Last updateWed, 15 Nov 2017 2pm

Ask the Experts


Wheel of Fortune

I will be meeting my new roommate when we arrive at college. My protective parents really want to know more about her. What should we do so everyone feels safe?

Your parents are right to want to know more, and your question is pertinent for most students that will be sharing a room with a stranger for the first time. Leaving home and going to college means that it is highly unlikely you will be lucky enough to be sharing with friends. A little background information on your new roommate would go a long way in easing the minds of both you and your parents.

It has been argued that the college should run background checks on students during the application process, but there are counter arguments against it. Would running a criminal record check prevent any future crimes? It is doubtful. Are university administrators qualified to make out-of-court decisions on people and is the college admissions process the correct place to do it?

Others argue that safety on campus should be a priority as should student well-being and this could be improved with more stringent background checks during application. The college does require checks on academic credentials so why not criminal ones also? Either way, it is likely that you will need to do your own research to glean the information you want in order to check on your roommate.

With a little personal information such as full name, registered address and employment details you can complete the research online yourself. To make your roommate feel more at ease, you could exchange details as she may also want to check up on you.

Once you have the basics, you can go online to check criminal history at the local courthouse which has files on crimes and legal cases for the local area. The National Center for State Courts will have contact information for the right court department.

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Valedictorian Vicissitude

I am not at the top of my class. Do I have a chance to make any real money in my career?

We are all wondering the same thing, is the world ruled by Harvard dropouts who create mega-online companies? Here is good news for you. A study of over seven hundred American millionaires showed their average college GPA was 2.9. Do students graduating with top grades have assurance of financial success?

Researchers following valedictorians into professional life after college generally found that they all attained the traditional markers for success. Top of the class grades and the majority landing top-tier professional jobs maybe the case, but very few went on to hit the bigtime of professional fame and wealth.

It appears that the traits that set you up for success at high school and college are not the same as those that lead individuals to world-changing breakthroughs or the creation of billion-dollar enterprises. Schools and colleges generally reward those that consistently do what they are told and life rewards those that do exactly the opposite.

Conformity, diligence and willingness to bow to the system creates valedictorians, which is exactly what the college wants. They find out what the professor wants and they provide it consistently. In a closed academic system the rules are very clear and the system is rigid. Out in the real world, life’s rules are not so clear, and those not strictly abiding by them can be at an advantage.

Many valedictorians admit that they were not the smartest students in the class, but simply the hardest working. Some acknowledged that they gave teachers what they wanted and did not really absorb the material.

Many of the world’s most influential thinkers came up with a radically new solution to a political, technical or scientific problem. Those that break the mold and think out-of-the-box are more likely to be the ones starting a new social media platform or Google.

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Student Start-Up

I have many business ideas and I think at least one is good. What are the odds on starting a successful, new business in college?

Your question got everyone’s attention, thinking you had another Facebook. Besides the well-known Internet start-ups from Harvard alum, many non-online businesses have been started by students. Since the newest billionaires have online ventures, the others do not get as much media attention. However, finding many success stories, we want to give you an overview of what you can do and how to get help.

College is not just a path to education, it is supposed to prime you for the workplace. This is the environment to test new ideas and set-up a new business. You have nothing to lose: no overhead, no possessions and few commitments, compared to later in life.

You are now surrounded by a network of like-minded and enthusiastic students. Use the college network as source of potential partners, assistants, and financial investors. Discuss your ideas, searching for compliments and critiques to develop your business plan.

Students are fickle, so if you can sell them on your idea, it is a good sign of a viable new product or service, recalls the founder of Brimley’s White Glove. The other students are networking too and can introduce you to other contacts. Of course, the opposite can happen, but you are in college to learn.

Take advantage of campus resources, like high-speed internet or meeting rooms, you have paid for the privilege. Do research now at the libraries, outside of the campus research is not free.

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Animal House

I am a brother in a popular campus fraternity. I read some disturbing stories in the news. If there is an accident at a frat house, who is legally responsible?

I was a brother at Zeta Beta Tau, so I appreciate the significance of your question. Regardless of intentions, you can be sure an accident will eventually occur at the house. Whether a slip-and-fall or a full-blown, alcohol-fueled incident, it will happen when you place unsupervised teenagers together. I will overview the legal issues and suggest what your fraternity should do to protect itself.

The Greek system of fraternities and sororities is a mainstay of campus life. They are the second-largest provider of student housing, after University-owned residences. Also, colleges literally market on-campus Greek life as a reason to enroll. We now get to mention the movie Animal House. While a farcical snapshot of life in the sixties, it did reveal the university’s unsuccessful struggle to control the fraternities.

Here are the most common injuries at frat houses: 23% from assault, 15% sexual assault, 10% slip-and-fall, 9% fall from a height, 7% auto related, and 7% hazing. Of course, hazing has attracted the most media attention lately.

Enter the lawyers. The first major case was in 1991, when the courts found the university liable for a fraternity incident. Fraternities on the campus were warned about rowdy behavior. The school knew the fraternities were not heeding the warning. When the college did nothing, it made them liable. It seems the more you warn the fraternities, the more liable you become for their activities.

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Data Dilemma

I completed some forms when I visited student health. The reason for my treatment is confidential. Now, I am wondering are my records completely private and secure?

This question reveals a disturbing truth about privacy in medical records held by school health services. We must inform you that your privacy rights depend on which law governs the health service provider. Even then, there are notorious loopholes in the law.

Let us introduce the alphabet soup of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This original 1974 law typically applies to most college medical records. Then in 2000, a new law HIPAA, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, was enacted to cover some college medical records. University Law Professor Guest Pryal wrote, “...compared with HIPAA, FERPA is about as protective as cheesecloth”. It is a challenge to identify which law applies, in which situation. Here is an overview.

In general terms, HIPAA gives you the right of medical privacy from the school and your parents. FERPA allows your parents access to your records. If you are an over 18-year-old student, your records are securely protected under HIPAA. Now, if you are treated by a student health service provided through a university, your records fall under the looser FERPA rules. Your absolute privacy has been lost. If you require in-patient treatment, rather than just a clinic visit, your records now fall under HIPAA.

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Driving Blind

There was a report that a research program for self-driving cars was approved for New Jersey. While I appreciate that my generation is witnessing the advent of revolutionary technology, I also feel that these cars will never be safe on the road. Read this and tell me whether am I right or wrong.

We typically receive questions and work to answer them. You have already done our job, making a persuasive argument against driverless cars. I will take your ideas and present them here, with thoughts and responses from industry observers.

A driverless car receives data from sensors throughout the car. While manufacturers vary in their approach, data can be collected from a roof-top mount, sensors built into the body of the car, and/or video cameras. Let us say you are on the highway, travelling at 55 mph. A newspaper or rubbish riding on the air lands on the sensor. I can name many other examples of something landing on or outright destroying the sensor. If the car is blinded, how can it react safely on the highway?

Experts have a name for this: redundancy. Loss of any one or two systems will not compromise the car’s performance. The future of driverless cars also includes networking, as all cars within a vicinity or network will share data with each other via wireless communication. Even cars with drivers are being equipped with networking capability and will make use of the technology, predicts transportation experts at Easy Car Shipping. The driver benefits from this information feedback with advanced braking systems and other warnings.

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Read Me My Rights

I believe college students are targeted by police, probably for good reasons. What should I know when dealing with police?

All college students think about this, hopefully few are actually in these situations. It should be no surprise that the leading cause of arrest is drug- and alcohol-related offenses, with over 45K annually on campuses. Here are the rights you should know.

The first misconception most students have is that the campus cops have no real power, they are not real cops. This largely depends on the college. Most of them contract state or local police to provide additional security on campus. This means that they have full, official police authority to stop, search, question and arrest suspects on campus or off.

Some campuses employ private security firms, which have limited powers. These are usually distinguished by their uniforms. The limits of their authority depend on university policy and should be understood by students on campus.

Searches are subject to the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from search and seizure without probable cause. However, a perfunctory weapons pat down is usually justifiable.

Campus police or security do not generally have the right to enter and search your room or dorm. Under the Constitution, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy for where you live, whether it is a dorm or rented house. Searches are subject to consent or a warrant. However, if the accommodation is on campus, it is private property and maybe subject to different rules. These should be stipulated in your rental contract. Campus security may have the right to enter all university premises without warrants, warn criminal defense attorneys.

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To the Manor Born

Here at the University, we have adequate housing. What is the deal with some dorms providing pools, gyms and saunas?

You and I have the same question. Who is living this lifestyle, at which colleges and how much is it? Student housing from earlier decades had only one goal; provide students with a place to live. With burgeoning college enrollment, the environment began to change and now that dynamic has changed. It naturally increased demand for off-campus housing, and real estate developers quickly recognized an opportunity. Just as expected, outside developers are more cost-efficient housing developers than the host university. One key source of demand, incoming foreign students, prefer to reside off-campus. You and I both missed out. Read about the privileged few.

Lucky students at the University of Georgia in Athens can choose to stay at The Standard, a luxurious apartment block. The development boasts a rooftop infinity pool, racquetball court, state-of-the-art fitness center, saunas, game room and even a golf simulator. Do they have time to study, with a fully loaded kitchen and en-suite bathroom? Plus, it is close to campus.

The Landmark Apartments, at the University of Maryland campus, is just as lavish, with hardwood floors, in-unit washer dryers, 50-inch flat-screen TVs, and en-suite bathroom for all bedrooms. Each unit is stylishly decorated with modern furniture and fixtures, observes Plumeria Bay home furnishings. You can take a break in the private Zen garden or games room, and the development also boasts 24-hour emergency service and video surveillance for security.

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Varsity Blues

I am happy to be in college, but felt better with my mother taking care of me. Really, why do I feel more run down at school?

Your question could be asked by anyone who is no longer living at home, whether you are 18 or 81. The phrases ‘mother’s home cooking’ and ‘there’s no place like home’ should make you realize your life has permanently changed. You now have more freedom, but, like all freshman, you abuse your body and mind. Here is a list of rookie mistakes when living at college. These should be distributed with your freshman class schedule.

The leading factor affecting your college well-being, both mental and physical, is stress. Be aware of your own stress levels and do not be afraid to reach out to a friend, teacher or even counselor if your workload becomes too much. A high number of freshmen feel overwhelmed with college life and long-term depression can lead to higher dropout rates. Sadly, the leading, specific cause of death in college is suicide, with 6 per 100,000 students annually.

Social anxiety is related to stress and can markedly increase it. You are surrounded by new people in an unfamiliar environment and unsure how to behave. Resist the temptation of partying and drinking every day, as your health will rapidly decline.

Lack of proper sleep is another problem of college life. An irregular schedule of classes, study time, part-time work, and socializing can interrupt your sleep patterns. According to studies, the average student misses out on 12-hours of sleep each week. Gradually, it will adversely affect your health and state-of-mind, with the loss of concentration bringing down your grades. Try to avoid caffeine or smartphone/tablet use before bed.

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Our college welcomes students from all nations, with many from China. In today’s economy, should I study foreign business and International relations?

The answer to your question radically depends on what type of business you want to do. China is recognized as the world’s second-largest economy. There are enormous opportunities for business inside China, as well as US import-export. However, the welcome mat is not fully extended to foreigners who want to do business in China. Let us discuss the reasons and how you personally can prepare.

China is not like other countries, as you cannot just arrive and open a business. There are layers of social and cultural nuances to negotiate, many of which are alien to westerners. Knowledge of the language is critical to break down cultural barriers, so learning Chinese in college certainly would give you a key advantage.

According to a USC US-China Institute report, over 51K students were studying Chinese in US colleges. This number is increasing annually, but not as fast as expected. Over 800K students are learning Spanish. Over a billion people speak Mandarin, 16% of the world’s population.

The US trade deficit with China was $347 billion in 2016. This means that the US exports only $116 billion, but imports a whopping $463 billion from China. Those imports consist primarily of consumer electronics, clothing and machinery. The low-cost of manufacture makes business with China appealing, admits electronics importer of a tip calculator.

Local Chinese competition should not be dismissed. Many industries in China are run at overcapacity, with high levels of fragmentation and subsidies from local governments. Time and research, lots of research, needs to be taken before jumping in with business in China. If you follow business news, you find many major companies have dropped plans for continued investment in Chinese expansion. Other established companies have sold their ownership in Chinese facilities or sought Chinese investment.

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Haunted House

Like many others, I am living off-campus. I got stuck with a bad situation. What can I do?

This problem is a common one, which reappears each school year. Even though many have written about this, it needs to be repeated for each incoming class. Colleges vary widely in the number of students choosing to live in off-campus housing. For some, it is well over 50% of students. Here are some housing horror stories. Our advice is to learn from these and ask more questions before you rent.

Off campus accommodation represents the biggest, non-academic expense for students and parents, so it is not to be approached lightly. The first consideration is your roommates, who are they? Living with people you do not know can be a potential minefield. Bad behavior, substance or alcohol abuse, uncleanliness, and noise and partying, can all disrupt your study schedule.

Roommates should have expectations of each other and respect for differing agendas and timetables. Although not legally binding, all occupants should write and agree on a list of acceptable house behavior, before moving in. House rules go a long way to keeping the peace, says a rental properties expert.

If the situation arises that once person has to leave, this will cause problems, if they have nowhere to go. Keeping up with other classmates and their accommodation arrangements will allow some flexibility. People clash and conflicts will occur.

Landlords can be a nightmare. Not taking responsibility for the property, failing to honor the rental agreement, and increasing the rent are all commonplace. The easiest way to learn about your future landlord is to talk to last year’s student occupants.

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Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151