This has been a big year for sleep at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The Shapiro Undergraduate Library cleared away some dusty and disposable books on the first floor and six cots were installed, offering weary students “a safe place for brief spells of restorative sleep,” or “naps,” as they are known in campus shorthand. These brief spells have been limited to 30 minutes, and the space, in a well-trafficked area on the first floor of Shapiro, was equipped with vinyl cots, disinfecting wipes, disposable pillowcases, and lockers.
This development was greeted with much joy on campus, as can be seen at @UmichNaps, a wrenching site showing the many odd places and ways that exhausted Michigan students had been falling asleep on campus, due to studying all night, or perhaps overcommitting to mid-week beer pong marathons. Library assistants say sleeping in the library is so common that they regularly have to tour the premises, checking on curled-up students to make sure they haven’t passed out or passed on.
Detractors observed that throwing out all those books so that students could sleep during the day was an unfortunate bit of symbolism, particularly since most students on this massive campus (though not commuters) already had safe places for brief spells of restorative sleep, usually known as “dorms.” Some wags argued that a restorative nap might be accompanied by a restorative snack next to each cot, and one student, not entirely serious, asked for a nearby pool for a restorative swim.
Last month, the university library started testing a MetroNaps EnergyPod (in English: a nap machine) that looks like a dental chair encased in a plastic egg and sells for just under $13,000. It can vibrate gently and wake you up slowly to soothing music. Google and several colleges have them. St. Leo College in Florida has installed them in dorms so commuters can use them and dorm-dwellers don’t have to go all the way upstairs to take a nap. After all, what is college without a $13,000 vibrating nap machine?
At Ohio State University, to avoid being guilty of “sexual assault” or “sexual violence,” you and your partner now apparently have to agree on the reason WHY you are making out or having sex. It’s not enough to agree to DO it, you have to agree on WHY: there has to be agreement “regarding the who, what, where, when, why, and how this sexual activity will take place.”
There used to be a joke that women need a reason to have sex, while men only need a place. Does this policy reflect that juvenile mindset? Such a requirement baffles some women in the real world: a female member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights told me, “I am still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of any two intimates in the world agreeing as to ‘why.’”
The University of Virginia is boasting again about how well it does by its black students. This is an annual event and some of the boasting has merit. As the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education pointed out last June, U.Va. “consistently posts the highest black student graduation rate of any state-operated university in the country.”
The University is touting findings that “the percentage of black students with at least a 3.0 grade-point average at U.Va. rose from 37.4 percent in 2009 to 51.9 percent in 2014. In addition, 30.2 percent of students who identified as ‘black’ in the class of 2012 graduated with high honors (above a 3.4 GPA), far above the 17.3 percent rate five years earlier.”
For years, Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, has avoided taking a position on the Common Core K-12 State Standards. But yesterday he declared himself in favor. His essay in The Wall Street Journal, under the headline “The Conservative Case for Common Core,” dwells on the idea that conservatives generally favor good books, shared truths, and education that equips students with basic math and the ability to “read and distill complex sentences Bennett drives the point that “certain abilities” ought to be “common knowledge of all.” Just so. But then he proceeds as though “common knowledge” and “The Common Core™” are one and the same. They’re not.
The New York Times is late to the game of college rankings, but the paper of record has entered with a splash. Before we get to their system, it’s useful to think about the rankings in the abstract. Maybe it seems obvious but the way an institution or a magazine ranks colleges is an expression of what the editors think is most valuable. U.S. News encourages students to consider some combination of prestigious research and classroom experience as their guide. The Center for College Affordability and Productivity asks students to consider starting salary after graduation. The Washington Monthly wants to measure schools by how many of their students go into service-oriented professions after graduation. The American Council For Trustees and Alumni looks at how many substantive courses across disciplines a student is required to take.