Campus Insider

At Amherst, a lesson in generosity

By Tracy Jan and Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / March 22, 2009
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Students at Amherst College have donated $70,000 from a reserve student activity fund to boost financial aid and help the school's lowest-paid employees avoid wage cuts.

Undergraduates voted overwhelmingly in favor of the gift at a recent campus-wide referendum, opting for the financial aid and pay package over a lump gift to the dean of faculty to retain one visiting professor for one year. The students specified that $50,000 of the gift go toward financial aid and the remaining $20,000 toward staff wages.

College officials expressed deep pride at the students' gesture, which they described as the first of its kind.

Brown confronts past
More than two centuries after Brown University's founding, the school has agreed to commission a memorial recognizing Brown's ties to slave trading.

President Ruth Simmons, the first African-American to lead an Ivy League school, appointed a committee on slavery and justice in 2003 to investigate the university's historical relationship with slavery. Some of the university's early benefactors were involved in the slave trade and Brown benefited, the committee found.

A report issued last week by a commission on memorials, which sprang from the 2003 committee, recommended that the memorial inspire reconciliation, rather than resurrect shame or pain. The university should discuss how its early history should be represented in the Brown curriculum and how it can be taught in elementary and second schools, the report said.

A push for amnesty
Boston University student leaders vow to continue pushing the college administration to adopt a "medical amnesty" policy guaranteeing that students who seek help after excessive drinking or drug use would not face disciplinary sanctions.

The policy, adopted by Emerson, Harvard, Northeastern, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and other schools, is not necessary at BU, Kenneth Elmore, dean of students, said in a letter to the student union president last week. Current BU practices are already in line with the proposed policy, he said.

But that does not go far enough, said Matthew Seidel, president of the student union. Many students are fearful of seeking help after excessive drinking because they don't want to jeopardize their housing, scholarships, or risk expulsion. "This all comes down to the moment of crisis where a student needs to make a choice," he said.

Logging on
For the first time since the dot-com bust, computer science is surging again.

The number of undergraduates majoring in the field rose significantly for the first time since 2000, according to a new survey from the Computing Research Association. Total enrollment in computer science classes rose by more than 6 percent, the first such increase in six years. Industry experts said strong job prospects at high salaries were responsible.

"The upward surge of student interest is real and bigger than anyone imagined," said Peter Lee, the incoming chairman of the association and head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University.

The number of computer science majors at US universities declined after the dot-com bubble burst, dropping from 16,000 in 2000 to 8,000 in 2006. The Class of 2009 will be the smallest graduating class in a decade.

But the number of new majors in university departments rose 9.5 percent over last year. That's not a bad career track, since labor statistics show that computer science graduates earn 13 percent more than average college graduates.

To submit tips to Campus Insider, contact Peter Schworm at and Tracy Jan at

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