Campus Confidential scours student unions, lecture halls and dorms for the crucial and quirky stories that make colleges and universities special. Share what you’re up to on a Friday night, learning (or not) in that lecture - and what you're looking for in a school search as a new student. Higher education reporter Maura Lerner will keep you informed.

University of St. Thomas to bid farewell to 92 retirees

Posted by: Maura Lerner Updated: May 12, 2014 - 1:25 PM

Former Sen. David Durenberger is among 92 faculty and staff members retiring soon at the University of St. Thomas.

The university, with campuses in both St. Paul and Minneapolis, offered a financial incentive last fall to employees 55 or older who wanted to retire. The result: 22 faculty members and 70 staff will be bidding the university farewell. That's just under 5 percent of its total employees.

It is, officials say, the biggest mass retirement in years. Durenberger, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, is easily the most well-known. After leaving the Senate in 1995, he founded and became chair of the National Institute of Health Policy at St. Thomas.

The retirees list also includes Susan Huber, the executive vice president and provost; five business professors, three English professors, and long-time faculty and staff from a cross-section of departments.

The university posted the names of (most) of the retirees on its website on Monday, and announced that it will hold a farewell celebration for them all on Thursday, May 22, at 3 pm at the Anderson Student Center.

University officials said they offered the incentive package - a year's pay plus $7,250 for health coverage - in part as a way to trim payroll costs. The university plans to fill at least 40 of the staff positions, and probably more, though some of the jobs may change, according to Doug Hennes, a university spokesman. Decisions on replacing faculty will wait until the next school year.

The U responds to SDS: Rice allegations 'not within (our) jurisdiction'

Posted by: Maura Lerner Updated: April 16, 2014 - 11:07 AM

Here's a follow-up to yesterday's blogpost about the latest attempt by Students for a Democratic Society to protest Thursday's appearance by Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, who is scheduled to speak at Northrop Auditorium. It was sent by the University of Minnesota's general counsel, William Donohue:

"Dear Students for a Democratic Society,

            I am writing in response to your email to Chief of Police Hestness at the University of Minnesota of April 10, 2014.  I understand your letter to be a rhetorical statement of your position with respect to the conduct of former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.  While it is not clear to me that it merits a response, the allegations you set forth are not within the jurisdiction of the University of Minnesota Police Department."

Student protesters to U police: Condoleezza Rice is a 'truly dangerous' person

Posted by: Maura Lerner Updated: April 15, 2014 - 2:36 PM

Student activists at the University of Minnesota are ratcheting up their protest against a campus visit by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is scheduled to speak Thurday at Northrop Auditorium.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which tried and failed to get the U to rescind its invitation to Rice, has sent a letter to the U police chief, Greg Hestness, claiming that a "truly dangerous" person is heading to campus.

"From time to time, truly dangerous people do come to our campus. We would like to alert you to the upcoming presence of such a person..." says the April 13 letter, which was also sent to the University's general counsel.

In the letter, SDS offers police a description of Rice: "a 59-year-old African American woman, 5'8" tall, (who) will be present on Northrop Auditorium's main stage." It even offers to provide a photo, while noting "it might just be easier for you to access one online."

If U officials are taking the letter seriously, they're not saying. But they have dismissed the group's efforts as a misguided attack on free speech. Earlier this month, the University Senate overwhelmingly voted down a proposal, initiated by SDS, to condemn the U for inviting Rice. She was invited by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to speak about civil rights as part of the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series. Tickets to her speech, which is free, were snapped up in February.

The letter argues that: "There is probable cause to believe Dr. Rice has been involved in massive criminal activity" - a reference to her role in the controversial wartime policies of President George W. Bush. Citing international law against torture, it says: "We are confident that you will at least bring Dr. Rice in to be questioned. We hope, however, that you do not employ the interrogation techniques she so willingly approved."

It ends: "Thank you very much for helping to make our campus safer for all of us."

FBI video warns of an unexpected hazard of study abroad

Posted by: Maura Lerner Updated: April 14, 2014 - 11:56 AM

If you're thinking about studying abroad, you can add this to your list of worries: A foreign government might try to turn you into a spy.

That's the message in a new video released by the FBI. It dramatizes the tale of Glenn Duffie Shriver, a Michigan college student who went to Shanghai for his junior year abroad, and was eventually recruited by Chinese government officials to apply for jobs with the CIA and State Department. He was caught by the FBI, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Study abroad, according to the FBI, "makes these students tempting and vulnerable targets for recruitment by foreign intelligence officers whose long-term goal is to gain access to sensitive or classified U.S. information. Glenn Shriver -- prodded by foreign intelligence officers into eventually applying for U.S. government jobs -- cited his naivety as a key factor in his actions."

And it all started, according to the FBI, when he answered an English-language ad to write a paper for $120.

The agency said it made the video, "Game of Pawns: The Glenn Duffie Shriver Story" as a cautionary tale. "We’d like American students traveling overseas to view this video before leaving the U.S. so they’re able to recognize when they’re being targeted and/or recruited."

Outgoing St. Ben's president heads to Drew University

Posted by: Maura Lerner Updated: February 24, 2014 - 10:54 AM

MaryAnn Baenninger will become president of Drew University after she steps down as head of the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

Baenninger, who announced last fall that she was leaving St. Benedict, was named Monday as the new president of Drew, a private liberal arts college in Madison, N.J. She beat out a pool of more than 100 applicants and will take over in July, according to a university news release. 

Baenninger, 58, has been president of St. Benedict since 2004. She said in October that she was giving up her post for personal reasons, but was not ready to retire. She will remain at St. Benedict until June.

A digital site for secret admirers debuts at Macalester College

Posted by: Maura Lerner Updated: February 3, 2014 - 12:22 PM

Karintha Lowe, a sophomore and guest blogger from Macalester College, sent in this report about a new social media site taking her school by storm:


Just 48 hours after Friendsy opened to Macalester students last week, an estimated 20% of the student body created an account.


Not bad for a dating site that lets secret admirers stay secret.


Friendsy, which was founded by students at Princeton University last year, is part-Facebook, part-matchmaking site that allows students to check each other out anonymously.


Students can upload a photo and browse through pictures of other registered members from the same college. They can choose to “friend,” “hookup,” or “date,” one another -- but their identities remain secret unless the object of their affection expresses a similar interest in them. If the feeling is mutual, their names are revealed to one another.


 “It’s a new and fun way to see who’s around on campus, (so) why not?” said Rose Allen, a Macalester sophomore who signed up for Friendsy. Some students, though, may be reluctant to admit they've joined.  “I think people are embarrassed to be excited over something close to a dating site, especially one that’s just based on a picture of someone,” she said.


Yet the fact that so many signed up so quickly, she added, "has got to mean something.”


Friendsy co-founder and Princeton student Michael Pinksy said in a phone interview that the site has a natural appeal to college students. “People have all these acquaintances on campus and are too often afraid to take that next step," he said. "We started this site with the idea to bring those people together.” Now available at seven schools, Friendsy hopes to continue expanding across the country in the coming months.


Jake Greenberg, a Macalester freshman, isn’t entirely sold on the idea. “It just seems to me like this is one of those Internet trends that will go away quickly,” he says.


Fellow freshman Sarah Silbert chimes in, “you might as well ask people out in person.”
- Karintha Lowe, sophomore, Macalester College.
 

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