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Roundup: More funding, closures and a sloth

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Happy Friday, folks.

We've officially surpassed one million cases of COVID-19 worldwide. On a (somewhat) uplifting note, more than 200,000 people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

There's not much good news about the economy, though. To ease your mind a bit, here is a happy animal video.

If you need us, we'll be watching this sloth eat kale... forever? https://t.co/bkhEa0HDBc

: @NationalZoo pic.twitter.com/vNCdaoXBjJ

— Washingtonian (@washingtonian) April 1, 2020

Still getting the hang of Zoom meetings? Here's a helpful video from theater faculty at Columbia College Chicago.

Now let’s get to the news.

Think tanks are calling for more funding for higher education in the next round of stimulus packages (if there is one).

Meanwhile, colleges are asking Betsy DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, to disburse the relief funds for higher education to institutions quickly. They're also asking the department to clarify how the money can be used.

A Strada Education Network survey found that many people would want to further their education if they lost their jobs.

To help keep students enrolled, Ohio Wesleyan University is canceling its planned tuition increase of 3 percent.

Athletics directors are thinking about reducing employee compensation as institutions look toward major budget cuts.

Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

COVID-19 is affecting more than colleges' finances and operations. It's affecting their faculty, staff and leaders -- several of whom have already died from the virus, Marjorie Valbrun reports.

Elizabeth Redden has a story on scholars combating racism against Asians and Asian Americans due to the coronavirus.

Two colleges recently announced they're closing. Emma Whitford wrote about how the coronavirus was a factor in those decisions.

News From Elsewhere

Reuters has a damning report on how college students are spreading the novel coronavirus.

Do private colleges have enough cash to weather this storm? The Chronicle of Higher Education has this story.

What to do when campus is closed and you're bored? Build your college on Minecraft, The Verge reports.

Here's a helpful story from The Atlantic on epidemiological models.

Percolating Thoughts

Hybrid Pedagogy, a journal for digital pedagogy, has an interesting article arguing for less test proctoring as colleges pivot to online.

A scholar and a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania have some ideas for how colleges can further help the battle against COVID-19.

Ever taken a look at the subreddit for professors on Reddit? It's looking pretty rough for universities right now, according to one chief strategist.

Have any percolating thoughts or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.

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Universities form global network on climate change

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Several dozen of the world’s top universities have teamed up to press for action on climate change, saying the coronavirus pandemic should not erase attention on the dangers of a warming world.

The International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA), unveiled on April 2, showcases climate change research from 40 universities in 18 countries across six continents.

The group includes institutions with global strengths in key disciplines for both analyzing and resolving climate change, such as engineering, economics, law, social science and planning, as well as climate science.

The University of New South Wales Sydney, which spearheaded the initiative and will coordinate it for the first year or two, is also the lead institution for solar photovoltaic technology. While Australia’s catastrophic summer bushfires focused the world’s attention on the consequences of climate change, the initiative has been in the planning for the past two years.

“This new platform is needed now more than ever as the world grapples with providing a coordinated approach to tackling climate change,” said UNSW vice chancellor Ian Jacobs.

Matthew England, an oceanography and climate dynamics specialist with UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, said the group had made the “tricky” decision to launch the alliance amid the COVID-19 “information saturation.”

While climate action is “on hold while we address this pandemic,” England said there were many parallels with the coronavirus. “One is that acting early makes the process easier, right through to the economy,” he said.

“Another is that this is a problem we can solve by coming together globally and within communities, sharing scientific knowledge but also understanding what we’re all going through across nations. We will solve COVID, and we can also solve climate change with enough of a coordinated effort.”

Member universities include the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, the Sorbonne University, ETH Zurich, the University of Hong Kong, the National University of Singapore, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, the University of São Paulo, the University of Ghana, the University of Nairobi, TERI School of Advanced Studies in New Delhi, the China University of Geosciences and the Fiji-based University of the South Pacific.

England said he expected another 10 or so institutions to join the group. He said that as an international problem, climate change warranted a “truly international” alliance with global traction.

The aim was to create a “new voice” capable of engaging not just in national-level policy but also international negotiations, such as the treaties formulated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

England said that as mounting scientific and government reports demonstrated the effects of climate change, people were understandably frustrated about political inaction on the issue. “This new alliance is united in helping to break through this barrier so decision makers can have better access to research-based facts on climate change impacts, adaptation and -- most importantly -- mitigation,” he added.

The alliance had deliberately embraced institutions in emerging nations with surging populations and energy needs, which were teetering between “going for low-carbon sources of energy or making the mistakes we’ve made in Australia and the U.S.,” England said.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 04/03/2020 - 00:00
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Chronicle of Higher Education: During Covid-19, One College’s Virtual Chat Offers Hope for the Fall

An admissions officer braced for tough questions about college in the pandemic. But the Class of 2024 wanted to talk about other things.

Chronicle of Higher Education: How Are Colleges Contributing to the ‘War Effort’ Against the Coronavirus?

Medical masks, ventilator designs, food pantries. Even as the pandemic has closed campuses, it has renewed many faculty and staff members’ sense of purpose about their role in the community.

read more

Chronicle of Higher Education: ‘I Was Horrified’: For Millions of Borrowers, the Coronavirus Stimulus Law Offers No Relief

Borrowers with commercially held federal student loans have options. But forcing them to make difficult decisions during a public-health crisis could put them at risk financially.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Coronavirus Complicates an Already Tricky Balancing Act for Adult Learners

The pandemic poses additional challenges to students juggling coursework with full-time jobs, child care, and elder care.

Flexible starts, new test rules: UK HEIs address financial risks of Covid-19

The PIE News - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 10:35

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening international enrolment numbers at UK higher education institutions for 2020, which could lead to huge financial losses for institutions, industry leaders have been warned.

While some indicate that universities are seeking to mitigate the impact by focusing on pre-sessional English provisions, concerns surrounding visa applications and widespread student anxiety remains.

Chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, has called for government support at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic threatens a “major financial hit” which would put a lot more universities in a “tough position”.

“We are closer to a university going bust than we have been at any point in living memory”

“You have got a top-end risk of £7 billion of income, which would be well over 20% of university income next year,” he said, adding that most international students are currently making decisions about where they will be studying.

“We are closer to a university going bust than we have been at any point in living memory,” added Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute.

Speaking with The PIE News, founder of university specialists The University Guys and podcast presenter, David Hawkins, said that among the fear and uncertainty, it is “really difficult to talk about the sector as a whole”.

“Everybody’s concerns are going to be different,” he said. “If an institution recruits mostly from its local area, then they’re probably going to be okay.

“If it has 25% of its student body from overseas and mostly from China, then they’re probably not going to be okay, and every variation in between.”

Other sources suggested the Russell Group universities relying on high numbers of students from China could be at risk.

“[Some Russell Group institutions], their postgrad provision – we are talking 15,000-20,000 international students per year – what are they going to do if restrictions stay in play?” one source told The PIE.

“I worry about their future because I think there are going to be mass redundancies.”

Some institutions have already noted a reduction in applications from China this year, with some down between 30-40% for the 2020 intake.

“I’d estimate that we’ll be around 40% down in China, but will stay relatively consistent across all other markets,” one non-Russell Group university told The PIE.

“Overall, that would put us around 25% down this year. It is likely though that we’ll push a lot of students towards a January intake.”

And student anxiety is adding pressure to worries about how international destinations are perceived by prospective students, with one recent survey revealing 86% of 9,000 Chinese students studying overseas wish to return home.

But it’s not just students from China who are being impacted by the uncertainty.

“We just don’t know what the situation is going to be [for] so many different factors: whether will kids be able to come, when will they be able to come – it’s going to be so individual to each country,” said Hawkins at The University Guys.

Brian McNamara, International Recruitment Manager (Asia) at the University of Brighton, said the university is “putting in place a wide range of mitigations” for assessment.

“So far this has included flexibility around start dates, online delivery of pre-sessionals and accepting a broader range of English language assessments but we have a range of additional measures coming in the pipeline,” McNamara indicated.

Others suggested that institutions may bring in multiple intakes throughout the year, including potentially introducing undergraduate courses starting in January.

The University of Bristol has worked to recognise new methods of assessment said the head of International Student Recruitment, Charlie Pybus, such as adding the Duolingo test to its list for 2020’s entry.

“Clearly there are significant barriers for applicants this year…from lack of English testing availability to inability to apply for visas coupled with the anxiety that the situation is causing for students,” he explained.

Bristol has developed an online pre-sessional course to be offered alongside on-campus options, as well as a suite of opportunities for students to engage with the university virtually over the coming months, Pybus added.

“This work will be ongoing as the situation develops across key recruitment markets working closely with a range of stakeholders to understand student concerns and issues, and act to address them.”

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the UK remains a popular prospective study abroad destination, with a new QS report revealing that over 85% of 11,000 prospective international students originally intending to study at a UK university were still open to applying.

“There are significant barriers…from lack of English testing availability to inability to apply for visas”

In response to the survey, Eva Crossan Jory, NUS vice president (Welfare) said institutions need to provide clear communication to all international student applicants and flexibility around start dates, teaching provision and accommodation.

“We would urge the government to demonstrate flexibility in adapting to the difficulties some international students will now face in gaining Tier 4 visas for study and to do all they can to help them come to the UK for the start of the next academic year,” she said.

The reliance on international students “paying over the odds”, demonstrated that the sector’s marketisation is unsustainable and inequitable, she added.

“If more than half the expected intake of international students chose to defer entry or study elsewhere the financial impact on the higher education sector would be grave.”

Additional reporting by Kerrie Kennedy

The post Flexible starts, new test rules: UK HEIs address financial risks of Covid-19 appeared first on The PIE News.

Cuba’s doctors are in high demand

Economist, North America - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 07:50

Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For more coverage, see our coronavirus hub

WHEN THE number of patients mounts but the number of healers does not, whom do you call? That was the question for Giulio Gallera, the health minister in Lombardy, the Italian region worst hit by covid-19. The army was erecting a field hospital with 32 beds in a car park in Crema, 50km (30 miles) south-east of Milan. But what about doctors to attend them? “Someone said to me: ‘Write to the Cuban ministry of health,’” recalls Mr Gallera. Barely a week later, on March 22nd, 52 medics arrived from Havana, waving Cuban and Italian flags. Locals sent them warm clothing and bicycles for their commute.

Cuba’s Central Medical Collaboration Unit, which for six decades has sent doctors across the world, is having a busy month. Some 14 countries, from Angola to Andorra, have received a total of 800 doctors and nurses. Politicians in Buenos Aires and Valencia in Spain, and indigenous groups in Canada, are pressing national governments to request Cuban brigades....

The wisdom and witlessness of Latin America’s leaders

Economist, North America - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 07:50

Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For more coverage, see our coronavirus hub

SINCE HE TOOK over as Peru’s president two years ago Martín Vizcarra, an otherwise nondescript politician, has not flinched from taking bold decisions. He pushed political reforms through by referendum. Faced with a serially obstructive Congress, last year he shut it down, calling a fresh legislative election. Characteristically, he was the first Latin American leader to react to covid-19 by imposing a lockdown and curfew, on March 15th when his country had only 71 reported cases. Peruvians appreciate this restriction on their liberties for the public good. In an Ipsos poll his approval rating soared from 52% to 87%.

That is the pattern in Latin America. In Argentina Alberto Fernández, who took over a politically divided country in December, has seen his popularity rise to over 80% after he imposed a quarantine and sealed borders. In Colombia the new mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, stole a march over a hesitant national government when she imposed a...

The unintended consequences of indicting Nicolás Maduro

Economist, North America - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 07:50

IT WAS, INSISTED William Barr, the United States attorney-general, “good timing”. Amid the covid-19 pandemic and a collapse in global oil prices, on March 26th America’s Department of Justice unsealed indictments on drugs charges of Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator, and members of his inner circle. No longer should his regime be seen as merely corrupt and incompetent, argued Mr Barr. Now he has formally labelled it criminal—a drug gang masquerading as a government. The State Department offered rewards for information leading to the arrest of the accused ringleaders: $15m for Mr Maduro, $10m for Diosdado Cabello, the thuggish head of the pro-government “constituent assembly”.

The administration of Donald Trump seems to hope that the indictments will finally remove a regime that has been subject to punishing sanctions since early last year. But branding Mr Maduro a criminal blunts any incentive he might have to relinquish power. On March 31st the Trump administration changed its tone a bit. It suggested a “democratic transition framework” that envisages a role for the regime.

Venezuela’s situation is terrifying. Under Hugo Chávez, who became president in 1999, high oil prices hid the costs of the regime’s economically illiterate policies. But since 2013, when Mr Maduro took over, the economy has shrunk by two-thirds...

Asia ESL industry native English teacher pipeline “empty”

The PIE News - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 05:10

Until China announced it would be closing its borders to non-citizens, schools in the country were doing their best to try to recruit new foreign English language teachers for public schools and training centres, with one chain offering recruiters bonuses of over £800 for every teacher that started before May.

As schools in China’s western provinces reopen and the travel ban takes effect, recruiting English teachers from outside the country is going to be significantly more difficult for an industry that already suffers from a severe shortage of qualified staff. It’s an issue that is likely to impact the ESL industry across Asia.

According to the International TEFL Academy, around 100,000 ESL jobs open up every year – a large proportion of which are in Asia – with only half of all teachers renewing their annual contracts. In China and South Korea, around 1,000 new teachers are hired every month.

“There’s hundreds and thousands of small schools that rely on native language foreign teachers,” explains Jean-Pierre Guittard, owner of edtech company iTeach.world.

“You can reopen your school, but where are the teachers going to be?”

“Often these are young people with a technical certificate [TEFL, CELTA, etc.]. Those people are suddenly without employment so they’ve all gone home. And so the concern is, what happens afterwards? You can reopen your school, but where are the teachers going to be?”

Guittard tells The PIE News that his company’s virtual classroom platform has seen a “substantial” increase in interest from ESL schools in Asia.

While some have switched online and been able to keep their teachers employed, institutes are now looking ahead to when those contracts end. Travel bans, lockdowns and unwillingness to travel are going to diminish the number of teaching job candidates.

“They’re gonna have to work harder to recruit new teachers,” he says. “It’s a huge process involving work permits, filtering applicants and training. It’s not simply putting an ad out like here in San Francisco, where I can find a qualified teacher, interview them and if they’re good, they can start in a few days or the next day.”

“It will take months to revamp and to rebuild their staff. Those schools always had an ongoing pipeline of people coming in. That pipeline is empty now.”

How schools react to coronavirus is also going to impact their reputation. Teachers working for some schools – including top brands – have reported being fired and unpaid as a result of the outbreak.

Several reviews from one major chain’s employees claim that the company “took half of every staff member’s February payment with only one week’s notice”.

“You can’t have a four-year-old kid sitting in front of a screen for two hours”

An article from the Japan Times noted that some employers there had also refused to pay foreign teachers (in violation of local law) and that the coronavirus has exposed gaps in Japan Exchange and Teaching contracts that don’t offer staff any protection in the case of serious illness or natural disasters closing their workplace.

In Vietnam, the business model of schools is largely determining their outlook. Those catering to test preparation and older students are finding adopting edtech easier and are able to keep their staff on.

At the English language chain YOLA, where Nam Nguyen is general director, the transition to online learning has been relatively painless. Although some teachers have left, the majority have stayed on.

“We’ve got about 350 teachers in our centres and about 30 teachers have left the country. The majority have returned to their home countries rather than looking for work somewhere else,” Nguyen tells The PIE.

“Others have also resigned from YOLA and taken work with Chinese companies online like VIP Kid but they are still based here. So some of them are waiting out the crisis and then people will be offline again.”

But Nguyen adds that schools who are more reliant on foreign teachers – YOLA has a roughly 50:50 split between foreign and local ones – and those that cater to younger students are seeing their business suffer most severely.

“You can’t have a four-year-old kid sitting in front of a screen for two hours. Classroom management is a whole new sort of dynamic for that type of teacher,” he said.

Although schools are due to open in Vietnam in April – it is likely to be pushed back, however – some parents have also decided they will be keeping younger children at home for the rest of the semester. In this case, it may give some schools a breather.

“So there may be a demand for teacher recruitment in more specialist subjects,” Nguyen says.

“But I can’t imagine kindergarten teachers or general English teachers for younger students being in high demand because of consumer behaviour.”

The post Asia ESL industry native English teacher pipeline “empty” appeared first on The PIE News.

US: FEA awards 124 flexible scholarships

The PIE News - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 02:48

The Fund for Education Abroad has increased access to international education by granting 124 new scholarships to US students consistently underrepresented in study abroad.

These flexible scholarships are deferrable through summer 2021, a new offering introduced by FEA to help their new scholars survive the current disruption to higher education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In an economic downturn, scholarships are necessary to get students on programs”

Including this new cohort, a total of 590 scholars, including minority, first-generation college and community college students, have benefited from over US$2.1 million in scholarships granted since FEA’s inception in 2010.

This year, 88% of awarded scholars are first-generation college students, 94% are minority, and 35% either transferred from or are attending a community college.

“In finalist interviews over the past two weeks, students overwhelmingly expressed resolve to pursue their study abroad dreams,” said FEA executive director, Jennifer Calvert.

“In an economic downturn, scholarships are necessary to get students on programs. FEA is the only non-governmentally funded national study abroad scholarship provider.”

New this year are four named and dedicated scholarships, including the first-ever funded by an FEA Scholar, the Breakout Scholarship for Community College Students.

Also new are the Eleni Zachariou Memorial Scholarship for Study in Greece, the Holland America Line Scholarship for Students Studying Travel and Tourism, and the Kacenga-Cladera Family Rainbow Scholarship.

The American University in Cairo and the University of Auckland have also funded two new Access Partner Scholarships.

“We expect FEA will be a vital resource to the study abroad sector as it emerges from the current global health and economic crisis,” said FEA chair, Anne Krieg.

“We are particularly grateful to the donors funding six new scholarships, and to all our supporters and partners who have helped us award more than $2 million in scholarships in a decade.”

Have you taken a look at the recently awarded #FEAscholars yet? Learn more about the 124 deserving American undergraduates who accepted “planning scholarships”–to be used anytime before summer 2021–on our website: https://t.co/5eBQH87krR pic.twitter.com/ghGdOwBSe4

— Fund for Education Abroad (@FEAScholarships) March 29, 2020

FEA funds scholarships of up to $10,000 for study abroad, enabling students to study across the globe for a minimum of four weeks to a full academic year.

Selected from a pool of over 2,350 applicants, the 2020 FEA Scholars represent 94 higher education institutions across the US.

The post US: FEA awards 124 flexible scholarships appeared first on The PIE News.

MyGU wins €150,000 grant to further expand

The PIE News - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 01:03

Germany-based edtech startup, MyGermanUniversity, has been awarded €150,000 in public funding grants as it relocates to Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg.

Winning the “InnoRampUp” early-stage grant, MyGU is seeking to further expand the online platform for international students.

The portal has a database of more than 1,650 English-language master’s programs available in Germany. In total, the site shows 20,000 courses at more than 400 universities in Germany.

“We have developed an algorithm that guides students through the individual steps of their journey to a master’s in Germany”

The grant was made possible by IFB Innovationsstarter, a subsidiary of Hamburgische Investitions- und Förderbank, which supports technologically innovative early-stage start-ups.

MyGU has previously been funded by EXIST-Gründerstipendium – Business start-up grant – provided by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy in 2018/19.

The founders – Tobias Bargmann and Stephan Paulini – previously worked for the German Academic Exchange Service, heading up the Italian and Peruvian offices, respectively.

With the funding, MyGU will be expanded into the “first personalised platform on the topic of ‘Studying in Germany'”, according to Bargmann.

“So far, all portals that list study programs or provide information about studying abroad leave the students more or less alone with the key challenge: What is relevant for me (and when) in order to start my studies abroad,” he told The PIE News.

“With ‘MyRoadmap’ we have developed an algorithm that guides students through the individual steps of their journey to a master’s in Germany, depending on their profile and the desired project. The first section of this is to go online in the course of the year,” he explained.

MyGU will also add all English-taught bachelor programs that the German universities offer prior to that, Bargmann added.

Moving from Berlin to Hamburg, the company will benefit from an “even more dynamic” university landscape.

“Per capita, Hamburg even has more German universities than the capital, including the University of Hamburg – which has been awarded one of the universities of excellence in 2019, for the first time – but also a number of rapidly growing private and well-renowned universities, including Bucerius Law School, Kühne Logistics University,” Bargmann added.

However, MyGU remains a national platform that provides international students with the “best possible information about all German universities”.

The post MyGU wins €150,000 grant to further expand appeared first on The PIE News.

Chronicle of Higher Education: ‘Zoomed Out’: Why ‘Live’ Teaching Isn’t Always the Best

Now that it’s clear the move to emergency online teaching will last more than a couple of weeks, professors may have to readjust their plans.

Scholars remember those lost to COVID-19

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:00

When Maurice Berger, the chief curator and research professor at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in Maryland, died recently from complications of COVID-19, his shocked and heartbroken co-workers said they not only lost a dear friend and colleague but a brilliant thinker and collaborator whose scholarship and curated exhibits and projects crossed disciplines and challenged conventional thinking about race and representation in the visual arts.

Fellow visual artists, university administrators and department heads at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where the center, commonly referred to as CADVC, is housed, took his death very personally. But the passing of Berger was also felt elsewhere around the country, by others in his field at other universities, museums and galleries, and particularly among academics who considered him not only a groundbreaking scholar-curator-art historian but a socially conscious public intellectual whose work greatly influenced how the visual arts are presented, viewed and taught.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as well-known and obscure Americans are being felled by the deadly disease and their lives publicly celebrated or quietly overlooked, Berger’s death is just the latest example that academe has not been spared in the public health crisis.

Berger died on March 22; he was 63. Four days later, on March 26, Michael Sorkin, an architect and director of the graduate urban design program at the City College of City University of New York, also died from coronavirus, according to The New York Times. He was 71 and, like Berger, an influential thought leader who promoted social justice.

Two days after Sorkin’s death, William B. Helmreich, a popular New York City sociologist and scholar of Judaism, also died from coronavirus at age 74. He was a distinguished professor of sociology at City College and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, The New York Times reported.

“For us and for our students, these tragedies represent a time to reflect on lessons learned,” said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of UMBC. “One of those lessons that Maurice truly believed is that we are all connected, that humankind is connected and that we need to talk about how we're connected.”

Earlier last month, Stephen Schwartz, a longtime professor of pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and a pioneer in the field of vascular biology, passed away after being hospitalized for a COVID-19 infection. He died on March 17 and was 78.

"This has become all too real," UW president Ana Mari Cauce said on Facebook, where she described Schwartz as "larger than life" and superimposed a photo of him in front of Mount Rainier, according to The Seattle Times.

From Deaths to Life Lessons

The current reality of sudden illness and death is already prompting higher ed leaders to contemplate how to negotiate and manage such uncharted waters as well as how to restart and move forward once the waves of expected deaths slow down or end.

Foremost on Hrabowski's mind is ensuring that students understand the significant social and economic implications of the pandemic and are able to place them in a domestic and global context.

"How do we prepare the next generation for life after this crisis? How do we get them ready as future leaders?" he asked. "We in the academy should be preparing to have these conversations with our students all the time."

Hrabowski said Berger "clearly believed [in] the importance of using evidence to present arguments and following that evidence wherever it leads and solving critical problems through connecting disciplines."

Berger also had "a passion for engaging with others through his work," Hrabowski said, and felt it was important for exhibit audiences "to have the opportunity to have robust and honest conversations with people of different backgrounds that cross religion, political, racial and all types of other boundaries. His work was a stimulus for those kinds of conversations, to ask hard questions and question our own assumptions."

Berger was also “a path-breaking art historian and curator,” his colleagues wrote in a long and laudatory appreciation. “Maurice was a fierce advocate for social justice and an exceptionally caring human being. Through his exhibitions and writings, he compelled us to look honestly at issues of race, inequity, and their representations in visual culture.” 

Tom Moore, UMBC's director of arts and culture, said Berger curated several major traveling exhibits for the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, including the widely celebrated For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights. It is considered one of the longest traveling exhibitions and was seen in major urban centers such as Baltimore, Chicago and New York City, as well as smaller locales, such as Waconia, Minnesota, or Moscow, Idaho. It is scheduled to travel to an additional 45 venues through 2023.

"He was keenly aware of the power of those exhibitions," Moore said. Berger wanted every exhibit "to be a safe place in which each of us can discover and examine our own relationships to race and inquiry. He was happy to talk to people going through the exhibit, but he was more interested in them going through it and coming to their own perceptions, to really look inside and examine how our experiences shaped our perceptions of the world in ways that we were not aware. He wanted his work to touch anyone and everyone."

Symmes Gardner, executive director of the center, said Berger underwent "a major transition" during the course of his career. He went "from talking about the beauty of art objects and their relationships to the culture and moved into a larger dialogue about how to perceive culture and how to change a culture to become more humane and empathetic."

A Lasting Impact

Berger’s death, and his life as a gay, Jewish man whose worldview was shaped in part by growing up in a Manhattan housing project with mostly black and Puerto Rican neighbors, has been widely covered in recent days. Remembrances have been posted by the Jewish Museum in New York and other venues, and an outpouring of tributes and condolences have been shared on Twitter and Facebook.

The lives and deaths of the other academics have also been similarly noted.

Sorkin was one of the most outspoken public intellectuals in the field of architecture, The New York Times reported: "A polymath whose prodigious output of essays, lectures and designs, all promoting social justice, established him as the political conscience in the field."

The Times article described him as "a natural radical who saw architecture through a political and social lens," and who "advocated for housing and green energy rather than prisons and malls, and for citizens to participate in the design of their own urban destinies."

Helmreich was the author of Against All Odds: Holocaust Survivors and the Successful Lives They Made in America (Simon and Schuster, 1992), which the Times described as “a data-driven study that highlighted the survivors’ resilience and achievements and contradicted the commonplace image of them as irremediably traumatized.”

Although he wrote or edited 18 books, Helmreich will likely be most remembered for walking nearly every single block of New York City. He chronicled that experience in his book The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City (Princeton University Press, 2013), which describes his four years of “walking virtually every city block, all 121,000, totaling 6,163 miles,” according to the Times. He chatted with strangers during his walks and unearthed “a cornucopia of colorful city sidelights; he even once approached members of the street gang the Bloods outside a Bronx housing project and asked them where he could buy one of their red jackets.”

The walks seemed a fitting enterprise for a person described as “curious, gregarious and inexhaustibly energetic” -- a sad irony not lost on Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University and a friend of Helmreich.

“He was in the wrong profession for the coronavirus,” Sarna told the Times. “Willie loved talking to people. Social distancing was not in his nature.”

Schwartz, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, was also was an adjunct professor there in the departments of bioengineering and medicine.

He was variously described by friends and colleagues as a researcher, mentor, advocate and a character. One friend wrote on a tribute page that Schwartz was “an iconoclastic individual” and “brilliantly unconventional” and characterized him as “a guy who loved to argue over beers,” according to local news outlet SeattlePI.com.

"It’s a lot to wrap our minds around, isn’t it?" Kathy O’Dell, associate professor of art history and museum studies at UMBC, said of the recent deaths.

O'Dell, who is also a special assistant to the dean for education and arts partnerships, was a longtime friend of Berger. They both attended the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she earned her doctorate in art history a year after Berger earned his. She described Berger as being way ahead of his time.

"His greatest contribution is that he was doing public history long before people were using that term," she said. "He was teaching us about microaggressions before that term was even used."

O'Dell said Berger personified "all of that good, solid, intellectual, important stuff all tied up and wrapped with a bow of kindness, caring and generosity." 

He will be a tough act to follow and that's assuming anyone would even want to try, she said.  

"​There are a lot of footprints for someone to be stepping into,' she said, "My goodness he was prolific, the books, the articles. There’s just so much that will provide touchstones to generations of students."

Said Moore: "I think there are some people in the world who, on some level, really are not replaceable. Maurice's work as scholar was truly groundbreaking. No one had addressed these issues and I’m not sure that anyone is engaged in these questions on the level that Maurice was."

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Scholars confront coronavirus-related racism in the classroom, in research and in community outreach

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:00

Jason Chang, an associate professor of history and Asian American studies at the University of Connecticut, started putting together a crowdsourced document with resources on teaching about coronavirus-related racism back in January. Students, he said, are hungry for readings that help them put this current moment in perspective.

"I’ve actually had students who are asking for more assignments to expose them to more material," Chang said of students in his Asian American history class this spring. One of the assignments in the course asks students to create a zine connecting their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic with a broader theme in Asian American history

"The way that I’ve begun to teach about this is to put the racist response to the pandemic in the context of an Asian American history of 'yellow peril,'" Chang said. "I’m using a class on Asian American history to show how these cyclical patterns have echoes in our contemporary environment, giving them actual historical evidence about what things looked like to help them understand the consequences of historical narrative. I don’t always get that kind of punch in this course. I’m usually satisfied with students just acquiring new knowledge about Asian American history."

Scholars are among those confronting the rise in anti-Asian and anti-Asian American racism that’s come with COVID-19, which originated in China and which President Trump and some other prominent figures have described as the “Chinese virus” despite warnings from experts who say such terminology fuels xenophobia. Scholars are addressing this topic in the classroom, in their research -- the Journal of Asian American Studies put out an urgent call for submissions this week for a special issue on racism and the COVID-19 pandemic -- and in outreach to Asian American communities.

Russell Jeung, a professor and chair of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco State University, started a new online reporting center for bias incidents against Asian Americans in collaboration with two civil rights and advocacy organizations. Jeung said the reporting center is receiving  100 bias reports daily and has collected more than 1,200 reports total since it was launched March 19.

“You read the reports people write, and they’re harrowing,” Jeung said. “People aren’t just being yelled at; they’re being yelled at with a vehemence and a virulence that is scary.” Jeung added that people deliberately coughing at Asians in threatening and aggressive ways has become a distressing trend.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned about a likely surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans as the coronavirus crisis continues to grow, but Jeung and two co-authors wrote in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday that it’s clear from their data that such a surge is already happening.

“We’ve got huge amounts of data,” said Jeung, who noted that the incident report form is now available in eight languages. “It’s grown from me and two grad student volunteers. Now we have 12 students and two other faculty working with me on just gathering data on coronavirus discrimination. We’re doing news content analysis, we’re doing these daily incident reports and we’re looking at social media.” Jeung said researchers are monitoring social media sites for viral racist memes and tracking how the term #Chinesevirus gets tweeted, and its impact.

Melissa Borja is among the scholars working with Jeung to analyze the incident reports and connect respondents in the Midwest with support resources. “One thing that’s interesting about this is to see how much collaboration has taken place among people who serve Asian American communities and people who research and teach about Asian American people in the United states,” said Borja, an assistant professor in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan.​ "These networks have been mobilized to a degree I haven’t seen in a very long time.”

Apart from research and advocacy, Borja emphasized the work scholars can do in their roles as teachers. “I have found that I’ve changed my own assignments so students are researching issues related to Asian American hate in my upper-level writing seminars,” she said.

And beyond the curriculum, Borja said one of the most important things faculty are doing right now is simply showing up for students. "One thing that as professors we’re struggling with right now is the reality that our world has been turned upside down and our students are struggling and they’re sad and they’re vulnerable and they’re scared," she said. "This is particularly true for students who fear doing a long drive home because they might be targeted at a gas station or a grocery store. Simply being a support for students has been important for me as a professor who puts human relationships first before anything I do."

Samuel Museus, a professor of education studies at the University of California, San Diego, said he expects to see a spike in research related to discrimination against Asian Americans. He has begun analyzing discourse about the virus in the media and social media.

"A lot of the media coverage is talking about these incidents of discrimination and prejudice as emanating from the coronavirus, and in some cases talking about Donald Trump’s role in fueling it with the rhetoric that he’s used to talk about the pandemic," Museus said. "I think that makes sense given the context that we’re in and the fact that those realities do play a role, but there’s not a lot of coverage of larger context and the fact that there’s a long history of physical illnesses being weaponized against communities of color in our society and used as a way to spark fear and animosity toward immigrant populations in order to advance political agendas."

"Donald Trump is definitely saying some things that are problematic, but he’s not he only one," Museus continued. "When you take a look at a lot of the discourse that’s emerging on social media and in the media outlets more broadly, you see that there are a lot of organizations and people who are perpetuating similar ideas about how dangerous Chinese people are and sort of fueling a lot of fear and hate toward Chinese people. If you’re Asian American, you make a distinction between Chinese and Asian American, but in our society a lot of people do not."

"This is an Asian American racial profiling issue; it's not only Chinese," agreed Jeung, of San Francisco State. He said 60 percent of bias incidents being reported are coming from people who are not Chinese.

William Lopez, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said just looking at the coronavirus through a biological or medical lens risks missing the bigger societal picture. “If we think only about curing this disease but not how we talk about it, we are going to miss things like the anti-Asian violence that is coming as the labeling of this disease as the ‘Chinese virus,’” Lopez said.

Lopez is also the faculty director of public scholarship at Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity, which has put out a call for articles from authors whose “scholarship speaks to the racialization of pandemics or other public health phenomena and the social consequences that follow.” Lopez said the goal is to publish the essays the center is commissioning within a matter of weeks.

It’s important, Lopez said, that “social scientists and others who do equity work are able to move their research into the public fast enough to make a difference.”

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Two small colleges winding down operations as coronavirus impact looms over higher ed

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:00

Two colleges -- the San Francisco Art Institute and MacMurray College -- announced last week they will suspend admissions or close entirely at the end of the semester, adding to a growing list of institutions that are halting operations amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

As with all college closures and wind-downs, the details of each case are different. But each can provide additional insight into how at-risk institutions will be forced to react to a suddenly stressed environment.

SFAI will not admit any new students and is considering suspending regular courses and degree programs at the end of the spring semester. That decision will be made in coming weeks, said Pam Rorke Levy, chair of the institute's Board of Trustees.

The institute had been in talks with nearby universities about a possible merger deal, but those negotiations fell apart when the coronavirus outbreak spread to the West Coast and college leaders were pulled back to focusing on their respective campuses.

“Everybody in that kind of environment becomes much more risk averse,” Levy said. “Do they want to take on another institution that has cash-flow problems and help us at a time when they may have unanticipated financial challenges of their own?”

The coronavirus-caused disruption of business as usual may have changed SFAI’s fate. Levy said that without it, a deal could have been reached early enough to keep the institute operating in some form. Now, Levy hopes the institute will find a way to stay afloat until merger talks can resume.

“We’re going to be open in some form,” Levy said. “The question is, in what form? Is it going to be all of our programs? Is it going to be a subset of them? Is it going to be skeleton staff hanging on tight until the epidemic passes?”

She suggested the institute could leverage its property and assets -- including a Diego Rivera painting appraised at $50 million -- in order to weather the current financial challenges.

SFAI is one of the first higher education institutions to wind down operations while specifically citing the coronavirus outbreak. Others are expected to follow. Despite the board’s insistence that the institute will remain open, many news outlets -- including The New York Times and The Architect’s Newspaper -- have described SFAI’s recent moves as antecedent to closure.

Suspending admissions is often an indicator of an impending closure. Last month Notre Dame de Namur University, also located in the San Francisco Bay Area, announced it would no longer admit new students in an effort to stave off a potential closure.

Michael Horn, co-founder of the Christensen Institute, said that the new coronavirus will “hasten the demise of many schools that are on the brink and struggling” for two reasons. First, already-declining enrollments are likely to fall even further. Second, the oncoming economic disruption will hurt colleges’ bottom lines and impact students’ ability to pay tuition and fees.

“Even if they attract students -- if they're tuition dependent -- whatever the financial aid packages they were offering won’t be enough,” Horn said.

Asked what types of colleges will be most affected by the outbreak, Horn laid out a list: private, liberal arts, religious institutions, fine arts and music colleges, and colleges with high tuition discount rates and low endowments.

MacMurray College -- a small liberal arts college in Jacksonville, Ill. -- checks several of the boxes Horn listed. The college announced Friday that it would close at the end of the spring semester. The coronavirus outbreak and resulting economic disruption “complicated MacMurray’s financial condition” but were not primary reasons for the closure, according to a statement.

MacMurray's leadership team worked to develop a sustainable financial model for more than a year. The model would have included expanding the college's professional degree programs and working to admit more nontraditional students.

“Despite our best efforts, we were unable to secure the capital to fund a viable path forward,” Charles O'Connell, Board of Trustees chair at MacMurray, said in a statement. “We deeply regret this decision and are sorry for the disruption and disappointment it will have for everyone in the Mac Family. But the reality is this: we were left with no alternative and had only one responsible option.”

The college has negotiated transfer agreements for students with Blackburn College, Eureka College, Greenville University, Illinois College, McKendree University, Millikin University and Monmouth College.

Asked why the board waited until spring to vote to close the college, President Beverly Rodgers said the vote followed "time-consuming analysis" of other potential options.

"The Board pursued and prepared several different scenarios for more than a year, including merger with another college, financial remedies, development of a strategic plan to reshape MacMurray’s business and academic model, and closure," she wrote in an email. "After that extensive process, it became clear MacMurray could not secure the capital needed to keep the college open and had no viable financial path forward."

Most of MacMurray’s 101 employees will be terminated on May 25.

Jamie Bolker, an assistant professor of composition at MacMurray, tweeted about the college’s closure. She joined the faculty in November. She has not been told yet whether she and other faculty will receive severance pay.

“They told me in the interview that the school had financial problems but I had no idea the true magnitude, even after doing some research,” she wrote in an email. “I probably wouldn't have even applied for the job had I known I would be working there for only five months before they closed.”

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College groups push for suspension of financial responsibility scores as feds release distance ed rule

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:00

This week has been busy on the higher education regulatory front. A coalition of college associations is pushing for the suspension of a federal measure of colleges’ financial standing, and the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday released new proposed rules on distance education.

Meanwhile, a prominent online program management company’s CEO pushed back at scrutiny of his sector, which appears to have contributed to Congress placing restrictions on reimbursements for colleges' spending on OPMs in the $2.2 trillion stimulus measure it passed last week.

The federal financial responsibility score has long been criticized as an inadequate measure of the fiscal health of colleges and universities. During the Great Recession, for example, its relatively heavy focus on cash and endowment spending led to low scores for some colleges with relatively strong finances. The Government Accountability Office found that the composite scores predicted just half of the closures during the last decade.

The metric uses institutions’ primary financial reserves, equity and net income to create a composite score of -1 to 3. Colleges scoring 1.5 or above are deemed financially responsible. The feds require cash monitoring and other oversight colleges with scores of 1 to 1.5. Those below 1 are considered not financially responsible and can lose federal aid eligibility without posting a letter of credit and being subject to cash monitoring.

Despite the composite score’s widely accepted limitations, it remains the only national standard for monitoring the financial stability of colleges. Regulators that use the metrics include state agencies, accreditors, auditors and the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which sets national standards for interstate distance education offerings.

However, the new financial crisis has created urgency among private college leaders who want to suspend the use of the metric by the feds and NC-SARA.

When surveyed recently by Inside Higher Ed about where they need the most support from state and federal governments to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, a full quarter of responding college presidents said they need the ability to tap endowment funds without negatively affecting their financial responsibility score.

Leaders of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the American Council on Education last week wrote to the department to ask that financial responsibility standards be waived for three years. Signing the letter were 45 other higher education groups representing private colleges.

“We are deeply concerned about the larger effects of the current liquidity crunch facing American higher education, especially the impact that the current economic crisis will have on institutional financial responsibility composite scores at private nonprofit colleges and universities,” the groups wrote.

The formula favors cash, and the impact of the financial downturn will hit hard during the last quarter of this year, said Sarah Flanagan, NAICU’s vice president for government relations. To cope with skewed composite scores, she said many colleges will be forced to resort to dramatic slashing of employee-intensive budgets.

“The bottom falls out in the final quarter,” she said. “The only way they can balance it is to do layoffs.”

Flanagan cited a current example of a small private college with a roughly $20 million annual operating budget. The president of the college told NAICU he needs an $800,000 surplus due to the composite metric. And to do that, the college needs to furlough 25 employees for 90 days and to cut salaries across the board.

However, some criticized the attempt by private college lobbyists to suspend the financial responsibility standard, despite its flaws.

Such a move would be “wildly irresponsible,” said Clare McCann, deputy director for federal higher education policy with New America's Education Policy program. (Earlier this week New America released a report arguing that regulators should pay closer attention to the financial health of colleges.)

“I completely understand why the schools are worried,” said McCann, given the magnitude of the crisis, which has only begun to come into focus.

Lost revenue and spending related to the pandemic likely will exceed the amount of aid colleges and universities receive through the $14 billion in federal stimulus, the credit ratings firm Moody’s said Wednesday. And half of that $14 billion is allocated to students as emergency aid.

Even so, McCann said the federal government and regulators have a responsibility to monitor colleges’ finances to seek to protect students and taxpayers from precipitous college closures. This is particularly true as many colleges face existential threats.

“This is about the worst time to suspend financial responsibility scores,” she said.

Making quick improvements to the metric will be difficult, said McCann and others. One reason is that the feds don’t publish the composite score’s components. And the last overhaul to the measure took years and millions of dollars.

Few other large-scale efforts by regulators to oversee colleges’ financial sustainability are being developed. Massachusetts had been working on such a tool, as had the New England Commission of Higher Education. But those efforts may be set back by the crisis.

Lori Williams, NC-SARA’s president and CEO, shares critics’ view that the composite score is a flawed measure.

“We agree. It’s not a holistic indication,” she said. But Williams said it remains the only nationally recognized tool available to monitor institutions’ financial sustainability.

“As more schools transition to distance learning, NC-SARA and others must continue to enforce appropriate oversight measures to protect students,” she said in a statement. “We are open to collaborating with stakeholders to develop a reasonable alternative that can help reliably evaluate institutions’ financial health, but we will not sacrifice our consumer protection responsibility to students by waiving any consideration of financial health.”

NC-SARA’s board plans to vote in May on whether to continue relying on the metric. Department officials told higher education leaders in a call Tuesday that they plan to use the scores this fall.

Flanagan said she thinks it’s unlikely the department would use the measure to shut down colleges during the crisis. But she said colleges may have to use needed cash to set aside for letters of credit because of their scores.

Dropping the measure is not ideal, she said.

“We don’t want to leave a hole,” Flanagan said, but she added, “People are going to get laid off. We are in an emergency situation.”

Proposed Regulations Governing Innovation and Online Education

The draft rules released by the Education Department Wednesday are faithful (as federal law requires them to be) to a consensus proposal approved last year by a subcommittee of the panel the department convened in 2018 to negotiate new rules.

The package of recommendations approved last spring by the rule-making subcommittee on distance education and innovation was generally supported by educators and online learning supporters, who said the changes in federal law would clarify some murky definitions and give institutions more flexibility to create and enroll students in nontraditional academic programs.

Advocates for students, though, said they worried the new rules would remove vital checks on new programs and providers and create potential for abuse of students.

Since the proposed rules released Wednesday hew to the earlier proposals, reaction to them largely broke down as expected. Consumer advocates, like New America's McCann, said the rules would undermine the quality of online learning at a time when colleges and students are engaging in it more than ever, given the impact of the coronavirus.

The quality of online learning has never been more important. A new, proposed @usedgov regulation would make the rules more lax. (And thanks for the mid-pandemic 30-day comment period.) https://t.co/3yGq6jidnr

— Clare McCann (@claremccann) April 1, 2020

Observers who both like and dislike the department's proposed rules commonly cited some aspects of their release. They noted that department officials, in their commentary describing the recommended rules, signaled potential opposition to some elements of the package the negotiating committee put forward, including provisions regarding the credit hour and the definition of distance education.

Both of those were areas in which the Education Department had pushed proposals that were rejected by negotiators as they reached their compromise agreement last spring.

Several experts also noted that the department, in its news release about the proposed regulations, linked their release to the onset of COVID-19, when their release was months overdue and had been drafted before the pandemic was on anyone's radar screen.

"With our support, colleges and universities were among the first to transition to online and distance learning so learning could continue during the coronavirus pandemic," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was quoted as saying in the news release. "Frankly, though, they are working within the confines of stale rules and regulations that are in desperate need of rethinking. We know there are fewer and fewer 'traditional' students in higher education, and this current crisis has made crystal clear the need for more innovation. It's past time we rethink higher ed to meet the needs of all students."

It's not clear why the department tied the regulations' publication to the coronavirus crisis, although several experts speculated that it might be to justify the 30-day period the department provided for commenting on the new rules (which is shorter than is typical) and to ward off any suggestion that the government shouldn't issue major regulatory guidance at a time when many people are distracted by a national crisis.

OPM Costs Not Reimbursed in Stimulus

One provision in the stimulus bill that has generated attention and controversy in higher education relates to online program management companies.

Colleges and universities that contract with OPMs to help them transition to online instruction amid the pandemic may be unable to have their costs reimbursed under the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus, according to a blog post from the education practice of Cooley, a law firm.

"Funding cannot be used for payments to contractors for 'pre-enrollment recruitment activities,' which could present a challenge for many OPMs that structure their fees as tuition shares and therefore do not distinguish payments made for recruiting activities from payments for other eligible services under the CARES Act," the blog post said.

OPMs have drawn scrutiny in the last year from Democratic senators and from Bob Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and former Education Department official during the Obama administration. That attention largely has centered on tuition-sharing agreements between the companies and colleges.

Chip Paucek, the CEO of 2U, a high-profile OPM, on Tuesday posted a thread on Twitter in which he fired back at Shireman. He argued that now is not the right time to push an agenda on OPMs.

“Our entire @2uinc team is working day and night alongside the leadership of some of the world’s greatest colleges and universities to do everything we can to support them through this crisis,” Paucek said.

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University therapist records considered as Title IX violation evidence

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 00:00

A Title IX lawsuit by a former student accused of sexual assault has garnered the attention of legal experts, who are troubled by a magistrate judge’s decision to allow a university therapist’s client records to be made available as evidence.

The conversations between a Syracuse University therapist, said to have served as both a mental health counselor and adviser to an alleged victim of sexual assault, and her student client, should be disclosed because the “interests of justice substantially outweigh the need for confidentiality,” wrote Andrew Baxter, a magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, in a March 25 decision about the records. Baxter’s order can be appealed until April 8, or else a redacted version of the therapy records will be made available to all parties involved in the lawsuit this month, he wrote.

Syracuse itself created the risk of having to disclose counseling records by combining the “therapeutic role of counselors” with “the procedural role of advisors” in its counseling center’s Sexual and Relationship Violence Response Team, or SRVRT, wrote Michael Thad Allen, the accused student’s attorney, in a February brief to Baxter. Allen argues his client was treated unfairly under Syracuse's processes for investigating claims of sexual misconduct under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in education institutions that receive federal funding.

The university contends that the disclosure could both violate New York’s state law protecting confidential mental health records and deter future victims of sexual assault from seeking help or reporting incidents. Without a guarantee of confidentiality, the frequency of counseling visits would decline and “students would be left to suffer in silence,” wrote Brittany Lawrence, an attorney at the firm Barclay Damon and counsel to the university, in her brief sent to Baxter.

While the district court decision would not set a precedent of universities being obligated to share counseling records (this responsibility is left to federal appeals courts), Baxter’s order is concerning on a broad basis for the example it could set, said Jake Sapp, deputy Title IX coordinator and compliance officer at Austin College in Sherman, Tex. Sapp conducts regular Title IX research for the Stetson University Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy.

“If this becomes a new thing, where Title IX attorneys are able to get their hands on these records, that’s going to chill reporters going to counseling resources whether or not they file a claim,” Sapp said.

This argument, echoed by Syracuse, is "hypothetical" and "neither established in evidence nor relevant" to the case currently before the court, which is examining whether the male student received a fair process, Allen wrote in his brief. The university's claim that the records disclosure would dissuade students from reporting sexual assault and harassment is “at best disingenuous,” he said in an interview.

“The best thing Syracuse could do to encourage complaints with real substance is to adjudicate the complaints correctly and fairly, which was not done in my client’s case,” Allen said.

The lawsuit, filed by a former Syracuse graduate student who was expelled for allegedly raping a female student in 2016, accuses the university of conducting a Title IX investigation and sanctioning process that discriminates against male students, which led to what he claims was an “erroneous” expulsion from the university in 2017, according to court records. Attorneys for the male student, called John Doe, and Syracuse have been arguing since early 2019 in district court about the case, which also includes claims that the university failed to give Doe adequate notice and a fair Title IX proceeding, as stated in Syracuse’s handbook on student conduct.

The complainant, a female student called “RP” in court records, initiated an investigation of the alleged rape with the Syracuse Police Department but later withdrew it, according to Doe’s lawsuit. Two months after, Doe said Syracuse began a Title IX investigation into the two students’ third sexual encounter, which he claims was entirely consensual, after RP sought support from a licensed therapist on the SRVRT, which provides counseling to students who have experienced sexual or relationship violence.

This turn of events suggests the therapist, Tekhara Watson, “recruited” RP to file a Title IX complaint with the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services, where it handles violations of Title IX, Allen wrote to the court. The question now is whether Syracuse should be required to provide Watson’s communications with RP as evidence, given Watson’s role as both a therapist for mental health treatment and an adviser to RP on her reporting options.

In her argument against disclosure of the records, Lawrence, counsel for Syracuse, referenced New York’s Mental Hygiene Law, which states, “Information about patients or clients reported … at office facilities shall not be a public record and shall not be released by the offices or its facilities to any person or agency outside of the offices.” But the law includes an exception for “an order of a court of record requiring disclosure upon a finding by the court that the interests of justice significantly outweigh the need for confidentiality,” which would be the case in Baxter’s decision.

Baxter, who already reviewed Watson's records, also said the court had "carefully and stringently redacted" some sections, so that only "advice that related to reporting options and procedures" through Title IX is disclosed.

"The more extensive portions of the records that constitute therapy or treatment records shall not be disclosed to the parties," he wrote in the decision.

The court’s reliance on a university therapist’s account of sharing of resources for clients who may have been sexually assaulted as a reason for records disclosure “is definitely cause for alarm,” said Sarah Nesbitt, a policy and advocacy organizer for Know Your IX, a network of student organizers that supports survivors of sexual violence. Nesbitt declined to comment on the facts of the Syracuse case specifically but wrote in an email that “providing reporting options in response to a client’s disclosure of violence fits comfortably within the scope of counselors’ professional ethics.”

“The possibility that a survivor’s confidential mental health records could be exposed in the future threatens to massively chill help-seeking,” Nesbitt said. “We already know that most survivors never report their experiences to authorities because of a desire to keep that information private. If seeking mental health support carried the same risk of exposure, survivors would almost certainly react the same way and choose not to seek those services.”

The magistrate’s decision to go into a therapist’s confidential client records is “very unusual,” unless there’s a threat of imminent danger, said Peter Lake, director of the Stetson center for higher education law. Courts have been reluctant to reveal such records, and when they do, there are health and safety risks involved, he said.

“When someone in the psychotherapist community gets wind of this, they’ll go off,” Lake said.

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