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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Your MySpace is our MySpace

I've been asked more than once whether UVA looks applicants up via the web, using Google, MySpace, LiveJournal or one of the many other websites that allow students to create webpages and blogs.

For the most part, the answer would be no. We don't really have time to search for all 16,000 applicants online. However, if an applicant mentions involvement in something in particular, we might just take a look at it. One of my colleagues reviewed the application of a student who claimed to be involved in producing a fairly popular website. Curious, my colleague looked him up and couldn't find any mention of him on the site. Items he said he wrote were attributed to another person. This student wasn't extraordinary and his claims didn't help his case at all.

While UVA might not be looking for student information online, officials at some other schools are. Newsweek and USA Today (here and here) have written about this. There are numerous instances of information posted on websites like MySpace coming back to haunt students. I keep reading that students consider this an invasion of privacy. Why do they think this? Isn't it called the World Wide Web for a reason?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It was only a matter of time

According to The Chronicle, the first lawsuit against The College Board for the scoring snafu that came to light last month has been filed.
The lawsuit, filed in early April in a state court in Minnesota, was brought on behalf of an unidentified high-school senior in Dix Hills, N.Y. The lawyers who brought the case are seeking class-action status to allow any student who took the test in October, except those who received falsely high scores, to join the lawsuit.
UVA was affected by the errors. A few of our applicants had scores that went up and the CB says they won't tell us if anyone had scores that went down after the error was found. The problem I have is that now, we can't give students our SAT stats without a big conversation about how they might be off a bit. It's bad enough that we have no history with this exam, now we're back at square one.

In a way, though, this problem is getting more people, both in admission and outside of it, to see things in a more realistic light. Application review as a holistic process, not one based on formulas and rubrics. If the SAT ceases to be reliable, maybe more educators will see it for what it is: a four hour, standardized test. Nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Accepting the Best

A few days ago, we announced an articulation agreement with Virginia's community college system (VCCS). The agreement stipulates that VCCS students who maintain a 3.4 GPA while earning their Associates Degree (there are some additional stipulations) will gain admission to UVA. I thought this was a great move. There are so many smart students out there who don't fit the traditional mold; who might not have been ready for UVA (or ready to pay for it) when they were seniors in high school. It feels great to know we're helping "non-traditional" students come to UVA. I also think students benefit from being exposed to classmates who've been out in the real world or spent time elsewhere before arriving at UVA. I hope more community college students see UVA as a viable option because of these agreements and the press they've generated.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as positive about the possible influx of community college students as we are. A recent graduate wrote a letter to the editor of The Cavalier Daily in response to an article they ran earlier this week about the articulation agreements.
Such a system would allow a lazy high school student to go to a community college where he or she could do just enough to get by and would then reward such behavior with admission to one of this nation's finest schools.
I wonder how many community college students this alum knows. I wonder if he realizes that many juggle full time jobs, families, and school. I wonder if he realizes that some of our faculty teach courses at PVCC, our local community college. I wonder if he realizes that there were plenty of VCCS students in his graduating class; Students who were admitted as transfer students in his second and third year.

Just yesterday, I was celebrating the fact that our students are aware of the world outside their campus bubble. I guess a few get through here without a wake up call.
I am certainly not saying that all people who attend community college are lesser people
Hm.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Activism alive and well at UVA

At my first institution (and at my alma mater, too), a huge issue that faculty and administration tried to address was student apathy. The majority of Wall Street Journals went immediately from the mailbox to the recycling bin. Almost nobody watched the news networks or even the evening news. Most students were content with living in the pretty bubble of campus.

I have to admit that I'm pleased to see that UVA students are more aware of issues and will act when they feel they can bring about change. Perhaps that's one of the benefits of "student self-governance", which gets a lot of talk around here. Most of us (myself included) use UVA's Honor Code as an example of student self-governance. But to be frank, there's a long history to follow with The Honor Code and while aspects of The Code change now and then (the single sanction is a hot topic on grounds right now), The Code and how it's administered isn't rocket science.



A group of 17 students have started a sit in at Madison Hall, where the President and other top administrators have their offices. They're advocating for a living wage ($10.72 per hour) to be paid to all University employees (the current hourly wage is $9.37). I only heard about this at 5:30 PM, when I got home and turned on the news (I knew there was a rally, but didn't realize students had started a sit in). When I came to work this morning, I saw some students outside Madison with a sign counting this as the second day of the sit in. I had to laugh, since this whole thing started at 5:30 last night. Or so I thought...

One of the students involved is keeping a blog, though it hasn't been updated since yesterday. They actually arrived around 9 AM yesterday morning. I'm kind of surprised that word didn't really travel around that they were there until late in the day. Anyway, according to the living wage campaign's website, they were allowed to stay in Madison Hall overnight. I'm anxious to see what gets added to the blog today.

EDIT: I had a feeling that President Casteen didn't set the minimum wage for UVA employees. At the very least, the Board of Visitors (our version of a Board of Trustees) made those decisions and I imagine that there's a bit of influence from the legislature involved as well (I'm still relatively new to UVA and the state system, so I'm not entirely certain). A statement on Casteen's website talks about this. I wonder when the next Board meeting is?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Buttons, ribbons and shirts (oh my!)

As I was walking home yesterday afternoon, I ran into a small crowd of students and administrators wearing black shirts that said "gay? fine by me." My first thought was that I hadn't heard about any rally going on (similar to when I didn't hear about the petting zoo at the amphitheatre...thanks for the invite, Second Year Class Council!). Then I started thinking about awareness campaigns I've seen here at the University since I got here last summer. The black ribbons and door hangers given out in response to racially motivated incidents in September are most prominent in my mind.

My college years were the height of the wearing a ribbon practice. It seemed as though every cause had its color. As a student back then, I wore anything that was handed to me. Breast Cancer awareness? Can't argue with that. Peace in Eastern Europe? Pin me! Save the Madagascan Aye-Aye? Sure, he's a funky little creature!

Our students have gotten even more creative with their campaigns. The "merch" they make rivals the items for sale in the bookstore. Instead of picking up a 99 cent roll of ribbon at the craft shop, our students are designing logos and contracting vendors to mass produce promotional give aways.

I guess these gimmicks rope in more people than a ribbon would, but do they foster conversation about their cause? Because of the cost involved, they can't possibly canvas the entire campus with their freebies. So, because I didn't get my black shirt yesterday, am I seen as intolerant? If that's the case, bring back the ribbons!

Hiatus

I've been on hiatus for the application season. I have no excuse except to say that as a newer staff member, I was overwhelmed by the amount of work each of us did to review 16,252 applications for first year admission (and about 3,000 transfer applications).

In case anyone is reading this thing, the hiatus is over.