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MIT dean on mission to de-stress youth

Marilee Jones, the dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is well known in college admissions circles for her conviction that the increasingly stressful competition to get into an elite school is harming young people. She frequently lectures to parents to try to talk some sense into them, and she's even changed the MIT application form to send the message that students don't need dozens of extracurricular activities on their resume. Now, she's teaming up with the American Academy of Pediatrics to document the health effects of overscheduling young people. ''There is a growing sense in the medical community that the over-scheduling required by colleges and driven by the economics of two working parents is creating a vast array of stress-related symptoms like depression, anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, and . . . eating and sleeping disorders in children as young as middle-schoolers," Jones wrote in an e-mail. ''I'm hearing it everywhere I speak now." Jones said the details have yet to be worked out, but ''I'm very excited about crossing disciplines to stop the craziness."

IVY TENURE A report by graduate students at Yale University painted a dismal portrait of the advances made by women and minorities on the faculties of Ivy League universities, and was especially tough on Harvard President Larry Summers, who became a poster child for insensitivity to diversity after his January remarks about women in science. ''As the comments of [Summers] revealed, some Ivy League administrators may still believe that the reasons certain groups are underrepresented in the tenured ranks of faculty is the innate limitations of members of those groups rather than the discrimination . . . that is hidden behind the banner of elitism," said the report, the prime author of which is the Graduate Employees and Students Organization at Yale, which is fighting for recognition as a union. Largely relying on federal data, they write that from 1993 to 2003, the number of tenured black professors grew only from 2.2 percent to 2.5 percent of all tenured faculty, with the percentage of Hispanic professors rising from 1.2 percent to 1.4 percent. Women did better, with their number growing from 14 percent to 20 percent of tenured faculty. The report also documents how female and minority scholars are disproportionately likely to get nontenure track jobs that lack the security and benefits of traditional academic work.

AID BOOST In contrast to the dire news about hiring, Yale University became the latest Ivy League school to announce a new, more generous financial aid policy. Following a similar move by Harvard last year, Yale announced Thursday that it would not require families earning less than $45,000 a year to contribute to the cost of their son or daughter's education. Families earning between $45,000 and $60,000 will also see a big drop in what they have to pay, and Yale will now pay for international students on financial aid to take one trip home each year.

BIG SPENDERS There was some hopeful news last week for UMass, Dartmouth, and other colleges rolling out major fund-raising campaigns: The annual survey of the Council for Aid to Education found that contributions to colleges increased 3.4 percent last year, and the upswing included a major spike in giving by individuals. Nearly half the $24.4 billion raised by colleges in 2004 came from individual donors, a one-year increase of 9.7 percent, according to the council. And while much of the increase is attributed to alumni giving, it's the size of the checks, not the number of donors, that matters. While the percentage of contributing alumni dropped last year, the value of their average gift increased, said survey leaders.

BUY LOCAL Vermont native Will Wallace-Gusakov was bothered when his college dining hall served apples from Washington instead of local orchards. So the Hampshire College junior started a student group, Hampshire Local Food Initiative, and pushed administrators to buy from local farmers. His efforts paid off last month, when the Amherst college started buying its milk (skim and chocolate included) from nearby Cook Farm in Hadley. Plans to buy more local vegetables are in the works. Now an intern at a non-profit group in South Deerfield that promotes local farms, Wallace-Gusakov said he's not finished yet. The 21-year-old is meeting with representatives from other area colleges including Smith, UMass, and Amherst to try to build a food-buying partnership.

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