Professor says Brooklyn College missed chance to get millions from Koch Foundation

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Brooklyn College professor accuses administrators, allegedly afraid of controversy involving the foundation of the brothers who bankroll many conservative politicians, of passing on a chance at millions.

Essay argues that colleges are better with old-style dormitories than apartment-like facilities

Apartment-style dorm rooms are the Hot New Thing at some colleges nowadays. Single rooms instead of doubles or even quads, exterior doors instead of crowded hallways, private bathrooms instead of gang showers and those icky shared toilets, even mini-kitchens instead of the noisy dining hall – all have an undeniable appeal for incoming freshmen looking to maximize the more adult features of undergraduate life.

Many contemporary students grew up with their own bedrooms, and perhaps even their own bathrooms, and may recoil from sharing their personal spaces with that mysterious stranger, the roommate or hallmate. So colleges and universities, particularly sensitive to the preferences of full-pay students, are starting to move away from traditional long-hallway dorms to more individualized rooms, some with generous amenities. Prospective students seem to love the idea.

They shouldn’t. Apartment-style dorms can be deadly for a student’s long-term success in college, isolating newcomers at exactly the moment when they most need to be reaching out and making friends. Early connections, made when students are most available for meeting new people, are a crucial first step to the community integration that scholars have long known is crucial to student retention and success. When my former student and current doctoral student Chris Takacs and I followed nearly 100 students throughout college and afterward in researching our book How College Works, we found that “high contact” settings such as traditional dorms – featuring long hallways, shared rooms and common bathrooms, where students have no choice but to meet lots of peers – are the single best device for helping new students to solve their biggest problem: finding friends. And dorms are especially valuable for students who are shy, unusually nervous about coming to college, or otherwise feel excluded. Finding one buddy to pal around with is all that’s needed to ensure a positive first-year experience.

Of course dorms aren’t the only place that students make friends. Extracurricular groups that convene frequently and include a couple dozen members are a great source of potential companions (smaller groups don’t work as well). Greek letter societies, sports teams, campus newspapers, and larger musical ensembles serve the purpose. At the college we studied, the choir -- with over 70 members, a dynamic director, rigorous auditions, and frequent rehearsals and performances -- offered a marvelous opportunity for its members to form close bonds, which in turn helped them become, in our network analysis, some of the most socially connected students at the college. 

Still, dormitories are different: they are open to everyone. You don’t need any special talent or athletic ability or an outgoing personality to live in a dorm and thus benefit from meeting a variety of peers. Dorms aren’t exclusive. After that first year, a student will likely have made friends and found his or her niche, but until then, broad exposure seems to be the best pathway to success. 

So how can admissions and student affairs staff convince incoming students to live in those overcrowded rooms and share their showers with people they may not even like?  And how can college presidents be convinced not to engage in the housing arms race of catering to the students who seem to favor luxury and privacy over the group experience? Apartments are appealing, after all, and colleges need the money that full-pay students will pony up for their own little pad.

Try anything. Tell students the odds are they will have a more successful and happy first year at college in this kind of dorm. If you have any money, recarpet the long hallways, improve the shared bathrooms, and upgrade the dorm rooms in that big old building. Try to keep the showers clean. If the rooms can’t be quads, at least make them doubles; if they are singles, at least keep the common bathrooms. Point out that you charge less for the old-fashioned dorm rooms.

Tell prospective students that they’ll meet more people in a dorm; give dorm residents priority in getting sophomore housing. Focus your programming efforts on the early part of the first year, when students are socially available – and often looking for friends. Remember, when more students have repeated, obligatory exposure to a sizable group of other students, more of them will find the one or two buddies who see them through their first year.

Ten years ago this August my wife and I drove our youngest daughter Rebecca down to New York City, to help her move into a freshman dorm at Fordham University. We arrived amid a sea of parents, siblings, RAs, and energetic young women hauling those loaded duffel bags and laundry baskets up big institutional stairwells to the fourth floor. The scene at the top was unforgettable: scores of people, crowded into a long hallway, with 20 rooms – all quads, bunk beds stacked up – lined down a long hallway, girls laughing and talking, helping each other out, and making introductions all around. A young faculty couple with a baby lived in an apartment at the end of the hall, and a priest had a room on the floor below. It was a scene of gentle pandemonium.

Becca stood there, her mouth hanging open in amazement, not yet realizing that four of her best friends in life would come from that hallway. My wife and I, both professors, smiled at each other. “This,” we thought, “will be great.”

It was.

Daniel F. Chambliss is Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Hamilton College. He is the author, with Christopher G. Takacs, of How College Works (Harvard University Press).

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USC to Award 4-Year Sports Scholarships in Football, Basketball

The University of Southern California announced Monday that all of its football and men's and women's basketball scholarships would last for four years, instead of being the common one-year renewable grant. While it is commonly assumed that college athletic scholarships are for four years, the reality is that most are not -- an issue that has surfaced frequently in the growing debate over whether college athletes are treated fairly. In mandating four-year scholarships for all current and future football and men's and women's basketball players, USC Athletics Director Pat Haden said "USC hopes to help lead the effort to refocus on student-athlete welfare on and off the field."

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Oregon Athletes Accused of Sexual Assault Suspended for Up to 10 Years

Three former University of Oregon men's basketball players accused of sexually assaulting a female student will be suspended from the campus for as long as the alleged victim remains enrolled at the university, The Oregonian reported. The suspension could last between 4 and 10 years.

The alleged assault occurred on March 9, and the players were dismissed from the team in late April. The county district attorney's office did not charge any of the suspects due to insufficient evidence.

"My client is very relieved to get the news," John Clune, the attorney for the victim, told Inside Higher Ed. "It is the right result and it would have been very hard to stay at the UO if it came out another way."

News of the suspension comes as several universities grapple with how to appropriately punish students accused of sexual assault and protect assault victims, even when the suspects have not been found guilty in criminal court.

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McCaskill: Campus sexual assault legislation coming after August recess

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Senator Claire McCaskill says legislation she will introduce this fall will eye tougher penalties for colleges -- but could provide relief from burdensome reporting requirements. 

Education Department Again Delays ‘State Authorization’ Rule

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Education is again delaying the deadline for when colleges must comply with a requirement that they obtain authorization from regulators in each state in which they are physically located.

The rule was set to take effect next month, but the department announced Monday that it is pushing the deadline back to July 1, 2015. This is the second time the department has provided such an extension for a rule that many colleges have said is confusing. Some have also said the rule is being enforced unfairly.  

The regulation is aimed at setting some minimum standards for how a state approves colleges operating within its borders. States, for example, must have a process for accepting student complaints about a college. The rule also sets out the conditions under which state regulators can use an institution’s accreditation or business licenses as a substitute for a more intensive approval process.

Those state authorization requirements that are now being delayed affect only those colleges that have physical locations, not distance education providers.

The department’s separate state authorization requirement for distance education programs was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2012. Department officials are currently rewriting those rules after a negotiated rule making panel failed to reach consensus on the issue earlier this year. 

Former College Basketball Player Sues NCAA Over Concussions

A former college basketball player is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association, alleging that it failed to protect college athletes from the long-term effects of concussive head injuries.

James Cunningham asserts that he suffers "from constant headaches, memory loss, dizziness, severe depression, speech impediments, panic disorder, anxiety, mobility issues, irritability, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and panic disorder," according to a complaint filed June 20. Cunningham was a member of the Arizona State University and University of Tulsa basketball teams in the mid-1990s.

"Mr. Cunningham did not suffer from these conditions prior to incurring the concussions while playing NCAA basketball," the complaint reads. "In addition to his severe medical conditions which require constant treatment and monitoring, Mr. Cunningham is at an increased risk of developing latent brain injuries or additional neurodegenerative disorders."

Cunningham alleges that the NCAA was aware of "mounting literature and medical advice" about concussive injuries in college sports. He is seeking $75,000 in damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligence, and fraudulent concealment.

While previous lawsuits and media attention has tended to focus on the injuries sustained by football players, concussions are a danger for college athletes in many types of sports. In October, a Samford University soccer player also sued the NCAA, arguing that the association did not do enough to educate athletes on the dangers of head trauma.

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Scientists note NSF push for data on mentoring in grant proposals

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Some professors applying for NSF grants notice their proposals are increasingly evaluated in part on data-driven evidence of the way they work with students. Not everybody likes the trend.

Discussion focuses on envisioning faculty models of the future

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Adjuncts became the majority teaching force haphazardly over many decades, participants at TIAA-CREF symposium say. Now it's time to focus on creating better ways to employ the non-tenured.

State Report Reveals Why Illinois Higher Ed Chief Left

When George Reid left his position as executive director of the Illinois State Board of Higher Education, the announcement said he was leaving for personal reasons. But a state audit report released Friday revealed that Reid left amid concerns that he was using a state-financed rental car for his own personal needs, and that this pattern cost the state $6,500, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. The state report also revealed that when Reid was hired, the board knew that in a previous position at Kentucky State University, Reid had been found to be using university funds for personal items, such as a trailer hitch for a boat and a cat scratching post. The newspaper reached someone at Reid's home, but the phone went dead while the person was taking a message for Reid.

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