The Office of Student Conduct at the University of California at Berkeley sent letters to more than 100 student protesters offering them a choice between seven-month suspensions and formal hearings that could result in more severe disciplinary measures.
About 200 UC Berkeley student activists demonstrated Monday against the Code of Student Conduct that the school is using to hand down those suspensions.
Administrators describe the code of conduct as an educational tool, but student critics say that, unlike legal proceedings, it allows for vague charges, delayed hearings, and the use of insufficient evidence to prove guilt.
The protesters under notice of suspension were involved in the Nov. 20 Wheeler Hall occupation and protests during the Nov. 18-20 meeting of the UC Board of Regents and an “Open University” five-day sit-in in a school building staged at the end of the last semester. According to the code of conduct, students accused of violations should receive notification of their charges within 30 days of knowledge of the alleged violation and notice of a hearing must be sent within 45 days thereafter.
"The university has decided—unilaterally, without public notice, and without following the proper procedure—to abolish for 2009-10 the timeline that ensures students a speedy resolution to allegations of wrongdoing," said Thomas Frampton, a student at Boalt Hall School of Law who is advising some of those now facing conduct charges. "As a result, students' degrees may be withheld this spring, simply because the university doesn't feel that students' right to a reasonably speedy hearing matters."
Susan Trageser, director of the Office of Student Conduct said that the normal deadline for notifying students of code violations was broken after the policy was suspended over the summer due to the university-wide employee furlough program.
“We still use the timeline as a guideline, but there are instances where we can’t follow it exactly,” she said. “Calendars can get pretty full, and we only have three staff. We try to get everybody in.”
Students like senior Kyla Collins—who spoke at the Monday rally—may miss their expected graduations this year because of the suspensions and disciplinary delays. Involved in the Wheeler Occupation and “Open University” protests, she is facing a seven-month suspension and does not expect to have a hearing for at least a month.
“They cited furloughs,” she said, “which is a slap in the face because that is what we are fighting.”
Doctoral student Callie Maidhof, who also faces a seven-month suspension, said the student conduct process is deliberately outside the public legal system.
“There’s a reason that none of us are facing [criminal] charges; so it’s essentially double jeopardy,” she said. “We already do not have charges in the legal system because they don’t have enough on us.”
More from the Daily Californian at UC Berkeley
Following the lead of student protesters in California, the newly-founded Idaho Students Organization held a sit-in at the state capitol in response to the State Board of Education's (SBOE) anticipated increase in fees and tuition at five state universities.
Although only 15 students took part in the protest on Monday, Jason Denizac, the co-founder of the Idaho Student Organization and Boise State University (BSU) senior, said in an interview with the student newspaper the Arbiter that the sit-in was an important first step in increasing student activism in the state and preparing to fight bills that could harm student interests in the following legislative session.
Denizac said that Idaho is currently nationally ranked 49th both for the number of high school students who go to college directly after they graduate, and for the number of students that stay in college after completing their freshman year.
“My yearly fees have gone up $710 since I was a freshman in 2006. This is a dangerous trend. No wonder so few Idaho high schoolers go on to college. It hurts my generation’s job prospects,” Denizac said to the Arbiter. He said that he was motivated to start the group after observing the student protests in California.
Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) senator Chase Johnson and co-founder of the the Idaho Students Organization, said the group will have more influence next year once it begins to hold monthly meetings and works more closely with student governments. Already, the group has board members from all of Idaho's state universities.
Boise State Vice President for Finance and Administration Stacy Pearson said that even if the SBOE approves fee and tuition increases for next year, the Idaho university system will still experience a budget deficit.
"The state budget reductions have been hard to absorb financially. Our goal is to serve students. The key is for them to get their degree, not just to attend," said Pearson.
BSU students had previously criticized the proposed increase in fees and tuition by the State Board of Education because the SBOE had planned to increase tuition for full-time students by 8.9 percent, while decreasing tuition for part-time students by 7.9 percent.
The SBOE will not make their decision until they review all the information submitted by the universities in the system.
More from the Arbiter at Boise State
Law Students for Economic Justice, a student group at NYU, is proposing a ban on Coca-Cola products to protest the company’s alleged involvement in violent union-busting.
NYU instated the original ban in 2005 in response to rumors of the company’s alliance with paramilitary groups to intimidate and kill union workers in Colombia (where Coca-Cola houses its bottling plants).
Coca-Cola denied the accusations and after an International Labor Organization report, the school lifted the ban in Feb. 2009.
A 2009 poll of 132 students revealed that about half of them supported the ban, while the other half supported its repeal.
However, in a recent New York lawsuit, Guatemalan workers claim to have undergone a “campaign of violence” after participating in union activities.
In an effort to involve more students, the Law Students for Economic Justice has disseminated “NYUL Dump Diller, Dump Killer Coke” flyers throughout campus, and plans to screen a documentary of the company’s anti-union activities titled “The Coca-Cola Case.”
Douglas Miller, member of the group’s coalition effort, says that the group is not aiming to lessen Coca-Cola’s profits.
“What we're asking NYU students is to support an institutional choice, and not to actually try to harm Coke's market share, because NYU is an insignificant market to a company that big, but to reveal the truth behind the Coca-Cola image," he said.
Director of the national Stop Killer Coke campaign, Ray Roger, supports the students’ work.
"When [students and faculty at NYU] see Coca-Cola beverages there, they should think of crimes and misconduct so unthinkable that all of Coke's beverages become undrinkable," Rogers says.
More from NYU News
Several student organizations at Vanderbilt University are raising questions about Vanderbilt’s investment decisions.
Vanderbilt University does not directly invest in stocks or companies and instead invests using fund managers according to a statement released by Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Beth Fortune. However, HEI Hotels and Resorts—the seventh largest hospitality investment and operating business in the United States—used the Vanderbilt logo at a 2006 presentation at Cornell University.
Students are hoping to use that relationship to demand HEI to treat their workers better. Though the student organizers are not calling on the University to divest from HEI as some similar efforts have done, they are asking the University to use its power as an investor to call on HEI to reform.
HEI is accused of overworking, underpaying, and intimidating employees, according to a statement released by former and current HEI employees. University students across the country have protested against HEI, calling for divestments in the company.
In addition, the Office of the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against HEI in October 2009, citing that the HEI-owned Sheraton in Arlington, Va., was engaging in unlawful intimidation and coercion of their workers.
HEI featured the Vanderbilt logo in the second of three funds it manages, which consists of university endowments from schools including Harvard, Yale, and Brown. The logo was associated with a $425,000,000 discretionary private equity fund for acquiring and developing hospitality-related assets.
"HEI workers are exercising their right to protest …and HEI management has repeatedly acted with disregard for the values of Vanderbilt and the laws of this country,” said junior Benjamin Eagles, president of Vanderbilt Students of Nonviolence. “We are not calling for divestment. Rather we want Vanderbilt to leverage our power as an investor to reform the inhumane practices of HEI Hotels.”
Fortune says the University did its research on HEI before making any financial decisions.
“We seek to gain an intimate knowledge of their organizational structure, ownership, investment philosophy, investment process and operational procedures to ensure they engage in best practices, embrace diversity, adhere to social norms of justice and fair dealing and earn competitive returns,” Fortune said.
Vanderbilt has not commented on any future investment plans with HEI.
The story at Vanderbilt comes on the heels of a historic divestment bill passed by the student government at the University of California at Berkeley. The bill demanded that the University remove all holdings in two companies that produce materials for the Israeli army, citing Israel’s human rights violations of Palestinians.
More from Inside Vandy at Vanderbilt University
A recent report shows that despite growing college enrollment and financial aid dollars, graduation rates at four-year colleges stayed the same from 2007 to 2008. In both years, only 57 percent of first-time, full-time students at four-year institutions graduated within six years.
The report, "Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2008; Graduation Rates, 2002 and 2005 Cohorts; and Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2008," was published by the National Center for Education Statistics, the statistical branch of the U.S. Department of Education.
The report also focused on the graduation gap between for-profit and non-profit colleges, confirming what many others have observed. About 65 percent of students at private non-profit colleges graduated within six years. At private for-profit colleges, only 22 percent of students met that mark.
Data were collected from over 6,600 colleges and universities around the country that are eligible for federal student aid.
The NCES reported that 19.6 million students were enrolled in federal aid-eligible institutions in 2008, and that 76 percent of first-time first-year students received some form of federal aid, up from 73 percent in 2007.
So if more aid dollars are being distributed, and more students are going to college, why aren’t more students graduating from college?
Some advocates for higher education blame for-profit institutions, saying that the schools are designed to take students’ money, including federal aid dollars, and give them very little resources to help them graduate.
Last year, the for-profit University of Phoenix got $400 million in Pell Grants.
But the U.S. Department of Education has not made any statements about the best use of Pell Grant money. In fact, even non-government voices have yet to chime in on the implications of the report.
Students at Florida State University rallied for the reform of drug laws on March 31, promoting greater legal tolerance for marijuana as a safe alternative to alcohol. The event, hosted by the campus chapters of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), served as a kick-off to Alcohol Awareness Month.
SSDP is currently in talks with the school administration to try to implement Good Samaritan or Medical Amnesty Policy rules, which they say would promote student safety by protecting students who call for emergency assistance in the case of alcohol poisoning or drug overdose.
“We believe it is the fear that they instill in students that prevents students from calling for help or delays the amount of time students take to call for help,” Mola said.
The event was the first of more than 80 rallies planned across the country throughout the month of April. The rallies are coordinated by the national non-profit organization Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation, which seeks to raise awareness about the safety of using marijuana instead of alcohol.
“All objective studies that look at marijuana and alcohol show that marijuana is much safer than alcohol,” said John Mola, the campus SSDP public relations director. “It doesn’t contribute to direct overdose deaths; it doesn’t contribute to sexual assault or to violence.
SSDP members at the event also spoke out about the need for reform in FSU's alcohol rules.
“We are not trying to promote drinking," said SSDP President Lauryn Harris. "We would actually like to lower the binge drinking on campus as well, but zero tolerance is just like prohibition, it’s not effective."
More from FSU News at Florida State
Eleven students at the University of Texas at Dallas are working behind the scenes with a Richardson City Council member, Amir Omar, to gain real world experience in regional planning and city policy.
The group of students, which meets nearly every Friday morning with Omar, has been working over the past year to research proposed project ideas and develop strategies for improving the city of Richardson.
Some of the ideas presented by the group have been adopted by the city council, such as the Tree the Town initiative, which aims to increase the number of trees planted throughout the city.
Another project, developed by marketing major Melony Danian, works to introduce new Richardson residents to the city and encourage them to shop at local businesses.
Sophomore Zayd Mabruk said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News that he became part of the group because he wanted to make a difference in his community.
"I wanted to have a partnership between my university and the city council," he said. "By going out in the community and being a representative of my university, it would reflect well on UTD."
Mabruk, who is also team manager of the group, said he selected students who were interested in more than just resume building. Group members come from a number of different academic backgrounds, ranging from political science to arts and technology, according to the Daily Morning News. None of the students receive a salary or class credit for their work.
Omar said that he enjoyed working with the UTD students because of the energy that they brought to their work.
"People are willing to give up their time if they're working on something they're passionate about, they've allowed me to accelerate the things I'm working on," said Omar.
More from the Dallas Morning News
While students across California face steep fee hikes, some projects the revenues are being spent on are raising eyebrows among students and reporters. UCLA is using student money for a costly renovation to its main sports stadium, and Cal State Sacramento used student money to patch an investment gone wrong.
UCLA had been planning to renovate Pauley Pavillion since 2006, when administrators drew up a plan to raise $100 million from private contributors for a $185 million project that includes a high-definition scoreboard, expanded locker rooms and additional cushioned seating. But after the recession made private contributors harder to come by, the school decided to make up the difference with $25 million from student fees.
Richard Bergman, originally a fundraiser for the Pauley Pavilion renovation, said that using student fees to fund the renovation “seems like a strange priority.” He notes that most students will be unable to benefit from the renovation anyway, as good seats cost more than Lakers tickets.
Bergam said administrators should have scaled back their rebuilding plans when faced with the lack of funding.
In 2000, a student referendum set aside $15 million of the fees to maintain two older campus buildings, and the remaining $10 million to repair some student facilities.
UCLA’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Olsen conceded that the referendum did not include any plans about Pauley Pavilion. However, he said, “it was always clearly understood that as the revenues grew, additional projects could be appropriately funded by those fees."
"Students really weren't involved in the process, beyond maybe some rubber-stamp committee," said UCLA Student Regent Jesse Bernal. "I don't think they know enough about it.”
Similarly, at Cal State Sacramento, administrators pulled money from the school’s general fund—comprised of student fees and tax dollars—to cover an investment deal that went sour. The general fund money is typically utilized for professor’s salaries, utility bills and other education costs.
In 2007, University Enterprises Inc., an independent foundation affiliated with the University, used over $35 million worth of private donations to buy a commercial office building near campus. Administrators planned to hold classes in half of the building, and lease the other half to bring in revenue.
When the real estate bubble burst, the investment proved unwise. President Alexander Gonzalez said the school paid $5.6 million last year to prevent University Enterprises Inc. from foreclosing the building.
"It does kind of look like a gift of public money to the foundation," said Boilard in the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Auditors from the state attorney general’s office are focusing on both the UCLA and CSS expenditures.
More from the L.A. Times
Amidst the worst recession in years, more graduates are turning to unpaid internships as a way to gain experience, a trend some government officials are beginning to worry allows companies to inappropriately obtain free labor.
Several states around the country, including California and Oregon, are beginning to take action and investigate employers who might be illegally using internships as a way to avoid paying wages.
Most interns do not file complaints against their employers because they fear of being considered “troublemakers," which could hurt their potential future employment.
M. Patricia Smith, who served as New York’s labor commissioner last year, is now the Federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official. Smith and the wage and hour division of the department are racketing up efforts to pursue companies who take advantage of unpaid internships.
“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, director of the department’s wage and hour division.
Lance Choy, director of the Career Development Center at Stanford University, said there is concrete evidence that the number of unpaid internships is quickly rising because of students looking for résumé builders and companies cutting down on costs. Roughly 643 unpaid internships were posted on Stanford’s job board this academic year, which is more than triple the 174 posted two years ago.
States such as California require interns to receive college credit if they are unpaid, but federal regulators say it doesn’t excuse employers from paying interns.
Some students like Brittany Berckes, an Amherst senior, spent a summer working an unpaid internship at a cable news station, which her parents weren’t happy about.
“Some of my friends can’t take these internships and spend a summer without making any money because they have to help pay for their own tuition or help their families with finances,” Berckes said. “That makes them less competitive candidates for jobs after graduation.”
More from the New York Times
Students at Oklahoma State University who take online classes will pay less in fees and have easier access to those classes beginning next school year.
As of the fall 2010 semester, "online students" at OSU who take at least twelve hours of class each week will be exempt from $314.40 in student fees. Online courses will also now be available for registration online via the same service that students use to register for on-campus classes.
“I think they should be treated just like any other class,” said student Brad Case. “Online classes are just as challenging as regular classes because you have to discipline yourself to get your stuff done.”
Online students will pay a supplemental online fee of $27 to $65 per credit hour for undergraduate classes and $27 to $75 for graduate classes.
Prior to the institution of the new fee structure, tuition and fees were determined by individual academic colleges, which led to some inconsistency between colleges. In addition, students wishing to enroll in an online course were required to submit an application to the college offering the course.
Students with tuition waivers will be able to apply those to online classes, marking another change in policy.
Many colleges and universities around the country are considering incentivizing online courses to save money. The University of California system is currently looking at increasing online class offerings, and Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle estimates that moving just one percent of its university classes online would save $4.5 million.