Today in academia: a Harvard student impersonator, a huge CUNY gift, privatizing student housing, the free textbooks dream, and new protest "rules." 

  • 27 year-old pretended to be a Harvard freshman, including some dorm living. "I just played off like I was a student. It got addicting,"said Abe Liu, the Harvard Extension school student pretending to be a freshman, to The Harvard Crimson, after he was "escorted" by Harvard police out of Weld Hall dorm, where he had occasionally slept over. Details still appear to be sketchy, but from the quotes that Liu gave The Crimson, it seems like there was a series of very odd sounding lies that escalated. According the story Liu told, he first joined Harvard's Class of 2015 Facebook page, then wanted to "put a face to their internet identities" (the newspaper's words) by meeting the freshmen on campus, then starting hanging out with them in the freshman dorm and then eventually "telling freshmen he lived there." In his own words: "I made a mistake. My mistake was being lonely." [The Harvard Crimson via JimRomenesko.com]
  • California senator would like to make pleasant-sounding academic fantasy a reality. Free textbooks! It sounds great and makes sense, which is why Democrat state Sen. Darrell Steinberg is pushing a new bill that would allow UC students to have "free electronic access to the books, or could purchase a copy for $20," The San Francisco Chronicle reported. And it sounds relatively cheap: $25 million. Unfortunately, the state of California is essentially broke and its UC system isn't doing too well either (it just voted to raise tuition next year and, due to revenue issues, will be forced to make huge cuts again). The free textbook money would hypothetically come from the state's general fund: "That’s the same general fund that faces an estimated $13 billion deficit next year, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office." Good luck. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
  • University of Kentucky may start a trend: public universities that privatize student housing. It's a potential trend that doesn't feel surprising in the slightest, does it? And according to The Wall Street Journal, the school would be (it's still in tentative "talks") one of the "first major institutions to turn over its entire student housing stock to a private real estate company." Which is a boon for developers, who are eager to get in on a trend that "industry watchers" said other schools may consider. One possible sticking point that we see in The Journal's take: the University of Kentucky is still negotiating with its developer over "who would set rental rates." There would seem to be some downsides for a for-profit company being in charge of raising rent if the deal worked out that way. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • One-time math professor ends up gifting an enormous donation to former school.  It's probably something that few math professors could boast about, but James Simons can. He donated $150 million to the state school. Simons, of course, is now described by The New York Times by his more profitable other career: "hedge fund billionaire." Stony Brook is ecstatic at his latest donation: it "was more than triple the amount the university typically raised from all donors in a year." It'll be used to build a host of life, neuroscience and cancer research buildings. [The New York Times]
  • UC Riverside's 'protest guidelines'  to avoid what happened at UC Davis (i.e. this) get panned.  Inside Higher Ed reports that the school came out with new guidelines about when and how to protest shortly after the U.C. Davis pepper-spray incident fallout. The protest rules include: must "be planned two weeks to a month in advance, in conjunction with the dean of students’ office ... have an staff member present; not include signs attached to “rigid sticks or poles”; and be evaluated with administrators after the fact." Naturally, even if the guidelines were well-intentioned, they seem to defeat the idea of a spontaneous protest, especially, as one student told Inside Higher Ed, if these protests need to be planned two weeks in advance. [Inside Higher Ed]