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At UMass-Boston, chancellor decides to stay put

Is the leader of the University of Massachusetts at Boston getting restless? Chancellor Jo Ann Gora, who lost a high-profile bid last year to build $200 million dorms on the commuter campus, was recently in the running for the presidency of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. She was a finalist for the job but pulled out of the contest Monday, said a spokesman for UMass-Boston, after she talked to search leaders and decided the position "was not a good fit." On Wednesday, the Lewis & Clark search committee said it would recommend another finalist, Thomas Hochstettler, for the presidency. Gora has led UMass-Boston for 2 1/2 years, and her candidacy at Lewis & Clark coincided with her first performance review as chancellor -- a review some insiders predict will not be rosy.

CHANGE IN THE YARD: Deep inside the new curriculum review for Harvard College lurk some ideas that -- if adopted -- could make life very different for Harvard freshmen. As part of a bid to improve advising, the review recommends that all incoming Harvard students be preassigned to their upperclass houses -- yet another step away from the old Harvard system in which students sorted themselves into houses according to interests, sports, or social ties. And the report also suggests that freshmen should be required to take at least two classes on a pass/fail basis. The idea is that they should "take academic risks" in subjects they know little about.

HONOR THY SENIORS: Boston University avoided alienating some soon-to-be alumni in the Class of 2004 last week by postponing its new campuswide standards for graduation honors, which toughen up the rules at the College of Arts and Sciences. Some seniors who started at BU under its old honors standards were unhappy that the rules were going to bechanged midstream. "Because of this BU will most likely never receive a penny in alumni donations from a significant portion of the Class of 2004," senior Joseph Dimino, who was facing a downgrade from magna cum laude to plain old cum laude, wrote in an e-mail. But BU decided last week to grandfather in Dimino's class -- granting honors to everyone who qualified under either the old or the new rules. "What they did was really awesome," Dimino said after the switch. "I was impressed that the school listened."

FARM FORECLOSURE: The Great Depression and World War II never stopped it, but budget cuts last year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst were bad enough to stall an 87-year tradition. For the first time ever, the state's 4H program has canceled its annual teen conference, which brought together 200 to 300 teenagers on campus every June to boost teamwork skills. The conference, which cost about $32,000 last year, was dropped after UMass cut the entire $975,000 budget for 4H, which -- strange as it may seem -- is largely funded by the university. Tom Waskiewicz, who ran the event for 12 years as 4H's teen specialist, was laid off with the rest of the staff, but has been rehired as development director, and said his mission is to build donations and reinstate the conference next year. "People can't believe it's not happening," he said. "The students were devastated. But we're working doubly hard to put it back in place."

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