Archive for February, 2011

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 21-27, 2011)

Monday, February 28th, 2011

SCANDAL

Behind The Assault On Planned Parenthood; Planned Parenthood Funding Vote.” No by-line. Huffington Post. February 25, 2011. — The House Republican move to strip federal funds from the nation’s most well-known reproductive health care provider as part of its budget last week was the culmination of a multi-year effort that involved parallel action by top Republicans and conservative media operatives playing up the work of a California college student who has been creating surreptitious videos of Planned Parenthood employees for years. The student, Lila Rose, is the president of an organization called Live Action that pays actors to walk into Planned Parenthood offices with hidden cameras, much as James O’Keefe did to undermine the community-organizing group ACORN. Last Friday, the day the House moved to defund Planned Parenthood, Glenn Beck devoted the entirety of his hourlong Fox News show to the organization and brought Rose into the studio to narrate some of her videos — clips that were spliced to create conversations that never happened. Along with Fox News, the conservative blog Big Government, which played a leading role in promoting the ACORN videos, has been pushing Rose’s productionsThe assault on Planned Parenthood is one part of the movement against abortion rights. House Republicans proposed banning federal funds that cover abortion in cases of rape if the attack was not “forcible,” but backed down after a public outcry. In South Dakota, the GOP was pushing legislation that would appear to make it legal to murder an abortion provider; a Georgia law would make miscarriages illegal under certain circumstances; Iowa lawmakers would allow deadly force to protect a fetus; Nebraska, Virginia, Kansas and Pennsylvania lawmakers are all pushing similarly extreme legislation.
Related story:
The Nationwide Effort To Restrict Reproductive Rights.” Huffington Post. February 25, 2011.

College Cries Foul Over a Copycat.” By Kevin Helliker. Wall Street Journal. February 26, 2011. Plagiarism by students is a concern at colleges across the country. But at Reed College in Oregon the problem has reached another level: the copying of an entire school. The website of a fictitious school called the University of Redwood features a faculty directory and photographs of a campus—most of which in fact belong to Reed. Now, officials are struggling to stop the fraud. “Our lawyers are seeking to shut the faux Redwood site down,” said Kevin Myers, a spokesman for Reed College, which is in Portland. Officials at Reed suspect the site is part of a scheme to collect application fees from prospective students in Hong Kong and Asia. After collecting a fee, “a shrewd scammer could wait several weeks, then issue a rejection letter, and the student would never know,” said Martin Ringle, chief technology officer at Reed. He said he had found serious mention of the University of Redwood on Asian higher-education blogs. The number of Chinese studying in the U.S. has exploded in recent years. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities said it was not aware of other such cases. Reed College is an exclusive school with annual tuition and fees of just under $50,000. Last October, its administrators discovered that a Google search of Reed academics showed them also on faculty at University of Redwood. Even Reed’s history was stolen. “Redwood is named after the Oregon pioneers Simeon and Amanda Redwood,” says the Redwood site. Reed is named after Oregon pioneers Simeon and Amanda Reed.
Related story:
Fake California school steals website content from Portland’s Reed College; Reed warns of scam.” Oregonian. February 26, 2011.

Auction of landmark Casa del Mexicano is delayed; The nonprofit that operates the 80-year-old cultural center in Boyle Heights has filed for bankruptcy protection. A watchdog group accuses the nonprofit’s president and her husband of wrongdoing.” By Esmeralda Bermudez. Los Angeles Times. February 26, 2011. The auction of the Casa del Mexicano, the 80-year-old cultural center in Boyle Heights that has found itself in financial straits, has been delayed because the nonprofit that runs it has filed for bankruptcy protection. The giant lime- and lemon-colored building went into foreclosure in October after the Mexican Benefit Corp. fell behind on payments for a $175,000 loan it took out to do repairs. It also owed Los Angeles County nearly $50,000 in unpaid property taxes. A group calling itself the Committee for the Rescue and Democracy of the Casa del Mexicano took the nonprofit’s woes public, accusing the corporation’s president, Martha Soriano, and her husband, Ruben Soriano, its secretary, of illegally obtaining the loan, stealing money, ignoring bylaws and fabricating a phantom board. Brownstone Mortgage of Santa Ana had planned to auction the building Feb. 18 for $280,000 — the cost of the loan plus the unpaid taxes, which the lender paid in order to rescue the house from being sold at a county auction. Alex Nackoul, Brownstone Mortgage’s managing director, said his company expects the bankruptcy to delay the sale, but “we plan to take whatever steps we can to protect our interests.” Javier Rodriguez, a community activist leading the group that has accused the Sorianos of malfeasance, said he has found an investor willing to take over the property, but that the couple are not interested.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 21-27, 2011)

Monday, February 28th, 2011

TECHNOLOGY

Cannibalized computers organize San Jose neighborhood.” By Joe Rodriguez. San Jose Mercury-News. February 21, 2011. It would be nice to say this project was somebody’s brilliant idea for empowering the powerless and disconnected, but no. You could say it was the accidental offspring of a more modest idea. A few years, ago Nvidia, a computer graphics company in Santa Clara, started Project Inspire. Rather than throw holiday parties for its own people, Nvidia invited schools and community groups to apply for $250,000 improvement grants. The catch was that Nvidia employees would work side-by-side with school parents and neighborhood folks. The McKinley Bonita neighborhood association and elementary school teamed up with the city to apply, and they won. In 2009, about 1,000 Nvidia employees repainted the school and community center, landscaped the grounds and hooked up 74 computers for students and teens. Almost as an afterthought, a few of those computers went into a small room in the community center for local adults to learn computing skills but not necessarily to organize themselves. “It was great, people came,” said Paul Pereira, a neighborhood manager for the city’s Strategic Neighborhoods Initiative. “But then they told us, ‘What good is it to have the computers here when we could be using them at home?’ ” That’s where Sami Monsur literally came in for a look. She started the neighborhood association after buying a house there in 2007 but was having a hard time recruiting low-income Latino and Asian families. The group communicated by the cheaper and faster Internet, not by snail mail or fliers. A research analyst at San Jose State, she managed to scrounge up six computers on her own, hardly enough. But then she learned that the Upward Bound program on campus was getting new computers. Monsur persuaded a dean to donate 80 of the units to the McKinley neighborhood center. cannibalize and rebuild the old machines. Basically, they combined chips and other stuff from the computers to produce 42 units that were able to navigate the Web and send e-mail at a decent speed. Two of the geeks were interns at a computer-repair training program for disabled students. Two were at-risk youth from a local summer program. The other two were neighborhood volunteers. Meanwhile, Pereira and Monsur looked for trustworthy low-income residents already active in local affairs; the ones who wouldn’t abandon e- organizing to play video games or gossip on social networks. No matter the price, Montano said the computer has made organizing her neighbors “easier and faster” and is surprised at how quickly she took to the Internet.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 21-27, 2011)

Monday, February 28th, 2011

VOLUNTEERING

Online petition drive to save Americorps strikes a chord; Grad student’s effort nets 105,000 signatures.” By Linda Matchan. Boston Globe. February 26, 2011. Until two weeks ago. That’s when he learned that a cause close to his heart — AmeriCorps, the national service program — was targeted for elimination by House Republicans. Someone told him about Change.org, an online organizing platform to circulate petitions, and he decided to give a Save AmeriCorps campaign a try. “I wanted to see if there is a constituency that would agree with me,’’ said Jonas, 26, who spent a year serving with AmeriCorps in Minnesota. Was there ever. Armed with a laptop computer, he set up headquarters in Darwin’s Ltd. coffee shop near Harvard Square on Feb. 9, created the online petition, and invited four people to sign it, then a few more. “I figured I personally knew about 50 people who wouldn’t just delete the e-mail and were computer-literate,’’ he said. “If they each found 10 people who cared, I thought I’d get to 500.’’ He didn’t expect that his campaign would strike a chord with tens of thousands of young people across the country. Over the next few days, as word came that the House of Representatives had passed a bill to cut $61 billion from the federal budget, including AmeriCorps’ funding, it shifted into a massive, national grass-roots effort to urge the Senate to save the program. By late yesterday, nearly 105,000 people had signed the petition.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 21-27, 2011)

Monday, February 28th, 2011

YOUTH SERVING ORGANIZATIONS

Big Brothers Big Sisters effort seeks funds as well as volunteers; The Start Something campaign aims to help meet the growing nationwide demand for adult mentors to help young people.” By Alexandra Zavis. Los Angeles Times. February 21, 2011. At a Starbucks in South Los Angeles, 14-year-old Bill Kirkpatrick III sat down with his mentor, to set goals for the coming year. On the teen’s to-do list for 2011: maintain a 3.0 or higher grade-point average, become a better role model for his 8-year-old brother, make it as a starter for the school basketball team and be “the flower that grew from concrete.” Since they were matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles nearly six years ago, the pair have spent many weekends together. The demand for such matchups is growing. For the first time in its more than 100-year history, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is actively seeking donations through a nationwide campaign launched last month to help whittle down an expanding waiting list. About 38,300 children nationwide — including more than 200 in the Los Angeles area — are waiting to be paired with adults, a 35% increase from February last year. Many more children are waiting to have their applications processed. In other cases, families decide not to apply when they find out that it can take a year or longer for a match to be made. “Our youth in America are facing challenges that are wider, deeper and more complicated than perhaps ever before in our history,” said Karen J. Mathis, the national group’s president and chief executive. “There are more young people … who are in single-parented families, who are from low-income or below-poverty-level [homes], who have one or more incarcerated parent, who are the children of deployed military personnel, who may be in foster care and are in failing schools.” Developed with the help of the Advertising Council, the Start Something campaign will use public service announcements and social media to explain the benefits of mentoring and to appeal for financial support as well as volunteers. Previous campaigns sought only volunteers. The organization and its some 370 local agencies are doing better than many charitable groups in a tough economy. Last year, they raised close to $271 million — about 5% more than the previous year — and mentored about 225,000 young people between the ages of 6 and 18

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 14-20, 2011)

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

LABOR UNIONS

The Betrayal of Public Workers.” By Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson. The Nation. February 16, 2011. The Great Recession and its aftermath are entering a new phase in the United States, which could bring even more severe assaults on the living standards and basic rights of ordinary people than we have experienced thus far. This is because a wide swath of the country’s policy- and opinion-making elite have singled out public sector workers—including schoolteachers, healthcare workers, police officers and firefighters—as well as their unions and even their pensions as deadweight burdens sapping the economy’s vitality. The Great Recession did blow a massive hole in state and municipal government finances, with tax receipts—including income, sales and property taxes—dropping sharply along with household incomes, spending and real estate values. Meanwhile, demand for public services, such as Medicaid and heating oil assistance, has risen as people’s circumstances have worsened. But let’s remember that the recession was caused by Wall Street hyper-speculation, not the pay scales of elementary school teachers or public hospital nurses. Nonetheless, a rising chorus of commentators charge that public sector workers are overpaid relative to employees in comparable positions in the private sector. The fact that this claim is demonstrably false appears not to matter. Instead, the attacks are escalating. The most recent proposal gaining traction is to write new laws that would allow states to declare bankruptcy. This would let them rip up contracts with current public sector employees and walk away from their pension fund obligations. Only by declaring bankruptcy, Republican luminaries Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich argued in the Los Angeles Times, will states be able to “reform their bloated, broken and underfunded pension systems for current and future workers.” But this charge is emanating not only from the Republican right; in a front-page story on January 20, the New York Times reported on a more general trend spreading across the country in which “policymakers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 14-20, 2011)

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

ARTS & CULTURE

Bloomberg to Donate $32 Million to Arts.” Wall Street Journal. February 15, 2011. [For story, go to Philanthropy].

8-Track Tapes Belong In A Museum.” By Stephen Becker. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. February 16, 2011. Today — when you can literally take your music anywhere — it’s hard to imagine a time when that wasn’t possible. So, if you’re old enough, cast your mind back 40 years or so. Remember 8-track tapes? In the 1960s and early ’70s, they were the way that millions of Americans took their music with them. Now, a museum devoted to the obsolete format is open in Dallas, Texas. Bucks Burnett is its proprietor. He caught the 8-track bug when he was rummaging through bins at a garage sale in 1988 and something caught his eye: the Beatles’ White Album on 8-track tape. “And so I’m thinkin’ ‘I’ll get this for 50 cents.’ And I said, ‘How much for the 8-track?’ And the guys says, ‘$7.’ And I said, ‘No, the 8-track? How much for the 8-track?’ And he said, ‘$7.’ I said, ‘Will you take five?’ He said, ‘Put it back in the box.’ I said, ‘OK, wait a minute. Why is this 8-track $7?’ And he said, ‘It’s the Beatles. It’s the White Album. Where you gonna find another one?’ And I gave him $7.” More than 3,000 8-tracks later, Burnett’s collection is so large he opened the 700 square foot Eight Track Museum (take a video tour). He displays between 500 and 1,000 tapes, as well as an example of every type of physical recorded music from the wax cylinders of the 1800s to the iPod.

Orchestra’s New Home.” By Shelly Banjo. Wall Street Journal. February 17, 2011. Construction is nearly complete on a $37 million classical music center for Orchestra of St. Luke’s slated to open in Hell’s Kitchen in March. Complete with rehearsal and recording space to accommodate a full symphony orchestra and chorus, a music library café and even showers for musicians, the 20,000-square-foot building will be the orchestra’s first permanent home since its debut in 1974. The center will also serve dozens of arts groups that rent space in the city’s increasingly crowded rehearsal and performance spaces, including the New York Pops and the American Symphony Orchestra. Raising money for building projects in the past few years hasn’t been easy for the city’s nonprofits. Decreases in donations and a tightening grip on public dollars have hurt funding for capital projects by charities in particular. Many donors also have focused their attention on emergency programs for the hungry and homeless. With traditional funding harder to obtain, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s became one of a growing number of nonprofits turning to a federal tax program for capital financing. This week, it will announce it has received a $4.6 million equity infusion from financial institutions including Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Urban Investment Group, Solomon Hess and United Fund Advisors through a federal program that provides tax credits to investors putting money into community development projects. “We needed these tax credits to ensure the project would happen on time and as planned,” says Zev Greenfield, the orchestra’s vice president of finance and Operations. “While we received $4.6 million directly, we saved millions more on financing and fund-raising costs.”

A Younger, Earlier Met; Opera Company Announces New Season.” By Erica Orden. Wall Street Journal. February 17, 2011. Likely making it the envy of performing-arts institutions around the world, the Metropolitan Opera’s audience is getting younger. The average age of Met operagoers has fallen by two years, to 58 from 60, since 2006, General Manager Peter Gelb said Wednesday while announcing details of the company’s 2011-12 season. “In opera terms, that is a seismic shift,” Mr. Gelb said. He put to rest speculation concerning the tenure of injury-plagued Music Director James Levine, who appeared by Mr. Gelb’s side with a towel draped over one shoulder. “We are planning to work together far into the future,” Mr. Gelb said. Mr. Levine, 67, is set to conduct the final two installments of the Met’s “Ring Cycle,” “Siegfried” and “Götterdämmerung,” scheduled for April and May 2012, respectively. “Siegfried” will feature innovative 3-D projections that adjust as the scenery transforms shape. The season, which includes seven new productions, will open with the company’s premiere of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena,” featuring Anna Netrebko in the lead role. Ms. Netrebko will also star in “Manon,” scheduled for April. In addition to detailing the shift in age of the Met’s ticket-holders, the audience-demographics studies also indicated their preference for earlier curtain times. The company will accommodate that demand next season by adjusting most starting times to 7:30 p.m. from 8 p.m.

End of grand Greenway vision; Y cancels plans, leaving city a space without buildings; Plans for a $70 million YMCA community center on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway have been scrapped.” By Casey Ross. Boston Globe. February 17, 2011. The state’s drawn-out effort to bring cultural and community institutions to the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway can now be declared dead, with the YMCA of Greater Boston becoming the last of four selected builders to cancel plans for a facility on the downtown park system. The Y’s board of directors voted last Thursday to abandon a proposed $70 million community center on the Greenway near the North End, citing the expense of building over the underground highway. That decision concludes a slow unraveling of the plan to add cultural institutions to draw crowds to the Greenway and to cover the unsightly ramps along the 13-acre strip of parks. Other groups previously dropped plans for a so-called Garden Under Glass, a center for arts and culture, and a museum focused on Boston history. City and state leaders yesterday said the YMCA’s decision provides the finality needed to move beyond an original vision that many acknowledged was not working. Some officials said they have come to appreciate the Greenway as an open space without buildings, adding that it might need only minor changes to make it more popular and active. “The notion that this could be one continuous space, and not subdivided by buildings, is a powerful realization,’’ said Kairos Shen, the city of Boston’s chief planner. “The question now is, how do we make sure there are enough activities on or around the Greenway to bring more people down there?’’ The nonprofit conservancy that manages the Greenway said it has numerous efforts under way, including doubling the number of food vendors in the parks to 12 and hosting a large outdoor art exhibition. The conservancy is also trying to raise money for a tree nursery on a parcel near Faneuil Hall that is broken up by ramp openings.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 14-20, 2011)

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

CHARITY

Portland woman who gave away $100 a day keeps giving, inspiring others.” By Nikole Hannah-Jones. Oregonian. February 14, 2011. Portland woman wonders if giving away $100 a day can change lives, and changes her own As she prepared to hand out her final C-note in last October’s project, Ginsberg’s heart felt heavy. “I was depressed that day,” she said. “I had been working myself up into this low place and was just thinking, ‘What am I going to do? I don’t want to stop.’” So she didn’t. Giving without strings just felt too good. Ginsberg decided to pass out 100 additional $100 bills to lucky strangers over the coming year. And as she did during her “Month of Hundreds,”she’s writing on her blog, hundredsofhundreds.com, about the people she meets and the moments they share. And giving, it turns out, can be catching. Hundreds of people have followed Ginsberg’s effort to give away some of the money left to by her mother — a Holocaust survivor whose experience made it difficult for her to share — as a journey of personal healing. But Sherwood middle school teacher Mollie Dickson, inspired by Ginsberg’s kindness, launched a giving project of her own.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 14-20, 2011)

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Wal-Mart’s unlikely philanthropy chief; Ex-Lesley leader makes most of job.” By Beth Healy. Boston Globe. February 16, 2011. Margaret A. McKenna devoted her career to education and social justice, and building programs to train teachers. When she retired after 22 years as president of Lesley University in Cambridge, running a charity seemed a logical next act. But this charity? McKenna leads the Walmart Foundation, a perch that gives her one of the biggest jobs in US philanthropy, running the charitable efforts of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Having started out as a civil rights lawyer enforcing labor laws, McKenna said she had to think long and hard about taking a job with the retail giant, which built an empire on low-price merchandise, but also a reputation for mistreating workers and steamrolling small businesses. To the people in her circles, the move was puzzling. Longtime friends initially described it as “surprising’’ and “crazy.’’ Even her two grown sons were stunned. “If I did not believe the company had the commitment to treat people fairly now, and to give back to the community, I wouldn’t be there,’’ McKenna said in her first in-depth interview on her foundation role. “It couldn’t just be me, trying to make the bad guy look good. That just would not work for me.’’ Three years after trading Lesley’s grand president’s home for a Back Bay condo and a sterile Prudential tower office, McKenna directs a half-billion dollars a year in giving, focusing on hunger and education. While she tackles issues close to her heart, she has also become an ambassador for the world’s most powerful retail machine, helping to burnish its image and lay the groundwork for its push into urban markets — including Boston.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 14-20, 2011)

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

EDUCATION

FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS & COLLEGES

Recruiter’s Experience at one For-Profit University Suggests Reform Efforts Will Face Hurdles.” By Sharona Coutts. ProPublica.com. February 14, 2011. New federal measures to rein in certain recruitment practices are scheduled to take effect this summer, but it may be difficult for some schools to change their long-standing sales culture. Inset: Brian Mueller, CEO of Grand Canyon University, said the school would make changes to comply with new regulations on student recruitment. When Ryan Richardson took a job as a recruiter at Grand Canyon University last summer, he was no novice to the business of for-profit colleges. He had worked as an enrollment counselor at the University of Phoenix, the biggest school in the sector, for years before leaving to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball. Richardson had heard that Grand Canyon was a good place to work: that it treated employees well and that—as a Christian university—it did not use the high-pressure sales tactics that had made him uncomfortable working at the University of Phoenix. But within days of starting at the school, Richardson said, he had a growing sense of disillusionment at the techniques the university was using to recruit students. “I remember calling my Dad and telling him it was just like the University of Phoenix, except they’d implemented God into the mix,” Richardson said. Richardson says he became so dismayed that he decided to record meetings, training sessions and conversations with Grand Canyon managers and other staff during the four months he stayed on the job, ending when he quit last October. The recordings, as well as other documents and internal e-mails that Richardson provided to ProPublica, give an unflattering inside view of how one team of recruiters at the school was seeking to bring in students. For-profit schools’ recruitment methods have been the subject of intense scrutiny over the last year, as government investigators [1], lawmakers [2] and regulators [3] have taken aim at tactics deemed abusive or deceptive.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Returning to Machu Picchu; After almost a century of conflict, the dispute between Yale and Peru over artifacts from Machu Picchu is ending.” By Sarah Nutman. Yale Daily News. February 14, 2011. The corner of Room 188 in building A21 on Yale University’s West Campus is filled with crates marked “fragile” and destined for Peru. Over the next weeks and months, between now and the end of 2012, thousands of objects excavated from Machu Picchu nearly a century ago will be carefully packed. In March, the first set of objects will be shipped by plane to Lima. By July 24, the 100th anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s III 1898 arrival at Machu Picchu they will be in Cusco, capital of the former Inca empire, and the waypoint for travelers headed to the great citadel. By the end of 2012, Yale plans to send thousands of artifacts originally from Machu Picchu back to Peru. On Friday, University President Richard Levin and Víctor Aguilar, the president of the Peruvian university to which the objects will go, signed an agreement of collaboration. The document formalizes a research partnership and creates the framework for the center that will house the objects and be jointly governed by the two universities. But most of all, it marks a pivotal step required for more than 5,000 pieces that Peru says were wrongfully kept, to finally return. Since Yale and Peruvian officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the return of the objects last November, both sides have been eager to underscore the goodwill between the two parties. The document, they say, allows Peru and Yale to move beyond the mistrust that has often characterized their interactions over the century-long struggle — it has eliminated any underlying disagreement.
Related stories:
Digging into Peru deliberations: For archeologists, even small pottery fragments from Machu Picchu can be important in helping develop a more complete idea of ancient Incan culture.” Yale Daily News. February 15, 2011.
Unpacking artifacts’ future in Peru: Although many Peruvian officials are enthusiastic about the artifacts’ return, some have admitted that they “don’t have access to the authorities” and therefore know little about the details of Yale’s agreement.” Yale Daily News. February 16, 2011.

Stanford Law tuition spikes.” By Nikita Lalwani. Yale Daily News. February 15, 2011. Last week, Stanford Law School announced that its tuition, currently $44,880, will increase by 5.75 percent for the next academic year. This increase, announced simultaneously with a universitywide tuition rise of 3.5 percent, will allow Stanford to pay faculty more and reinstate positions that were lost during the recession, Board of Trustees President Leslie Hume told The Stanford Daily. Yale Law School Director of Public Affairs Janet Conroy said Yale Law’s tuition for next year has not yet been set, and declined to comment on the possibility of a raise. Students at Stanford found out about the increase from their campus newspaper, not the school itself. Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer sent an e-mail out to students last Friday apologizing for failing to inform the students directly before word spread. The increase comes after months of media attention over the growing cost and decreasing returns of law school. The media frenzy reached its peak with an article in The New York Times titled, “Is Law School a Losing Game?,” which portrayed an increasingly bleak employment landscape for law graduates. Hume said Stanford Law School will experience a steeper tuition increase than the university’s other schools because it has been “under-pricing” itself in comparison to its law school peers. Financial aid will increase as well, The Stanford Daily reported, reaching $122 million by 2012.

Renovations could change names on Hillhouse.” By Drew Henderson. Yale Daily News. February 16, 2011. The historic mansions on Hillhouse Avenue, which Charles Dickens once famously described as the “most beautiful street in America,” are full of character — but many of their names are not.Only 10 of the 23 buildings on the two-block street, which is home to various academic departments, the School of Management and administrators’ houses, have names, while the rest are known by their addresses. These nameless treasures include the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, “15 Hillhouse,” and the department of anthropology, “51 Hillhouse.” But as these buildings age and require renovation, University President Richard Levin said Yale may seek gifts to support their restoration, and naming them for donors in the process. “When we renovate, it would be a great time to interest a donor to name [the building] in recognition,” Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said. Because rehabilitating the grand buildings is costly, Levin said administrators prefer tying the projects to significant gifts, and this often leads to the renaming of the building. In 2003, when the University wanted to move the Provost’s Office to a new location, Levin said administrators identified 1 Hillhouse as a good candidate. After seeking a donation to anchor the construction, administrators landed the support of Douglas A. Warner, Jr. ’41, Douglas A. Warner III ’68 and Michael D. Warner ’04 to support the project. The building is now named “Warner House.” “Programmatic need drove the solicitation of a gift,” Levin said.

Yale redistributes financial aid.” By Emily Wanger. Yale Daily News. February 18, 2011. Beginning with the class of 2015, low-income families will receive more financial aid, while those on the higher end of the income spectrum will receive less. Families that earn between $130,000 and $200,000 annually will pay a greater share of tuition than they have in the past, Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi said, with the “parent contribution” rising from an average of 12 percent of annual income to 15 percent. This change accompanies the University’s decision to waive parent contributions for families that make less than $65,000 each year — a more generous cutoff than the previous $60,000 figure announced in December. “Looking at the total picture, there are three big factors at play here: the drop in endowment, our desire to help more folks on the lower end, and our belief that making moderate adjustments on the higher end will still enable complete economic diversity,” Storlazzi said. Even with the new formula, Storlazzi said, Yale is ahead of many other universities which charge 17 percent of annual income for this group of families as a parent contribution. The changes to the parent contribution on the upper and lower ends of the income scale will amount to an estimated $9 million increase in the overall financial aid budget and will help preserve financial aid during a time of economic strain, he said. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of two websites focused on college financial aid (FinAid.org and Fastweb.com), said Yale’s decision to shift funds from wealthier students to less wealthy students is part of a greater trend in higher education. Still, he said, Yale’s changes are too small to make a major difference in the University’s financial aid program because “we’re talking a few thousand dollars.” Yale joins Dartmouth and Williams colleges in reducing financial aid for wealthier families in recent years.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Tax credits for private-school scholarships shot down by Virginia Senate committee.” Washington Post. February 15, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

A College That’s Pleased With Its Drop in Applicants.” By Jacques Steinberg. New York Times. February 15, 2011. In an era in which universities are expected to draw more and more applicants each year — as if they were Fortune 500 companies being forced to show annual profits — Ursinus College, a liberal arts institution outside Philadelphia, would seem to have little reason to celebrate. Applicants for this fall’s freshman class have plunged by 1,700 — or nearly a third — when compared with last year at this time. And yet, Richard DiFeliciantonio, the university’s vice president for enrollment, said on Monday that the drop was not only welcome but deliberate, after a five-year period in which Ursinus saw its applications nearly triple. “Those numbers aren’t real,” Mr. DiFeliciantonio said from the school’s campus in Collegeville, Pa. “People count anything that moves as an application. Everyone is going up 10 percent every year for 20 years. It’s absurd.” “At some point,” he added, “the credibility of those numbers is questionable.” Mr. DiFeliciantonio readily admits that Ursinus, until this year, was happy to let itself be swept up in the admissions race. In fact, Ursinus decided in 2005 that it needed to get bigger. Specifically, the college wanted to increase its freshman class by about 100 — to just under 550 — in part to bring in students to fill classes in new disciplines like biochemistry and environmental studies. Mr. DiFeliciantonio hired a direct-marketing firm from Virginia, Royall & Company, and its initial recommendations were that Ursinus waive the $50 application fee and essay requirement. In one year, from 2005 to 2006, applications to Ursinus more than doubled, to 4,413 from 1,725. Two years later, they grew by another 40 percent, to 6,179. While emphasizing that Royall did exactly what Ursinus had asked it to do, Mr. DiFeliciantonio said he had become increasingly uneasy. His main concern was that every year Ursinus received more applications and offered admission to more applicants, but that the percentage who accepted the offer, known as the yield, went down steadily.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 14-20, 2011)

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

ETHICAL INVESTING

Brown halts new investments in HEI.” By Alison Griswold. Yale Daily News. February 16, 2011. Brown University will not invest new funds in the controversial HEI Hotels & Resorts chain — an ethical shift in its investment policy that could make the university a leader among its peers. Brown and Yale have come under fire for their investments in HEI, which has been accused of mistreating its workers and interfering with their efforts to unionize. In a Thursday night e-mail to members of the Brown Student Labor Alliance, Brown University President Ruth Simmons wrote that the university will not invest further in HEI on the recommendation of Brown’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsiblity in Investment Policy. But an official on Yale’s version of the investment committee said the University will not necessarily follow suit. Informed of Brown’s decision by the News on Tuesday, Jonathan Macey, the chair of Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, said Yale is unlikely to make a similar policy change without “additional meaningful facts.” “Either Brown has information that we don’t have, or I find this to be an extremely perplexing development about what it takes to influence Brown’s decisions,” Macey said. While Brown will not invest further in HEI, the university’s current holdings in the company are not affected, HEI Senior Vice President for Human Resources Nigel Hurst said. Yale will keep its stake in HEI for now, Macey said, as the University considers the reasons behind Brown’s decision. Yale will not automatically adopt Brown’s plan or divest from HEI, he said, adding that the University should evaluate the companies in which it invests equally and avoid singling out HEI. Brown has led other universities in reevaluating the hotel company in response to public outcry. Activists praised Simmons last March after she wrote HEI a letter outlining concerns about the company’s alleged harassment and intimidation of workers trying to unionize.