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.

Pet therapists welcome U of M students

Posted by: Maura Lerner Updated: September 2, 2014 - 11:06 AM


Woodstock the Therapy Chicken

Woodstock the Therapy Chicken

Today may signal the start of fall semester at the University of Minnesota. But for some students, the big event begins tomorrow: the return of Woodstock the Therapy Chicken.

Woodstock and some specially trained cats and dogs will be greeting students from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Boynton Health Service as part of its popular PAWS (Pet Away Worry and Stress) program.

The pets exude their own kind of animal magnetism, with an almost Zen-like calm as hundreds of students parade through to ooh and ah and stroke their fur. It's well known that pets can have a calming affect on people, and in the past, many schools have trotted them out at especially stressful times, such as mid-terms and finals.

This year, the U is scheduling the free pet-therapy sessions once a week on the Minneapolis campus through most of the semester, with occasional appearances on the St. Paul campus. For dates and times, check out this website.



Kaler leads U delegation to Norway

Posted by: Maura Lerner Updated: August 20, 2014 - 10:49 AM

President Eric Kaler will lead a 10-person University of Minnesota delegation to Norway starting Thursday, in what's billed as a trip to "strengthen and expand relationships" with four Norwegian universities and other partners.

It's the second time Kaler has led an "international delegation" since becoming president in 2011, according to the U. The first was a trip to China last July.

University officials didn't immediately say how much the weeklong trip to Norway will cost. But it did say that Kaler would be accompanied by his wife, Karen, and speechwriter, Jay Weiner, and that the expenses for those three would be covered by the University of Minnesota Foundation.

Meanwhile, the university itself will pick up the tab for the other seven delegates, including three college deans, one associate vice president, one professor, the chief of staff of global programs and the former dean of biological sciences, Bob Elde, who the university says was instrumental in forging the U's partnerships in Norway.

The group plans stops in Oslo and two other cities, and will meet with partners in a research collaborative that includes the University of Oslo and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. According to a news release Wednesday, the U is working with those institutions on "cutting-edge transatlantic research in renewable energy, environment and sustainability, climate change" and other fields.

Kaler also plans to visit members of Norway's Parliament as well as "connect with the U's Norwegian alumni and current students studying in Norway," according to the news release. The group will be in Norway from Aug. 21-27.

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."


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