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Cost to study, live at College of the Holy Cross to rise 3.2 percent to $58k for 2014-15

February 27, 2014 01:28 PM

The average annual cost to study and live at the College of the Holy Cross will rise by about 3.2 percent to $58,042 next fall, campus officials said.

That figure includes $45,080 for full-time undergraduate tuition and $12,350 a year on average for room and board, which are about 3.2 percent higher than the current rates. The figure also includes $612 in mandatory fees, the same as the current fees.

The figure does not include additional costs, such as to pay for books, supplies, health insurance, transportation or other personal expenses.

“While our nation’s economic outlook shows signs of improvement, we are very aware that even a minimal increase in fees will have an impact on our students and their families,” campus president Rev. Philip L. Boroughs wrote in a letter to families this month. “In our budgeting and planning process, our [trustee] board and senior leadership take into account the pressures and challenges that face families and businesses today.”

“Much of next year’s fee increase was necessitated by the same increases in energy, health care, and similar costs that are affecting you and so many others,” he continued. “These realities factor into setting the fee schedule—just as we factor in our commitment to support, continue, and enhance our exceptional academic experiences, our Catholic and Jesuit identity, and the many diverse learning and leadership opportunities that attracted your family to Holy Cross in the first place.”

He said families who need help affording a Holy Cross education should take advantage of resources at the college’s financial aid office.

Few other area colleges and universities have released their pricing for the 2014-15 academic year. Most will announce their rates over the next few months.

Amherst College, which costs $61,443 a year currently, is the state’s most expensive school, according to a Globe review of tuition, room, board and mandatory fee rates charged by higher education institutions in Massachusetts.

Full-time students living on campus at several other private Massachusetts schools – including Brandeis and Harvard universities, MIT, and Babson, Wellesley and Williams colleges – pay in the mid- to high-$50,000s, and estimated personal and travel expenses can push their total bill above the $60,000 mark.

Many other local private schools cost more than $50,000.

Officials at such pricy schools often point out that their institutions offer generous financial aid package that can drastically lower the actual price charged to students and their families.

The Associated Press reported recently that figures from the College Board show tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose 27 percent in the past five years and tuition and fees at four-year private schools went up 14 percent.

An increasing number of schools are offering some students a guarantee that they will pay a single rate for the length of their college careers, according to the Associated Press.

And, the Globe reported recently that a number of private institutions across the country, including locally, are freezing tuition, guaranteeing graduation in four years, increasing aid or matching aid offers at competing institutions.

Though many schools tout their financial aid offerings, some experts say that potential students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, see the so-called “sticker price” and are quickly scared off before applying because they don’t realize, or are perhaps confused by, what aid options are available.

Lesley University in Cambridge recently announced it will restructure its pricing to essentially build financial aid into base tuition and fee costs, lowering the school’s “sticker price” and potentially lowering the odds that prospective students will be scared off or confused by the actual cost.

Expensive, elite schools have been particularly criticized for not doing more to recruit and admit low-income students.

Harvard recently announced it will launch an outreach and awareness campaign to try to encourage more low-income students to apply.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Lesley University adjuncts vote to unionize

February 24, 2014 01:37 PM

Part-time faculty at Lesley University have voted to form a union, becoming the second local group of adjuncts to unionize in an effort to improve their pay, benefits, and other working conditions.

Adjuncts from the Cambridge-based university voted 359 to 67 to join the Adjunct Action union, according to an announcement from the Service Employees International Union, which is backing the movement.

Union officials said the results were unveiled after the National Labor Relations Board counted the vote’s mail-in ballots Monday.

“With part-time faculty making up the majority of faculty, our working conditions are directly related to student success and that’s why I’m excited about forming our union today,” said a statement from Matthew White, who graduated from Lesley and now teaches graphic design there. “Our union will help Lesley University provide students a richer experience and better education.”

The vote is part of an effort to unionize adjunct faculty at Boston-area schools as well as colleges in Los Angeles, Washington, and Seattle. Supporters hope that by forming unions they will be able to push for better working conditions, benefits, and wages.

Last spring, the SEIU said it met with part-time professors from more than 20 local colleges to discuss their interest and efforts to unionize.

In September, adjuncts from Tufts University, which has campuses in Medford, Somerville, Boston and Grafton, became the first local group to unionize in recent years when they voted to join Adjunct Action. Tufts adjuncts are negotiating with university officials to draft their first contract, union officials said.

A month after the Tufts adjuncts unionized, a vote to unionize Bentley University adjuncts fell just two votes shy of passing.

Part-time and non-tenure track faculty represent the majority of faculty at universities in the United States, and their numbers continue to rise, according to the SEIU.

In 2011, part-time faculty held 50 percent of teaching jobs at colleges, up from 34 percent in 1987 and 22 percent in 1970, the SEIU said. Adjuncts on average earn about $3,000 per three-credit course. About 80 percent of adjuncts do not get health insurance from their college, and about 86 percent do not receive retirement benefits, according to the SEIU.

Among private, nonprofit universities in the Boston-area, 66.8 percent of faculty are non-tenure track and 42 percent are part-time, the SEIU has said.

“Being a university professor, once the quintessential middle class job, has become a low wage one where instructors face low pay and no benefits or job security,” said a statement from the SEIU, which has unionized more than 18,000 adjunct faculty nationwide. “Many do not even have access to basic facilities like office space, making it increasingly difficult for adjuncts to do their best for their students.”

Lesley adjunct Norah Dooley said teaching one course a semester at the university does not cover the cost of health insurance for her and her family.

"Lesley is exceptional in the way it cares for its students as human beings. As an alumna of Lesley, I love my alma mater yet I wish Lesley was equally as exceptional in its treatment of its adjunct faculty,” she said in a statement.

“While the crisis in higher education is complex, it is not intractable,” added Dooley. “Our overwhelming "yes" vote to form our union with SEIU/Adjunct Action is a great start on a solution. Adjuncts are raising standards not just for adjuncts and not just for Lesley. I truly believe we are raising the bar for all in higher education. Alumni like me want to see Lesley University take a leadership role in this movement.”

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Wheaton College names new president

February 24, 2014 10:32 AM

Wheaton College announced it has picked Dennis Hanno to be its next president.

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Hanno, provost and senior vice president at Babson College, will be the eight president in Wheaton’s 180-year history when he officially takes over on July 15, officials said.

“Dennis is not only equipped to ensure a successful future for Wheaton, he embodies the values on which this school was built,” said a statement from Thomas J. Hollister, chair of Norton-based school’s trustee board which voted unanimously Saturday to appoint Hanno.

“So much of Dennis’ work speaks to the values, integrated coursework, and experiential learning that make Wheaton graduates uniquely qualified to enter the 21st century workforce,” he added.

Hanno, 58, said he was “extremely honored” to be chosen lead liberal arts and sciences college, where about 1,600 students are enrolled.

“Throughout my career, I have focused on the importance of diversity, a student-centered approach, and broadening the scope of what students study – from the arts and humanities to the social sciences and the sciences,” said Hanno. “Wheaton College is grounded in values that have inspired my life’s work, and I see tremendous possibilities ahead for this vibrant seat of higher learning.”

Wheaton’s current president, Ronald Crutcher, has announced that he plans to step down in June after 10 years leading the college.

Since 2006, Hanno has held several senior leadership positions at Babson College, helping to increase the focus on liberal arts learning and to integrate entrepreneurial though and socially responsible management into the curriculum there.

He also founded and has led education and development programs in Africa, including the Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center in Rwanda and the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy, which works in Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and Rwanda.

Hanno worked previously as an accounting professor at Boston College and then the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The Glenfield, N.Y. native earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s in accounting from Western New England College and a doctorate in management from UMass Amherst.

Harvard Business School professor and former president of Babson, Leonard A. Schlesinger, applauded Wheaton for selecting his former colleague.

“He is simply one of the most genuinely engaged academic leaders I have ever known. He knows everybody around the college and everything that is going on; is equally comfortable at a faculty curriculum meeting, a student athletic or social event, a budgeting session or with community leaders on one of his regular Africa trips with students, staff and alumni,” he said in a statement.

"The Wheaton College community has made an inspired choice," added Schlesinger. "Working along with Dennis the college will reach heights and aspirations it has yet to imagine.”

Babson President Kerry Healey thanked Hanno for his work there, congratulated him on his new job and wished him success.

"During his years at Babson, Dennis has been an outstanding leader, teacher, mentor and friend to so many of our students, staff, faculty and alumni," she wrote to the campus community.

"Dennis has left an indelible mark on Babson by living our mission to educate entrepreneurial leaders who create social and economic value everywhere," she added. "Whether on campus or in Rwanda—in class, as dean and as provost—Dennis never missed an opportunity to connect learning with life experience. He inspired our students and community members to look at the world differently, and to take action to change it for the better."

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Uber Boston announces competition between colleges for free week of rides

February 4, 2014 02:46 PM

With the spring semester in full swing and more cold weather fast approaching, Uber Boston announced a promotion Tuesday that will allow an entire college campus a free week of uberX.

The car-for-hire app is offering the free week to Boston University, Boston College, Harvard University, and Northeastern University students who get 1,500 people to sign up for Uber using their own campus code.

"This is extremely relevant for the new semester and the frigid weather we are having," said Meghan Verena Joyce, general manager of Uber Boston and Providence. "Students are looking to go out at night, reconnect with classmates, and start their internships. We just want to offer students an affordable, easy, and safe way to get around and thought this would be a great opportunity to start things off with a bang."

Students have until Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 11:59 p.m. to have their friends, family, and colleagues sign-up using their specific college code. With the promo code, new users will receive $20 off their first ride for uberX and the opportunity to win the free week.

The participating schools' promo codes are the following:

  • Boston University: BosuberXtraCredit1

  • Boston College: BosuberXtraCredit2

  • Northeastern University: BosuberXtraCredit3

  • Harvard University: BosuberXtraCredit4

Joyce said Uber timed the promotion to align with the 62nd annual Beanpot Hockey Tournament.

"It also happens to be the week of the Beanpot and while the players are competing on the ice, we thought the schools could compete and try uberX to win some rides."

While the school who reaches 1,500 people first will win all the fame and glory, Joyce said all the schools have the opportunity to win a free week of uberX if they get all the necessary people by Feb. 12.

"We are just incredibly excited to introduce ourselves to college students and to have them and their friends join together and rally for their school," Joyce said. "It really is an affordable way to get around the city of Boston and it opens up the city to the students. It gives them the option to get around and to safely do it. We are excited to see how this contest goes."

The discount is not valid for uberTAXI and students who already are an Uber user should encourage their friends to download the app, she said.

"Both new and existing riders will get a free ride of uberX if they get all 1,500 people and if I were an existing rider, I would sign up my fellow classmates and post on Facebook to get as many sign ups with my schools promo code," said Joyce.

According to the Uber blog, students who aren't new to the service have a number of ways to get the word out to the rest of their campus.

Here are some ideas to make things easy:

  • Share the signup code with your dance squad, newspaper staff, lacrosse bros, or Quidditch crew.

  • Tell your RA and TA. Tell your librarian. Get your favorite dining hall lady to get on board.

  • Pitch yourself a tent in the quad and recruit random passersby. Bonus points for tourists sporting your school's sweatshirts.

  • You can share the code with anybody you'd like; as long as they are new to Uber, it will count towards your goal.


Kyle Plantz can be reached at kyle.plantz@globe.com. Find him on Twitter at @kylejplantz.

Reports of sexual assaults rise on Boston-area college campuses

February 3, 2014 11:00 AM

Reports of sexual assaults at Boston-area colleges have risen over the past five years, a Globe review of federally reported data has found.

Campus safety experts say the rise in reporting of sexual assaults suggests that many colleges – pushed by government agencies, victims, and new federal guidelines – are improving efforts to address the problem by expanding education and outreach and by more thoroughly reporting the widely underreported crime.

“When we see sexual assault numbers increase, that hopefully means the barriers to reporting are finally beginning to be addressed, which means you are beginning the steps to solve the problem,” said S. Daniel Carter, director of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative who has spent more than two decades studying campus safety.

An estimated 88 percent of college victims do not formally report sexual assaults, according to a federal study.

Across 22 of the largest campuses in and around Boston, reports of “forcible sex offenses” rose by nearly 40 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to the most recent data supplied by colleges as required under the federal Clery Act.

The total of 113 sexual assaults reported in 2012 at the Boston-area colleges reviewed for this report is the highest level in a decade, and mirror trends at campuses nationwide. Meanwhile, reports of other serious type of crime at area schools – murder, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson – have declined or barely increased, according to the federal data.

The Clery reports cover allegations of crimes that occurred on campus, including dorms and other public property; at property owned by but separated from the main campus; and fraternities and sororities. They exclude other off-campus housing.

Below are examples from some of the schools’ with data that stood out:

Harvard

Over the past five years, Harvard University has consistently reported more sexual assaults per year, and more incidents per enrolled student, than any other campus in the Boston area. In 2012, 38 cases were reported, up from 19 in 2008.

Harvard officials said the university has been active in recent years in trying to address the issue, including creating in 2002 a centralized office with victim-support services and resources to help students learn about sexual assault prevention and response.

“We firmly believe that more robust reporting of sexual assaults by victims is an important component of our efforts to prevent these crimes and ensure that victims get the support that they need,” said Harvard spokesman Kevin Galvin.

UMass Boston

UMass Boston reported the second-highest number of alleged assaults in 2012, at 13, up from 0 five years earlier.

Crystal Valencia, a spokeswoman for the school, said none of the 2012 incidents involved a student from the university and only one of the 2012 reported incidents occurred on campus. The others happened at off-campus property the university either owns, leases, or controls.

“UMass Boston is committed to maintaining the highest standards for the safety and security of every person on campus,” Valencia said.

BU, Northeastern

Over the past five years, Harvard has led all local schools reporting on average about 10 sexual assaults each year for every 10,000 students. Still, those rates are still well-below estimates of actual annual rape rates. For instance, a 2007 Department of Justice-funded study estimated that about 5.2 percent of college women, or 520 in every 10,000, are sexually assaulted each year; the study did not calculate a rate for men or men and women together.

Other large local schools have reported significantly fewer sexual assaults each year. Over the past five years, Boston University and Northeastern University have each reported on average about two sexual assaults each year for every 10,000 students.

Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security On Campus, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that trains colleges and universities to comply with the Clery Act, said she’s usually most alarmed by Clery reports with low sexual assault figures.

“We constantly tell parents and students that higher sexual assault numbers aren’t necessarily a bad thing,” she said. “It often means students know where to go to report and that they’re comfortable doing so.”

“I’m typically more concerned when I see a school reporting zeroes across the board,” Kiss added.

Yet, “All too-often it’s the colleges with the higher statistics that get labeled as being dangerous when in fact they’re usually the ones who are doing a better job reporting,” Carter said.

Madeleine Estabrook, associate vice president for student affairs at Northeastern, said the university is “very diligent” in reporting its Clery data.

She said the school’s low sexual assault reporting may be due to a wide range of variables that could impact the data, including the school’s geographic location and configuration, the number of students living on campus and the university’s efforts around sexual assault prevention and response.

“The work that is done to make the campus safe in secure is a very important variable to consider,” Estabrook said.

She said that five years ago, with help from a grant from the Department of Justice, the university revamped its violence support, response and education programming. That effort included building a collaboration among existing services on the campus, uniting programs around sexual assault, alcohol use and other campus safety issues.

Estabrook said the university's programming around campus safety is regarded as "cutting edge not only in Boston but also nationally."

BU created a campus crisis center in 2012 to focus on rape and sexual assault prevention and support for victims of such acts as well as other forms of physical abuse, such as hazing.

Colin Riley, a spokesman for BU, said the university is thorough and accurate in its reporting of Clery data.

And, "We also recognize it’s very important that students feel comfortable reporting," he said.

Riley said the university works to ensure students are aware of the issue.

"This is a topic that is frequently discussed on campus," he said.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Congress, experts call on federal officials, campuses to improve campus sexual assault data collection efforts

February 3, 2014 11:00 AM

More than three dozen members of Congress have written to the federal office in charge of enforcing the Clery Act, calling on it to do a better job of collecting data on campus sexual assaults.

Advocacy groups and researchers have been calling for better, more transparent data collection for years. The Globe’s review of Clery data -- federally mandated reports on campus crime -- found that the number of assaults reported by most, if not all, campuses – both locally and nationally – over the past decade have been much lower than estimates of numerous studies.

Even with a spike in reported campus sexual assaults over the past five years, the rates schools are reporting come nowhere close to figures in a 2007 Department of Justice-funded study which estimated that about 5.2 percent of college women are sexually assaulted each year.

Experts say such low numbers tend to mean schools either need to do more to make students feel comfortable reporting the crime or schools need to do a more thorough, honest job in their methods for collecting and reporting the data, or a combination of the two. Stronger federal oversight could be a key driver for this, too, experts say.

Campuses urged to monitor prevalence, not just reported cases

One part of the letter signed by 39 members of Congress called on the US Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to require colleges and universities to conduct anonymous surveys of students to more accurately report how prevalent sexual assault is on each campus – not simply how often it is reported.

An estimated 88 percent of victims do not formally report the crime, according to a 2007 study funded by the Department of Justice.

David Lisak, a clinical psychologist who has spent the past three decades researching campus sexual assault, said the fact that few, if any, schools study how prevalent the crime actually is on their campuses “underscores one of the major shortcomings in how higher education has been handling sexual assault.”

Lisak, who recently retired from teaching at UMass Boston, has advised US military officials on how to prevent and respond to sexual assault cases at service academies.

He said that changes made by the Department of Defense in just the past several years has led military academies to implement better methods of collecting meaningful data about sexual assaults than higher education has managed over the past two-and-a-half decades since the Clery Act was signed into law in 1990.

The country’s three military academies not only compile annual statistics on sexual assaults reported to authorities, but also conduct an anonymous survey of cadets and midshipmen every two years to get a more accurate picture of how many sexual assaults actually occur.

For example, during the 2011-12 academic year, 58 sexual assaults were reported at the service academies, according to a report from the Department of Defense to Congress. But an anonymous survey estimated the actual number of sexual assaults at the academies that year was about 526.

“We’ve really been focusing our efforts on trying to increase reporting so victims can get the help they need,” said Department of Defense spokeswoman Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson.

Asked why few, if any, higher education institutions anonymously survey students regularly about sexual assault, Lisak said: “Because then the numbers are out there.”

“There’s still a lot of resistance,” he added. “All universities have mechanisms already in place [to conduct such a survey]. This would not be technically challenging really at any level. We really just need the will.”

The Jan. 29 letter from members of Congress also urges the education department office to: be more transparent about its investigations and enforcement actions around campus sexual assault and harassment; create a central, public database about laws and guidelines schools are expected to follow around the issue of sexual assault; and to require campuses to be more transparent in disclosing what each is doing to prevent and respond to sexual assault, including making available information about crime statistics, enforcement actions, and students’ rights under Title IX.

When asked for a response to the letter, Education Department press secretary Dorie Nolt said in a statement: “We have received the letter and will respond to it. We agree that this is a very important issue, which is why we have prioritized civil rights enforcement and are working to galvanize a national effort to help prevent sexual assaults and to better support survivors of sexual violence. In fact, last week, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to establish the ‘White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.’”

Federal department unsure why some Clery figures seem off

The figures that the Globe reviewed for its story on campus sexual assault came directly from an online database run by the federal Education Department.

Every higher education institution in the US that receives federal financial aid is required by law to submit he data to the department. The department then posts those figures to the website, www.ope.ed.gov/security.

The data dates back to as early as 2001, but some of the crime figures, particularly between 2001 and 2003 seem unbelievably high.

Jane Glickman, a spokeswoman for the federal Education Department, also doubted the validity of some of the data between 2001 and 2003 but said she had no idea why the numbers were likely wrong and said she did not know of anyone in the department would could provide an explanation for the apparent inconsistencies.

She said the department simply collects the data from schools and posts the numbers online. She said the department tries to check back with schools if certain numbers seem off, but otherwise the department does not analyze the data it collects.

Glickman also declined to comment on, and said she did not know anyone in the department who could comment on, why the Globe’s review found that the number of sexual assaults has risen in recent years while other crime types have gone down or held relatively steady.

“The law calls on the department to collect campus crime data and ensure that institutions are complying with the law’s provisions,” Glickman wrote in an email. “We do not analyze the data or do research into why certain crime categories are going up or down.”

However, the department is the only agency in charge of enforcing the Clery Act and its data reporting rules.

In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012, the department completed a total of 59 investigations into schools suspected of not being in full compliance with the Clery Act, according to a list of the finished reports on the education department’s website that the spokeswoman referred the Globe to. Of those, 34 investigations were completed in the four years between 2009 and 2012.

She said the department does not disclose investigations that are ongoing.

The department conducts such reviews if: a complaint is filed; “a media event raises certain concerns;” the school’s independent audit “identifies serious non-compliance;” or through a “review selection process,” the website says.

Glickman said the department takes all complaints and reviews seriously but noted that some reviews take several years and said that the department has limited resources to conduct such investigations.

A 2002 study funded by the Department of Justice found that about only 36.5 percent of schools reported “crime statistics in a manner that was fully consistent with the Clery Act.”

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights also investigates allegations of colleges and universities violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law protecting students from general discrimination.

Over the past several years, the number of such complaints related specifically to campus sexual violence has risen, according to data provided by department spokesman Jim Bradshaw.

In the both the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year there were 11 such complaints. There were 18 complaints in 2011 and 17 the following year before the number of complaints spiked to 30 during 2013.

In the department’s current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, there have already been 13 such complaints.

The office said it currently has 39 pending Title IX investigations involving allegations of sexual violence at post-secondary institutions.

Still, experts say more needs to be done to hold schools accountable.

“The Office for Civil Rights is broken,” said Colby Bruno, an attorney at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, who runs training programs about the education rights of sexual assault victims and helps some students file federal complaints against their schools.

“The law isn’t really lacking. Where we’re lacking is enforcement,” she added.

Getting Clery data from the Education Department website, especially for years prior to 2005, can be confusing and cumbersome.

Even after the data is found, it’s can be difficult to interpret, in part because schools are given leeway in how they interpret certain aspects of the law and thus how they report. For instance, Glickman said schools “have latitude” in how they determine what areas around their campus to include when they report Clery data.

“To me the data is vitally important because there’s a sense of accountability and I think schools need that,” said Bruno. “Reliable data is also important because we want to see if programming and prevention efforts are working.”

Other past, ongoing efforts to improve Clery

The letter from members of Congress was led by Democrat US Representatives Jackie Speier, of California, and Carolyn Maloney, of New York. The letter also said the office should provide campuses with better guidance about how to respond to same-sex violence and gender identity discrimination.

In recent years, some efforts have been made to improve the effectiveness of the Clery Act.

In a “Dear Colleague Letter” issued April 4, 2011, the federal education department outlined a series of guidelines for how colleges should respond to sexual harassment and violence.

Last year, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act, which added a section called the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, a law setting new standards for how campuses report sex offenses. Schools will need to comply with those new regulations for the first time when they submit Clery reports this coming fall.

And, last week, to go along with the release of a White House report on the prevalence and devastating effects of sexual assault on college campuses, Obama created a task force of senior administration officials who, with input from campus officials, students, advocacy groups and law enforcement, will try to find ways to protect students from rape and sexual assault.

Obama said he the group’s first body of work is due in 90 days.

Advocates for sexual-assault victims say that, to go along with changes at the federal level, they have seen a surge in activism around the issue from students, campus organizations, and alumni.

Particularly, “We’re seeing a lot more victims willing to step forward and publicly talk about what happened to them and using that as a pressure for change,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-sexual violence organization.

“Hopefully that will put some pressure on colleges about how they deal with it,” he added.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Actress Meryl Streep to create 2 scholarships for UMass Lowell students

January 22, 2014 01:46 PM

Actress Meryl Streep will create two scholarship funds for students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell when she visits the school next month, campus officials announced Wednesday.

The Meryl Streep Endowed Scholarship Fund will help English majors pay for their education. Streep has no official connection with the school.

Streep will also establish the Joan Hertzberg Endowed Scholarship to support students who excel in mathematics, officials said. The scholarship is named after Streep’s former classmate at Vassar College who transferred to Williams College and went on to become valedictorian of the college’s first graduating class that included women.

Hertzberg later earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and had a successful career as a therapist, author and teacher in the San Francisco area before she died in October.

Streep is scheduled to discuss her five-decade-long acting career at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell on Feb. 5 during an event called “A Conversation with Meryl Streep,” officials said.

UMass Lowell English professor and bestselling author Andre Dubus III will moderate the talk with the Academy Award winner, and Streep is also expected to answer questions from the audience.

Co-sponsored by the university’s English Department, Theatre Arts Program and College of Fine Arts, it will be the second event of the university’s “Chancellor’s Speaker Series,” school officials said.

The university said it invites individuals at the top of their field to visit the campus and host an event in the series. Ticket sales and sponsorships from those events help raise money to create scholarships.

The series' first talk featured author Stephen King and raised about $100,000 for a scholarship fund he established for UMass Lowell students.

Campus officials said they expect Streep's visit will help raise more than $100,000 for the two scholarships she plans to establish.

Tickets to the events are sold to the general public. Students with a UMass Lowell ID can attend for free if they secure tickets ahead of time.

To learn more information about the event and to buy tickets, click here.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Former NASA scientist named first woman president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute

January 21, 2014 12:44 PM

WPI_Laurie_Leshin_zpsb195d449.jpg

A former NASA scientist has been named the first woman president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the university’s 149-year history.

Laurie Leshin, a geochemist and space scientist, was picked as the “unanimous first choice” of the university’s trustees following a six-month, “intensive” search that drew about 200 candidates, campus officials announced Tuesday.

She is scheduled to officially take over as the 16th president in WPI history on July 1, the start of the school’s academic year.

“WPI has been a leading innovator in engineering, technology, and science education for nearly 150 years,” said a statement from Leshin. “Other universities look to WPI to see how best to educate and engage students in experiential learning, an approach at the core of the WPI Plan.”

“I am truly energized by the prospect of getting to know the members of the WPI community and their aspirations, of working together to expand WPI’s impact, and raising the profile of this great university,” she added. “I look forward to many productive years of collaboration, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Leshin, 48, works currently as dean of the school of science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which she joined in 2011.

During her time at Rensselaer, she has also continued to work as a funded science team member for the Mars Curiosity Rover mission and has served two key appointments: on the Advisory Board for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and on the Advisory Board of the US Merchant Marine Academy, officials said.

Leshin spent six years as a senior leader at NASA before joining Rensselaer.

Her work at NASA included helping to run the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center and helping to oversee the agency’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. She was regularly in charge of thousands of employees and multi-billion dollar budgets, officials said.

She received awards from NASA for leadership and public service to go along with honors for other groups for her achievements in research.

There’s even a piece of our solar system named for her: The International Astronomical Union recognized Leshin’s contributions to planetary science by naming a main belt asteroid “4922 Leshin.”

Her 20-year career has also included working science researcher and professor at Arizona State University and as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, officials said.

Leshin earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Arizona State University in 1987 before later earning a master’s and a doctorate in geochemistry from California Institute of Technology.

“Laurie Leshin is impressive by any measure,” said a statement from trustee board chair Warner Fletcher. “In addition to bringing exceptional academic credentials from some of our nation’s leading universities, Laurie also brings tremendous experience and expertise from her time spent in leadership positions at NASA.”

“She is an academic who understands the role of – and the potential for – academia in the larger world,” Fletcher added. “Laurie has the rare capacity to work as successfully with students and faculty as she does with the White House and Congress. She is well positioned to take WPI to an even higher level of excellence and prominence. We are proud to have her at the helm of this fine university.”

Former WPI president Dennis D. Berkey stepped down in May after leading the school for nine years. Since June, former university trustee board chair Philip B. Ryan has served as interim president.

“A great deal of time and effort was put into finding a leader who would embrace WPI’s commitment to global, project-based learning, who would continue to empower our faculty and students to constantly seek innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving, and who would appreciate and contribute to the spirit and culture of WPI,” said a statement from Ryan.

“Laurie not only brings academic credentials, extensive administrative leadership experience, and superb communication skills, she also brings vision and energy and warmth that will inspire faculty, staff, and students,” Ryan added. “I expect our university to thrive under her leadership.”

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Many Boston colleges, universities close early Thursday, will stay closed Friday due to snowstorm

January 2, 2014 03:24 PM

Many Boston-area college and university campuses closed early today and will remain closed Friday because of a significant storm that is expected to drop more than a foot of snow locally.

But it may not feel like a true snow day because most students and professors are still on winter break.

The list of schools that have already shut down most, if not all, operations or plan to do so by 3 p.m. includes: Babson College, Bentley University, Berklee College of Music, Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Emerson College, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Simmons College, Suffolk University, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, UMass Boston, and UMass Lowell, according to the respective websites of the institutions.

Babson, Bentley, Berklee, BC, BU, Brandeis, Emerson, Harvard, Northeastern, Tufts, UMass Boston, and UMass Lowell also announced they will remain closed tomorrow.

Simmons, Suffolk and UMass Amherst have not announced if their campuses will be closed or open Friday.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

MIT warns campus about stomach virus outbreak

December 5, 2013 05:22 PM

An outbreak of a stomach virus is spreading around the MIT campus, school officials announced Thursday.

The campus' health center, MIT Medical, reported there is an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis and officials reminded people around campus to keep proper hygiene, particularly to make sure to regularly wash their hands.

“This may or may not be norovirus,” MIT's associate medical director Howard Heller said in an online statement.

Norovirus, which causes a severe and acute form of gastroenteritis, can spread quickly, especially in dense, semi-closed communities, officials said.

“But whether it’s norovirus or not, our response should be the same — paying extra attention to practicing good hygiene," Heller's statement said. "Frequent and consistent hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of this type of virus.”

Heller said the campus' medical center saw two patients with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea at the beginning of this week, followed by 16 more during on Wednesday and a campus emergency medical technicians responded to a few more cases overnight.

As of noon on Thursday, a small number of additional patients with similar symptoms had checked into the campus' urgent care center, Heller said

Officials said the cases do not appear to be linked to any specific dorm or dining hall.

"We’re continuing to look at these cases to see if we can discern any patterns, and we are ready to take any additional precautions that prove necessary," said a statement from MIT Medical’s director of student health, Shawn Ferullo.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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