Spring Break Scams Prove Costly to College Students

By Adina Diamond Daily Trojan

LOS ANGELES – Spring Break is traditionally a sun-filled relaxing time, but students are increasingly suffering headaches instead of sunburns due to travel and vacation scams.

College students’ quests for the least expensive travel options can leave them vulnerable to fraud, said Alexis Rochefort, a public relations specialist with the Institute of Certified Travel Agents.

“[Students] are looking for the cheapest way, so they overlook things,” Rochefort said. “The consciousness and consumer awareness has not been raised with students.”

Rochefort said that there are two very common types of scams. The first is the misrepresentation of products and services. Often, the conditions and amenities of lodging are exaggerated.

“The hotel is sold as a beautiful piece of property, but it has cockroaches,” Rochefort said. “[Or students] will purchase a suite with an ocean view and there is no suite with an ocean view.”

The second most prevalent type of fraud is the overbooking of airline and lodging, Rochefort said. Students are often stranded at airports or their destination because of a lack of seats or rooms.

Although numerous scams exist, a student’s first line of defense is understanding basic travel truths, said April Chappell, a travel adviser with STA Travel, located in University Village.

Chappell said students often assume that the initial price quoted for a flight is the price they will be charged if they call back later.

“A reservation does not hold the price and seat,” she said. “No airline price is guaranteed until ticketed.”

Additionally, students need to understand the special guidelines governing charter flights, which are especially popular during the Spring Break season.

According to the ICTA, charters are legally allowed to cancel flights up to 10 days before departure. In addition, they may change schedules at any point and delay flight departure times for up to 48 hours without compensating travelers or providing them with substitute means of transportation. Charter companies’ policies may put students at a higher risk of a scam, but they do have rights in such a case.

Travelers may elect to cancel a charter flight without consequences if the company alters the itinerary and the traveler is unhappy with the change, according to the ICTA. An 11th-hour price increase also allows travelers to cancel their flights without repercussions.

There are numerous other tips that can help students to avoid becoming scam victims, Rochefort said. The most important one is to find a Certified Travel Counselor or Certified Travel Associate.

Rochefort said students in particular often assume that using certified professionals will be more expensive, but often they can provide students with cheaper travel packages. Rochefort also said that CTCs or CTAs cater to their clients’ interests to create the best vacations possible.

“They provide you with personal service,” she said. “They are going to ask you questions. They are going to evaluate you and what you want.”

Another trap students fall into is planning their vacations on the Internet, which Rochefort said is risky because of the lack of information available and the ease with which vendors can deceive customers.

“You have no idea what’s behind an Internet site,” she said. “You are not dealing with a person.”

Once students have decided upon a reputable company or vendor, they should be careful when choosing which payment method to use, Rochefort said.

“If you pay with cash, you will never see it again,” she said. “I would not use a money order [either].”

Both methods almost guarantee students will not receive refunds if they are scammed because the money cannot be traced and used as proof of purchase and payment, Rochefort said. The best method of payment is a credit card because “it is a more trackable receipt and contract,” Rochefort said.

Although it may seem as if they are risky to use, credit cards are also the best option because powerful companies are at customers’ disposal if they are scammed.

Students Behave in Dry Dorms

By Shelley Doggett Daily Texan

AUSTIN, Texas – The 10th floor of Jester East lacks the stench expected of a typical residence hall, and the absence of stains on carpets and walls usually left as parting gifts from the parties of previous residents makes this floor different in many ways.

The prohibition of alcohol on this floor may have something to do with it.

A report released Wednesday by the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study revealed that students living in substance-free environments are “less likely to drink heavily and less likely to be affected by problems associated with alcohol than students living in unrestricted housing.”

“The major finding is that there are fewer secondhand effects in these dorms and an atmosphere free of the very real problems such as assaults, unwanted sexual advances and vandalism,” Henry Wechsler, director of the study, said in a statement.

The study compared the habits of 2,555 students living in both restricted and unrestricted residences on 52 college campuses.

Despite the fact that substance-free residences aren’t always completely substance-free, students who live there are three-fifths less likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking, compared with students living in unrestricted residences.

“The best bet for students who come into college and want to avoid the secondhand effects of drinking, like having their studying interrupted or having property vandalized, is to request substance-free residences,” Wechsler said.

The university offers students who wish to live in a substance-free environment the opportunity to move onto the “wellness floor” in Jester.

“It’s just something I didn’t want to deal with,” undeclared freshman Jenny Hsu said. “I’ve heard a lot about the stains and smells of other floors and the partying that goes on. I like the cleanliness on this floor.”

Although some of the students who live on the 10th floor do consume alcohol, they are not allowed to return to the dorm intoxicated.

“I know a couple people on this floor who go party, but they are respectful enough to stay at a friend’s house,” Hsu added.

The university’s policy on drinking is that alcoholic beverages may be consumed and stored in resident rooms if all occupants are at least 21 years old, with the exception of students residing on the wellness floor.

However, drinking is not allowed outside of the rooms in halls, lounges or other public areas of the residence halls according to the student handbook.

In addition, intoxicated residents are not permitted to enter the building without being properly assessed as potentially dangerous to themselves or others.

Search Continues in Murder of Professors

By Ithan Peltan The Dartmouth

HANOVER, N.H. – A former visiting professor of earth sciences and current geology professor at Arizona State University, Stanley Williams, has been identified by several media outlets as the man whose rental car was seized from the rental agency in anchester by officials investigating the Zantop murder.

Williams does not appear to be a suspect in the double homicide, however.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office said that they have no suspects and that none of the people interviewed by state police who travelled to Arizona are considered suspects.

Williams could not be reached for comment yesterday, but earlier confirmed to the Boston Globe that he had in fact been in contact with New Hampshire investigators.

“We still don’t have any suspects,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Daniel Mullen told The Dartmouth yesterday, adding he personally did not know if Williams had been questioned.

Williams and his wife, Lynda, were in Hanover the weekend professors Half and Susanne Zantop were killed to attend the 90th birthday party of his dissertation adviser, Richard Stoiber, a professor emeritus of earth sciences.

Police impounded the white car the couple had apparently rented from Thrifty Car Rental at the Manchester airport.

Stanley Williams received his Ph.D. from Dartmouth in 1983 and is an expert in volcanolgy, focusing on the behavior of active volcanoes. Lynda Williams received a master’s degree, studying under Half Zantop, from the College in 1984.

Stanley Williams has been travelling back and forth to Hanover in recent months to visit the ailing Stoiber, whose party took place from 5 to 7 p.m. on the Saturday that the couple was murdered.

GW University Proposes Tuition Increase

By Becky Guyon GW Hatchet

WASHINGTON – George Washington University announced Wednesday a 4.4 percent tuition increase for next year – the lowest hike in 13 years.

Announcing the 2001-02 budget to student leaders at a meeting Wednesday night, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said alumni fundraising and increased gifts helped cut 0.1 percent from last year’s tuition increase of 4.5 percent.

“We have been working diligently to raise more from alumni and other endowments,” Trachtenberg said. “These kinds of gifts make it possible to keep tuition as low as it is while still adding to the GW experience.”

The treasurer’s office will present the budget to the board of trustees Friday morning.

A large portion of the extra $24 million from tuition increases goes to the Gelman Library, financial aid and the Law School.

The proposed budget for next year allots Gelman Library an additional $1 million for next year – an increase three times the $250,000 boost it usually receives, Trachtenberg said. Financial aid will receive an increase of $6.4 million, while the Law School receives $3.4 million more for renovations and a $1.3 million increase for operations.

Trachtenberg said most of the extra financial aid goes to undergraduates, although he did not provide breakdowns for undergraduate and graduate students.

Other areas receiving increased funding included the Honors Program, which got $400,000 more, the GW International Experience exchange program, which received $1.1 million more, and staff salary increases, which total $4.9 million.

GW limited technology increases to $585,000.

The proposed budget corresponded with the SA’s “Student Budgetary Priorities Resolution” in which the SA recommended that the University make, “academic technology, financial aid, additional classroom space and improving and expanding facilities its highest budgetary priorities.”

Columbia Not Implicated in Workers’ Rights Investigation

By Annie Pfeifer Columbia Daily Spectator

NEW YORK – When a team of investigators from the Worker Rights Consortium cited a factory in Mexico for labor violations in late January, Columbia administrators breathed a sigh of relief.

That’s because the factory, which has made college-label apparel for Nike in the past, does not manufacture apparel for Columbia.

The report called on the WRC’s member institutions to take “immediate action” against Nike. Columbia is a member of the industry-monitoring WRC, but because it does not have a contract with Nike, it was not affected by the report.

The factory was cited for violating standards on child labor, minimum wages and labor organizing.

Had Columbia licensed Nike as a vendor, it would have faced strong pressure from student activists to take action against Nike.

“We would have requested that the Administration send a letter to Nike protesting, saying we were shocked at the working conditions and expressing the need to address the concerns of the worker,” said junior Ginger Gentile, a leading member of the Student Labor Action Committee (SLAC), formerly known as Columbia Students Against Sweatshops.

Director of Business Services Bob Moskovitz, whose office oversees Columbia’s licensing agreements, cautioned against hasty actions.

“It’s important for the University to be consistent with business partners,” he said. “If it was brought to our attention that one of the licensed vendors was operating under the [cited sweatshop’s] conditions, we would have helped the WRC and FLA investigate … Once we had informed ourselves about conditions, we would have expressed the need for change.”

The university joined the WRC last April in response to demands by student activists. The WRC was established early last year by student activists around the country as an alternative to the more established Fair Labor Association (FLA), which the university joined in March 1999.

The FLA is much better funded than the WRC and boasts 150 member institutions to the WRC’s 46. But the FLA also includes corporations in its governance, which activists say compromises its independence.

Activists originally called on Columbia to leave the FLA in favor of the WRC, but they compromised last year and joined both groups.

Gentile said the recent report showed the value of being a member of the WRC and that the FLA would not have caught the violations.

Lesbian Couple Portrayed in Student-Directed Documentary Film

By Jay Cridlin Old Gold and Black

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A Winston-Salem lesbian couple’s quest to be united in Wait Chapel is the subject of a new student-directed documentary that will make its debut Feb. 15 in Pugh Auditorium.

A Union in Wait, which was directed by North Carolina School of the Arts student Ryan Butler, tells the story of Susan and Wendy Parker, who met in 1981 and finally celebrated a covenant ceremony at Wake Forest Baptist Church in September 2000.

The ceremony did not occur without resistance, however. In September of 1999, the board of trustees issued a statement asking the church not to perform the ceremony, causing riptides of controversy throughout the Wake Forest University community and making headlines nationwide.

“I heard about what was going on at the school,” Butler said, “and the more I heard about it, the more interesting the story sounded and the more complicated it got. And we thought, `Gosh, this would be a great idea for a film.'”

Butler scraped together a budget of $12,000 and filmed a great deal of the documentary using equipment borrowed from friends and professors.

He said A Union in Wait contains a “mini-biography” of the Parkers, as well as interviews with such noted gays and activists as Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank and Candace Gingrich and footage from the Millennium March in Washington, D.C.

Butler, who is openly gay, said that he tried to make A Union in Wait without any trace of personal politics, and that the film ultimately benefits from this evenhandedness. “I thought the documentary would be more effective if I tried to make it a little bit so that people could see it as a nonbiased film,” he said. “I didn’t want people to watch the film and just see it as gay propaganda.”

The film’s arrival in Pugh was co-sponsored by GSSA and the Adam Foundation, a Winston-Salem-based non-profit organization, which provides funding for programs and education about the gay and lesbian community.

Senior Martin Price, the president of GSSA, said the film captures the essence of the Parkers’ relationship and of the turbulence it caused on campus.

“I think it’s very well done,” said Price, whom Butler interviewed during the course of filming the documentary. “I think the film gives the viewer a real impression of Susan and Wendy and their commitment to one another and what that ceremony meant to them. And it also gives a good impression of what this debate did to the Wake Forest community and actually what it did for the Wake Forest community.”

Butler said the Adam Foundation had already sent out over 1,500 invitations for the premiere, which will remain open to the public.

Fraternity Groups Taking Steps Against Alcohol-Related Deaths

By Ryan McNeill Daily O’Collegian

STILLWATER, Okla. – Members of the Oklahoma State University Greek community are taking steps to prevent the same type of tragedy that took the life of a freshman in California, a Greek Life official said.

According to an Associated Press report, three members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity at California State University-Chico were sentenced to 30 days in jail in connection with the drinking death of 18-year-old Andrew Heideman.

Police reports show that Heideman, a first-year member of the fraternity, died after trying to drink a bottle of brandy.

Whit Culver, president for the OSU Interfraternity Council, said OSU is working to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.

“That tragedy really hit home with me,” Culver said. “I was a fraternity president before becoming IFC president, and you always have that fear. When the executive members took office at the beginning of the semester, we knew we needed to address the alcohol issue. Especially in the Greek houses.”

Culver said the IFC has not enacted new rules, opting to increase enforcement of current rules instead.

“We have really stepped up our enforcement,” he said. “Enforcement has gone from nothing to pretty substantial.”

The biggest change, Culver said, has been spot checks.

“We are going around and doing some spot checks in an effort to keep alcohol out of the houses,” he said. “In the long term, it provides many benefits, including helping end the university stereotype that the Greek system is drunk all the time. That is really not the case and is just not a part of the Greek system at all.”

Culver said death due to over-drinking is always a threat when alcohol is consumed.

“You know, when I was fraternity president, it was always on my mind,” he said. “Whenever alcohol consumption – not in the house because we didn’t drink in the house – was going on, whether it is in the bar or whatever, you always think about it.”

“Too often, guys don’t think something bad can happen to them,” he said. “You have to educate them. You have to teach people to be aware and realize something bad can happen here and take the appropriate measures.”

Pi Kappa Phi has more than 140 chapters across the country. OSU’s chapter, Gamma Upsilon, has been on hiatus since August 1998 because of declining member numbers, according to a previous article in The Daily O’Collegian.

The chapter is scheduled to recolonize in 2002.

The Pi Kappa Phi national headquarters released a statement in response to the death, promising to expand alcohol awareness among its members.

“Pi Kappa Phi has partnered with the Prevention Research Institute to provide alcohol education nationwide to our new members through a customized program we call STAR – Students Talking about Alcohol Responsibly,” according to the report.

“The International Association of Chiefs of Police-College and PRI recently entered into a partnership to provide opportunity and training for campus police personnel to reduce high-risk drinking among college students,” according to the report.

ETS To Stop Flagging Tests

By Nicole B. Usher Harvard Crimson

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Educational Testing Service announced Thursday that it will no longer flag the test scores of students who take standardized tests with special accommodations for their disabilities.

For now, the announcement only applies to the GMAT, GRE, TOFEL and Praxis exams. The College Board, an independent agency affiliated with the ETS, will decide by March 31 if the same policy will apply to SAT scores.

Flagged scores are currently distinguished by the notation, “Scores Obtained Under Special Conditions,” in score reports sent to college admissions offices and students.

Director of Harvard Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis ‘ 73 said she is not concerned about receiving scores that have been taken under special conditions but are not denoted as such.

She said the potential change in score-reporting would not affect the college’s admission process.

“This is actually not a big deal,” McGrath Lewis wrote in an e-mail. “Tests play a useful but limited, role in our selection.”

The College Board only requires that there be “appropriate documentation on file in school,” in order for students to be considered eligible for special testing accommodations, according to material on its Web site.

The ETS announcement follows a recent court settlement in a California suit filed two years ago by a physically disabled man who believes his failure to be accepted to business school was the result of his flagged scores.

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