBuilder that are looking to hire recently graduated workers, 16 percent of them are seeking candidates who are adept at using social media. But there's a catch: While a candidate that's active on Facebook and Twitter is good, the one with proficiency in Google Analytics and knowledge about new industry developments is more likely to get an interview.

To make the best virtual impression, less is more says Steve Schwartz, executive vice president of consumer services at risk management company Intersections – not only will untagging unsavory photos and eliminating excessive personal information help boost your online image but it could also prevent identity theft – and Monica Wilson, acting co-director of career services at Dartmouth College suggests being more cognizant of what you post and when you post it. (This advice also translates to students applying to college.)

Recent or soon-to-be college grads, does your online presence require a little spring cleaning before you enter the job market?

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What’s So Special About Specialized Majors?

Narrowing Your Focus is Both Risky and Rewarding

May 11, 2011

What’s So Special About Specialized Majors?

by Alexis Mattera

Starting college with a specific idea what you want to do with your life can make choosing a major, selecting classes and finding internships much easier than the decisions facing your undecided roommate. But is that specificity better? The answer is yes...and no. Well, actually, it’s a maybe.

With the increasing demand for expertise in narrow fields, some schools are putting programs in place to produce candidates perfectly suited for these niche jobs. SUNY at Albany, for example, has opened a College of Nanoscale Science to meet what The National Science Foundation estimates will be about 2 million workers with nanotechnology-centric backgrounds needed by 2014. The results so far are promising – even first-year students have already been offered summer internships with companies like Intel and IBM – but is this kind of specialization always wise?

To an extent, but career counselors, hiring consultants and academic officials think it’s more important for students to diversify their undergraduate years. Industry-specific skill sets may get a graduate into their chosen field faster but may severely limit career flexibility down the line. You may think you know your ideal career path but wait until you’ve taken a wide enough variety of classes to be sure...especially when employers report they value soft skills like effective communication, critical thinking and problem solving over precise training.

What do you think? Should you specialize right away or sample what your school has to offer before making a potentially life-changing decision?

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Full Internet Access During Exams? Ja, in Denmark

Danish University Hopes Strategy Will Quell Cheating

May 12, 2011

Full Internet Access During Exams? Ja, in Denmark

by Alexis Mattera

Here in the U.S., surfing the Internet during class is usually frowned upon and accessing the web during an exam could warrant an automatic failing grade. Overseas, however, Internet usage in these situations will not only be allowed but encouraged to – among other things – inhibit cheating.

The University of Southern Denmark has announced that by January 2012, all exams will be transferred to a digital platform and administered via Internet software. In addition to making it possible for faculty to create tests aligned with course content that would better assess students’ problem solving prowess, analytical skills and ability to discuss particular topics, e-learning project coordinator Lise Petersen said this program presented an innovative solution to academic dishonesty. "One way of preventing cheating is by saying nothing is allowed and giving students a piece of paper and a pen," she said. "The other way is to say everything is allowed except plagiarism. So if you allow communication, discussions, searches and so on, you eliminate cheating because it’s not cheating anymore. That is the way we should think."

Do you think Southern Denmark’s plan is an effective one or an approach that will breed more academic dishonesty? What’s your school’s stance on Internet usage in class?

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