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Scholars remember those lost to COVID-19

Inside Higher Ed - Jue, 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 - Jue, 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 - Jue, 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 - Jue, 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 - Jue, 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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Roundup: Distance education rules, relaxed admissions and a polite bear

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

Well, I made it through the day without seeing any stupid April Fools' stuff, so you all get a treat.

We live in a society, as demonstrated by this helpful bear.

Grizzly bear casually fixing a fallen safety cone as they walk down the road pic.twitter.com/c4klDbdGOJ

— Nature is Lit (@NaturelsLit) April 1, 2020

Need some fun Zoom backgrounds to make you forget we're in the apocalypse? Here you go.

iconic zoom backgrounds: a thread

keep it going pic.twitter.com/GU54B97tiR

— Shell (@BeeShellll) March 31, 2020

Finally, if you are like me and binge-watched Tiger King on Netflix this weekend, here is somewhat of a happy ending for you: many of the animals kept by Joe Exotic were rescued by an animal sanctuary in Colorado.

On to the news.

The U.S. Department of Education released the proposed final rules for distance education (what timing). The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed rules, which would include emphasizing demonstrated learning over seat time, define "regular and substantive" interaction between students and instructors, and encourage employer participation in developing programs, among other things.

Many private student loan lenders are allowing borrowers to suspend payments for up to three months, although it's not clear whether they will also waive interest.

The University of California and California State University systems are relaxing admissions requirements in light of the pandemic. The University of California system is suspending letter grade requirements and waiving standardized testing requirements for 2021 admissions.

Moody's Investors Service predicts that the costs higher education will face from the coronavirus far exceeds what's included for the industry in the stimulus package.

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

This spring's remote learning won't work for the fall. Colleges are preparing to get better at online, should the pandemic continue, Doug Lederman writes.

College hiring freezes have begun, Colleen Flaherty reports.

Kery Murakami wrote about the differing views on canceling student loan debt.

News From Elsewhere

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on what graduate students are going through in all this.

EdSource reported on nursing students joining the fight against the coronavirus, but without waivers for hands-on training requirements.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. As journalists, we try not to have opinions, but we've gathered some interesting ones from others.

Two higher-ed experts predict a backlash to remote learning.

A Harvard University Ph.D. candidate urges institutions to not forget graduate students in The Chronicle.

Here's an interesting Twitter thread on state funding, online education costs and what the future will look like.

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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Chronicle of Higher Education: In Closing Dorms, Colleges Hoped to Limit Coronavirus’s Spread. Did Spring-Breakers Thwart That Plan?

Some students went straight home. But others traveled to beaches and attended parties, potentially infecting others.

Chronicle of Higher Education: A French Scientist Says He Can Cure Covid-19. Other Researchers Have Their Doubts

Didier Raoult’s study is attracting attention from high-profile politicians and commentators, as well as criticism from some colleagues.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Coronavirus Has Choked Off Revenues for Private Colleges. How Much Cash Do They Have on Hand?

As tuition revenues dry up and summer auxiliary revenues evaporate, private colleges will need to rely on their savings and lines of credit to get by.

86% Chinese students want to return home

The PIE News - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 10:40

Approximately 86% of Chinese students currently studying abroad wish to return to China, with almost two-thirds of those surveyed in a new report from the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association saying they aren’t satisfied with the actions their host countries are taking to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The BOSSA report, published on March 23, includes responses from almost 9,000 students studying outside of China.

“How educators respond during this time matters more than any other”

The majority of interviewees were doing courses in the US (30%) and the UK (27%). Students in 20 countries were included in the survey, of which just over half were undergraduates and 11% were under the age of 18.

Like many students, their top concerns were getting infected, the impact of coronavirus on their studies and being unable to return home.

Almost nine out of 10 are in countries where the number of cases is considered “moderate” or “severe”.

“How educators respond during this time matters more than any other. Choosing not to enrol next semester is now an option being heavily weighted by some students and parents,” BOSSA spokesperson Jon Santangelo told The PIE News.

Educators should be proactive in reaching out to their Chinese and international students.

“They need to ensure these students have all their essentials or see if they require assistance, from help in finding a flight back home or an apartment if student housing isn’t an option, to psychological counselling.”

Chinese state media has been documenting the work of embassies in providing support for students in a number of countries, including in the UK where more than 8,000 students have received epidemic guides and medical kits.

The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said that the embassy was in contact with more than 150 universities hosting Chinese students.

Some 13% of students in the report being told to take surgical masks off, with one case in the UK where a student was told to either take his mask off or leave the school, which resulted in the student leaving.

For students that wish to return to China – although half aren’t planning to – 94% say they are prohibited by the cost and shortage of flights.

Fares have risen drastically and routes can now require changing in as many as three different countries. A flight next week to Beijing from London currently costs over £800, while one from New York to the Chinese capital weighs in at £1,500.

Others say they worry about being able to return to study if they choose to leave and the impact it would have on their education.

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Int’l students in Europe face accommodation worries due to pandemic

The PIE News - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 07:46

International students across Europe are facing unprecedented problems with their accommodation and some even fear homelessness because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey and student advocacy leaders. 

Accommodation providers and landlords in many countries are demanding that students continue to pay their rent as per their contracts, even if they have returned home, or if they can no longer work because of lockdowns. 

“It’s a terrible situation…it’s destroying students’ whole experience”

The scale of the issue has been revealed in a survey by The Class of 2020, which shows that 40% of accommodation providers are allowing students that returned home to cancel their contract, while the remaining 60% are keeping students in their contracts, with some offering rent discounts.

Conducted in March, the survey was taken by 38 organisations who are the key players in the student accommodation industry, including the leading operators, investors, suppliers, associations and universities across Europe.

Of the respondents who took part, 24% stated they are providing a rent-free period and 17% are providing discounts. 

The severity of the situation for international students studying in Europe often depends on whether they are receiving funding. 

For those who have remained in their host countries, university dormitories have been evacuated, leading to initial fears that some students would be made homeless.

While this issue is currently being resolved by some universities who are providing students with alternative temporary accommodation such as rooms in hotels, institutions are facing logistical challenges. 

“It’s a terrible situation,” said Gohar Hovhannisyan, vice-president of The European Students’ Union

“Our national student unions are trying to reach out to their local authorities, to institutions and to landlords but this doesn’t necessarily help. 

“It’s destroying students’ whole experience… It creates a lot of negative feelings and this will be very, very hard to recover from. The international dimension of education will find it hard to recover.”

Hovhannisyan explained that many students are unable to pay rent because they have lost jobs due to lockdowns and because they have no social security support. 

“The only thing now that can be done to support students is for the government to call upon the landlords and accommodation providers to be more supportive,” she added. 

Hovhannisyan explained that international students in Europe on the Erasmus program who have had to go home will retain their funding in cases where landlords require them to keep paying their rent, meaning that they won’t have to pay out of their own pocket. 

However, those who are funding their own studies are in a more precarious position, she added.

“In most of the countries, there is no general regulation… so it’s very much upon the individuals to negotiate it and come up with a solution.

“The role of the agencies or institutions who have organised international study experiences for students is crucial. They need to realise that they have a certain responsibility of supporting students to solve this situation,” she added.

Hovhannisyan also called on the governments of  European countries to come up with support mechanisms that will help the students to pay their rents and sustain themselves until the lockdown is over.

But international students who have stayed in their host countries are also facing problems.

Kostis Giannidis, president of the Erasmus Student Network, explained that universities are having to find new accommodation for students after dormitories were evacuated.

“The universities are trying to find alternatives to make sure that the students are not made homeless”

“The universities are trying to find alternatives to make sure that the students are not made homeless,” he told The PIE.

“So for example, some universities have moved their international students into hotels or they have provided accommodation in other places.

“There is a logistical challenge here because if there are many students in the same place it dangerous for their health and so on,” he said. 

The ESN has conducted a survey on the matter, which is due for release in the coming weeks. According to Giannidis, the survey has had 23,000 responses.

He told The PIE that 5% – around 1,150 – of the students stated their accommodation was cancelled by accommodation providers.

“This also causes a distraction and impacts the academic performance of the students, if they have to move from one place to the other.

Let’s not forget that they are still continuing with their academic studies online,” Giannidis added.

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Swifter gov’t bailout vital, says English UK

The PIE News - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 07:13

The country’s English language teaching sector needs urgent government clarification that members’ business should be eligible for business rates relief – and the government to move faster on access to loans, says membership body English UK.

English language schools were hit hard, early into 2020, when Chinese student business dried up as the outbreak of coronavirus impacted Wuhan and China first.

Then, as the pandemic took hold, “our Italian business disappeared overnight”, English UK’s interim chief executive of English UK, Jodie Gray, told The PIE News, as school group trips were vetoed.

“Italy and China, as you know, are two of our largest student markets,” she explained (statistics from 2018 below).

Now, as the travel ban has extended worldwide, cashflow is critical – some schools have already closed – and the extensive government business support package unveiled is either too long a pipeline (reports suggest up to three months to secure) or not applicable to the private language teaching sector.

“Language schools can’t claim the business rates relief offered,” detailed Gray – this is at present only available to businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors plus nursery schools.

Online study prevented businesses from furloughing staff, because they were still required to teach

Increasingly, an anticipation that ELT centres should hold out for anything close to a business-as-usual summer season is also evaporating.

“It’s hard to believe that in early February, we were focused on ensuring capacity for the newly-announced Hungarian scholarship scheme,” related Gray. “Things have changed so quickly.”

As a result, English UK as an association has pivoted into focusing on supporting members as they adapt to a cashflow crisis, and no imminent bookings.

“Staff job roles have changed and most of the team is now dedicated to this,” said Gray.

“And we are supporting in the broader sense – for many of our members, this is their lives and their livelihood; they may have run their language school for decades.”

Attendance at regular webinars and membership activity is staggering, added Gray, noting that such an unprecedented crisis is when membership associations can come into their own.

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Gray acknowledged that the UK ELT market is now predominantly led by junior bookings (a shift over the last decade) and that could pose an additional challenge in terms of market rebound.

“It will be parents’ decision, often, to pay for a course abroad, which depends on their confidence to send children overseas and their ability to invest.”

“That is going to be a problem going forward,” she added.

While many companies have reacted quickly and moved into successful online provision, Gray underlined that this did not necessarily solve a cashflow problem and also prevented businesses from furloughing staff, because they were still required to teach.

Priorities among membership were sustaining their business during the crisis, but also supporting the students also left in limbo.

“One member spent thousands of pounds from their own savings to ensure junior students from Latin America could return at short notice,” she shared.

• Statistics via The PIE Insider.

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Robert Hsiung, China CEO, EMERITUS

The PIE News - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 03:51
EMERITUS collaborates with top-ranked universities such as MIT, Columbia, Cambridge and London Business School to give working professionals who cannot enrol in full-time courses access to a more affordable top-tier education. The company’s China CEO, Robert Hsiung, spoke to The PIE about the ambitions of the business and some of the methods used to keep online learners fully engaged.

 

The PIE: For someone who’d never heard of EMERITUS, how would you describe what the company does?

RH: Our mission at EMERITUS is to enable the world to experience education opportunities available at the world’s top educational institutions. Our founders are from really creative backgrounds, we have Harvard PhDs on our subcommittee and so forth. We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to experience this education ourselves, and we’d like to share that with the world.

“For students, there’s a high opportunity cost from taking a break in their careers to invest in an offline degree”

We have two main businesses, one under the brand name Eruditus. In the Eruditus business, we work with mostly exec-ed programs to launch offline, and online blended programs for executives to upskill themselves and learn about the latest in digital transmission, digital technology, AI machine learning and so forth.

The second major business that we also run is the online business EMERITUS, which also does work in white label capacity. We work with the top institutions to launch online certificate programs.

This is mostly with exec-ed programs focused on management topics such as leadership and analytics, machine learning and other topics. In addition to these two businesses, we’re also launching bootcamps targeted at users looking to learn new skills and to switch to a new career, and online degrees for users looking to earn a degree.

The blended programs with Eruditus are targeted towards mostly CxOs, while the online programs are targeted towards managers and directors to VPs.

The PIE: I expect online degrees and learning is only going to become more and more popular – especially given the current situation with the with coronavirus outbreak.

RH: It will absolutely become more popular. First of all, offline degrees are incredibly expensive. The cost to deliver them is huge and for the students there’s also a high opportunity cost from taking a break in their careers to invest in a degree. A lot of students are realising that the price is difficult to justify as the prices have risen over the past 10 years or so by 8-10% per year!  Compare that to average inflation of 2% per year for all other goods and services.

Now with the online alternatives, it offers students the opportunity to say, ‘Okay, I don’t have to take time off work and I can get the same learning and certification for a significantly more affordable price’.

So, I think this is going to be a trend that is not going to go away. It’s only going to get bigger.

The PIE: What does your business do to keep your students engaged in online programs, because without a brick and mortar school it’s much easier to drop off the radar?

RH: There are two major elements to what we do that keeps students engaged. The first element is how you go about designing the program. We focus on designing a program that is about learning by doing and encourages interactive learning experiences.

We do not ask students to sit there to listen to one-hour-long lectures. We design our programs to really engage [students] with the content. Our videos are not longer than two or three minutes, and after each video, students may do an exercise, a quiz, or engage other students in discussion.

Most educators are used to working with captive classroom audiences where students must dedicate attention for 45-90 minute periods. As a result, as many educators move their classes online during the current COVID-19 pandemic, many do not yet have that recognition of the importance of building interactive experiences.

But students learning on their laptops, sitting in their homes have a hundred different distractions making it incredibly important to build interactive experiences adapted to shorter attention spans.

The second element we focus on, in order to maintain our students’ interest, is the peer-to-peer aspect. There is a lot that goes on in the offline classroom that creates extrinsic motivation to stay involved and engaged in that class. A simple example of this is how seeing your classmate next to you makes you more accountable. You know if I’m going to the same class as you, and if I see that you’re not there, I’m going to text you. That’s going to keep you coming to class.

“In our small online classroom, we have the opportunity to recreate many of the offline peer-to-peer dynamics”

EMERITUS employs what is referred to in the online education industry as SPOCS – Small Private Online Courses. Unlike MOOCs – massive open online courses – enrolment for SPOCs is limited, and courses are taught in a cohort model, where students have the ability to get to know and interact with other students.

That’s very difficult to do with a MOOC where you have thousands of students that don’t get to interact. With thousands of other students, you can easily disappear into the crowd and make excuses about why other students that you do not know are doing better than you.

In our small online classroom, we have the opportunity to recreate many of the offline social, peer-to-peer dynamics common in classrooms. This enables us to drive completion rates to over 80% – 10 times more than common MOOCs.

The PIE: Can you speak more about the markets – where do the students come from? I understand that you have recently launched in China.

RH: We opened our doors in China in the middle of January, unfortunately right before the coronavirus hit. But things have actually been going very well. There was a strong reception for the programs offered by our partners in China. And we’re excited to grow the business in China.

LATAM is also a big growth market for us – we have a strong team there that’s growing the business. We have teams in the Middle East, India and the US as well. Our business is a very global business, and that’s one of the key values that we bring to our partners – this global reachability to help partners grow their business around the world.

The PIE: You cover so many markets and have great ambitions. I’m just wondering if there are any direct competitors out there?

RH: There aren’t many direct competitors to what we do because of our target market. As most of our courses are developed with the executive education arms of the business schools we work with, our courses are firmly targeted at students with at least five to eight years of experience in managerial roles. The other major platforms are more targeted at individual contributors to help them master new skills to change into new jobs.

The major competitors that we face are the thousands of smaller management training outfits that operate locally and have strong local networks of enterprise clients that they serve.

In China, for example, the market for management training is a $50 billion market, but the largest firm in the market has maybe 1% of that market. We see that it is mostly dominated by small operations who have one or two speakers that can rouse a crowd and speak very eloquently about hot topics such as digital transformation or innovation. But their operations, size and reach are limited geographically.

“We’re always exploring new formats around new ways for our students to learn”

This gives us confidence that we can scale by working with top brands and using a blended online/offline format that can cut through the geographic barriers of pure offline management training outfits.

As we move into online degrees and into bootcamp programs targeted at individual contributors with less than five years of work experience who are looking to earn degrees or master new skills to switch careers, we will start competing directly with companies like Coursera and Udacity, as well as 2U and GetSmarter. These will be our competitors in the future.

The PIE: What is the ultimate ambition of the company?

RH: Our company is not restricting ourselves to just the current format that we offer. We’re always exploring new formats around new ways for our students to learn. We’re going to be continually innovating around what it means to learn online, and that will include expansion to other formats, as well as new innovations around the blend between online and offline.

Ultimately, our mission is to increase access to the top quality content, from the top quality schools to students from around the world so that they can make a difference in their lives, change organisations and change the world.

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Bayswater Education acquires LSC

The PIE News - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 02:20

UK education provider Bayswater Education has acquired Language Study Centres in a bid to expand its junior market provision, as providers continue to seek consolidation in the market.

Acquired from STS Education for an undisclosed sum, Bayswater said the deal means it can “greatly expand” operations with new locations, courses and an extensive network of international partners.

“We will be able to diversify geographically, broaden our portfolio, and ultimately strengthen our core business”

Managing director of Bayswater Education, Stephan Roussounis, said the deal would strengthen Bayswater’s position within the growing under-18 language travel market.

The announcement comes at a time when “our industry is currently mothballed for the foreseeable future”, he said, but the deal is an investment for 2021.

“By adding LSC’s experience, knowledge and vast international network, we will be able to diversify geographically, broaden our portfolio, and ultimately strengthen our core business,” he said.

“Most importantly, we will be able to reach and provide for a greater number of young international students.”

It is the second acquisition for Bayswater in 2020 after it expanded to Liverpool in February.

LSC will retain its branding and continue to offer high-quality study, social and cultural programs for young international students at centres around the UK.

STS is set to continue collaborating closely with LSC and Bayswater to offer UK-based language travel products, the company’s confirmed.

“This acquisition mirrors similar deals in the education travel industry, as it continues a growing drive towards consolidation,” John Cedergårdh CEO of STS Education said.

“We believe that having the right players dedicating their resources and knowledge to the right areas, the industry as a whole will progress and become the best it can be.”

STS Education will now focus on growing its international high school exchanges – an area where the company has seen “considerable growth”. STS plans to keep bolstering its position while improving its products, portfolio and customer experience.

“I’m certain LSC will greatly benefit from Bayswater’s experience, vision and drive to grow by dedicating 100% of their resources and efforts to the language travel product,” Cedergårdh added.

“We’re convinced that the partnership will be a great success, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with both LSC and Bayswater Education in the future.”

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Chronicle of Higher Education: How the Coronavirus Is Prompting Higher-Ed Grantmakers to Change Course

The Chronicle spoke with leaders from six foundations who give $370 million annually to colleges and other higher-ed organizations. Here’s what they said they’re prioritizing.

Scores of colleges announce faculty hiring freezes in response to coronavirus

Inside Higher Ed - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 00:00

Higher education is COVID-19-positive. And in the parlance of triage, the patient needs emergent care.

At many institutions, that means getting just enough instruction and support online to be able to operate tomorrow, and having enough money to do so. Everything else can wait, including faculty hiring. Already, scores of colleges and universities have announced hiring freezes for this year fiscal year and the next one.

“Institutional leaders are trying to do the prudent thing and trying to take control of some of the aspects of the situation that they’re able to control, and that includes things like job actions and hiring freezes,” said Kevin McClure, assistant professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. “It’s about managing the situation now to minimize potential financial impacts later.”

In other words, McClure said, “Many of us would prefer to do hiring freezes now and postpone [capital] projects if it means we can avoid layoffs later.”

The uncertainties surrounding coronavirus certainly give pause: When will it abate and how will enrollments be affected? Will state funding take a nosedive and will donations dry up given the worsening economy? Previous recessions have seen a rise in enrollment by would-be workers without jobs, but what will a recession in the middle of a pandemic look like?

No Immunity From Uncertainty

For wealthier institutions, all these questions throw the financial viability of growth and previously calculated risks -- such as adding new programs and faculty -- up in the air. For less resourced institutions, these questions put their very futures at risk. And so the colleges and universities to announce hiring freezes thus far range from endowment-rich Ivies to smaller, less stable private colleges to flagship and regional publics. No one is immune from the question marks.

Richard Locke, Brown University’s provost, and Deborah Chernow, the university's vice president for finance and administration, wrote in a memo last week that all of Brown's faculty and staff hiring is suspended through next summer.

“This is not an easy decision to make,” they wrote, “but it is warranted to ensure that we have the resources to continue to engage in exceptional teaching, research and service; be an employer of choice and support our current faculty and staff; and partner with Providence and Rhode Island to support increasing local community needs.”

In another example, Joan Gabel, president of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Ken Horstman, interim vice president for human resources there, announced that they are “looking down the road at the acute need to work together to ensure proper fiscal stewardship of the university. We are asking that departments make no new hires at this time.”

Minnesota also asked departments with “current hires preparing to start work at the university” to consider delaying their start dates.

What does that mean, exactly? Minnesota’s HR office advised that “delaying a start date might be justified for a variety of reasons such as to allow time to obtain equipment needed to enable new employees to work from home, to allow time to plan a productive onboarding and orientation processes, and to make needed adjustments to responsibilities to ensure new employee productivity and likelihood for success.” This guidance, the department said, “is particularly focused on ensuring consideration of the activities that may need to happen prior to a start date.”

A spokesperson for Minnesota noted that the hiring freeze is “not absolute.” Exempt categories include those for COVID-19-related positions in direct care, research and support, along with mission-essential personnel and those positions fully funded by grants, foundations or other external resources.

Like some other colleges and universities that have frozen hiring, Minnesota also has announced a suspension of bonuses, “one-off” pay changes and job reclassifications.

“We understand and appreciate that many employees are going above and beyond their job duties and you want to reward them,” Gabel and Horstman’s letter said. “We are all grateful for their efforts.” Yet focus must be “on the public health and operational challenges ahead of us.”

Robert Zemsky, higher education division chair at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of The College Stress Test: Tracking Institutional Futures Across a Crowded Market, said he regularly speaks to a group of college presidents as a kind of “remote crisis team.”

Those presidents are talking about refunding students and asking, “If this totally FUBARs all of our admissions cycles, are we going to open in September?” Zemsky said. Read: they are not talking about faculty hiring.

Andy Brantley, president and CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, agreed that “With so many unknowns, institutions are doing the right thing by freezing or carefully scrutinizing every current and potential search.”

The “level of confidence” that administrators have about coming fiscal year budgets is not what it was even a few weeks ago, Brantley said. “The financial challenges impacting institutions for this academic year will undoubtedly impact our budgets for next year.”

Systemic Collapse?

Even if administrators are making the right calls, the hiring freezes have implications for an already brutal tenure-track job market. Next year’s hiring cycle could be nonexistent. As for this year, many searches were wrapped up prior to the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. Those professors will presumably start in the fall, as planned. But some searches were ongoing.

Dessie Lee Clark, who recently earned her doctorate in community sustainability from Michigan State University, was thrilled to make it onto several short lists and receive campus visit invites this year. The search committee for one job she’s particularly interested in seems to be trying to find a way to complete the process virtually, she said. Information is generally hard to come by, however, with seemingly interchangeable references to hiring freezes and chills and search cancellations.

In one sense, Clark said, this “feels awful. It’s so unprecedented that no one can really give you advice on how to deal with the market right now.” On the other hand, she added, “We are all in it together. So there is some solidarity around the fact this is happening to us collectively and it’s not personal.”

For current faculty members, hiring freezes mean another year of unauthorized faculty searches. Nick Fleisher, associate professor of linguistics at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and president of its American Association of University Professors chapter, said his department’s requests for a faculty search were already rebuffed prior to COVID-19 due to budget constraints. Building his department’s full-time faculty roster back up to nine, where it was two years ago, from seven, where it is now, is that much more of a pipe dream now.

At the department level, Fleisher said that having fewer professors means not being able to offer as rich of a graduate program in linguistics as the faculty would like. Not even the state’s flagship, Madison, has a graduate program in linguistics, he said, and so there is pressure to create a program that meets the state’s needs.

The vast majority of Milwaukee’s departments are in the same shape: Fleisher said the university has lost about 15 percent of its professors in four years, due in part to changes to the state’s tenure system, while hiring has been minimal due to declining enrollment.

Nevertheless, Fleisher said his administration has been “thoughtful, detailed and responsive” to faculty members’ various concerns about the hiring freeze, a related suspension of discretionary raises and a voluntary retirement program.

As hard as it is to swallow, he understands. Across academe, however, he said he worried that hiring freezes -- however well communicated to tenure-line faculty members -- will mean even more uncertainty for adjuncts around hiring. That is, administrators will eventually move out of this first triage phase and begin to think about staffing the next few terms, possibly with little notice.

Karen Kelsky, a former tenured professor and founder of the academic career consultancy The Professor Is In, started a crowdsourced list of institutions that are freezing hiring. She’s also already seen some questionable behavior on the part of institutions concerning tenure-track jobs. Verbal offers that had progressed to negotiation have been revoked.

Previously, a similar move might have led to naming and shaming the institution. Not now.

“There is no pushback,” Kelsky said. “This is systemic collapse.”

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Progressives were divided over widespread cancellation of student debt in stimulus

Inside Higher Ed - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 00:00

Three Tuesdays ago, in a building on New York University’s campus, Robert Shireman, director of higher education excellence and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, was supposed to be part of a debate over whether the government should cancel student debt.

Shireman, a skeptic of the idea, was supposed to go up against one of the leading advocates of the idea, Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform, as part of series of debates sponsored by NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

It was a simpler time, before social distancing and hospitals overflowing with coronavirus patients. In just the three weeks since, the world has changed. The subject of that night’s purely academic debate would reach the halls of Congress, with stakes much bigger than the bragging rights after a debate.

Dozens of left-of-center advocates and higher education policy experts privately engaged in their own debate over debt cancellation, divided by such questions as whether a policy, in which wealthy college graduates would be among those who’d benefit, was a high priority right now.

In a mood those participating in the conversations described as complex, the issue would also include such questions as the racial disparity in being able to go to college.

The conversations occurred in the rush of a nation trying to deal with the coronavirus crisis socially and politically.

The NYU debate, March 10, ended up being canceled “due to the evolving health and travel concerns around COVID-19,” the organizers said.

Three days later, on March 13, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency as fears of the coronavirus crisis sent the stock market into a dive.

Four days after that, as Congress was finishing up a second stimulus bill that provided for more paid family leave, and starting work on what would be the $2 trillion package signed into law Friday -- and though it would be no easy sell in the Republican-controlled Senate -- advocates hurriedly began trying to figure out among themselves to what extent they thought debt cancellation should be a priority.

By that time, all were working from home, and in a series of conference calls and emails, with pets and infants in the background, it was clear that even among progressives, there’s a wide range of opinions about the idea of the government simply canceling student debt.

“We met by phone because we’re all on lockdown,” said Ashley Harrington, federal advocacy director at the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer group supportive of large-scale debt cancellation, who was involved in the conversation.

Shireman and others interviewed said they wouldn’t describe the discussions as heated. “Nobody’s been fighting -- it was more an acknowledgment that there’s a range of views among progressive organizations about how far to go in terms of student loan relief,” he said.

Still, there are strong feelings on both sides.

Some progressives, like Shireman, said they remain concerned that widespread debt cancellation, which some groups are urging, doesn’t target those most in need.

One participant who was involved in the conversation noted that proposals by House and Senate Democrats would involve the federal government making monthly student loan payments for those with federal loans and would guarantee their balances would be reduced by at least $10,000.

Those getting the relief would also get the $1,200 payment in the stimulus package, or a lesser amount based on a sliding scale if they make more than $75,000 annually, that participant noted.

“We’re talking about an additional $10,000 for people who had the good fortune to go to college. People who didn’t have that opportunity, and may have been laid off, only get $1,200,” said the person. Like some involved in the discussions, they agreed to be interviewed on the condition they not be named because of the sensitivities around discussing conversations between the groups.

“There’s a little bit of a tension on the left over whether we should push cancellation,” another said. “For some, debt cancellation is a big policy priority of theirs, and [the stimulus package] is a way to push that viewpoint.”

“Other nerdy wonk folks actually want to have an impact on putting money back into people’s pockets,” the second person said.

“My family doesn’t need loan relief,” Shireman said. “It should be more narrowly targeted to those based on need,” he said, citing those who are in debt after being misled by a for-profit institution about the chances of getting a well-paying job after graduation.

“It’s not a high priority to provide loan relief to lawyers and doctors who are continuing their jobs at the same salaries,” he said.

But Goldstein argued that even if cancellation helped some with higher incomes, the $10,000 of relief would mean the most to lower-income borrowers, freeing those who owe less than that from having to keep making payments. Trying to target cancellation based on income would be complicated to design and administer. Congress could always make adjustments to make the policy less regressive in the future by adjusting the tax code.

“Honestly, what I think,” Harrington said, “is that the complaints about cancellation being regressive doesn’t acknowledge there are very big differences in terms of income and wealth. I get a little frustrated because the argument doesn’t acknowledge that making an income of $80,000 goes a lot further for one person than another.”

Some making a higher income might be helping support their parents. Some African Americans with graduate degrees believe they needed the additional education just to be able to compete for jobs with white people with only bachelor's degrees. And others, despite making higher incomes, had to take on more debt than others because their parents didn’t make enough to help pay for college.

Even skeptics of broad loan cancellation, like Matthew Chingos, the Urban Institute’s vice president for education data and policy, said racial disparity in being able to afford college is a legitimate point. There’s an argument to be made to base loan cancellation on race, but it would likely run into legal and political problems, he said.

Progressives differ on how much canceling student debt would stimulate an economy buckling from business closures and layoffs during the pandemic.

Chingos, in a blog post last week, argued that those who’d get more money, either through cancellation or the six-month, interest-free suspension of most borrowers having to make payments in the stimulus bill Congress ultimately passed last week, are those well-off enough to have signed up to make the highest payments each month.

Only two-thirds of those with student loan debt in 2016, according to the most recent data available, were making payments on their loans and would have extra cash during a pause, the analysis said Thursday.

Ninety percent of the highest-income households were paying down their loans, while only 30 percent of the lowest-income households were making payments and would have extra money by not having to make loan payments.

“It’s hard to make the argument that loan cancellation would help put money in the pockets of the people struggling with debt,” he said in an interview.

But others, like Kyle Southern, policy and advocacy director for higher education and workforce for the advocacy group Young Invincibles, argue that other studies have shown loan cancellation would increase the nation’s GDP and create jobs. A 2018 paper from the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College called for the federal government to wipe away all $1.5 trillion in federal student loan debt, arguing it would stimulate the overall economy. That paper acknowledged that the largest loan balances are held by the highest earners but said that the degree to which student debt is held by high earners has diminished.

Particularly for young people, knowing that their balances are decreasing even if they don’t have to make payments would give them the peace of mind to spend money, including their stimulus checks, now. Otherwise, Southern said, they’d hold on to the money for when they would have to make payments again, particularly because it might take time to find jobs as the economy slowly gears back up after the crisis.

Ultimately, most of the groups, including Goldstein’s Americans for Financial Reform and Young Invincibles, ended up backing proposals by Democrats in the House and the Senate, guaranteeing at least $10,000 of relief.

The House Democrats’ proposal would have also made payments each month of those with private student loans, guaranteeing up to $10,000 of relief.

An aide on the Democrat-controlled House Education and Labor Committee disputed the $10,000 of relief was a “compromise” figure. Rather, Democrats in both houses chose it, the aide said, because the majority of borrowers who are so struggling with their loans that they go into default have just under $10,000 worth of debt.

“By setting the number at $10,000, we are alleviating borrowers who are most in need,” the aide said.

But several people involved in the discussion between progressive groups viewed the $10,000 figure as a compromise. Some groups who wanted more cancellation were willing to accept it, while others with reservations could live with it as well.

Young Invincibles has backed Democratic Massachusetts senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s plan, which would go much further than the Democratic proposals -- forgiving $50,000 of debt for those making less than $100,000. Those making between $100,000 to $200,000 would have had less debt forgiven, based on a sliding scale. But they too backed the $10,000 cancellation, as an improvement over Republican plans to put in law the Trump administration’s executive order deferring payments without interest.

A representative of one group said they preferred Congress take a more nuanced approach that targeted people of color and low-income borrowers instead of "the blunt instrument." But given the hurry to put a stimulus bill together, and the fact that some low-income borrowers and people of color would no doubt benefit, they were willing to go along with it.

Some other groups, like Education Reform Now, though, decided to stay neutral on the debt cancellation provisions of the bill, also favoring a more targeted approach. “We'd like to see 100 percent forgiveness of those ripped off by for-profits and bad-actor, high-priced colleges with unconscionably high dropout rates,” emailed Michael Dannenberg, the group’s director of strategic initiatives for policy.

Ultimately, no debt relief was included in the bill. Advocates like Goldstein say the differing views among progressives were less a factor than strong Republican objection to the idea. Republican senators had voiced some of the same misgivings as some progressives.

“Democrats are trying to reduce student loans by $10,000. What the hell has that got to do with the virus?” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, told Fox News on March 22, as the $2 trillion package was being negotiated.

Instead the bill excuses most borrowers from making payments for six months, interest-free, and bars collection agencies from garnishing wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits.

Southern said he believes there is broad consensus, though, that the bill doesn’t go far enough and most groups support canceling debt in some form. “That's why I said after the Senate’s passage that Congress had met its absolute base responsibility of doing no immediate harm. That's all pushing loan payments down the road will do,” he said.

It’s unclear where the conversation between the groups goes from here. With the Senate and House on recess until at least April 20, Chingos said it buys time to come up with a more targeted approach to canceling loans.

But one who was involved in the discussions said, “It seems like people have gone to their separate camps.”

Shireman, though, said groups are just now starting to talk about how to move forward after last week’s debate over the $2 trillion bill. “I think we’re all just coming up for air after the craziness of last week. It was just insane. I never needed a weekend more in my life,” he said.

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Liberty University, long known for online education, draws criticism for letting students remain on campus amid coronavirus outbreak

Inside Higher Ed - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 00:00

Liberty University has upset some students, parents and faculty with a decision to let students return to campus after spring break, despite concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But it's unlikely the private evangelical university in Lynchburg, Va., will face legal liability for this move. Instead, like many other decisions made by Liberty's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., an early and avid supporter of Donald Trump's presidential run, Liberty's actions are playing out in the press and the court of public opinion.

After Ralph Northam, Virginia's governor, announced on March 15 a ban on gatherings of 100 people or more, many colleges in the state closed their campuses and transitioned students to remote learning. Liberty instead welcomed students back after spring break but held most classes online to comply with the governor's ban.

The decision stood out in part because Liberty has touted the fact that it is one of the largest online universities in the country, and its online program has significantly bolstered its finances. Northam has criticized the move, saying that Liberty is sending mixed messages about the virus and asking Falwell to reconsider his decisions, according to the Shore Daily News.

Treney Tweedy, mayor of Lynchburg, also called Falwell "reckless," according to The New York Times.

Now, Virginia has issued a stay-at-home order until June. Some Liberty students are showing signs of COVID-19 infections, and at least one has tested positive. Hundreds of students who came back to campus have returned home.

Falwell has pushed back on media reports of the decision and its consequences, accusing the Times of lying.

While the decision to bring back students to Lynchburg has been widely criticized, some experts think it's unlikely Liberty could be held liable for the move because students aren't being forced to return to campus.

"Many people are living in apartment houses and other residences that are as densely populated as any college residence hall, and if the university has good health services and provides the students with resources and support should they become ill, then it might be hard to prove that the institution was negligent," said John Lombardi, a former president and chancellor at several universities.

He doubts that any state governor would want to make all students leave their campuses, since many continue to care for students who can't afford travel home.

"Many university students of residential campuses currently live in nearby off-campus housing with multiple occupants, or apartments with mostly student occupants," he said. "These students have not been ordered to return to a home residence in some other city, and so they remain in place, continuing with their courses online."

It's difficult to determine whether Liberty's decision violates the governor's order, Lombardi said, adding that any legal issues that may arise from the situation would be for the courts to decide.

Liberty officials declined an interview with Inside Higher Ed, instead sending a list of answers to common questions the college is facing.

To comply with Northam's most recent stay-at-home order, the university is closing down remaining in-person instruction at the School of Aviation, according to the statement. Students who wish to return to their dorm rooms for the first time will have to self-quarantine for two weeks at a housing annex. Faculty members can teach courses and hold office hours from home.

Liberty will continue to use the same procedures it put in place to be compliant with the ban on gatherings, including providing food for carryout only and limiting the number of students who enter certain spaces. The state's Department of Health did a surprise inspection of the campus last week and found it was compliant with the governor's previous order, banning large gatherings. That was before Northam issued the stay-at-home order for the state Monday.

The university's decision to let students return to campus will not be reconsidered, despite the governor's new order, according to the statement Liberty provided.

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Roundup: Title IX, Zoom and Lindsay Lohan

Inside Higher Ed - Mié, 04/01/2020 - 00:00

Finally. A new month.

Welcome to April, all of which will likely consist of shuffling around our respective homes and trying to live vicariously through our old Instagram posts (if we're lucky).

The month is already starting off a weird note. Lindsay Lohan is apparently resurfacing with new music.

I'm back!
https://t.co/xQCrvZsVJR pic.twitter.com/DKQ4tzCAUR

— Lindsay Lohan (@lindsaylohan) March 31, 2020

For your palate cleanser, here is a dog petting other dogs. Very relatable.

This is Ruby. She likes to pet the other dogs at daycare. 14/10 extremely relatable pic.twitter.com/5KgOnL5kwW

— WeRateDogs® (@dog_rates) March 31, 2020

Let's get to the news.

U.S. senators are asking Betsy DeVos, education secretary, to delay issuing a final rule for Title IX in light of, well, everything.

Colleges might not be able to use coronavirus relief funds to reimburse their contracts with online program management companies to help them transition to online instruction during the pandemic.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is letting spring Division I athletes compete for another season in light of the coronavirus. Teams can provide scholarships for more athletes than is usually allowed.

Illinois is forecasting for its budget, with the caveat that we are in unprecedented times and who knows what will happen. The forecast predicts the state will lose more revenue than it did during the Great Recession. This is troublesome for higher ed, which in many places is still recovering from the last recession's budget cuts.

Professors at the University of California, Riverside, have shared tutorials for how to use Zoom to run a class. Meanwhile, New York's attorney general is requesting policy information from the web-conferencing service, citing security concerns.

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

Students and faculty are helping each other get through this tough time, Greta Anderson reports.

Lilah Burke wrote about how the move to online is going at the University of Washington.

I wrote a story focused on student parents, who are getting hit with a double whammy by the pandemic.

News From Elsewhere

The graduates of 2020 are entering a rough job market, The Conversation reports.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on how parenting professors are juggling their duties right now.

A college student living on campus during the pandemic wrote up a first-person account for Slate.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. As journalists, we try not to have opinions, but we've gathered some interesting ones from others.

A couple of marketers have some ideas for how to hold commencements virtually.

Here are five lessons from the past to help higher education deal with the current financial crisis, courtesy of Vanderbilt University's chancellor emeritus.

Several higher ed experts predict more permanent closures from the coronavirus in a MarketWatch op-ed.

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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