Insurers won’t pay mental health bills

The first time Melissa Morelli was taken to the hospital, she was suicidal and cutting herself, her mother says. imgresShe was just 13, and she had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital, where she stayed for more than a week, reports today’s New York Times.

“Her doctors told her mother, Cathy Morelli, that it was not safe for Melissa to go home. But the family’s health insurancecarrier would not continue to pay for her to remain in the hospital.

“Former Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, with Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, right, and Victoria Veltri, Connecticut’s health care advocate, backed the mental health parity law that his father, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, also championed. The second time, the same thing happened. And the third and the fourth. Over the course of five months, Ms. Morelli took Melissa to the hospital roughly a dozen times, and each time the insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross, refused to pay for hospital care. “It was just a revolving door,” Ms. Morelli said.

“You had not been getting better in a significant way,” Anthem explained in one letter sent directly to Melissa, then 14, in July 2012. “It does not seem likely that doing the same thing will help you get better.”Desperate to get help for her daughter, Ms. Morelli sought the assistance of Connecticut state officials and an outside reviewer. She eventually won all her appeals, and Anthem was forced to pay for the care it initially denied. All told, Melissa spent nearly 10 months in a hospital; she is now at home. Anthem, which would not comment on Melissa’s case, says its coverage decisions are based on medical evidence. Melissa’s treatment did not come cheap: it ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ms. Morelli said. Patients often find themselves at odds with health insurers, but the battles are perhaps nowhere so heated as with the treatment of serious mental illness.

“It was not supposed to be this way. A federal law, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, was aimed at avoiding fights like this over coverage by making sure insurers would cover mental illnesses just as they cover treatment for diseases like canceror multiple sclerosis. Long a priority of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, it was squeezed into a bank bailout bill with the help of Christopher J. Dodd, then a Democratic senator from Connecticut, after Mr. Kennedy learned that he had brain cancer, which turned out to be fatal. The law requires larger employer-based insurance plans to cover psychiatric illnesses and substance-abuse disorders in the same way they do other illnesses. But five years after President George W. Bush signed the law, there is widespread agreement that it has fallen short of its goal of creating parity for mental health coverage. Continue reading “Insurers won’t pay mental health bills”

Not ready for college

The average SAT scores for the high school class of 2013 remained stagnant from the previous year and fewer than half of the students who graduated were prepared for the rigors of college, officials said.

Average SAT scores for high school seniors nationwide stayed steady in reading, math and writing, according to a report released last week by the College Board, the New York-based nonprofit that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement program.

imgres-3The combined average SAT score of 1498 was the same as last year; a perfect score on the three-section test is 2400. In California, the combined average score of 1505 dropped two points from last year and 12 points from 2010. Perhaps more telling, only 48% of test takers reached the “SAT Benchmark” — a score of 1550 that indicates a 65% likelihood that students will obtain a first-year college grade-point average of B- or higher, according to the College Board. Students who reach that threshold are more likely to enroll in a four-year school and complete their degree, the College Board said. There was, however, the highest representation of minorities among test takers in history.

“In 2013, 46% of those who took the test were minorities, up from 40% in 2009. African American, American Indian and Latino students made up 30% of test takers, up from 27% in 2009. In California, 57% of graduating seniors — 234,767 students — took the exam, the highest number ever for the state. Nationwide, participation has dipped slightly since 2011 for the SAT. Meanwhile, a rival college entrance exam, the ACT, has seen a steady rise in participation since 2003. About 54% of graduating seniors nationwide took the ACT, up from about 40% in 2003. In California, 26% of graduates took the exam, up from 15% in 2003, according to ACT officials.”


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Greyson and Loubani: In their own words

Filmmaker John Greyson and physician Tarek Loubani are now in the 12th day of a hunger strike after more than 40 days in a Cairo jail, where they are being held without charges following


an erroneous arrest in the midst of violence in Egypt as they were

traveling through Cairo en route to a humanitarian mission in Gaza. Today the story went global, as news outlets around the world responded, in part, to the account of their captivity excerpted below from a CBC report:

“We are on the 12th day of our hunger strike at Tora, Cairo’s main prison, located on the banks of the Nile. We’ve been held here since August 16 in ridiculous conditions: no phone calls, little to no exercise, sharing a 3m x 10m cell with 36 other political prisoners, sleeping like sardines on concrete with the cockroaches; sharing a single tap of earthy Nile water.

“We never planned to stay in Egypt longer than overnight. We arrived in Cairo on the 15th with transit visas and all the necessary paperwork to proceed to our destination: Gaza. Tarek volunteers at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, and brings people with him each time. John intended to shoot a short film about Tarek’s work.

“Because of the coup, the official Rafah border was opening and closing randomly, and we were stuck in Cairo for the day. We were carrying portable camera gear (one light, one microphone, John’s HD Canon, two Go-Pros) and gear for the hospital (routers for a much-needed wifi network and two disassembled toy-sized helicopters for testing the transportation of medical samples).

“Because of the protests in Ramses Square and around the country on the 16th, our car couldn’t proceed to Gaza. We decided to check out the Square, five blocks from our hotel, carrying our passports and John’s HD camera. The protest was just starting – peaceful chanting, the faint odour of tear gas, a helicopter lazily circling overhead – when suddenly calls of “doctor”. A young man carried by others from God-knows-where, bleeding from a bullet wound. Tarek snapped into doctor mode…and started to work doing emergency response, trying to save lives, while John did video documentation, shooting a record of the carnage that was unfolding. The wounded and dying never stopped coming. Between us, we saw over fifty Egyptians die: students, workers, professionals, professors, all shapes, all ages, unarmed. We later learned the body count for the day was 102. Continue reading “Greyson and Loubani: In their own words”

H. Adam Ackley

The story of ordained minister and Azusa Pacific University Professor H. Adam Ackley has received considerable public attention in recent days, ever since the university requested that Ackley leave his professorship. Today’s Huffington Post carries Ackley’s own account of the story:

“I am a transgender professor who has served full-time as, variously, a professor of theology, a professor of church history, a professor of ministry, department chair, and university diversity council co-chair at a Christian university for 15 years, most of which I spent in treatment with female hormones and psychiatric medications for gender dysphoria and related symptoms of mental illness. Recent changes in diagnosis and treatment of transgender persons, along with a lifetime of research on the theology and biblical understanding of gender, have helped me live as one who is clearly sane by ceasing to fight my transgender-masculine identity. However, this has caused what has become a very public conflict with my employer, one that is being mediated with outside help and cannot be addressed any further here.

“I’ve publicly commented on my personal chastity at this specific season of my life only to help clarify for this conflicted community that gender and sexual behavior are different, since that is not clear to all involved. However, it is equally important to me that I never even implicitly contribute to homophobia in this community. Therefore, I want to affirm clearly that I am not embarrassed to be a lover of men. Rather, I have been embarrassed by having my gender identity publicly confused with my private sexual conduct, and by the silence of those who could help clarify that misunderstanding. The only reason that this even embarrasses me is that my current private personal experience includes the breakup of a fraudulent marriage, with children involved, as an ordained minister and a person who chooses to live in faithful covenant with a particular faith tradition (Christianity). Therefore, for me personally, it is most appropriate in this season of my life to live and witness to my young adult students and my children a singleness of devotion to what is healing and nourishing in my present life: parenting, prayer, teaching, preaching, and personal recovery. Continue reading “H. Adam Ackley”

Calif community colleges eye bachelor’s degree offerings

Community colleges in a growing number of states are offering bachelor’s degrees. Now California and its huge two-year system may join that group, reports InsideHigher Ed

“A committee created by Brice Harris, the system’s chancellor, quietly began meeting last month to mull whether the state’s 112 community colleges should be granted the authority to offer four-year degrees. While the process has just started and has many hurdles to clear, it’s certain to be an attention-grabber in California and beyond.imgres-1

“Not everybody is sold on the idea that community colleges should be in the bachelor’s-degree business, which more than 20 states now allow. Nearby public universities in particular tend to bristle at competition for students and dwindling state dollars.

“Some two-year college leaders and faculty members also worry about “mission creep” and whether striver colleges that seek to become four-year institutions might lose track of their core purpose of providing job training for local students, often from underserved populations. Michigan is the most notable state to take the leap of late, with a new law that allows community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in a limited number of technical fields. That battle is not over, however, as the state’s four-year institutions continue to fight the legislation. If California followed the lead of states like Michigan and Florida, it could add significant momentum to the trend. The state’s two-year system enrolls 2.4 million students, or one in four community college students nationwide. The move to offer four-year degrees at California community colleges would also pose a challenge to the traditional boundaries that the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education established.That influential framework, which was created in 1960, defined the roles of three tiers of public institutions – the community colleges, California State University and University of California Systems. Each sector has historically served different purposes to eliminate redundancy, with community colleges being the open-admission and transfer institutions.”

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Minecraft and angry birds go to school

From Angry Birds to Minecraft, computer games are invading the classroom. images-1

But this is not going on behind the teacher’s back anymore: it is part of the lesson plan, reports the BBC:

“The average young person will have spent 10,000 hours gaming by the time they are 21 years old, research suggests.This has been mainly for entertainment, providing light relief from the maths textbooks and science experiments taking place in classrooms. But gaming is taking up more time of a child’s life.

“For a child in the US with perfect attendance, 10,080 hours will be spent in school from fifth grade (age 10) to high school graduation, according to game designer Jane McGonigal. Minecraft is just one game that has found its way into the classroom, actually being used in lessons In the UK, computer games offering “stealth learning” have been used by many schools. But the big developers have generally, so far at least, not been keen to get involved.

“Angry Birds creator Rovio has brought Angry Birds Playground, a schools initiative devised with the University of Helsinki in Finland, into the kindergarten classroom of children, aimed at six-year-olds. With the initiative already in use in Finland, Rovio has now entered into an agreement with schools in China. “With small children, the Finnish approach to education is very much play-orientated,” says Sanna Lukander, vice president of book publishing at Rovio Entertainment. “These characters and their world seemed to inspire children. You can’t not think about how you might motivate children to do more than play.” Finland is rated as having the best education system in the developed world. And it is not just the same edition of Angry Birds re-packaged: it is using the now-famous characters in new education-based games and a “full 360-degree approach to learning” involving books, teachers and digital devices.”


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On suspending professors

It would be hard to find a faculty advocate opposed to the suspension last week of a University of Florida professor of veterinary science who was secretly taking videos of students’ body parts with a device hidden in his pen. Administrative — and police — action came swiftly, without any public objection from fellow instructors.

But as InsideHigher Ed reports today: “Beyond such a clear violation of professional conduct, and, in this case, the law, faculty advocates often are quick to criticize institutions for jumping the gun with punishments. imagesA spate of forced leaves for professors in recent memory raises the question of what exactly constitutes suspension-worthy speech and action — particularly a suspension made unilaterally by administrators.

“In other words, does a line exist and, if so, where?

“The answer, some experts said, is another question: Does the faculty member’s exercise of his or her rights violate anyone else’s? And some fear that institutions may be becoming too quick to suspend in cases in which faculty conduct may have resulted in hurt feelings but not actual harm.

“The proper line to draw is where a professor’s actions interfere with the legitimate rights of others,” said John K. Wilson, co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, editor of AAUP’s Illinois Conference Academe journal, and author of the book Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies.

“If, for example, a professor commits a crime against students (such as video voyeurism), it’s punishable, Wilson said in an e-mail. So, too, is unfairly grading or meeting the “high bar” of discriminating against some group of students; making verbal threats in violation of the law; or engaging in academic fraud. And professors can be suspended for failing to do their jobs, such as refusing to teach.

“Still, that’s all with due process – and the professor should keep teaching as his or her case is being adjudicated, outside of being an immediate threat to students or others on campus. (Even the Florida professor deserves the right to defend himself before fellow professors at some point, faculty advocates said.)

“But a professor can’t be punished if he or she “merely says something that offends someone,” Wilson said. “When a professor is suspended for expressing controversial ideas, it violates the rights of students to hear those ideas, and the rights of everyone on campus who must live in a climate of fear about freedom of expression.”

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Anti-depressants and diabetes

The link may be indirect, but there is yet another health risk associated with being depressed.images

The University of Southampton team looked at available medical studies and found evidence the two were linked., reports the BBC today. But there was no proof that one necessarily caused the other.

“It may be that people taking anti-depressants put on weight which, in turn, increases their diabetes risk, the team told Diabetes Care journal. Or the drugs themselves may interfere with blood sugar control. Their analysis of 22 studies involving thousands of patients on anti-depressants could not single out any class of drug or type of person as high risk. Prof Richard Holt and colleagues say more research is needed to investigate what factors lie behind the findings.

“And they say doctors should keep a closer check for early warning signs of diabetes in patients who have been prescribed these drugs. With 46 million anti-depressant prescriptions a year in the UK, this potential increased risk is worrying, they say. Prof Holt said: “Some of this may be coincidence but there’s a signal that people who are being treated with anti-depressants then have an increased risk of going on to develop diabetes. “We need to think about screening and look at means to reduce that risk.” Diabetes is easy to diagnose with a blood test, and Prof Holt says this ought to be part of a doctor’s consultation.

“Diabetes is potentially preventable by changing your diet and being more physically active.  Continue reading “Anti-depressants and diabetes”

ADHD labels and gender

A girl with ADHD may be labeled Chatty Cathy — the enthusiastic school-aged girl who is always telling stories to friends. Or she could be the daydreamer — the smart, shy teenager with the disorganized locker, repots WebMD:

“But what happens when she grows up? Or when her ADHD isn’t diagnosed until she’s a woman? Is her experience different from what men with ADHD go through?

“In some people, the signs of ADHD seem obvious — fidgeting constantly, difficulty paying attention in school or at work, and leaving tasks unfinished. For others, particularly those without behaviors problems, ADHD may be more difficult to diagnose.   The symptoms of ADHD may mimic those of other conditions, and sometimes the signs are subtler and harder to distinguish. One psychiatrist, Daniel Amen, MD, believes that to get a truly accurate diagnosis of ADHD, it is necessary to look inside the…

“The issues adults with ADHD have mirror those in the population as a whole, says Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, a psychotherapist in Boca Raton, Fla. For example, she says men with ADHD tend to have more car accidents, suspensions in school, substance abuse, and anger and behavioral issues, compared to women with ADHD. But men are more prone to these kinds of issues in general, regardless of ADHD. Women with ADHD are more prone to eating disorders, obesity, low self-esteem,depression, and anxiety. But they do in the general population, as well.

” These challenges also often play out in different areas of their lives. Men with ADHD may have problems at work, unable to complete their tasks or getting mad too easily at subordinates, says Anthony Rostain, MD, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to see conflicts at home. Kathleen Nadeau, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland in Silver Spring, says her female ADHD patients, especially mothers, come to her in a “constant state of overwhelm.” Continue reading “ADHD labels and gender”

Walter White at the end of time

I have no secret knowledge of how Vince Gilligan and Breaking Bad‘s writers plotted how to finish Walter White’s story, writes James Poniewozik in Time today, resisting the urge to celebrate the show’s Emmy win.  “I have to wonder if the scenario we saw tonight was considered, at one point, as the end. images-2Walt isolated, thousands of miles from home, dying alone, knowing that everything has gone wrong, knowing that his child hates him, knowing that his plan to enrich his family has failed–and powerless to do anything but, wait, and know, and think on what he has done.

“It feels in a sense as if these past few weeks have tried on several alternative endings for the story of Walter White. His surrender to Hank in the desert, as I said then, was one way it could have gone down. His disappearance into the horizon, last seen in the rear-view mirror of Vacuum Guy’s minivan, was another. (Hell, the end of last season’s run–Walt retired, successful, free and in the bosom of his family was, before Hank found Leaves of Grass as bathroom reading, the end for a very dark, cynical version of Breaking Bad.)

“The Shield’s outstanding finale left its antihero/villain, Vic Mackey, alive and chained to a desk, presumably to ponder his crimes forever. Walt’s exile in “Granite State” might be considered the Shield alternative for Breaking Bad–letting Walt “escape,” but in such as way as to be tortured by his deeds for the rest of his short life. So his world ends, as another New Hampshire resident posited, not in fire but in ice.

“There’s something purgatorial about Walt’s New Hampshire; we’ve spent so much time in the red-and-brown sun-baked vistas of New Mexico that emerging from the propane tank into New Hampshire feels like entering another world. As Vacuum Cleaner Guy–played, in an in-retrospect obvious bit of genius casting, by Robert Forster–says, it’s the kind of place where Walt could rest and get some much-needed thinking done. “If you look around,” he says, “it’s kind of beautiful.” Continue reading “Walter White at the end of time”

Napolitano’s rocky road

imgres-2The high-profile and surprising choice of former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to head the UC system has fueled criticism over the secret selection process, echoing debates around the country about how higher-education leaders are chosen.

Supporters of a more open method say that better decisions are made when three or four finalists for a university presidency or chancellorship are formally identified to the public, reports today’s Los Angeles Times.  “At that point, faculty and students could have a chance to meet them before a final selection.

“Some public universities in other states are required to do just that, but the UC and Cal State systems usually do not name more than one finalist and do not divulge the closed-door discussions that led to the nomination. Additionally, the final votes by the UC regents and Cal State trustees provide little information about the searches.

“Though widely praised, the selection of Napolitano in July also came as a shock to many outside a relatively small circle of UC regents and other officials. Some activists at California’s public campuses and elsewhere hope to change California’s higher-education hiring procedures.

“We want to see a transparent UC, where the people who are paid out of student tuition money are accountable,” said Caroline McKusick, a leader of UAW 2865, which represents teaching assistants and other student employees in UC. McKusick said that complaints about how Napolitano’s federal agency handled deportations of immigrants who crossed the border illegally should have been publicly aired before she was named as the sole nominee.  Continue reading “Napolitano’s rocky road”

Blackberry just about gone

As critics split hairs over whether the newest iPhones are “much better” or simply “better,” a nearly forgotten name brand is about to finally fold.images-1

The ride is winding down, as Wired reports today:

“After a year during which investors first gave BlackBerry another chance, then threw up their hands, shares have plunged again, this time on the news that the company expects to report nearly $1 billion in losses during the second quarter.

“The once-reigning master of mobile messaging also plans to lay off 4,500 employees, or more than one-third of its workforce.

“BlackBerry shares finished the day down more than 17 percent on the NASDAQ, heading back toward the lows seen nearly a year ago. Optimists were hopeful that the long-delayed BlackBerry 10 OS might at least help the company regain a hold on the businesses of world, which have traditionally gravitated towards the software tools that let them secure and manage phones used across a large organization.

“Instead, the company ran headlong into the bring-your-own-device wave. Corporate America realized that employees were using their own devices (read: iPhones and Android devices) for work anyway. Rather than fight their own workers every step of the way, businesses decided to figure out how to incorporate those devices into their own workflow. Large organizations regained some centralized control they had lost, while workers were happier and more productive.

“Those productivity gains might have had something to do with the fact that their iPhones and Android devices were more effective than the handsets the dysfunctional BlackBerry was making.

“The launch of the new iPhones today must make BlackBerry’s bad news all the more stinging for company employees, executives, and any shareholders still hanging on. But the story of the company’s decline is nearly as old as the iPhone itself. The best the company can likely hope for is a Nokia-style takeover, though who would actually take over is tough to imagine.”

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Azusa asks transgender theologian to leave

A California Christian college has asked a professor who was once its chair of theology and philosophy to leave Azusa Pacific University after he came out as transgender, reports RNS Religious News.

“Heather Clements taught theology at the school for 15 years, but this past year, he has begun referring to himself as H. Adam Ackley.

“Ackley, who is in his third year of a five-year contract, told RNS that he and APU have agreed to part ways as the university said it will continue to pay him through the academic year. But, he said, the university wants other professors to take over his classes. He also said that his insurance was denied when he sought hormone treatment and “top surgery” for his chest area.

“They’re giving me privacy to transition but denying medical treatment to do that,” said Ackley who is 47 years old.

“APU spokesperson Rachel White declined to discuss Ackley’s employment, saying that the issue is ongoing and personnel matters are confidential. Ackley said he is meeting with a university lawyer on Monday.

“Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical university of about 10,000 students and 1,200 faculty located northeast of Los Angeles. To his knowledge, Ackley said there is nothing in theuniversity’s policies about transgender people, just that “Humans were created as gendered beings.”

“I did not get a sense directly from the individuals with whom I was speaking that they had a theological problem with transgender identity,” Ackley said. “I did get the message that it has to do with their concern that other people, such as donors, parents and churches connected to the university will have problems not understanding transgender identity.” Ackley said that he accepted his transgender identity this year after the American Psychiatric Association removed “gender identity disorder” from the list of mental illnesses in its manual. Continue reading “Azusa asks transgender theologian to leave”

That prison industrial…..

We are living in boom times for the private prison industry.imgres-1

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest owner of private prisons, has seen its revenue climb by more than 500 percent in the last two decades, reports Mother Jones. “And CCA wants to get much, much bigger: Last year, the company made an offer to 48 governors to buy and operate their state-funded prisons. But what made CCA’s pitch to those governors so audacious and shocking was that it included a so-called occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling.

“Occupancy requirements, as it turns out, are common practice within the private prison industry. A new report by In the Public Interest, an anti-privatization group, reviewed 62 contracts for private prisons operating around the country at the local and state level. In the Public Interest found that 41 of those contracts included occupancy requirements mandating that local or state government keep those facilities between 80 and 100 percent full. In other words, whether crime is rising or falling, the state must keep those beds full. (The report was funded by grants from the Open Society Institute and Public Welfare, according to a spokesman.)

“All the big private prison companies—CCA, GEO Group, and the Management and Training Corporation—try to include occupancy requirements in their contracts, according to the report. States with the highest occupancy requirements include Arizona (three prison contracts with 100 percent occupancy guarantees), Oklahoma (three contracts with 98 percent occupancy guarantees), and Virginia (one contract with a 95 percent occupancy guarantee). At the same time, private prison companies have supported and helped write “three-strike” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws that drive up prison populations. Their livelihoods depend on towns, cities, and states sending more people to prison and keeping them there. Continue reading “That prison industrial…..”

Coca-cola apologizes for slur

Coca-Cola apologized Wednesday to the family of an Alberta woman who was shocked to unscrew a bottle of the company’s Vitaminwater and find the words ‘YOU RETARD’ printed inside the cap, reports Alberta’s MetroNews:

“Edmonton-based photographer Blake Loates said she and her husband discovered the cap while out for dinner on Tuesday night.“I am astonished that a major corporation could allow someone to tarnish their brand,” he said. “Not everyone in Canada speaks French – like my daughter, Blake.”


“The caps are part of a promotion run by the company, displaying a random English word, followed by a random French word.  “Retard” in French means late or delayed. Since the issue was brought forward to Coca-Cola, the company has been in touch with the Loates family to offer a sincere apology. “We did not mean to offend at all,” said Shannon Denny, director of brand communications for Coca-Cola Refreshment Canada. “We are certainly very apologetic for this oversight.” While Denny said the words were reviewed before going out to store shelves, they were reviewed in their French context, not in both French and English.

“When you look at the same word in English, it takes an offensive connotation,” Denny said. The process of matching the English and French words is supposed to be completely random, according to Denny, and the chances of those two words being paired together was slim. David Thomson, vice-president of still beverages for Coca-Cola, said the remaining caps in their facilities have now been destroyed. “We have learned from this and it was a mistake,” he said. “At no point in time did we intend on offending anyone by any stretch and we have cancelled and moved on and have dealt with this as soon as possible.”Thomson said he will be drafting a formal apology letter to the Loates family that will also detail the course of action they will take to correct the situation.”


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Public universities cutting student aid

Public colleges and universities were generally founded and financed to give students in their states access to an affordable college education.images

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that this seems to be be changing.

“They have long served as a vital pathway for students from modest means and those who are the first in their families to attend college. But many public universities, faced with their own financial shortfalls, are increasingly leaving low-income students behind—including strivers like Ms. Epps.

“It’s not just that colleges are continuously pushing up sticker prices. Public universities have also been shifting their aid, giving less to the poorest students and more to the wealthiest. A ProPublica analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that, from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants—as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts—to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend continued even though the recession hit those in lower income brackets the hardest.

“Attention has long been focused on the lack of economic diversity at private colleges, especially at the most elite institutions. What has been little discussed, by contrast, is how public universities, which enroll far more students, have gradually shifted their priorities—and a growing portion of their aid dollars—away from low-income students. State colleges are typically considered to offer the most affordable, accessible four-year education students can get. When those institutions raise tuition and don’t offer more aid, low-income students are often forced to decide not just which college to attend but whether they can afford to attend college at all. “The most needy students are getting squeezed out,” said Charles B. Reed, a former chancellor of the California State University system and of the State University System of Florida. Continue reading “Public universities cutting student aid”

Students protest ban on gender-neutral housing

Last week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students marched the mile from campus to the Board of Governors meeting site to protest the UNC System’s blanket ban, imposed by the board, on gender-neutral housing. InsideHigherEd reports that

“The new policy — which overturned the Chapel Hill Board of Trustees’ endorsement of the housing option —  was approved while students were away for the summer under the reasoning that “there are more practical ways” to make students “safe, comfortable and included,” the board chairman said.


“But it sparked outrage among advocates and campus officials concerned for the well-being of transgender students and others who would prefer to live outside traditionally designated pairs for college roommates.

“Among elite institutions, UNC’s move was unusual – many institutions are in fact moving in the opposite direction. There are now about 150 colleges that offer gender-neutral housing, according to a running count by Campus Pride. Granted, that’s out of more than 4,000 institutions – and it’s taken more than 20 years to get to this point.

“But for many of those campuses, whatever controversy ensued when men and women started living together has dissipated, and officials have moved on to more administrative-type policies. Last month, American University became the latest institution to cover gender reassignment surgery under its student health insurance policies.

“We’re seeing a progression. Trans students and allies have been working now for a number of years at many schools to create gender-inclusive bathrooms and gender-inclusive housing options, because those are pretty basic – to have a place to sleep and a place to pee,” said Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the first campus to offer gender-neutral housing, back in 1992. (A recent settlement by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights suggests colleges would be wise to provide these options.) “They’re looking now to address other important issues, and so gender in name documentation, hormones and surgeries are coming up more and more frequently for schools that have really begun to address transgender issues.” Continue reading “Students protest ban on gender-neutral housing”

Stunning findings about addiction treatment

Intensive drug and alcohol treatment may be no more effective than a single appointment, according to a new study reported today in Journal of the American Medical Association.

WebMD reports that “Results of the year-long study are likely to disappoint those who believe treating addiction more like a chronic disease — with a systematic approach and follow-up — is the better way to go.

“We were completely surprised by the result,” said lead researcher Dr. Richard Saitz, a Boston University professor of medicine and epidemiology. “We put everything into this, and we were surprised that even doing that didn’t lead to differences compared to not doing any of it.”

“In the study of nearly 600 adult substance abusers, those receiving chronic care management got intensive medical care at a primary-care clinic plus relapse-prevention counseling and addiction and psychiatric treatment. Others in the study had one medical visit at which they received a list of addiction-treatment resources.

“After 12 months, 44 percent of those in the chronic care management group had stopped drinking or using drugs, as did 42 percent of those not receiving intensive care, the researchers said. Despite these similar findings, Saitz said he still believes chronic care management can be useful for some addictions. However, “we don’t want people to assume that it’s going to be effective when applied everywhere for every person,” he said. More work is needed to determine the best way to use chronic care management and to identify those who will benefit most from the approach, he said.

“We have to recognize that people with drug or alcohol addictions may be different and it’s not one monolithic disorder,” Saitz said. “I do think that integrated chronic care management, in the future, is going to be efficacious for people with addictions.”The report was published in the Sept. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Advocates of chronic care management point out that many substance abusers suffer serious health consequences but receive poor care. By addressing medical, emotional and dependence issues in a coordinated manner, patients would achieve better results, the thinking goes. One expert thinks motivation is the key to any program to treat addiction. People who are motivated are most likely to start and stick with a program or join a clinical trial, said Dr. James Garbutt, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “That’s an important point because that’s saying they already wanted to make some changes,” Garbutt said. “That’s a huge step in substance-abuse treatment.” Continue reading “Stunning findings about addiction treatment”

The New San Francisco

It’s not just the 22 construction cranes dotting the San Francisco skyline and 5,000 pricey condos and apartments under construction, AlterNet reports.

“Nor is it the fleet of private buses ferrying 14,000 tech workers to Silicon Valley, or the explosion of restaurants and boutiques, or rents doubling, or the spike in evictions, or home sales now averaging $1 million. imgres

What’s happening to San Francisco goes beyond the accelerating gentrification in multicultural districts like the Mission or Mayor Ed Lee minimizing affordable housing woes. The city that’s been a magnet for free spirits and immigrants and working-class people for decades seems to be losing its famous heart. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that its heart is being replaced by a software update.

The best encapsulation of this sea change, which is driven by a booming tech sector that’s generated 13,000 jobs since early 2012, might be this blog from former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond, who begged the techie beneficiaries to stop treating the city he loves like a “rich kid’s playground.”

“When a 1990s tech-startup guy who admits he was part of the last generation of gentrification is now so fed up with the new arrival of high-paid techies that he’s ready to leave, it’s pretty serious,” he wrote in a piece titled, “The Mission ‘douchebags.’” He ended, “I know, I’m an old fart who is not rich and never will be… But if you’re lucky enough to be rich in your 20s, show some respect.”

“All economic booms bring dislocations, but what San Francisco is undergoing seems deeper because unlike past decades, when hippies arrived in the 1960s and gays came a decade later, locals were not displaced. That distinction has also been noted by longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Carl Nolte and by author Rebecca Solnit, another longtime resident, who recently wrote, “The problem is that we understand Silicon Valley’s values all too well, and a lot of us don’t like them.” Continue reading “The New San Francisco”

Arts and humanities grad programs are growing

Last week, the Council of Graduate Schools delivered a truly baffling piece of news, as reported in The Atlantic.

“From 2011 to 2012, it reported, the number of first-time students enrolled in arts and humanities Ph.D. programs had grown 7.7 percent. Yes, grown. Despite the slow-rolling extinction of the tenured professoriate; despite the fact that job openings haven’t even come close to recovering from the recession; despite ample doomsaying from publications like The New York Times, it seems students are still signing up at a healthy clip to pause their lives for six years in order to study English, history and the like.

“In fact, the enrollment bump was larger in the arts and humanities than almost any other broad field, with the one exception of public administration, as shown on this table from Inside Higher Ed. All of this leads to me to wonder: Why haven’t arts and humanities Ph.D. programs imploded yet? We know, thanks to the collapse of law-school applications, that undergraduate students (as a group, at least) are entirely capable of looking at the job market and making rational decisions about whether or not to pursue a graduate education. Yet in the arts and humanities, in which 43 percent of new Ph.D.’s had no job or postdoc offer by graduation in 2011, there’s no real sign of change. From 2007 to 2012, total enrollment fell by a measly 0.2 percent per year, according to the Council of Graduate Schools. Meanwhile, departments go on merrily producing more new doctorate holders than there are jobs in the academy.

“And 2012 just brought us a bumper crop of aspiring scholars. I’m going to offer a few very lightly sketched out theories in a second, but mostly, I want to hear from you, the readers. What’s keeping arts and humanities Ph.D. programs afloat? If you’re studying for a Ph.D. in the classics right now, what drove your decision making? What information did you or didn’t you have? If you’re a professor, does your department ever discuss shrinking down your incoming class size? Do students seem to have a realistic sense of their chances when they arrive for their first year of grad school?  Or do you think I have it all wrong? Is everything really fine? ”


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