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Campus Overload
Posted at 04:53 PM ET, 09/21/2012

Friday Five: private school crime reports, sign language research, baby panda alert and more

I just realized that I haven’t blogged since last Friday. It has been a busy week for me. On Sunday and Monday I helped report and write a story that had all of these elements: an elaborate invitation to a high school dance, a girl who is a kicker on the football team, an expensive government helicopter, a stuffed pooch on a parachute and a government official in hot water. (Here’s the finished piece: “Helicopter stunt creates buzz at Patriot High School.”)

I spent the rest of the week at the University of Virginia, meeting with administrators and attending my first flash seminar. In between all that, I read these five interesting articles:

1) “Invisible crime” at private universities: Universities are extremely sensitive about this question, which frequently comes up during admission tours and information sessions: Is your campus safe?
Notre Dame University is one of many private institutions that has come under fire for how it handles and discloses violent crimes reported on campus. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) (Jonathan Daniel - GETTY IMAGES)
There are numerous ways to evaluate campus safety, but it’s a task easier done at a public university, where public crime reports are typically required by law, than by a private university, where criminal incident reports are typically not made public. As a result, the “campuses of private colleges are islands of invisible crime, black boxes where even violent offenses can largely disappear from public view,” Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank D. LoMonte wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week.

LoMonte continued: “Access to police reports is doubly essential because of colleges' propensity to funnel crimes into confidential disciplinary proceedings that, unlike court cases, result in no public hearing or verdict. If concerned members of a campus community can see neither the process nor the outcome, they must at least know something about which offenses the college chooses to process as disciplinary rather than criminal matters.” (Full commentary: “Bring Campus Crime Reports Out Into the Open.”)

2) Juvie records and college admissions: Along the theme of campus crime and police records, Inside Higher Ed published an article on Thursday about the ongoing debate over whether college applicants should be required to disclose their juvenile criminal records, which are private. (Article by IHE’s Scott Jaschik: “Juvenile Records and Admissions.”)

Gallaudet professor Carolyn McCaskill demonstrates differences in ASL between black and white users. In this photo, McCaskill signs "girl, please". (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post) (Bill O'Leary - WASHINGTON POST)
3) Studying and preserving Black American Sign Language: I was fascinated to learn that in deaf communities two distinctly different signing systems that have evolved — one for blacks and one for whites. Carolyn McCaskill, a deaf studies professor at Gallaudet University, has been researching Black American Sign Language with a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation. (Article by The Washington Post’s Frances Stead Sellers: “Sign language that African Americans use is different from that of whites.”)

4) Purposely failing placement tests: Each year at the University of Oklahoma, there’s a sizeable number of students who appear to be purposely failing their language placement tests so they can enroll in the easiest class possible. The Oklahoma Daily student newspaper reports that this, obviously, worries some language instructors, including a Spanish adviser who told the paper: “Bored students don’t do well in class.” An anonymous commenter offers this point: “Maybe it’s that they don't want to waste time on a class that they’re required to take, that they have no interest in taking.” (Oklahoma Daily article by Paighten Harkins: “Peers purposefully failing placement exams.”)

5) And the panda cam: To live in the District, you are required to obsess over every movement of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, two giant pandas who live at the National Zoo. So, the birth of a baby panda early this week has slowed productivity across the region, as everyone stays glued to the zoo’s panda cam to hear the cub squeaking and brainstorms possible names for the little fuzzball. Here’s a clip of a glimpse into the panda nest earlier this week:

Yes, yes, this has nothing to do with higher education. In other news, here’s a video clip that shows just how cute that little baby panda might soon become:

And a runner-up: One of my picks for the week was going to be Texas Monthly’s lengthy article about University of Texas and Texas A&M professors battling attempts by powerful reformers to change the way students are educated. Unfortunately, the article is only publicly available to subscribers.

You can add to this week’s reading list by leaving a comment below. And you can help write next week’s list by forwarding links to me on Twitter, @wpjenna, or via e-mail,

By  |  04:53 PM ET, 09/21/2012

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