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As coronavirus closures force colleges to move students online, ed-tech experts see opportunity -- but also risk

lun, 03/16/2020 - 00:00

As the new coronavirus outbreak prompted college after university to start shifting classes online -- either for a few weeks or for the remainder of the spring semester -- education technology companies lined up to say they could help.

Tech vendors promoting various free services for colleges or their employees included, in no particular order, communications provider Avaya, chat and video messaging provider Pronto, learning platform Top Hat, game-based learning platform Kahoot!, messaging and notifications service Raftr, online program manager Bisk, and publishing giant Wiley. Another publisher, Macmillan, said it was giving its customers free use of its online learning platforms through the end of spring.

It was a good time for others to launch services. The for-profit Foundry College, which focuses on adult education, started offering its learning management software Thursday as a managed service for other institutions to use. Massive open online course platform FutureLearn launched a new product offering unlimited access to short courses online.

Other big players got in on the action. Blackboard launched a self-service portal intended to cut the time it would take institutions to go from purchasing to deploying digital teaching. Online learning platform Coursera announced it will provide universities around the world affected by the coronavirus outbreak with free access to a catalog of courses from different university and industry players. Its competitor, 2U, was planning a “skinny bundle” of products to be offered to customers on a non-revenue-share basis, said Chip Paucek, CEO of the education-technology company.

Clearly, vendors sense demand in the market. Those that have already built out their technology infrastructure likely see the prospect of offering some services for free -- or tweaking them to meet the demands of the moment -- as delivering large potential upside at little marginal cost.

And that upside could be important in an ed-tech space, where many players have been under pressure because the rate of growth in online enrollments had slowed.

But the sudden deluge of students rushing online in short order isn’t likely to lift all boats equally. The service providers that benefit from short-term demand aren’t necessarily the same ones that would be buoyed by any long-term boost to online learning.

For the next two or three weeks, many colleges and universities that don’t have extensive experience teaching online are going to be operating in emergency, all-hands-on-deck mode, experts said. For many, that will mean MacGyvering together solutions like classes held by video chat and assignments turned in via email.

“You’re seeing much more of Zoom and Microsoft Teams,” said Phil Hill, a partner at MindWires Consulting and publisher of the blog Phil on Ed Tech. “People are essentially saying, ‘I want to replicate my live lecture online. Let’s do it. Let’s just not think about it.’”

That’s probably appropriate in many cases, Hill said. He added a couple of caveats: disadvantaged groups may be served poorly by a mishmash of solutions that don’t take their needs into account. And local support units should be giving advice to faculty members on how to make the transition without significant errors.

In addition to email and online video offerings, many institutions moving online quickly already have learning management software that can help in the short term, said Brett Knoblauch, a senior research analyst who covers ed-tech companies at Berenberg Capital Markets. The company disclosed before Knoblauch was interviewed that it is making a market in 2U and Pluralsight.

“I think universities will be kind of able to get by off of that,” Knoblauch said. “I don’t think that’s a long-term solution.”

Over the long term, institutions are likely to need to have contingency plans that will benefit online program managers offering bundles of services, Knoblauch said. Even if they don’t decide to move more classes online, many are likely to make sure they’re able to do so quickly in the future -- which likely means more investment in more comprehensive technology.

A wide spectrum of activity is the most likely outcome, according to Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of the online learning platform Coursera. Some universities will likely go all in and move whole programs online. Others will put most but not all courses online. Of those that take advantage of Coursera's near-term offer, he said, some will adopt it on a major scale, but most will not. And some courses probably can’t be moved online -- providers don’t have an answer for every individual circumstance.

It’s possible that spectrum of outcomes still increases demand for ed-tech services. Whether online program managers are the vendors who rise to meet demand remains an open question.

“On the OPM side, it’s an opportunity, but it’s not a done deal,” Hill said. “Even though the OPM market has broadened out to include fee-for-service and other offerings, the core of it -- the heart of that market -- has been marketing and advertising, recruitment, to find different student groups for fully online programs.”

Operational support to move institutions online has been largely a secondary offering for OPMs, Hill said.

Those with strategic insight and a willingness to invest might be able to redefine the market, he added. But vendors seen as not addressing current needs could be in for some pain.

Meanwhile, another fraught question looms: How does the short-term mass migration of students online affect public perception of ed-tech vendors and online learning more generally?

Many vendors genuinely want to help in a time of need when they offer services for free or try to roll out new solutions to meet the current challenge, experts agreed. The rush to pitch in during a time of need could help in Washington, as Congress has been turning up the heat on OPMs.

“It builds enormous goodwill,” said Trace Urdan, managing director at Tyton Partners. “It’s going to help enormously in the upcoming fights in the Senate over whether OPMs are good or bad.”

The fact remains, though, that the companies also stand to benefit themselves. It can be risky to appear too eager to help, Hill said. And if any vendors offer free or cheap services that have strings attached, they could be risking their reputations.

Generally, however, being available in a time of need “softens the ground” for vendors trying to break in with new customers, Urdan said.

Simply put, tremendous value exists in making inroads in a U.S. higher education sector where suspicion of for-profit companies runs rampant. The more that institutions and those who work for them are comfortable with vendors, the less likely they are to be hostile to the idea of signing a long-term deal and offering more online educational offerings.

“Anything -- everything -- that makes schools more comfortable with doing this is great PR and marketing,” Urdan said. “The only question is the technical aspect.”

The technical aspect may be the biggest question about how much this online migration will be opportunity for vendors and how much it will be risk.

Concern runs high in some corners that institutions rushing online won’t do it well.

“As with all things, circumstances matter,” wrote Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, in a recent post for Education Next. “At least for now, I’m not betting on this being the moment where online learning triumphs in a decisive or lasting way.”

Some hold out hope students and faculty members will grade on a curve. Even if solutions aren’t ideal for the next few weeks, they might be seen as adequate given the circumstances.

“I think you start with being real that this is not going to be perfect right out of the gate,” said John Baker, CEO of learning management software company D2L. “There are things we’re going to have to just do manually until things are perfectly integrated and set up and configured.”

Urdan put the question of public perception in stark terms.

“Is it going to build credibility for online?” he said. “Or are you just going to stamp an entire generation of students with the idea that online classes are crap?”

Over time, Urdan expects colleges and universities will find more sophisticated options to be increasingly attractive in the wake of the coronavirus-induced move online. That would be bundles of integrated services that have been tailored to take into account what does and does not work in online learning -- and not YouTube recordings combined with message boards.

But with such a wide range of offerings available in the market, he acknowledges uncertainty.

“From the vendors’ standpoint, it will be really interesting,” he said. “I guess we’re going to have to see how it plays out.”

-- Lindsay McKenzie and Doug Lederman contributed to this article.

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Suddenly trying to teach humanities courses online?

lun, 03/16/2020 - 00:00

What weeks ago seemed unthinkable is now a reality for many professors: take all your courses online, suddenly and indefinitely, due to COVID-19. And while technical and other practical challenges abound for instructors in all fields, those in the humanities face some particular ones: creating virtual classroom environments that foster the deep and often intimate discussions that promote trust and learning.

Humanists and instructional design experts don’t underestimate this task, as research suggests that training and having time to plan are crucial to leading successful online humanities courses. Time to plan is, of course, off the table in sudden coronavirus-related campus closures. Most humanities professors likely do not have ideal training: according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ most recent survey of humanities departments, 70 percent were not offering a single online course as of 2017. Technical and instructional design support will be helpful but may be limited during this time due to a variety of factors, including demand.

Despite these daunting conditions, but with their choices being few, professors are, by many accounts, forging ahead -- step by step.

No Widespread Panic

“Our members, and language and literature faculty members in general, seem to be buckling down and figuring it out -- I have not seen panic,” said Paula Krebs, executive director of the Modern Language Association, which has made teaching resources available online here.

Noting that professors are sharing their own resources and experiences among themselves on social media and elsewhere, Krebs added, “They are working really hard to create the best learning conditions for their students.”

Jenna Sheffield, assistant provost for curriculum innovation and director of the Writing Across the Curriculum program at the University of New Haven, would “not say that faculty are panicking.” Instead, she said, they’re “concerned about being able to reach the learning outcomes they want students to achieve when this quick move to teaching online will clearly require more of a time investment, extended deadlines and so forth.”

Sheffield said she imagined many professors are also trying to learn new technologies. She remained optimistic about their success.

“I definitely think that it is possible to teach the humanities effectively online.”

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said, “Our members are doing the best they can to be good teachers in a challenging situation.”

The AHA has heard “only what you would expect,” continued Grossman, namely, “professors who want to teach well, are concerned about whether this can work, and yet even more concerned about the health and welfare of their students.” (Beyond COVID-19, instructors are worried about students’ access to technology, Grossman explained, as some are working high-end equipment and others have cellphones only.)

Remote vs. Online

Grossman said the AHA plans to publish a set of short essays by historians with experience in online instruction this week. In any case, he said it’s imperative to recognize the difference between “remote” and “online" instruction.

“What you're seeing across the country is remote instruction,” not online, he said. “Faculty are taking courses designed for in-person learning into a digital environment. That's different from teaching a course designed for digital interaction.”

Why does that matter? Expectation management. Kevin Gannon, professor of history and director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching at Grand View University in Iowa, participated in the Council for Independent Colleges’ Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction and said the big takeaway from that experiment is doing online education “well takes a great deal of time and skill.”

That’s “not what we have now,” however, he said, “so I think it's worth thinking about what we're doing as remote instruction, so as to distinguish what we're doing now from the practices that make up good online teaching and learning.”

More to the point, Gannon advised both professors and students “that this is going to be a bumpy ride, and that's OK.”

“Use tools you either know already or for which you have institutional support, communicate regularly and clearly with students,” he said, “and be willing to change and adapt as needed.” Now is not the time for rigidity, rigor in the “weaponized” versus “positive, encouraging” sense “or anger. A little grace and patience go a long way, because we'll need those ourselves, too.”

Similarly, Rebecca Barrett-Fox, an American studies scholar and instructor of sociology with online teaching experience at Arkansas State University, recently posted an essay to her website only somewhat facetiously called “Please Do a Bad Job of Putting Your Courses Online.”

“For my colleagues who are now being instructed to put some or all of the remainder of their semester online, now is a time to do a poor job of it,” wrote Barrett-Fox. “You are NOT building an online class. You are NOT teaching students who can be expected to be ready to learn online. And, most importantly, your class is NOT the highest priority of their OR your life right now. Release yourself from high expectations right now, because that’s the best way to help your students learn.”

Even so, Barrett-Fox’s essay is full of practical advice about what to prioritize, how to approach lectures, setting deadlines, creating assignments and assessments and keeping sane.

Good Questions, Presence and More

Barrett-Fox said last week that the key to leading productive online humanities conversations is to ask good questions -- just like in a face-to-face classroom.

“Though discussion board conversations are probably the hardest part of online teaching,” she said, “I actually think that humanities professors have some advantage here because their content so often opens itself for debate in a way that, for example, the natural sciences and math do not.”

The best questions “really invite the particular students in our class to bring their particular lives, understandings and experiences to the classroom,” Barrett-Fox added. “‘How is Moby Dick a story of 19th-century globalization?’ isn’t going to lead the class there.”

Asking students to “find an object in their house that has been shaped by 19th-century globalization” -- and it “doesn't have to be scrimshaw -- and discuss it with photos in the context of Moby Dick is.”

If asking good questions is similar online demands the same skills set as asking them face-to-face, then perhaps the biggest challenge for humanities professors in this brave new world is staying present.

What is presence? Steven J. Hoffman, professor of history and anthropology at Southeast Missouri State University and editor of Teaching the Humanities Online: A Practical Guide to the Virtual Classroom (History, Humanities, and New Technology), said it’s crucial and defined it like this: “In a face-to-face class, students have some sense that they know the professor,” and “that’s harder to accomplish online, because there isn’t the face-to-face interaction.” But by using a variety of methods to “insert yourself and become present in the online course, learners are able to feel a greater connection to the instructor and tend to report better learning outcomes.”

Penny MacCormack, chief academic officer at the Association of College and University Educators, which specializes in pedagogical training and is offering online instruction resources, said that instructor presence has indeed been determined “to be one of the most important components connected to students staying engaged with and completing online courses.”

Good news: there are many ways to be present while teaching online, Hoffman said. The easiest way might be to send “periodic emails to the class about upcoming assignments and reminders.” Responding to emails quickly is another way, he said, while some professors record a “welcome video” for a class so students can see them. Others use Zoom and similar services to hold synchronous office hours. (This different from synchronous instruction, however, which Barrett-Fox and others recommend against.)

Among MacCormack’s suggestions: sending a welcome video to “share who you are and why you think the topic of the course is compelling,” making regular “announcements,” offering virtual office hours, making micro-lecture videos and being online and available -- especially before major due dates and exams. Instructors may be concerned that they need to be available all day, every day, she added, but the literature supports “making it clear to students when you will be available, and what they should expect regarding turnaround time for an assignment or question -- and then sticking to those commitments.”

Hoffman said presence is really “any technique that continues to insert the presence of the instructor in the course.” Otherwise, online courses can feel “very disconnected, akin to the old-fashioned correspondence courses” or being on “autopilot.”

Gannon, of Grand View University, agreed that instructor presence is “definitely the most important factor” here. “Social and cognitive presence means things like regular communication and using audio or video,” he added, “instead of having things mediated solely through text.”

Above all, “Make the learning space as human as possible, given the constraints.”

Hoffman edited his book prior to COVID-19. In general, however, he said, teaching the humanities online is challenging in that “many of us tend to think of ourselves and our subjects as not being technology-oriented, and we really enjoy the personal interaction and the tactile nature of working with hard copies of our materials.”

So while the digital environment “seems sterile and distant,” in some ways, Hoffman said, the humanities-heavy skills of reading and visual analysis are “such vital tools for preparing our students, those kinds of sources really lend themselves to being digitally available.”

Lessons From a Consortium

Richard Ekman, the Council of Independent Colleges' president, said he agreed that online humanities teaching can be done well, based on the sometimes surprising findings of the consortium experiment in which Gannon participated.

“One of the main surprises was that faculty felt students who had taken courses online had learned as much as they would have learned in a traditional academic setting,” Ekman said. “And believe me, the faculty didn’t go into it with that view.”

Students also didn’t seem to miss “the collegiality of the live classroom as much as they thought they would -- but the faculty did,” he added.

The CIC’s consortium includes 42 institutions that collaborated to offer online, upper-division humanities courses, starting in 2014. Lessons included in a recent report on the consortium are based on quantitative findings from four years of surveys, interviews with participants and other feedback. Major, perhaps relevant findings to the present COVID-19 scenario were that a large majority of students met or exceeded the expectations defined by their instructors’ specified learning outcomes, and students’ grades were consistently high.

Students who do not work well independently, or who are “not disciplined,” can fall behind and must “be encouraged to log into course sites regularly,” the CIC’s report also says. As for student satisfaction, 80 percent of students in one consortium phase said their online courses motivated them to “explore questions raised by the course.” This, of course, is the goal of any humanities course: to get students to think about the big questions, even after the class has ended.

Students also appreciated the flexibility surrounding some course formats and found value in new teaching methods and media. Flexibility will, of course, be especially important now in the face of so much uncertainty. One student said, for example, that their course was “set up in such a way that I felt like I got to experience the course in more dimensions than I would have in a more traditional course setting. There were tons of opportunities for interactions with other students in a variety of mediums and always some way to participate.”

One caution: there was a common perception among students that online courses would -- or should -- be easier than traditional courses. Said one student, “This course was just very hard to keep track of and in my opinion way too demanding for an online course.”

On student engagement, some faculty members reported some concern about a lack of student engagement in online courses. Students saw very little difference in their engagement levels, however. Professors found these student engagement hacks to be helpful: short videos or mini-lectures, discussion boards, Google Hangouts and other group chat apps, assigned blogs, and earning logs.

New Opportunities

Significantly -- and echoing other research on online instruction -- the CIC found that “students who have difficulty speaking up in the traditional classroom found it easier to participate in online discussions.” One student wrote, for example, “I think learning online with other students lets me be open more in my discussions because the fear of others’ opinions of my views was decreased due to not having to be in a classroom face-to-face with my classmates … I also think I learned to motivate myself and [developed] more discipline having to do work on my own and meeting deadlines.”

A faculty member, meanwhile, commented that he “quickly realized that the technology created a kind of access that we had not had before. It enabled the 10-second thinkers in the class to be able to get into the conversation on a threaded discussion where previously they had been silenced by the two-second thinkers who dominated a face-to-face class.” This made for “a richer discussion and a deeper understanding of the text from 100 percent of the class members.”

Perhaps counterintuitively -- and speaking to the notion of presence -- students frequently reported that taking online courses actually increased their interactions with faculty members. One student said, for instance, that taking online courses “is like having several independent studies at the same time because faculty members spend more time with each student.”

Seeing an opportunity to better cater to students with diverse needs and abilities via online instruction, the CIC also concluded that colleges and universities that offered only traditional instruction until now are “recognizing that online instruction may provide new opportunities for recruiting a broader range of students and for developing new kinds of programs more aligned with professional development for adult students.”

Gadgets and Gizmos

From the faculty perspective, CIC consortium instructors -- many of whom had no online-teaching know-how -- said they benefited “enormously" from help from instructional designers. That kind of help may not be available to all instructors today, though it is available in many places to some degree.

“We’re ready to assist in what, for many of our colleagues, is something well outside their wheelhouse,” said Gannon, calling instructional designers “your new best friends.” In their absence, however, he said, “social media and other online communities are generously sharing and collaborating. Twitter or the Kansas State University’s Keep Teaching: Resources for Higher Ed community are just some ideas.

As for tools, professors in the consortium relied heavily on features available through standard learning management systems, such as Blackboard, Canvas and Moodle. They incorporated other technologies such as webpages, videos -- their own or others’ -- podcasts, blogs and microblogging platforms and shared text-annotation tools such as Hypothes.is. Half of the instructors also used Skype, Spotify, WordPress, YouTube and Twitter, saying they were helpful because they were already familiar with them -- and their students were, too. Videoconferencing software was especially effective.

Many professors ended up using some of these tools back in the classroom, as well. One professor of English said, for instance, "I thought my tech skills would become amazing and my teaching wouldn’t change much. In fact, it was the opposite."

Ekman, of CIC, said that professors teaching online during COVID-19 must “keep in mind the way that the humanities are taught are most often interactive in terms of pedagogy.” So “it puts a big burden on the particular technology you choose to use, so you can still have that interactivity online.”

In other words, choose your platforms wisely. They don’t have to be fancy, just accessible and able to facilitate a high-touch approach.

“My general education philosophy is the superior effectiveness of live instruction,” said Ekman, a historian. But colleges and universities “have the obligation to expose us to many different formats of learning, to include online instruction,” he added, finding something of a silver lining in the situation.

Hoffman, of Southeast Missouri State, said that the rewards of teaching online -- at least in a more normal scenario -- are “considerable in that you also have the possibility of engaging a wider array of learners more deeply than you might in a face-to-face situation, and are able to hear from all learners in the class.”

Speaking From Experience

Terence Day, a professor of geography, earth and environmental sciences at Okanagan College in British Columbia, wrote a paper on what happened when he once had to stay home for a week and teach online due to a personal issue (not the coronavirus). In his limited study, Day found that learning was unimpeded by Skype-based conferencing instead of live instruction for one week, based on student test scores. There were fewer student questions over all, however.

Day’s advice for COVID-19-related remote instruction is that there is a “range of different technologies available,” he said, and the “best” ones may not be the best for everyone or every course. For total novices at online teaching, Day said he’d go with a simpler technology, such as narrated PowerPoint slides, short YouTube videos or audio recordings. Conferencing may be "more desirable from a pedagogic standpoint," he said, "but things are more likely to go wrong for me or the students." Discussion boards on course management systems may be "more robust," meanwhile, "but less engaging."

Student reactions to the situation were varied, Day said. Most who signed up for face-to-face instruction "didn’t particularly like the idea of their professor not being present," he said. Yet they were "willing to go along with it for a week because they understood the rationale behind it. The online experience was OK for a limited period of time. Many students actually enjoyed it -- but some, not at all."

Remember that students will be “stressed, too,” he said. A calm demeanor, a relaxed attitude and a sense of humor will “go a long way.”

It’s “paramount instructors look after themselves,” Day added, because it's “harder to teach online than in a classroom.”

Hannah Čulík-Baird, assistant professor of classical studies at Boston University, took her women in antiquity class totally online earlier this month, due to COVID-19.  On her pre-existing class blog, she posted a welcome video and explained that she’d be sharing short, pre-recorded lectures on the topic of the day each Tuesday and Thursday, in a certain location on Blackboard. Instead of in-class presentations, she also noted, students will upload their presentations to Blackboard on the regular due date. 

"Since we will not be together, and therefore not be able to have our usual vibrant discussion, we will have to find other ways to keep our strong community going," Čulík-Baird wrote, saying that the class participation grade is relatively hefty 20 percent. Students may use the discussion board in Blackboard to share ideas or ask questions about readings and lecture videos and interact with others’ thoughts. Čulík-Baird will devote some time, in turn, to addressing these questions and conversations at the beginning of each new lecture. Reflection pieces -- either written or recorded -- are another possibility. It's no longer an option to visit an art museum to complete the extra credit assignment on the original syllabus. Students are encouraged to report on museums’ digital holdings, however.

"Instead of show up in a classroom physically," Čulík-Baird said last week, students now have to "show up" by "using their voice in a different way." Students have a variety of choices by which to engage, she added. And instead of giving in-class presentations, the uploaded presentations mean that students will grow their own “material record.” 

Čulík-Baird always asks students to stay active within classicists’ conversations on social media, including Twitter. Beyond that, "I need to keep encouraging them to keep talking to me -- whether over email, chat or voice call, because the potential for them to feel isolated and alienated is very high." Going forward, "we have to refocus our energies on the ancient materials which we are teaching our students to engage with in meaningful ways."

The ultimate goal in the weeks ahead, she said, is reaching a place where "we are so consumed with our interests in the material and our ideas about it that we forget we are talking over the internet."

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Consumer groups say student loan borrowers need more help during coronavirus crisis

lun, 03/16/2020 - 00:00

While they applauded President Donald Trump for indefinitely waiving the interest on federal students loans during the coronavirus crisis, consumer groups said the move doesn’t go far enough in helping borrowers survive the economic fallout from the pandemic.

“Freezing interest will keep balances from growing during this time, and that's important,” Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, said in a statement. “However, many borrowers are going to experience income shocks and urgent expenses that will impede their ability to make their regularly scheduled payments … Moreover, people need the confidence to know that, if they are sick or medically vulnerable or need to care for children, that they can stay home and not face the draconian consequences of defaulting on their student loans.”

Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate, meanwhile, agreed some borrowers should get a reprieve on making student loan payments, particularly if their academic terms are disrupted by closings. House Democrats on Friday night formally introduced a bill identical to one Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate's health and education committee, proposed earlier in the day, which would provide a temporary exemption for students from repaying Pell Grants or student loans if their terms are disrupted.

Under current law, Pell Grant recipients would have to return a portion of their grants to the federal government if they withdraw from school, or in this case, if their institution closes.

With the House and Trump having so far only agreed to a package Friday that would extend access to coronavirus testing and provide sick-leave benefits, and the measure still needing to pass the Senate this week, the prospects of including relief for borrowers in another aid package was unclear over the weekend.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, would provide $1.2 billion in funding to provide emergency financial aid to college students for basic needs created by unexpected college closures and COVID-19-related disruptions, including food, housing, health care and childcare needs.

It would also provide $1.2 billion in funding to help K-12 school districts and higher education institutions plan for closures, including how to provide meals to students, support efforts to clean and sanitize educational facilities, and provide training to educators and other staff members on how to properly ensure their buildings are safe for students' return.

The Education Department said Trump's plan to waive interest affects all federally held loans, including Federal Family Education Loans and Perkins Loans, as well as those in forbearance and on income-driven repayment plans. More details were not available on the waiver, which will be put into place in the next week, retroactive to Friday.

Consumer groups said they want more, having asked Trump and Congress to put in place a moratorium to give borrowers a break from making any loan payments during the economic fallout from the pandemic.

"No one should fall behind on their student debts because of this national crisis," said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. "Waiving interest is welcome, but the key question is whether student loan borrowers can reduce or halt their monthly payments during the crisis​. Fully pausing student loan payments in addition to halting interest accumulation, and stopping punitive student loan collections, would provide much-needed, immediate relief to those individuals who may be unable to work and are facing economic hardship during this time of uncertainty."

Mike Saunders, director of military and consumer policy at Veterans Education Success, said waiving interest will only marginally help student borrowers.

"We call on President Trump to ensure borrowers, as well as all Americans, have extra cash in their pockets until this global pandemic is over," he said. "The federal government should not require Americans to prioritize payments to the government over ensuring the health and safety of their own families."

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Aftermath of NCAA cancellations

lun, 03/16/2020 - 00:00

No bracket busters. No watch parties or pregaming. No upsets or underdogs; no storming the court. Alumni fan clubs, student cheering sections and campus bars will be quiet for the next three weeks and perhaps even the remainder of the spring semester as U.S. colleges move into unseen territory -- the absence of intercollegiate athletics.

The coronavirus pandemic that has upended the daily lives and routines of college students around the world has also wiped out one of the most unifying features of campus and community life in the United States. The recent decision by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to cancel all remaining championship competitions for the winter and spring seasons to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and promote social distancing has only compounded the disappointment students are feeling about the unprecedented changes taking place on their campuses. They describe the cancellations in emotional terms, using words such as "tragic" and "traumatic."

Student athletes and graduating seniors for whom this was the last opportunity for an irreplaceable college experience are dealing with multiple levels of grief, said Susan Krauss Whitborne, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts who studies athletes and sports fandom. On top of suddenly being forced to take classes online or move away from campus, the cancellations of sporting events will have a psychological impact on students, especially those who were involved in winter or spring sports, marching band or cheerleading, Krauss Whitborne said.

“Some of them will never put on a uniform or pick up a ball ever again, and their whole experience has changed,” Krauss Whitborne said. “The professional teams want to have their games and play their championships as well, but it doesn’t have that ‘once in a lifetime’ feel.”

She said students had no time to prepare for decisions by college administrators reacting to a fast-changing and escalating public health crisis, and that made things feel worse. Some students got the news while they were away on spring break; some were in the middle of actual games or track meets, while others found out as they were packing to leave their campuses in the wake of mass closures by institutions that are moving instruction online and telling students to go home or not return to their campuses after spring break.

Allison Wahrman, a senior who competes in hammer throws for the University of Iowa's track and field team, found it all "heartbreaking." She said there was no closure on her college athletic career -- no senior night, no final meet. She believes she could have competed professionally with one last season of experience.

“I’m in shock right now. It hasn’t really processed that I already could’ve competed in my last meet,” Wahrman said. “I’ve been an athlete my whole life, so for it to come to an end like this, it doesn’t make sense to me. I feel like there’s something that needs to be done.”

The sense of loss is especially palpable for students who built and nurtured friendships through college sports.

Elizabeth Mason, a junior at Florida State University who plays softball, said the seniors on her team have become her "best friends and sisters."

"I am heartbroken for the seniors across the nation who have had their last year taken from them," Mason said. "I know we are all hurting for what may be the end of their careers."

Wahrman started a petition calling for the NCAA to extend senior athletes’ eligibility to play, which had received more than 164,000 signatures by March 13. The same day, all three of the NCAA's divisions agreed to look at rule changes that would allow extensions for spring sports players. The decision about extensions for winter sports athletes, such as those who play basketball or hockey, is less certain.

The Division I men’s basketball national championship, known as the March Madness tournament, will not be played for the first time since its inauguration in 1939, ESPN reported, which presents a different kind of loss.

The impact of an estimated nearly $800 million in revenue that the NCAA would receive from television networks to broadcast the tournament is an unknown, though COO Donald Remy has said the association’s reserves and business interruption insurance would partially cover monetary damages. More than 100 million people tuned in to the NCAA’s livestream of the tournament in 2019, television viewers increased by more than 10 percent last year and more than 72,000 people attended both the national semifinals and championship games, according to the NCAA’s 2019 viewership.

Americans' love for and obsession with March Madness is an “amazing phenomenon” that cannot be explained in other parts of the world, said John Shrader, a sports media and communications professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. His courses focus on the important community bonds created by the mutual love of sports at a time when people are less likely to attend church or be involved at their local community center, he said.

“Sports is where we gather, no matter a person’s identity, race -- all walks of life,” Shrader said. “We enjoy the community and camaraderie of sports.”

The cancellation of the tournament will also have an adverse economic impact on the 14 cities that were meant to host competitions, said Tom McMillen, president and CEO of the LEAD1 Association, an organization that represents 130 college athletic directors and programs.

“There’s a lot of collateral damage here,” he said. “You think about the vendors, concessionaires, hotels, restaurants in all these cities; that’s irreplaceable. This is traumatic. I hope that it wanes in the next three months, or otherwise we’re getting into the football season. And that’s the elephant in the room.”

The Alumni Association of the University of Kentucky canceled a pregame event for the men’s basketball team’s appearance in the Southeastern Conference tournament, said Jill Smith, the associate executive director of the alumni association.

She said there’s always a “deep sense of pride and competition” during March Madness, and people will drive for hours to be with other Kentucky fans and alumni and share nostalgic stories about national championship wins. Because there are no professional sports teams in Kentucky, the university's teams fill an important role, Smith said.

“It’s really one of the best, if not the best, sporting event in our country. It’s three weeks of unpredictability, excitement. It brings a lot of people together, whether it’s in person, watching, what have you,” Smith said. “We have people that follow us who have not even stepped on campus.”

The general reaction among alumni has been “understanding” and “positive,” Smith said. Some attendees asked that refunds for the event go to the alumni club in Nashville, Tenn., to contribute to a merit-based scholarship fund for Nashville high school students to attend Kentucky.

“You see kind acts of humanity at times like these,” Smith said. “Everybody is cheering for humanity to be safe.”

McMillen compared the impact of the pandemic to the time during World War II when football and basketball games were canceled because there weren’t enough men to fill team rosters. He said his most vivid memory as a basketball player for the University of Maryland in the 1970s was coming back to the campus after winning the National Invitation Tournament and seeing thousands of fans there to greet him and other team members. It will be difficult for the athletes who never again get the chance to experience that feeling, but recent developments related to the pandemic are another part of American history, he said.

Despite the distance created in communities and the loss of shared activities and entertainment due to public health authorities' recommendations that people not congregate in groups, students, team athletes and college sports fans alike will find ways to connect with one another, Krauss Whitborne said.

“The lack of physical togetherness will affect that sense of community, but outside hardships unite people,” Krauss Whitborne said. “Once they’re able to cope with the grief in general that they’re going through, they find ways to come together and find new ways for fandom.”

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Roundup of coronavirus news from March 13-15

lun, 03/16/2020 - 00:00

Guidance on International Students and Online Courses

March 15, 10:21 a.m. The Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has published more detailed guidance on how it will offer flexibility in relation to rules that typically restrict international students from counting more than one online course toward the requirement that they maintain a full-time course of study.

The guidance, published Friday, addresses three scenarios: one in which a school closes temporarily without offering online learning instruction, one in which a college temporarily switches to online instruction and the international student remains in the U.S., and one in which a college temporarily switches to online instruction and the international student leaves the country.

In the first case -- in which a college closes -- the Homeland Security Department said institutions should keep international student records active in the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) so long as students intend to resume their course of studies when classes start up again, just as they would for regularly scheduled academic breaks.

For the other two cases, in which institutions switch to online instruction, SEVP said it will temporarily waive restrictions on international students engaging in online coursework. Students’ SEVIS records should stay in active status if they continue courses online whether they are inside or outside the U.S.

SEVP stressed that the measures are temporary and that guidance is subject to change. Colleges must notify SEVP of procedural changes they make to respond to the coronavirus within 10 days of making those changes.

-- Elizabeth Redden

Grinnell Expands Pass/Fail Option

March 15, 9:45 a.m. Grinnell College, a liberal arts college in Iowa, is allowing students to take all their spring courses under a pass/fail grading system in light of the college’s temporary shift from in-person to distance education. Students have until April 10 to switch some or all of their spring courses to a pass/fail grading system. Students can still opt to complete their courses under a traditional A-F grading system, but Grinnell said expanded use of pass/fail grading "aims to reduce student stress during this already-stressful time, while still providing a pathway to fulfill program and degree requirements."

-- Elizabeth Redden

Academic Libraries Share Response to COVID-19

March 15, 9:10 a.m. Many institutions are busy preparing to take their in-person courses online, but few academic libraries have significantly altered how they operate in response to the coronavirus, early survey data reveal.

The Academic Library Response to COVID-19 survey was launched on March 11 by Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, manager of surveys and research at Ithaka S+R, and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, professor and coordinator for information literacy services and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Over 200 libraries responded to the survey in the first 24 hours, reporting “relatively little change” in how they serve users. Libraries reported prevention and mitigation measures such as increased cleaning and public event cancellations, but only 64 percent of libraries said they engaged in regular communication with staff to provide updates and guidelines on safety measures.

The survey is still open and seeking responses. Regularly updated results can be accessed here.

-- Lindsay McKenzie

SNHU Shares Resources About Online Learning

March 14, 12:40 p.m. Southern New Hampshire University, which is one of the nation's largest universities, enrolling more than 96,000 students in online programs, released tips for other colleges as they move instruction online. The resources include guides on how to build a teacher persona, support student success, handle feedback and forums, and accommodate diversity, equity and inclusion in the online classroom.

"In times like these, the importance of working together becomes more apparent than ever. Uniting as one community to share critical resources and information is both a sign of solidarity, and a sign of our collective commitment to the good and wellbeing of all people -- not just the ones in our own campus classrooms," Paul LeBlanc, SHNU's president, said in a statement. "So as many colleges and universities move instruction online, SNHU would like to support their efforts in any way we can. We’ve compiled a list of resources and instructional tips that may be helpful, and invite our fellow schools to reach out to us if they feel the need as they navigate the process in the coming weeks."

-- Paul Fain

NCAA May Adjust Eligibility Rules for Athletes

March 13, 5:50 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s three divisions will discuss adjusting eligibility rules for spring athletes, which would potentially allow seniors to compete for another season.

The Division I Council Coordination Committee agreed eligibility relief would be appropriate for all Division I athletes who participated in spring sports and said the details of any rules adjustments will come later. The Division III Administrative Committee officially granted spring sports athletes an additional season or semester of eligibility, according to statements released by the NCAA.

Division II officials have not yet made a public statement about their eligibility decisions.

-- Greta Anderson

Consumer Groups: Trump's Student Interest Waivers Not Enough

March 13, 5:35 p.m. Consumer groups applauded President Trump’s announcement that he will indefinitely waive the interest on federal loans during the coronavirus crisis.

But having asked Trump and Congress to put in place a moratorium to give borrowers a break from making any loan payments during the economic fallout from the pandemic, the groups also said the president’s move didn’t go far enough.

“Freezing interest will keep balances from growing during this time and that's important,” Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, said in a statement.

"However, many borrowers are going to experience income shocks and urgent expenses that will impede their ability to make their regularly scheduled payments," said Yu. "Moreover, people need the confidence to know that, if they are sick or medically vulnerable or need to care for children, that they can stay home and not face the draconian consequences of defaulting on their student loans."

Yu also called for the Education Department to stop garnishing wages or taking payments from Social Security benefits and tax refunds during the crisis.

"No one should fall behind on their student debts because of this national crisis," said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. "Waiving interest is welcome, but the key question is whether student loan borrowers can reduce or halt their monthly payments during the crisis​. Fully pausing student loan payments in addition to halting interest accumulation, and stopping punitive student loan collections, would provide much-needed, immediate relief to those individuals who may be unable to work and are facing economic hardship during this time of uncertainty."

Mike Saunders, director of military and consumer policy at Veterans Education Success, said waiving interest rates will only marginally help student borrowers.

"We call on President Trump to ensure borrowers, as well as all Americans, have extra cash in their pockets until this global pandemic is over," he said. "The federal government should not require Americans to prioritize payments to the government over ensuring the health and safety of their own families."

A spokeswoman for the department said more details are coming on Trump's order.

And earlier, a Democratic House aide said a moratorium on student loan payments is not expected to be included in the coronavirus package Congress is negotiating with the White House.

-- Kery Murakami

Trump to Waive Interest on Student Loans

March 13, 4:10 p.m. At a news conference to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump said he is issuing an emergency order to help student loan borrowers. "To help students and families, I have waived interest of student loans until further notice," Trump said.

-- Kery Murakami

Wife of UT Austin President Tests Positive

March 13, 2:30 p.m. Greg Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, is being tested for COVID-19 after his wife, Carmel, tested positive for the virus.

A second member of Fenves's family, who also works at the university, is presumed to have COVID-19 as well, according to a letter from Fenves to the university community.

Fenves, his wife and the other family member are in self-isolation. They are compiling a list of people they have recently had contact with. UT Health Austin nurses will reach out to those on the list who are affiliated with the university for screening.

Last week, Fenves and his wife traveled to New York City for alumni and student events. His wife began experiencing mild flu-like symptoms upon their return.

Classes at UT Austin were canceled and the campus was closed today, March 13, because of the positive test.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Change of Plans for Monmouth

March 13, 2 p.m. At least one college already has changed its initial response to the novel coronavirus.

Monmouth College in Illinois initially planned to resume classes on March 18, extending its spring break by a few days.

In a letter sent Friday, the college said it reassessed and will instead allow flexibility for students and faculty members to make their own decisions.

The college will stay closed for an extra week after spring break ends and reopen on March 23 under what it’s calling a “flexible plan” for the rest of the semester.

Under this plan, students can choose whether to return to campus or study online. Residence halls and food services will open this weekend as planned, and students can return to campus this weekend.

Professors will work with students who choose to study online. Faculty members can also choose to move their courses fully online if they wish.

Staff will also receive flexible options for their work.

Monmouth will be holding workshops for faculty on moving courses online from now until March 23.

“There is no perfect answer to the crisis that has happened upon us,” a statement from the college reads. “We believe this response affirms our twin commitments to quality education and to campus community wellbeing -- even as we acknowledge that a pandemic has a way of throwing a wrench into that mission.”

-- Madeline St. Amour

Call for More Tests

March 13, 11:55 a.m. The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health is calling on the Trump administration to take action to manufacture quality test kits for the novel coronavirus.

The association, which represents deans and directors of 128 accredited institutions for public health, said in a news release that it felt compelled to speak out about test-kit availability.

“When the United States failed to participate in the World Health Organization’s collaborative effort to bring testing to the world’s nations, it made an implicit commitment to provide its own tests,” the statement reads. “It has failed to do so, and clinical and public health organizations alike do not have anywhere near the testing capacity for an aggressive response to the expanding COVID-19 crisis.”

The association is asking the administration to use emergency public health measures and funding to facilitate public-private partnerships to validate and manufacture test kits for hospitals and clinics. Without enough reliable tests to diagnose and track the virus, the country won’t be able to combat the threat, according to the association.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Flexibility for Students Abroad

March 13, 11:55 a.m. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced that nonimmigrant students can temporarily use distance learning, either from within the U.S. or elsewhere, to continue their courses in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Some members of NAFSA: Association of International Educators had reported to the organization earlier that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program told schools and colleges to instead terminate records for students who took online portions of classes abroad.

After NAFSA contacted the program with their concerns and advocated that it allow schools and colleges to keep records in active status for students who switch to online courses, the program issued a statement correcting its guidance.

-- Madeline St. Amour

No Student Loan Relief Expected in Coronavirus Package From Congress

March, 13 11:40 a.m. The multibillion-dollar coronavirus package being negotiated by Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin isn’t expected to include a temporary suspension of student loan payments, said a Democratic House aide. Advocacy groups like Veterans Education Success and the Institute for College Access and Success had been hoping for some temporary relief. House Democrats, however, are working on proposals to provide help.

Meanwhile, Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate's health and education committee, proposed a temporary exemption for students from repaying Pell Grants or student loans if their terms are disrupted. Under current law, Pell Grant recipients would have to return a portion of their grants to the federal government if they withdraw from school, or in this case, if their institution closes.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, would provide $1.2 billion in funding to provide emergency financial aid to college students for basic needs created by unexpected college closures and COVID-19 related disruptions, including food, housing, health care and childcare needs.

It would also provide $1.2 billion in funding to help K-12 school districts and higher education institutions plan for closures, including how to provide meals to students, support efforts to clean and sanitize educational facilities, and to provide training to educators and other staff members on how to properly ensure their buildings are safe for students' return.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators applauded the co-sponsors “for acting quickly to find a solution to support financial aid recipients, who may now find themselves in dire situations in the face of this pandemic.”

-- Kery Murakami

Bogus Fliers at Bates College about 'Forced Contamination'

March 13, 10:50 a.m. Anonymous fliers appeared Wednesday on the campus of Bates College. They falsely claimed Bates was attempting to cope with the viral outbreak through "forced massed contamination," because the college had determined that students and all others will get COVID-19, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.

The college, which is located in Maine, quickly denounced the fliers, calling on students, faculty and staff members to discard them.

“We are all doing our best to grapple with a very challenging public health situation, this kind of action reflects seriously poor judgment and blatant disregard for the concerns and well-being of others,” a Bates spokesman said in a message to the Bates community.

On Friday Bates announced it was suspending classes and moving to remote learning. The college said students must leave campus by today.

In a message to the campus, Clayton Spencer, Bates's president, expressed empathy for the resulting disruptions felt by students, their families and faculty and staff members.

"We find ourselves in a situation that is, quite literally, beyond our control. I understand that the solutions we are offering are necessarily imperfect and place extra demands on all members of our community," Spencer wrote. "I have heard from many students over the past week. Some have expressed their anxiety about staying on campus under current circumstances, and others have described to me how devastated they feel at the prospect of having to leave campus and their Bates world mid-semester. My heart goes out to all of our students, as these are genuinely stressful and difficult times. But this is an unprecedented situation, and we have no choice but to take this course of action."

-- Paul Fain

Wharton Creates Coronavirus Course

March 13, 10:30 a.m. As colleges across the country shut down or move online in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania already is taking lessons from the outbreak and putting them into a course.

Epidemics, Natural Disasters and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty will be a six-week, half-credit course offered remotely starting March 25, after the college’s extended spring break, according to a news release.

The course will discuss financial market reactions to the coronavirus, emotional contagion and how the virus affects the trade war with China.

“There are significant business lessons to be learned from the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, and Wharton is at the forefront of sharing valuable insights and creating a community to exchange ideas,” said Geoff Garrett, dean of the Wharton School. “This is a teachable moment for the global academic community, and this course is just one example of how Wharton is coming together to provide support during a time of heightened anxiety and ambiguity.”

More than 450 students have already preregistered for the course.

-- Madeline St. Amour

U-Haul Offers Free Storage

March 13, 10:30 a.m. More colleges are telling students to pack up and head home for the semester due to the novel coronavirus, often leaving students with costs for moving or storing their belongings.

U-Haul has stepped forward to offer 30 days of free self-storage to college students in the U.S. and Canada in response to the outbreak, according to a news release from the company. It also includes use of the company’s portable moving and storage containers.

“We don’t know how every student is affected. But we know they are affected,” John Taylor, U-Haul’s president, said in the statement. “More and more universities are giving instructions to leave campus and go home. Students and their parents are in need of moving and storage solutions. We have the expertise and network to help, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

The free month applies only to new customers with college IDs, according to the release.

U-Haul has offered this deal before to specific communities impacted by natural disasters, but this is the first time that it will be offered nationwide.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Sodexo Offers Expanded Sick Pay

March 13, 10:10 a.m. Sodexo, a company that operates food and dining services on many college campuses, announced Thursday that all employees, full- and part-time, will be granted sick pay for up to 21 days if they have a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, or are asked not to come in because of related symptoms.

This use of sick pay only will be available after an employee has used up their accrued sick time. The limited and haphazard coronavirus testing regimen in the U.S. raises questions about how many employees with the virus will be able to access tests and confirm their cases. The country is far behind others in its ability to test for the virus, a fact acknowledged Thursday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Sodexo is committed to the health and safety of our employees, our clients and the communities we serve, and that includes supporting our employees where we can if they get sick as they service our clients,” Sarosh Mistry, president of Sodexo USA, said in a statement. “Our long-standing commitment to our employees is something we will stand by, especially at a time like this.”

UT Austin Shuts Down Campus Operations

March 13, 9:20 a.m. Citing two positive cases of COVID-19 in the Austin area, the University of Texas at Austin on Friday morning canceled classes and closed operations. Only essential personnel should work today, the university said.

Yesterday UT Austin suspended campus visits and all university-sponsored travel and issued a worldwide recall of faculty, staff and students on university-sponsored trips.

-- Paul Fain

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Survey of presidents reveals growing divide in confidence, opposition to free college and broad debt forgiveness

ven, 03/13/2020 - 00:00

Most college leaders seem surer of economic futures -- but worries grow for sizable segment, annual Inside Higher Ed study reveals. Survey also finds worsening assessment of campus race relations and overwhelming opposition to free college and debt forgiveness.

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Students may want room and board back after coronavirus closures, but refunds would take a bite out of many colleges' wallets

ven, 03/13/2020 - 00:00

Students across the country are making hurried plans to move out of their dorm rooms as the number of campus closures over coronavirus concerns skyrocketed past 200 Thursday.

Away from their dorms and dining halls, many students and parents are wondering if and when they’ll be refunded room and board fees.

But for colleges relying on such fees -- called auxiliary fees -- to support their operating revenue, refunds could be devastating.

“Every residential college and university in America relies on that auxiliary revenue stream. It is baked into the budget,” W. Joseph King, president of Lyon College and co-author of How to Run a College, said in an email. “Significant refunds will cause real problems at many institutions. It will just be worse for those with tighter or deficit budgets.”

Auxiliary services are becoming an increasingly important part of colleges’ operating revenue, especially for private, four-year institutions.

“Most colleges run their own housing. It is usually their biggest source of auxiliary revenue,” King wrote. “Assuming the residence hall is paid for, the net auxiliary revenue can be substantial. Even if it is financed, there is usually a positive revenue stream.”

Smith College, a women’s liberal arts college in Northampton, Mass., with approximately 2,400 students, is requiring all students to move out of on-campus housing by March 14. Smith said it will offer prorated room and board refunds. In fiscal year 2018, Smith collected $40.4 million in residence and dining fees -- about 16.5 percent of its total operating revenue.

Amherst College also announced Tuesday it would refund room and board fees for students who left campus. Room and board revenue made up nearly 9 percent of Amherst’s operating revenue in fiscal 2018.

“Refunds are a sticky business since they are definitely not in the budget. Any significant refunding will create a budget hole,” King said. “It just depends on how it is prorated. Most institutions have policies about refunds (or no refunds) if a student withdraws. Few (if any) have closure policies.”

Private universities are also collecting less net revenue per student from tuition and fees than they used to, according to Craig Goebel, principal at Art & Science Group, a higher education consulting and research firm.

“There’s much steeper discounting going on at private colleges and universities,” he said, noting that the average discount rate for private institutions is 50 percent. If the college is already under financial stress, “this could be disastrous,” Goebel said.

On top of that, added financial stress could impact a college's credit ratings. A lower credit rating could make it more difficult for colleges to borrow money in the future.

“For some of the schools that have weaker resources or are more pressured, this could create a credit challenge,” said Jessica Wood, a senior director at S&P Global Ratings.

It's unlikely that colleges will receive insurance payouts for refund-related revenue hits.

“Because colleges are sending students home as a preventative measure, not because of an event that triggers coverage under their property or business interruption policy, these refund claims will likely not be covered,” Bret Murray, who leads higher education strategy at Risks Strategies Company, a national insurance brokerage and risk management firm, said in an email Thursday. “With that said, colleges should still put carriers on notice and keep track of all financial impacts related to COVID-19.”

Colleges with substantial endowments or other significant sources of income, like federal and state grant money or land leases, will not be cut as deeply by refund requests.

Harvard University, one of the first colleges to explicitly require students to leave campus, will offer prorated room and board refunds. Board and lodging fees made up less than 4 percent of Harvard’s operating revenue in fiscal 2018, far surpassed by federal grants, gifts for current use and returns on endowment made available for operations.

A wealth gap may be emerging between colleges that choose to close or cancel in-person classes and those that, so far, will remain open. In Pennsylvania, West Chester University -- with an endowment of $40 million -- decided to end face-to-face instruction Wednesday, while Mansfield University of Pennsylvania -- with a $1 million endowment -- did not.

That said, Wood doesn’t believe colleges are making any decisions about closures and remote learning with finances at front of mind.

“While financial considerations are always important, I do think … their decisions are first and foremost being made around their communities', students', staff and faculties' safety,” she said.

Two-year colleges are somewhat shielded from this particular revenue hit. According to the College Board’s 2019 trends in college pricing report, in 2015-16, 96 percent of full-time undergraduate students at public two-year colleges lived off campus or with their parents.

Still, today most colleges are scrambling to scale up their online learning resources and put precautionary plans in place. Few have disclosed whether they will offer room and board refunds to students who leave campus.​

Room and board is a sizable chunk of what students pay each semester, and the fees are often excluded from scholarship calculations. The College Board report states that students at a public four-year universities paying in-state tuition spend on average 43 percent of their budgets on room and board fees. For out-of-state students, room and board makes up 27 percent of budgets, and for students at private four-year colleges, 24 percent of budgets are room and board fees.

Requests for room and board rebates aren't the only way colleges could lose money as a result of the coronavirus. Many have canceled admitted student days and student tours, and closing campus could affect enrollments in the fall. Institutions that rely heavily on endowment payouts could see them dip in a falling market.

The virus will "certainly roil the admission market" just as student deposits and commitments are due, said Brian Mitchell, King's co-author on How to Run a College and the founder of Brian Mitchell & Associates, a higher education consulting firm, in an email.

"Effectively, the crisis has the potential to create a double whammy -- unexpected [costs] and highly unpredictable future revenue at tuition-driven institutions," he said.​

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Experts discuss new regulatory flexibility from the feds on coronavirus measures

ven, 03/13/2020 - 00:00

The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines that seek to give colleges and universities more regulatory flexibility as they close campuses and move classes online amid coronavirus concerns.

A March 5 guidance document included temporary waivers from the feds and accreditors on new or expanded distance education programs.

“The department is providing broad approval to institutions to use online technologies to accommodate students on a temporary basis, without going through the regular approval process of the department in the event that an institution is otherwise required to seek departmental approval for the use or expansion of distance learning programs,” the document said. “We are also permitting accreditors to waive their distance education review requirements for institutions working to accommodate students whose enrollment is otherwise interrupted as a result of COVID-19.”

The department also on March 12 issued guidelines on privacy requirements for students.

Typically, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not allow colleges to disclose information about students without their consent, including details about their health.

But in the case of a health or safety emergency, the department said FERPA allows colleges to share personally identifiable information about students without their consent. The coronavirus pandemic qualifies as an emergency.

“Educational agencies and institutions, such as school districts, schools, colleges and universities, can play an important role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in U.S. communities,” the March 12 guidelines said. “Through information sharing and coordination with public health departments, educational agencies and institutions can help protect their schools and communities.”

Amelia Vance, director of youth and education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum, said much of the new guidance was outlined in what the department released during the 2009 spread of the H1N1 virus.

For example, if a student were to test positive for coronavirus or had symptoms, the college could release a statement saying a student tested positive, without identifying the student.

Colleges also could send emails to students who shared specific classes with the sick student. While the guidance released today says those situations are typically rare, Vance said that likely will not be the case with coronavirus.

For those worried about violating regulations, Vance pointed to a 2009 FERPA regulation that said the department won’t second-guess a college’s determination in an emergency unless most people would consider it unreasonable.

The second exception allows colleges to identify students to public health departments. If the college declares an emergency, it can provide that information without students’ consent. If a college said it’s not an emergency, the department could hypothetically issue a subpoena to get the information, Vance said.

College officials should keep in mind that they are required to record instances when they share students’ information without consent, Vance said. She recommends they keep track in real time so they don’t have to retrace their steps after the situation calms down.

Q&A on Distance Education Guidance

To learn more about what the March 5 release from the department means for colleges, Inside Higher Ed exchanged emails with Phil Hill, an analyst with Mindwires Consulting who blogs at PhilOnEdTech.com, and Daniel Madzelan, assistant vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education.

Lightly edited versions of their responses follow below.

Q: How long will the department’s waivers on the approval of distance education programs be in effect?

Madzelan: The Education Department grants Title IV eligibility to an institution’s educational programs. One aspect of that eligibility is mode of delivery. A program that is approved only for on-site instruction is not eligible for online delivery unless/until ED approves the institution’s application to deliver that program online.

The department is saying that an on-site-only program can switch to online eligibility without going through the ordinary ED approval process if that on-site program was otherwise eligible in the current payment period. Said a bit differently, if the current semester (i.e., payment period) includes March 5, then the institution can now offer the program online for the remainder of the semester without getting prior ED approval.

After this semester (i.e., payment period), institutions would need to secure eligibility for online program delivery via the normal process (unless ED provides guidance to the contrary at a later date).

Q: In courses that have been moved to online delivery, will the department or accreditors enforce the requirement for instructors in distance education programs to regularly initiate substantive communication with students?

Madzelan: Presumably ED’s usual program review protocols and audit procedures will remain in place.

Q: From a regulatory perspective, what specific quality concerns with online programs do colleges need to monitor most closely?

Hill: One quality concern that is very important to monitor is equitable access to courses and the tools required to complete them -- essentially trying to ensure we don’t increase the opportunity gaps. Yes, we are in an emergency mode that supersedes some other concerns, but institutions should not ignore the effect that unplanned remote delivery of face-to-face courses can have on a broad set of students.

On the accessibility front, institutions should provide guidance to instructors on how to include reasonable transcription of virtual discussions (e.g., through Zoom) and how to take advantage of existing tools to do so. For example, Flipgrid automatically adds captions to videos created through its platform and can be used for asynchronous video-based discussions.

The same principle applies to addressing the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing, etc. Campuses that have access to the Ally accessibility check tool should be proactive in checking instructional materials from classes in which students who use screen readers are enrolled. We have good knowledge of what works and how to implement within courses from the people that have been immersed in online and hybrid course delivery, and institutions should share this information and monitor, as well as provide ongoing guidance.

On the equity front, institutions should provide guidance on the potential needs of disproportionately impacted student groups. Students might not have reliable broadband at home -- can the institution help with a list of where to find off-campus internet access or keeping facilities available to all students? Some student groups need additional support structures over distance, including online tutoring, technology support for navigating online environment and time management guidance. Institutions should share online training resources for students (and instructors), and they should consider increasing investment and availability of online tutors and advisers.

-- Madeline St. Amour contributed to this article.

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Future unclear for support staff on empty college campuses

ven, 03/13/2020 - 00:00

Amid virus fears, hundreds of colleges and universities have now moved face-to-face instruction online. Some, like the University of Washington, have decided to keep campuses open and to let students decide if they want to stay.

Other colleges, however, have said in no uncertain terms that students, barring extraordinary circumstances, need to leave campus.

The landscape is changing at an exceptional pace. But for now, the fate of support staff members at these institutions remains unclear. Many office workers are able to take their jobs online and work remotely. But how food service workers, custodians and groundskeepers will fare without meals to serve, wastebaskets to empty or prospective students to impress has yet to be figured out in many places.

The possibilities could range from retaining full employment to reduced hours to layoffs or unpaid furlough.

At Bucknell University, the administration told students they needed to leave by March 17, though they can petition for an exemption.

In regard to the staff members who provide services to students, "the situation is evolving so quickly that it's really hard to speculate on issues like this at this point," a university spokesperson said via email.

Stanford University has asked students to leave before the spring quarter begins on March 30, if at all possible.

Francisco Preciado, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 2007, which represents 1,300 workers at Stanford, said Thursday that the union has been in conversation with the administration. What happens next for dining and housing staff depends on how many students decide to stay on campus, he said. While the goal of the university is to keep people working, it has not made any guarantees about layoffs.

The dining and housing departments at the university have discussed absorbing staff members who no longer have work to complete into other units. For example, staff who work in Stanford's cafes or catering enterprises could be absorbed into custodial staff, Preciado said, to keep people working. If they are not able to be absorbed, they may be laid off. Layoffs may be massive if the university decides to shut down all residence and dining enterprises. Those decisions have not been made yet, he said.

Events staff at Stanford, who set up and work the large gatherings that have now been banned by the state, have been guaranteed work for the next few weeks, Preciado said. Beyond that, there have been talks about absorbing those workers into grounds work.

"People are worried with the fact that it's going to affect their livelihood if they get laid off for this extended period of time," he said.

The union has also asked the administration for expanded sick time for employees, but those decisions have also yet to be made.

"Although fewer students will be on campus in the coming weeks, we continue to rely on the vital work of our service employees," a spokesperson for Stanford said via email. "They keep dormitories and other buildings clean and provide food for the students, faculty and staff who remain on campus, as we continue fulfilling our mission to the greatest extent possible."

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst told students that the administration is identifying lab, studio and capstone classes that require face-to-face instruction. Students in those classes will be notified if they can stay on campus. All others should "remain away from campus until further notice," with exceptions for those in extreme circumstances.

A representative from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 93, which represents support staff at Amherst, said Thursday afternoon that he did not know more about the future for those employees than what was on the university's website. Staff will continue working for the time being. The administration is still making further decisions.

Cornell University told students they needed to move out March 28, but they can petition for an exception.

If workers who cannot work remotely must miss hours due to being quarantined, they will be placed on paid leave, the university announced in employee guidance.

Though many operations will remain open, how service staff will be affected currently is less firm.

"It is the case that some direct service operations will change, and I want to assure you that we are working to understand what our needs will be and how we can best support all who work at Cornell," the university said in guidance to employees.

The president of United Auto Workers Local 2300, which represents dining staff at Cornell, said Wednesday that he did not have more information about the future of those members.

Some institutions have told employees that work will continue as usual. Employees at Santa Clara University, who like those at Stanford are represented by SEIU Local 2007, have been told the university will remain open and they will keep working as normal.

San Francisco State University has said the campus will remain open but with reduced services.

"During this time of remote instruction and services, all faculty, staff and student employees will continue to be paid," the university said in an announcement Monday.

Amherst, Boston College, Berklee College of Music, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Colby College administrations did not respond to requests for comment by Thursday evening.

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Closures and cancellations continued across higher education on March 12

ven, 03/13/2020 - 00:00

NCAA Cancels March Madness

March 12, 4:30 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, along with all other winter and spring championships scheduled for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, the association said in a statement.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said.

-- Greta Anderson

Feds Issue Guidelines for FERPA

March 12, 4 p.m. The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines for institutions regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, and the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Generally, FERPA doesn’t allow colleges to provide information about a student to others without their consent. But there are some exceptions that could allow colleges to send information to others without consent as they deal with the spread of coronavirus, according to Amelia Vance, director of youth and education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum. Vance said much of that guidance was already outlined in what the department released during the spread of the H1N1 virus.

The first exception allows colleges to disclose students’ personal information without their consent if that information is necessary to protect the health and safety of others. For example, if a student tests positive for coronavirus or has symptoms, the college can release a statement saying a student tested positive, without identifying the student.

Colleges could also send emails to students who shared specific classes with the sick student and identify them by name. While the guidance released today says those situations are typically rare, Vance said that likely will not be the case with coronavirus.

For those who are worried about violating regulations, Vance pointed to a 2009 FERPA regulation that said the department won’t second-guess a college’s determination in an emergency unless most people would consider it unreasonable.

The second exception allows colleges to identify students to public health departments. If the college declares it’s an emergency, it can provide that information without students’ consent. If a college said it’s not an emergency, the department could hypothetically issue a subpoena to get the information, Vance said.

College officials should keep in mind that they are required to record instances when they share students’ information without consent, Vance said. She recommends that they keep track in real time so they don’t have to retrace their steps after the situation calms down.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Ratings Agency Details Coronavirus Risks

March 12, 2:30 p.m. Operating and enrollment pressure could build on some colleges and universities as COVID-19 spreads, according to a note out this afternoon from Fitch Ratings.

Institutions with limited liquidity, those that rely heavily on tuition revenue and those that rely more heavily on endowment draws to fund operations generally have less ability to absorb revenue volatility before their finances take a hit, the note said. Those with larger operating margins and cash flow flexibility enjoy a stronger position.

Sources of operating risk include campus closures or other restrictions on students, faculty and staff. They also include lower dorm-occupancy rates and branch campuses abroad closing. Closures of only a few weeks aren’t expected to have a large impact on colleges’ operating performance, but pressures will build the longer campuses are shuttered.

Fees loom as an important issue. Income from auxiliary services like housing, dining and parking have grown in importance for many colleges and universities. A decline in fee revenue from services could affect margins if it stretches into the fall 2020 semester, according to the ratings agency.

Normally, universities don’t have to refund auxiliary fees, but some colleges may be choosing to do so on a prorated basis for services no longer being provided.

Fitch expects reliance on online classes to grow in the next few months, adding to an expected increase in online education over the long term. Enrollment during campus shutdowns could decline at institutions without strong online learning platforms.

Universities with significant international student populations could be in line for reduced enrollment and subsequent pressure on net tuition revenue in the upcoming academic year. The risk is notable because research universities tend to have the largest numbers of international students, but they also have stronger financial profiles than other types of institutions.

Market declines are expected to hit endowments but not have an impact on bond ratings. Fitch also mentioned the possibility that reduced economic activity could hit state budgets and in turn public funding for colleges and universities. But the ratings agency called the size of such effects unclear at this point.

-- Rick Seltzer

Duke Suspends All Athletic Activities

March 12, 2:20 p.m. Duke University appears to be the first power-conference institution to cancel all its athletics events. Vincent Price, Duke's president, said the university was suspending all practices and games, effective immediately.

“We are taking this action to protect the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and others who are essential to these activities,” Price said in a statement. “I know it is a great disappointment to our student-athletes and coaches, whose hard work and dedication to their sports and Duke is inspirational to so many, but we must first look out for their health and well-being. This is clearly an unprecedented moment for our university, our region and the wider world. As we take steps to confront the spread of this virus, I’m grateful for the cooperation and support of the entire Duke community.”

The decision means Duke's perennial powerhouse men's basketball team, currently ranked No. 6 nationally in some polls, will not be participating in the NCAA tournament.

"We emphatically support the decision made by Dr. Price today regarding the suspension of athletic competition at Duke," Mike Krzyzewski, the men's basketball coach, said in the statement. "The welfare of our student-athletes, and all students at Duke, is paramount, and this decision reflects that institutional priority. Certainly, I want to applaud Dr. Price, who took a leadership role with his presidential peers and the Atlantic Coast Conference in arriving at this decision."

The University of Kansas, Arizona State University and West Virginia University followed with similar announcements on Thursday afternoon.

-- Paul Fain

Conferences Cancel Basketball Tournaments

March 12, 12:25 p.m. The Big Ten, the Southeastern Conference and the American Athletic Conference will not proceed with men’s basketball conference tournaments, fearing the spread of COVID-19.

Some men’s basketball games for these conferences have already taken place this week, and the women’s basketball conference championships for the Big Ten, SEC and AAC are complete.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday it would hold Division I championship tournament games without public spectators, but it has made no indication of plans to postpone or cancel the tournament.

-- Greta Anderson

NASPA Cancels Annual Conference

March 12, 12:10 p.m. The annual conference for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, NASPA, has been canceled due to growing concern over the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

The conference was scheduled to run March 28 through April 1 in Austin, Tex. After the city declared a public health emergency and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the organization sent out an email canceling the event.

Those who were registered for the event must email NASPA to cancel and receive refunds. Otherwise, the payments will automatically go toward fees for next year’s conference.

The organization plans to hold free virtual, live-streaming keynotes and other session from March 30 to April 10 in place of the conference.

The only other time NASPA has canceled its largest annual gathering was during World War II. Several other higher education organizations have canceled conferences, including the American Council of Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the International Studies Association.

-- Madeline St. Amour

Growing Number of Two-Year Colleges Move Online

March 12, noon. Community colleges face a broad range of challenges in moving classes online, most notably a relative lack of resources among both the colleges and their students. But large numbers have begun making the switch in the last 24 hours. The Los Angeles Community College District and its nine colleges, for example, announced yesterday that it would suspend as many in-person classes as possible and move them to an online platform.

A spokesman for California's community college system, Paul Feist, said Thursday that the system's 115 colleges, which enroll 2.1 million students, can start moving courses online now and submit requests for approval after the fact. He said more than a dozen colleges had already told the chancellor’s office they are making the change. Very few are choosing to shut down campuses completely.

“The colleges are working very hard to protect the health and safety of students and staff while continuing with the educational mission,” Feist said. “We are accustomed in California to dealing with disasters, and community colleges will be a critical resource as we work through this.”

Other two-year institutions making similar moves include Long Beach City College, Des Moines Area Community College, Parkland College in Illinois, Maryland's Harford Community College, Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Rhode Island Community College and Northern Virginia Community College. The City University of New York, which includes seven community colleges, yesterday announced the transition.

"By transitioning to distance learning, CUNY will be upholding its responsibility as the largest urban public university in the country and meeting our goal of minimizing exposure to those on our campus communities to coronavirus transmission," Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, CUNY's chancellor, said in a statement.

-- Madeline St. Amour and Paul Fain

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European universities are urged to collaborate on cybersecurity

ven, 03/13/2020 - 00:00

Universities must create joint cybersecurity teams to protect themselves against ever more sophisticated hacking attempts, according to the vice president of a Dutch university hit by a ransomware attack over Christmas that forced the institution to pay the equivalent of about $226,000 to criminals.

Maastricht University’s Nick Bos said one of the lessons of the attack was that it was increasingly untenable for universities to each rely on their own security systems.

On Christmas Eve last year, Maastricht raised the alarm after hackers took control of servers critical to email and the storage of research results, initially using phishing emails to break in. It took more than a month to restore all systems -- and the payment of 30 Bitcoin to the attackers.

In a report looking at what went wrong and how to stop future attacks, Bos called on universities to join up their security systems, pointing to collaborations already under way in Canada and the U.S.

“It’s not just a question of whether universities can afford it,” he told Times Higher Education. “There is not much choice here; we will have to invest in greater cyberresilience.”

Since the Maastricht attack, Dutch universities have stepped up joint efforts, he said, discussing whether they could collectively monitor their IT networks around the clock, for example. Meanwhile, Dutch health-care institutions are already setting up their own security operations center.

There are concerns that universities make relatively soft targets for cyberattackers, because they host thousands of students using their own laptops, and researchers are used to the open sharing of information.

The Maastricht attack was just one of several to hit European institutions in recent months. Last December, thousands of students at Justus Liebig University Giessen had to queue up to receive new passwords manually after a cyberattack. In October, the University of Antwerp’s email and student information systems were affected in a separate incident.

“There is a real race, even battle, going on with internationally operating cybercriminal organizations,” said Bos, who predicted that universities would have to make “substantial extra investments” in cybersecurity.

Bos pointed to North America, where a number of universities are pioneering collective cybersecurity.

In 2018, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue and Rutgers Universities and the University of Nebraska formed OmniSOC, a joint cybersecurity center, arguing that individual university systems were not enough to fend off mounting attacks.

The idea is that the center can monitor all university networks at once for suspicious activity, thereby detecting an attack more rapidly. The joint center claims to be the first of its kind.

Six Canadian universities are also trialing a joint security center explicitly modeled on OmniSOC. In 2018, McGill, McMaster and Ryerson Universities, along with the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia and Toronto, formed CanSSOC in response to an “unprecedented” increase in the scale and complexity of threats.

“As a result, the associated scope and costs of successful early prevention, detection and mitigation are unsustainable by one single institution,” the group warned.

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Why are some colleges closing over virus concerns while others stay open?

jeu, 03/12/2020 - 00:00

As the new coronavirus continues to cause chaos and anxiety in the U.S., many colleges and universities are responding by closing up shop. Some have canceled face-to-face instruction and moved online, while others have gone a step further and called for residence halls to be emptied. One institution, Berea College, has said there will be no further instruction at all, effectively ending the semester early.

Yet some colleges have chosen to maintain classes and other services, sometimes despite complaints of students. In many cases those decisions are said to be based on individual location or the absence of confirmed cases within a college community.

In others, however, the divide seems to be resource-based. For example, the City University of New York was the subject of a barrage of social media complaints this week before the administration chose to suspend face-to-face instruction. Students pointed out that most other institutions in the city, including Columbia, Fordham and New York Universities, had already made the decision, making CUNY a holdout.

In another example, within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the relatively well-off West Chester University, with an endowment of over $40 million, has decided to suspend in-person instruction. But Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, with an endowment of $1 million, had not as of Wednesday evening made a similar announcement. ("We are located in a less-populated, rural part of the state, and our spring break has already occurred," Mansfield said in its latest statement, comparing itself to the PASSHE institutions that have made the switch.)

"Each institution will respond in ways that depend on their size, their wealth, the characteristics of their constituencies and the likely risk associated with this virus," John Lombardi, former president of the University of Florida and the Louisiana State University system, as well as the author of How Universities Work, said via email. "Small, rich, liberal arts colleges can do lots of things without much fallout because they have money, because they often are highly risk averse, and because they may well believe their [students'] parents are especially risk averse."

Small private colleges also have less complicated enterprises than their large and public peers, he said, which makes it is easier for them to temporarily shut down. Large institutions are more complex and serve a wider array of constituencies, he said. When they do choose to shut down, those institutions likely will experience a severe revenue hit.

Catharine Bond Hill, managing director of Ithaka S+R and former president of Vassar College, said well-resourced institutions also have better access to the technological assistance that makes going online possible.

"The better-resourced universities are in a better position to make the choice of shifting from in-person to online. They have greater access to IT resources, and many of them have centers for teaching and learning with support staff who can help faculty think about how to do that relatively quickly with short notice," she said.

Well-to-do institutions also tend to enroll smaller shares of low-income students, Bond Hill said. Although their leaders still need to be concerned about those students' access to the internet and devices, they have the resources to mitigate those issues.

Large institutions that have been financially struggling are likely to have become more reliant on adjunct faculty members, she noted. "Those faculty may be in an even worse situation in trying to help with this," she said. "And institutions are going to be a little bit more nervous about lending equipment and covering costs for faculty with whom they don't have a longer-term relationship."

Lombardi said that in some ways what is motivating choices is risk.

"It is important to recognize that many efforts to close serve to evade responsibility for any potential illness," he said via email. "We understand lots of other risks, such as those associated with alcohol and drug use on campus which will cause an reasonably predictable death toll, but we don't shut the place down because we know what the risk is and have experience managing it. In this case, although risk from the virus for most campuses is low, it is a risk we don't understand."​

What the Future Holds

Bond Hill said that the challenges ahead for American higher education may be quite serious. A downturn in the economy, which is by some accounts already beginning, would mean a decline in returns for endowments, state revenue and funding, resulting in more limited ability to provide need-based financial aid. At the same time, families would be more limited in their ability to pay for college.

"All of American higher education is going to have to figure out how to respond to this," she said.

Bryan Alexander, a futurist, researcher and senior scholar at Georgetown University, agreed that there may be challenges ahead. If the U.S. goes into a lockdown, like parts of China and Italy have already done, in the fall students may be scared to enroll at a campus. With a larger total enrollment drop across the nation -- building on almost a decade of declines -- some colleges may offer alternatives to the campus model or simply choose to stay online, he said.

But it's also possible that this experience could damage the reputation of online education, Alexander said, if the hasty transition goes poorly for many places and negative stories circulate.

Depending on how the virus responds to seasonal changes, online instruction may continue through the spring, with a return to face-to-face classes during the summer. The experience of the outbreak might lead to colleges shoring up their online capacities, he said.

Bond Hill said that in the long run, online instruction may become part of a university's contingency plan. Like fire drills, institutions may run scheduled disruptions to face-to-face learning to see how prepared everyone is to work remotely.

"In the longer run, we're going to learn some things about how effective teaching online is," she said.

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As colleges confronting coronavirus tell students to move out, many urge attention to the needs of vulnerable students

jeu, 03/12/2020 - 00:00

As colleges and universities move to clear their campuses of students and offer courses online to minimize the risk of exposure to or spread of the coronavirus, many institutions have urged students to go home and remain there. But those efforts are raising concerns about students who can't just easily pick up and go or may not have an actual home to which to return.

The precautions colleges are taking are creating logistical and financial hardships, among other challenges, for low-income and other vulnerable groups of students as well as international students, including students from China, Italy or other countries with high numbers of cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

“What I worry is the responses can actually exacerbate pre-existing inequalities,” said Anthony Abraham Jack, an assistant professor of education at Harvard University whose research focuses on lower-income undergraduate students. Harvard is one of a number of institutions that have asked students not to return to campus after spring break, which starts this weekend. While Harvard said students with extenuating circumstances will be permitted to stay, they've been warned to prepare for "severely limited" campus services.

“For a lot of students, college is the only place where they have access to food on a consistent basis,” said Jack, author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students (Harvard University Press, 2019). “Oftentimes, especially at residential colleges, it’s the only place that they have shelter without the worry of disruptions in utilities, disruptions in terms of feeling unsafe.”

“To say, ‘Don’t come back after spring break,’ assumes that students leave in the first place, and that is fundamentally not true, because the reality is a significant number of students -- disproportionately those from lower-income backgrounds -- remain on campus because they can’t afford to leave, they don’t have anywhere to go or they know that home and harm are synonymous. On the last point, that last group includes those who have fraught relationships with their families for reasons from political ideology to gender roles to sexual identity.”

An additional issue will be lost wages from campus jobs, which some students use to help support their families, he said.

Jack stressed that he is not a public health scholar and cannot comment on whether universities decide to shut down campuses or keep them open.

"But in the conversations about whether to close or how to close or the manner, I really hope that students who are often invisible in those conversations are seen," he said.

U.S. representatives Karen Bass and Danny K. Davis, Democrats from California and Illinois, respectively, plan to hold a press conference at 9 o'clock this morning urging colleges to consider needs of vulnerable students, including homeless students and students who were formerly in the foster care system, in responding to the coronavirus. The press conference will be broadcast on the Facebook page of the Congressional Caucus for Foster Youth.

The U.S. Department of Education issued guidance last week saying that colleges that close their campuses midterm can continue paying federal work-study wages, provided certain conditions are met.

Many colleges that have asked students to leave campus for periods ranging from several weeks through the end of the semester have provided options for students to request permission to stay in residence halls. Some have encouraged or even strongly encouraged students to leave but given students the option to stay; others are only allowing students to stay if they successfully petition for special permission.

Not all colleges that have shifted to remote courses have asked students to leave. Northeastern University in Boston said, for example, that it was not asking students to leave and was committed to "maintaining continuity of campus life" for students who stay on campus and largely keeping staffing at normal levels.

But at some colleges that have asked students to pack their things, students are pooling resources and information to help with everything from finding rides to the airport to housing.

Harvard Primus, a student group for first-generation college students or those who come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds or underresourced high schools, has compiled a list of resources on everything with information such as how to apply for reimbursement of travel costs by Harvard (the university says in a FAQ it is committed to helping students meet unanticipated costs and that students on financial aid should reach out to the financial aid office) and options for storage of personal belongings. Primus also said it is partnering with the First Generation Harvard Alumni Association to help students seeking local employment in various cities.

“While many students can handle unexpected costs, this sudden change in housing highlights the large disparity within our student population concerning students’ access to disposable wealth and the resources necessary to evacuate and move off-campus,” Harvard Primus’s executive board said in a statement. “In addition to costs associated with unexpected flights home, students are being asked to ship or store all of their on-campus belongings with no promised full financial support. Students relying on term-time employment face additional financial concerns without their typical source of income in the coming months.”

“Students are expected to continue courses through online platforms and to pay the remaining tuition costs as courses will continue in this virtual format,” the statement continues. “This poses additional constraints on students who may be lacking access to high-speed internet and other necessary academic resources. Going forward, we hope that the administration takes into account the various financial and academic challenges that this could pose to students, particularly those in under-resourced communities. Classes will continue to meet as regularly scheduled this week -- meaning that the exhaustive tasks of studying and completing coursework have been made more severe by the emotional distress around the uncertainty regarding unexpected flights, storage costs, and financial burdens.”

International students at Harvard have also raised concerns, as did a student from Jamaica who took to Twitter to complain about the five-day notice given to leave the campus.

Harvard just gave students 5 days to pack all of their things, move out, and go home. many can't go home because of costs and travel restrictions, and they've provided no guidance. and we're expected to go to class for the rest of this week.

— hakeem (@hakeemangulu) March 10, 2020

Wilder Brice, the student government president at Bucknell University, a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, said the student government is drafting a plan to provide transportation and hopefully storage assistance to students, who have been told to depart their dorms by 6 p.m. on March 17. (Students who need to stay longer can submit a petition requesting special permission.)

“It’s an extreme burden on students depending on where they’re from,” Brice said. “Students are a little frustrated, and they’re freaked out.”

At Tufts University, in Massachusetts, students have organized a “mutual aid” Facebook group in which students and alumni are offering support for students who suddenly need to leave campus. Tufts announced on Tuesday night that students should plan to depart the residence halls by March 16 and to complete the remainder of the semester online.

“Last night we had people offering frequent flyer miles, airline vouchers, even just straight money,” said Marley Hillman, a junior at Tufts and one of the organizers of the Tufts Mutual Aid Facebook group. She said the mutual aid group had raised more than $5,000 to distribute to students, not counting peer-to-peer contributions facilitated through the group's spreadsheets. “We’ve been able to fully cover people’s plane tickets home, and that’s been incredible. We’ve been collecting donations through Venmo, and we’ve been able to just distribute money, because one of the other things that’s going to hit vulnerable populations at Tufts pretty hard is that most students’ campus jobs are ending.”

Berea College, a tuition-free college in Kentucky where every student works on campus, announced it is ending its semester this Friday. Students were told to leave campus by Saturday, although administrators said accommodations would be made for students who can’t leave and that they would be provided alternative on-campus work placements. Students who leave the campus will also be paid their wages through the rest of the semester.

“Especially with my family being far away, I felt like Berea takes care of us every way possible,” said Ishara Nanayakkara, a senior and president of the Student Government Association. Nanayakkara was born in Virginia, but her family lives in Sri Lanka.

“I’m not sure what I should do,” she said. “Should I fly home? But flying is not safe. It’s been a struggle to figure out what to do and where to go on such short notice.”

Nanayakkara said there were many tears on campus Tuesday when the university announced plans to end the semester early.

“For most students -- freshmen and sophomores and juniors -- for them this is something like a longer summer, so they’re not too upset,” she said. “The people who are really affected are seniors who wanted to spend their months with friends and doing senior things. We feel like all that was taken away from us. Of course, it’s nobody’s fault, but you can’t help how you feel.”

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Assistant professor says he's been fired because he dared to talk about human population variation

jeu, 03/12/2020 - 00:00

An assistant professor of psychology at Marietta College says his contract isn’t being renewed because of what he’s said and was alleged to have said about differences between ethnic groups.

Many academics believe that race is mere social construct -- that there is no meaning behind being black, white or anything else, beyond what society assigns to it. Others say that that is mere orthodoxy and that race is real; this group often points to research demonstrating group-based differences in complex traits such as intelligence.

Scientists at the cutting edge of studying race and complex traits, meanwhile, say that these traits are always a mix between genetics and environment. And as of now, these experts add, it’s impossible to tell in any genuine way just what the mix is, because babies can’t be raised exactly the same way over two generations, as such experiments would require.

Bo Winegard falls in the middle camp and believes that purposely not talking about race-based differences is disingenuous and dangerous. The "rich, variegated tapestry of humanity" and its evolution have long interested him and ought to be among the truths that academics pursue, he said in a recent interview. Otherwise, he added, "literal racists" will fill the information void.

“I do think there’s an informational embargo on human population variation and certainly on race and IQ,” he said. “People have opinions, and they don’t want those to get out publicly.”

Whatever you think of Winegard’s ideas, he said in a recent essay in the conservative academic publication Quillette, you should care that he’s effectively being fired for them.

“If it can happen to me, then it can happen to any academic who challenges the prevailing views of their discipline,” he wrote. “You may disagree with everything I believe, say, and write, but it is in everyone’s interests that you support my freedom to believe, say and write it.”

Trouble Begins

Winegard, who is in his second year at Marietta and is scheduled to leave at the end of the academic year, says the trouble started in October. That's when he was invited to address the University of Alabama’s Evolution Working Group, which is affiliated with the university’s evolution studies program. Both parties agreed that Winegard would talk about population variation, or, in his words, “the hypothesis that human biological differences are at least partially produced by different environments selecting for different physical and psychological traits in their populations over time.”

The idea was to link the theory with natural selection, in line with a recent article Winegard co-wrote for Personality and Individual Differences. The article, called "Dodging Darwin: Race, Evolution and the Hereditarian Hypothesis," says, "Like most hereditarians (those who believe it likely that genes contribute to differences in psychological traits among human populations), we do not believe there is decisive evidence about the causes of differences in cognitive ability." Yet the "partial genetic hypothesis is most consistent with the Darwinian research tradition."

One class visit with students went well, Winegard recalled in Quillette. Then he received a number of texts from a campus host expressing concern about Winegard’s entry on the website RationalWiki. The website, like Wikipedia, is edited by volunteers, but is dedicated to debunking what it sees as junk science. And Winegard, according to RationalWiki, is guilty of writing “racist bullshit for the right-wing online magazine Quillette.”

Winegard told his hosts that he disagreed with the characterization. He has previously argued, for example, that racism “isn’t wrong because there aren’t races; it is wrong because it violates basic human decency and modern moral ideals.”

This, of course, contradicts a broad literature asserting that race is a social construct, not a biological one, but it doesn’t endorse racism. As Winegard said in the same co-written article, “In fact, pinning a message of tolerance to the claim that all humans are essentially the same underneath the skin is dangerous. It suggests that if there were real differences, racism would be justified.”

Despite the texts, Winegard’s main talk at Alabama went on as scheduled, followed by what he described as a “rowdy” question-and-answer period. Someone yelled that he was a racist, and another accused him of promoting phrenology, a discredited pseudoscience having to do with skull shape.

But Winegard said via telephone that that he never spoke about phrenology or on race and IQ at Alabama. The most controversial thing he said was that psychology may someday, in the aggregate, provide some explanation as to why East Asian societies tend toward collectivism, he added.

One of his slides, however, did say that “groups may vary on socially significant traits (on average) such as intelligence, agreeableness, athleticism, cooperativeness [and] criminality.”

Alabama’s student newspaper published an article on the talk, vaguely linking the subject matter to eugenics, or reproduction to promote certain heritable traits. It also published an apology from the group that hosted him.

Winegard said this week that he never mentioned eugenics, and that he finds things such as forced sterilization morally repugnant. He didn't preclude having mentioned embryo selection once or twice on Twitter, he said, but he's never made a sustained argument.

Back at Marietta, Winegard was summoned to a meeting with his president and provost to discuss the article. While they weren’t pleased, Winegard wrote in Quillette, they “told [him] to be more strategic in my navigation of such a sensitive topic. I agreed that I would try.”

Months later, someone began emailing Winegard’s department and administration about things he’s written and said on Twitter. One tweet, in particular, read, “The greatest challenge to affluent societies is dealing openly, honestly, and humanely with biological (genetic) inequality. If we don’t meet this challenge, I suspect our countries will be torn apart from the inside like a tree destroyed by parasites.”

At a second, consequent meeting with his supervisors, Winegard explained (as he recapped in Quillette) that his tweet “was not about groups, but rather about individual genetic differences, and the need to create a humane society for everyone, not just for the cognitive elite and hyper-educated (a theme I discuss often).” The simile about parasites was a “reference to political conflict and not a reference to some group of humans or another,” he also said.

Winegard recalled his bosses expressing “disappointment in me and particular dismay about the tweet I had deleted, which they said evoked anti-black and anti-Semitic tropes.” He agreed and apologized but said he would continue to pursue potentially controversial research topics.

Termination

Termination never came up, even after Winegard published a co-written article on human population variation -- until two weeks ago.

“My boss informed me, without any warning, that the college was not renewing my contract,” he wrote in Quillette. “I don’t know if my paper was the proximate cause of my firing, but in the light of the foregoing weeks’ tumult, it was plausibly the last straw.”

Did Winegard see it coming? “I had worried vaguely about such an eventuality, but didn’t really think it would happen,” he wrote. “I naively assumed that the norms of academic freedom would prevail. They did not.”

Winegard told Inside Higher Ed that he’s had strong teaching evaluations and high research productivity since he’s been at Marietta. He sees no apparent reason for his effective termination, apart from the controversy surrounding what he has said and, more to the point, is alleged to have said.

In response to his Quillette article, some have argued that one should wait until tenure to pursue certain topics. But Winegard reiterated that he, perhaps naïvely, took academic freedom seriously. Beyond that, he said, if academics follow "pragmatic" advice about waiting until tenure to discuss controversial issues, it means waiting 10 or more years, through graduate school and the tenure track.

“I’m perplexed by the response,” he said of Marietta’s actions. “The best response would have been to come out with a bold, affirmative statement for academic freedom,” even if the college distanced itself from Winegard’s views in doing so.

Otherwise, he said, “You’re incentivizing this trollish behavior.” Trollish here refers to those Winegard says emailed his institution about him anonymously.

Marietta declined comment, saying Winegard’s case was a private personnel issue.

Relevant, widely followed American Association of University Professors policy says that even professors on probationary appointments should enjoy the same academic freedom as those with tenure, even if they don't have the same due process protections. Winegard said he's unaware of any paths to appeal, but AAUP policy also holds that a faculty committee should evaluate any concerns about non-reappointment related to a possible violation of academic freedom.

Winegard's department chair did not respond to a request for comment. Marietta's Faculty Council chair also did not respond to questions about the case.

Facts and Feelings

Attempts to link cognition to race have for decades happened mostly in academe's fringes. That's because it's either dog-whistle racist junk science or there is a conspiracy of silence surrounding it, depending on what you believe. In 1994, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life was immediately controversial, stirring concerns about lack of peer review and whether it represented mainstream science.

Race-based science debates don't just happen in psychology. In January, for example, Philosophical Psychology faced a boycott for publishing an article in defense of race-based research on intelligence. The gist of that article, written by Nathan Cofnas, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of Oxford, was that when advances in science reveal “genetic variants underlying individual differences in intelligence,” we won’t be ready for it.

One of the main criticisms of Cofnas's piece was that it speculated that these breakthroughs are close. They are not. So postulating about them is, in a sense, pseudoscience, critics maintain.

Cofnas said at the time that those "who argue that we should wait for the genetics and neuroscience of intelligence to become more advanced before we attempt to study this issue often claim that, in the meantime, we should accept the environmental explanation for the purpose of policy making" and more. But that is a "political, not a scientific, position."

Journalist Angela Saini, author of the 2019 book Superior: The Return of Race Science (which Winegard has reviewed), said that her research demonstrates there is simply "no conspiracy against talking about race and IQ in academia, largely because this matter was settled 70 years ago -- and reinforced by genetics since -- by the universal understanding that race is a social construct."

It's "impossible to say that any differences in attainment we may see between socially defined groups must be biological in origin," Saini added. "Scientists are overwhelmingly in consensus on this."

That a "few academics like to claim otherwise," she said, "in particular, a small number of social scientists on the margins of respectable academia, does nothing to undermine the scientific facts. The facts, I’m afraid, don’t care about their feelings."

Intelligence researcher Richard Haier, professor emeritus in the pediatric neurology division at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine, said that the questions Winegard is working on are “controversial and emotional” -- and “well within the bounds of reasonable debate.”

What happened at Marietta is, therefore, “an apparent violation of academic freedom,” Haier said. “I don’t know all the details, but I do know that it is very hard to defend academic freedom for issues that are not just controversial but also extremely emotional. And a lot of people in academia are happy to say that they support academic freedom but there are many examples of occurrences that appear to violate academic freedom, and the local academic community has not stood up for academic freedom.”

Haier added, “The hard thing about science is to go where the data take you. Without tenure and even with tenure, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to address controversial ideas, where some points of view do not acknowledge the legitimacy of other points of view, and therefore shut down discussion. That’s not how science works.”

Lee Jussim, distinguished professor of psychology at Rutgers University and co-author of a recent paper on political bias in social science research, said that the topic of race and IQ "is poison." Further, he said, "I see no reason to believe the methods are capable of answering the question of how much race differences in intelligence are genetic versus environmental versus some combination.”

That doesn't mean that Winegard or anyone else “should be fired for trying to do so,” however, Jussim said. “Of course he has a right to pursue the line of inquiry.”

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Senate Republicans join Democrats in rebuke of DeVos on borrower-defense rule

jeu, 03/12/2020 - 00:00

Congress is formally opposing U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s controversial borrower-defense rule, assailed by critics as making it more difficult for borrowers to have their student loans forgiven if they’ve been defrauded by for-profit colleges and universities.

Ten Republican senators on Wednesday joined Democrats in approving a resolution expressing disapproval of the rule, joining the House, which passed a similar measure in January that would restore the rules that existed under the Obama administration.

However, the measure, which would undo DeVos's rule and bring back the Obama administration's policies, still needs President Trump's signature, a prospect Illinois Democratic senator Dick Durbin, who sponsored the resolution, called "unlikely" moments after the measure passed, 53 to 42. Durbin, at a news conference, was already preparing for a fight to overturn an expected veto by Trump.

Advocates opposing the controversial rule had become hopeful that Trump might sign the resolution after a Politico Pro report that Trump told Republican senators during a meeting Tuesday that he is “neutral” on the resolution. But Politico reported later that Trump was in favor of DeVos’s regulation after speaking with her on the phone. The White House on Wednesday also pointed to its statement in February that Trump's advisers would recommend vetoing the measure if it reaches the president’s desk.

Still, advocacy groups, including Third Way, the National Consumer Law Center, the American Federation of Teachers, the Institute for College Access & Success, and Young Invincibles, hailed the vote and said they were holding out hope Trump would cancel the rule.

The congressional votes are “an unequivocal, bipartisan message that military-connected students who have been defrauded out of their hard-earned GI Bill and burdened with unnecessary student loans should have a fair and equitable process for relief,” said Tanya Ang, vice president at Veterans Education Success. The group said veterans have been particularly targeted by for-profits because GI Bill benefits do not count toward a federal requirement that no more than 90 percent of the revenue of a for-profit institution come from federal funds.

DeVos angered the veterans' group and others last September when she issued the rule, replacing the policies the Obama administration created after the collapse of the Corinthian Colleges chain and subsequent flood of debt-relief claims.

Believing the Obama administration's policies were too permissive and essentially gave borrowers the chance at “free money,” DeVos added additional requirements for borrowers to get relief.

DeVos’s rule, for example, requires borrowers to demonstrate they suffered financial harm from their college’s misconduct and that the college made deceptive statements with “knowledge of its false, misleading, or deceptive nature.”

The new rules also added a three-year time limit for those borrowers to file claims, and each case will be considered individually, even if there is evidence of widespread misconduct at an institution.

Education Department spokeswoman Angela Morabito said in a statement after the vote, “It’s disappointing to see so many in Congress fooled by misinformation from the Left and the fake news narrative about our efforts to protect students from fraud. Students, including veterans, who are defrauded by their school and suffer financial harm as a result deserve relief, and our rule provides them relief.”

Pointing to the complaints by for-profit institutions they were singled out under the Obama administration rules, she said, “Instead of the Department picking winners and losers, and targeting its political enemies, our rule ensures equitable treatment of all institutions.”

Texas senator John Cornyn, the Senate’s second-highest-ranking Republican, also painted the Obama administration rules as too lax on Tuesday, equating the previous rules to presidential candidate (and fellow senator) Bernie Sanders’s proposal to eliminate all student debt.

Widespread loan forgiveness, he said, would be unfair to those who worked their way through school or decided to take the cheaper option of going to community college instead of a four-year institution. The cost to taxpayers, he said, is especially unfair to those who chose not to go to college.

Cornyn said Congress does need to act on the nation’s estimated $1.5 trillion of student debt. “We’re going to have to come up with some common-sense answers and not live in a fantasy land,” he said.

Proposing a more targeted approach, Cornyn said he will soon introduce a bill allowing veterans to use their GI Bill benefits to pay down student debt they incurred before joining the military.

However, Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, one of the resolution’s 10 Republican supporters, said in a brief interview she worried the rule might have unintended consequences.

“I didn’t think that the new rule would give adequate notice to student borrowers that there had been deficiencies in their institutions,” she said.

Opponents of DeVos’s rule had been hopeful of getting four Republican votes to pass the resolution in the Senate after six Republicans voted for the House measure. They also believed it would be hard for Republican senators in difficult re-election races to vote against the resolution, as proponents painted the choice as supporting either defrauded students or “predatory” colleges.

Speaking on the Senate floor before the vote, for instance, Durbin called deceptive for-profit institutions “the coronavirus of higher education.”

And indeed, of the four Republican senators considered to be in the toughest races, three voted for the resolution: Maine’s Susan Collins, Colorado’s Cory Gardner and Arizona’s Martha McSally. Of the vulnerable candidates, only North Carolina’s Thom Tillis voted against the resolution.

And in a statement, North Carolina Democratic Party spokesman Robert Howard tried to capitalize on the vote. “Senator Tillis today stood with Betsy DeVos and predatory universities, voting down a measure that would help students defrauded by their college get back on their feet and get out from under their student loans,” he said.

Republican senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Missouri’s Josh Hawley, Indiana’s Todd Young, Ohio’s Rob Portman and Alaska’s Dan Sullivan also voted for the resolution, in addition to a procedural motion Tuesday evening allowing the motion to be debated and voted on.

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Federal judges say universities must prevent further harassment

jeu, 03/12/2020 - 00:00

An appellate court’s decision could put more weight on universities to prevent further sexual harassment of students after they make a complaint to Title IX officials.

The opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Wednesday expands upon a December decision in the same court that limited which behaviors universities could be found liable for allowing after a student reports sexual harassment. A university isn’t liable if a claimant experiences panic attacks after seeing the student who harassed them on campus, federal judges said. But if further “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” harassment occurs and the university does not prevent it, they can be proved liable, according to the March 11 opinion.

The Sixth Circuit judges reviewed a case against the University of Michigan, which argued the university inadequately responded to repeated sexual harassment claims made by Rebecca Foster, a student enrolled in the university’s executive master of business administration program from 2013 to 2014. While she attended the program in Los Angeles, another student allegedly forced himself on Foster, which she reported to the university’s Office of Institutional Equity. She was granted a no-contact order, according to the opinion.

The accused student later violated the order, blocking Foster from doorways, texting her, writing threats on Facebook and detailing Foster’s Title IX claim via email to other students in the E.M.B.A. program. The university followed up on Foster’s communication about the incidents and banned the accused student from a class and from attending commencement events in Ann Arbor, Mich., according to court documents. He was arrested after showing up to a commencement event and sent back to California, the opinion states.

Because Foster experienced further harassment after Michigan was aware of the incidents and failed at its attempt to protect her from the student, the university is liable for “deliberate indifference” to her claims under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funds, Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in the Sixth Circuit opinion.

With both opinions, the Sixth Circuit appears to be establishing a standard of harassment that plaintiffs need to prove in order to pursue cases against institutions for inadequately responding, said Laura Dunn, a lawyer who represents sexual assault survivors. The federal judges are outlining a need for “tangible, verbal harassment or interaction” to occur, and not just a claimant’s “proximity” to the accused student.

“It seems to be carving out that we do need credible harassment and we need to assess the quality of that harassment, whether it’s severe or pervasive enough,” Dunn said. “That creates another barrier to reporting and using Title IX on campus.”

Judge Jeffrey Sutton dissented from Moore’s opinion and outlined the limited time period Michigan had to respond between when Foster reported the harassment and the final E.M.B.A. classes, which spanned just more than two weeks. The university did what it could to protect Foster, and still her harasser persisted, which does not mean Michigan’s response meets the “‘high bar’ to imposing Title IX liability on a university,” Sutton wrote.

“It’s not a university’s job to do the impossible -- to ‘purge their schools of actionable peer harassment,’” Sutton wrote. “It’s a university’s job to respond in good faith to allegations of harassment to eliminate the problem. That’s what Michigan tried to do and tried to do in good faith.”

The Sixth Circuit ultimately reversed the decision of the district court where Foster originally filed the lawsuit, which had held “it would be simply impossible” for a jury to conclude Michigan had violated Title IX.

The federal court's opinion makes a statement about how far universities must go to protect their students, said Joshua Engel, Foster’s attorney. If initial measures are not effective in separating a harassing student from a victim, the university is obligated to keep trying until it succeeds, he said.

“It’s a dynamic process,” Engel said. “The school puts in place what seems reasonable, but when the accused student says, ‘I’m not going to follow these rules,’ the school can’t just say, ‘We did something, good luck.’”

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Coronavirus news updates from Wed., March 11

jeu, 03/12/2020 - 00:00

The pace of disruptions due to the novel coronavirus accelerated across U.S. higher education Wednesday. Several statewide systems and more than 100 colleges and universities now have announced campus closures or moved in-person classes online. Here are some of the developments from March 11.

New Guidance for Colleges in New Jersey, Medical Colleges

March 11, 6:28 p.m. The New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education issued new guidance for colleges and universities to make coronavirus-related decisions that affect campus life. The guidance addressed material hardships students might face, travel directives, continuity of instruction, quarantine facilities and procedures, cleaning protocols, and efforts to reduce anxiety

"These considerations include handling basic needs for those who need it (such as housing and food); notifying the surrounding community -- including municipal and county leadership and the local business community -- and decision-making involved with re-convening in-person instruction if an institution has decided to move its classes online," the office of Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey's higher education secretary, said in a statement.

The Association of American Medical Colleges released new recommendations after a meeting at the White House. They covered:

  • Increasing the availability and capacity of testing.
  • Ensuring adequate supplies and stewardship of personal protective equipment.
  • Holding patients harmless for the cost of testing and treatment.
  • Increasing the availability and use of telehealth.
  • Supporting hospitals’ efforts to expand capacity to meet surging needs.

"America’s academic medical centers are committed to mounting a vigorous response to contain and mitigate COVID-19 and to providing quality care to any patient affected by this public health emergency, including the under- and uninsured," Dr. David J. Skorton, the association's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Because of their expert faculty physicians, highly trained health care teams and cutting-edge medical technology, major teaching hospitals consistently maintain a heightened level of preparedness to respond rapidly to any major event at any time."

-- Paul Fain

Man with University of Delaware Connections is State’s Presumptive First Positive Case

March 11, 5:45 p.m. The Delaware Division of Public Health has announced the state’s presumptive first positive cause of COVID-19, which involves “a New Castle County man over the age of 50 who is associated with the University of Delaware community.”

The man affected was exposed to another confirmed case in a different state, according to officials. He is not severely ill. He isolated himself at home when symptoms appeared.

Epidemiologists are attempting to identify other individuals who were potentially exposed. Students, faculty and staff members with concerns about exposure risks are being asked to contact a University of Delaware call center.

-- Rick Seltzer

More Universities Plan Remote Classes

March 11, 5:30 p.m. Several more major universities and systems have announced plans of varying scale for remote classes, affecting hundreds of thousands of students: the University of North Carolina system, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Kentucky.

Penn State is strongly discouraging many students from returning to campus for several weeks. Penn is asking students to leave by Sunday.

The University of North Carolina system’s institutions will move from in-person instruction to “a system of alternative course delivery, where possible and practical, no later than March 20.” The alternative course delivery is to officially start March 23 and last indefinitely, but the system aims to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

Outside events and gatherings of 100 or more people are being canceled or postponed, and the university is suspending sponsored travel to in-state gatherings of 100 or more people, as well as travel outside the state, unless specially authorized.

Penn State University will move to remote instruction from March 16 through April 3. It plans to go back to in-person classes Monday, April 6, at the earliest.

During the three weeks following spring break, Penn State undergraduate and law students at all campus locations are being “strongly discouraged” from returning to on- and off-campus locations and dwellings. Residence halls and dining facilities will not be reopened for normal operations during the period, beyond facilities already in use.

Graduate students are also being asked to participate in classes remotely and not come to campus “specifically for face-to-face instruction.” Students who must be on campus will be worked with on an individual basis.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania is extending its spring break for all students aside from those in health-related schools or programs who have already had break or who are in clinical rotations. Penn plans to migrate classroom teaching to virtual instruction for both undergraduate and graduate classes, to begin March 23 and continue through the rest of the semester.

Penn is asking students who are out of town to not return to campus. Those on campus are being asked to leave by Sunday.

The University of Kentucky will remain open but continue instruction through “online or other alternatives” from March 23 through April 3 -- the two weeks after its spring break for most students. It intends to go back to normal course delivery April 6.

Kentucky students will be able to return to campus residence halls. Research and health-care activities are set to continue as planned. But all international travel sponsored or endorsed by the university has been indefinitely suspended. Any travelers arriving from Europe and Japan will be required to “self-isolate” for 14 days before being allowed on campus.

Further, the University of Kentucky is strongly discouraging university-sponsored or -endorsed domestic travel.

-- Rick Seltzer

No Fans for March Madness Tournaments

March 11, 4:51 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association will move forward with its men’s and women’s championship basketball tournaments without public spectators, Mark Emmert, the NCAA's president, said in a statement Wednesday.

This means only essential staff and some family members will be permitted to be in the audience of the upcoming weeks of March Madness tournament games, which begin March 17. The precautions will help to protect the fans from transmitting COVID-19, as “behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of the disease,” the NCAA’s coronavirus advisory panel said in a statement.

A number of individual institutions, athletic conferences and governments have already canceled or issued limitations or bans on spectators at NCAA events across the country.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.”

-- Greta Anderson

Striking Grad Students Criticize UC Santa Cruz's Move Online

March, 11, 4:45 p.m. Striking graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have put out a statement regarding the university's move to suspend face-to-face classes and begin instruction online in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The university, the students said, has weaponized the public health crisis to break the wildcat strike.

"We see the university’s turn to emergency measures as a rehearsal for a permanent shift to large scale online instruction, accelerating the creep of online teaching with little oversight, with no bargaining, and with little to no transparency," the statement said. "As UCSC looks for ways to operate in the spring after losing around 80 graduate student employees, the turn to online learning would set an alarming precedent for how a university can function without its workers."

The university dismissed or declined to appoint around 80 graduate student teaching assistants who were withholding grades. The graduate student strike began in December. It is a labor action in demand of a cost-of-living adjustment by the university.

“For undergraduates, this is not the education that they paid for,” the statement said. “Online teaching is a poor substitute for learning in a classroom, and has been shown to diminish the value of a university education."

The grads will continue with a digital picket, which involves continuing to withhold grades, keeping any grade updates off Canvas, not teaching classes online and having undergraduates submit assignments directly to TAs.

The university responded, "As local, national and global public health recommendations increasingly shift to efforts to mitigate transmission by social distancing, UC Santa Cruz is proactively taking steps to protect our campus community. In our assessment of the current situation, we believe that this is the best action for our campus and the broader Santa Cruz community."

-- Lilah Burke

SUNY and CUNY Move to Distance Learning

March 11, 3:55 p.m. The State University of New York and City University of New York systems will move to distance learning for the rest of the semester, the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, has announced.

"This will help us reduce density and reduce the spread of this virus," the governor said in a statement on Twitter.

A statement from the governor's office later clarified that the two public university systems will "implement plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning March 19, for the remainder of the spring semester in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York. All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses."

Hundreds of thousands of students will be affected by the move, making it one of the most significant yet seen across the country. SUNY reported fall head-count enrollment of more than 415,000 across its campuses. CUNY reported nearly 275,000 in 2018.

The SUNY Student Assembly issued a response voicing appreciation for the move while also acknowledging the fact that students will require assistance.

"Continuing SUNY’s tradition of inclusive and accessible academic excellence is as important as ever," the assembly's statement said. "The SUNY Student Assembly looks forward to working with Chancellor [Kristina M.] Johnson and her team to ensure that students have all the resources and support that they need as we make this transition.”

-- Rick Seltzer

AAC&U Conference Cancellation

March 11, 3:32 p.m. Another association has called off a conference, as the Association of American Colleges & Universities canceled its 2020 Conference on Diversity, Equity and Student Success, which had been slated to be held in New Orleans March 19-21.

AAC&U is planning to present some keynote sessions and workshops virtually. Materials from presentations for concurrent sessions will go up online. The association plans to reach out to those registered soon with information about participating virtually or options for refunds.

“The health and safety of conference participants and AAC&U staff members are our highest priorities and were the determining factors in this difficult decision,” AAC&U said in a statement.

-- Rick Seltzer

Big Ten Says Hoops Tournaments Still On

March 11, 3:15 p.m. The Big Ten Conference said Wednesday afternoon that its men's basketball tournament will continue as scheduled. The games are set to tip off this evening.

"The Big Ten Conference’s main priority is to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, administrators, event staff, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus," the Big Ten said in a statement.

The Ivy League on Tuesday canceled its men's and women's basketball tournaments over coronavirus concerns. Some basketball players criticized the move, creating an online petition calling for the tournaments to be reinstated.

"The hypocrisy of our Ivy League presidents is baffling and alarming," said the petition. "We are disappointed and disheartened that they would discriminate against one sport and allow the others to continue to compete."

On Wednesday the conference dropped all athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the spring.

Local authorities have banned large gatherings in San Francisco and the Seattle area, according to news reports.

-- Paul Fain

University Closures Continue

March 11, 1:30 p.m. The University of Massachusetts system, the University System of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University are among the latest institutions to move classes online and to urge students to leave campus.

UMass's five campuses will "shift to a virtual mode of instruction" beginning on March 16 and through at least April 3, the system said in a statement. Most of the system's 75,000 students will not be on campus during that time, said UMass.

The University System of Maryland on Tuesday urged all of its universities across the 12-institution system to prepare for students to remain off campus for at least two weeks after the system's spring break, which begins Saturday and ends on March 22.

George Washington and Johns Hopkins both announced the suspension of in-person classes, which will move to online or remote versions.

UVA’s shift to online instruction will begin on March 19, James E. Ryan, the university’s president, said in a statement.

“Students who are away on spring break are strongly encouraged to return home or to remain home if they are already there,” Ryan said. “Students on grounds and in Charlottesville are strongly encouraged to return home by this weekend.”

Georgetown’s move to online will begin on March 19. The university strongly encouraged undergraduate students to move to their permanent addresses.

“We understand that for some number of students there will be a compelling reason to remain on campus,” the university said in a statement. “Campus will remain open and key services will be available.”

-- Paul Fain

More Campus and Conference Suspensions

March 11, 12:30 p.m. Michigan State University was one of the latest and largest universities to announce the suspension of all in-person classes, effective at noon Wednesday. The university said in a statement that health authorities were investigating and monitoring someone linked to the campus for coronavirus-related concerns.

Notre Dame University also announced Wednesday that it is moving to online instruction and canceling in-person classes, beginning March 23 though at least April 13.

By Wednesday morning, roughly 90 colleges and universities had shut down their campuses or suspended in-person instruction and moved it online or to distance delivery, according to a crowdsourced Google sheet created by Bryan Alexander, a futurist, researcher and senior scholar at Georgetown University.

Several others are helping Alexander maintain the database, which is being populated by contributors throughout higher education. It has crashed several times due to heavy traffic.

ASU+GSV, a meeting focused on education technology, postsecondary education and workforce development that had been scheduled for April in San Diego, has been postponed until the fall.

Organizers of the conference, which hosted 5,500 attendees last year, said postponing was “the best option to protect our community and to have a truly productive convening.”

The American Association of Geographers also announced the cancelation of its April meeting in Denver. The group said Wednesday morning that it would shift to an online version, free of charge.

-- Paul Fain

Low-Income Students and Campus Shutdowns

March 11, noon. Harvard University is giving students less than a week to pack up, leave campus and not return after spring break is over.

Primus, a student organization at Harvard that advocates for the university's low-income and first-generation students, put out a statement highlighting several ways this expectation will be close to impossible for students who are not privileged.

Many can't afford unexpected travel costs to get home. They're expected to pay for storage units for on-campus belongings. Students won't be able to rely on their on-campus jobs. And they're being ask to make all these changes while still attending classes this week.

On top of that, students will have to take courses online, which requires internet access and computers.

"These closures disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups of students on campus," said Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, later adding, "I know what it means to be affected by something that money can't stop, but money helps you through. So when you don't come from money, you feel the full brunt of it."

Beyond financial constraints, some students may not have safe homes to return to, he said. Jack said he knows of one student who lives an hour from home but never visits, because the student is queer and doesn't get a bed at home. Other students never had three square meals a day and a consistent roof over their heads until coming to college, Jack added.

"Even if college is hell, it can still be a sanctuary for some students," he said.

Primus has organized a document of resources and answers for students on financial assistance and help from alumni. But Jack said it's unfair to expect students to take on the job of the university.

"We must be better, as college officials, at outlining processes so students can just be students," he said. "Right now, colleges are addressing this pandemic almost solely as a public health issue, when it's actually one affecting inequalities on campuses."

-- Madeline St. Amour

Unrest at the University of Dayton

March 11, 11:30 a.m. A large crowd including students from the University of Dayton gathered on the Ohio campus yesterday after the university on Tuesday suspended in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns. The university called on all residential students to leave campus by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Students began gathering in large numbers after the announcement. The Dayton Daily News reported that police officers from multiple departments, some wearing riot gear, cleared the crowd, which dispersed by 2:15 a.m. One person was injured in the disturbance, according to the university.

Students were not reacting to the coronavirus measures, the university said, but instead “wanted one last large gathering” before Dayton’s spring break, which begins Friday.

“A large disorderly crowd that grew to more than 1,000 people gathered on Lowes Street starting around 11 p.m., throwing objects and bottles in the street and at police, and jumping on cars,” the university said in a written statement. “Police gave verbal orders to disperse which were ignored. Police initially launched pepper balls, which contain powder with an irritant that disperses quickly, that were unsuccessful in reducing the crowd size.”

UD students gathered in large crowds on Lowes Street in the South Student Neighborhood Tuesday night in reaction to the news that university housing would close Wednesday for most students due to the spread of the coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/82XL9uCR04

— Flyer News (@FlyerNews) March 11, 2020

-- Paul Fain

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LIVE UPDATES: Latest news on coronavirus and higher education

mer, 03/11/2020 - 09:51

Relief Fund for Students Affected by Closures

March 11, 11:22 p.m. The new Student Relief Fund is offering to match donations of up to $5,000 for grants aimed at the hundreds of thousands of college students who are affected by campus closures over COVID-19 concerns, who may face hunger and homelessness as a result. Believe in Students, Edquity and the Rise Fund are matching the donations. The grants will be distributed as emergency aid by Edquity and the FAST Fund, which has locations in 18 cities around the U.S.

-- Paul Fain

 

New Guidance for Colleges in New Jersey, Medical Colleges

March 11, 6:28 p.m. The New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education issued new guidance for colleges and universities to make coronavirus-related decisions that affect campus life. The guidance addressed material hardships students might face, travel directives, continuity of instruction, quarantine facilities and procedures, cleaning protocols, and efforts to reduce anxiety

"These considerations include handling basic needs for those who need it (such as housing and food); notifying the surrounding community -- including municipal and county leadership and the local business community -- and decision-making involved with re-convening in-person instruction if an institution has decided to move its classes online," the office of Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey's higher education secretary, said in a statement.

The Association of American Medical Colleges released new recommendations after a meeting at the White House. They covered:

  • Increasing the availability and capacity of testing.
  • Ensuring adequate supplies and stewardship of personal protective equipment.
  • Holding patients harmless for the cost of testing and treatment.
  • Increasing the availability and use of telehealth.
  • Supporting hospitals’ efforts to expand capacity to meet surging needs.

"America’s academic medical centers are committed to mounting a vigorous response to contain and mitigate COVID-19 and to providing quality care to any patient affected by this public health emergency, including the under- and uninsured," Dr. David J. Skorton, the association's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Because of their expert faculty physicians, highly trained health care teams and cutting-edge medical technology, major teaching hospitals consistently maintain a heightened level of preparedness to respond rapidly to any major event at any time."

-- Paul Fain

Man with University of Delaware Connections is State’s Presumptive First Positive Case

March 11, 5:45 p.m. The Delaware Division of Public Health has announced the state’s presumptive first positive cause of COVID-19, which involves “a New Castle County man over the age of 50 who is associated with the University of Delaware community.”

The man affected was exposed to another confirmed case in a different state, according to officials. He is not severely ill. He isolated himself at home when symptoms appeared.

Epidemiologists are attempting to identify other individuals who were potentially exposed. Students, faculty and staff members with concerns about exposure risks are being asked to contact a University of Delaware call center.

-- Rick Seltzer

More Universities Plan Remote Classes

March 11, 5:30 p.m. Several more major universities and systems have announced plans of varying scale for remote classes, affecting hundreds of thousands of students: the University of North Carolina system, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Kentucky.

Penn State is strongly discouraging many students from returning to campus for several weeks. Penn is asking students to leave by Sunday.

The University of North Carolina system’s institutions will move from in-person instruction to “a system of alternative course delivery, where possible and practical, no later than March 20.” The alternative course delivery is to officially start March 23 and last indefinitely, but the system aims to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

Outside events and gatherings of 100 or more people are being canceled or postponed, and the university is suspending sponsored travel to in-state gatherings of 100 or more people, as well as travel outside the state, unless specially authorized.

Penn State University will move to remote instruction from March 16 through April 3. It plans to go back to in-person classes Monday, April 6, at the earliest.

During the three weeks following spring break, Penn State undergraduate and law students at all campus locations are being “strongly discouraged” from returning to on- and off-campus locations and dwellings. Residence halls and dining facilities will not be reopened for normal operations during the period, beyond facilities already in use.

Graduate students are also being asked to participate in classes remotely and not come to campus “specifically for face-to-face instruction.” Students who must be on campus will be worked with on an individual basis.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania is extending its spring break for all students aside from those in health-related schools or programs who have already had break or who are in clinical rotations. Penn plans to migrate classroom teaching to virtual instruction for both undergraduate and graduate classes, to begin March 23 and continue through the rest of the semester.

Penn is asking students who are out of town to not return to campus. Those on campus are being asked to leave by Sunday.

The University of Kentucky will remain open but continue instruction through “online or other alternatives” from March 23 through April 3 -- the two weeks after its spring break for most students. It intends to go back to normal course delivery April 6.

Kentucky students will be able to return to campus residence halls. Research and health-care activities are set to continue as planned. But all international travel sponsored or endorsed by the university has been indefinitely suspended. Any travelers arriving from Europe and Japan will be required to “self-isolate” for 14 days before being allowed on campus.

Further, the University of Kentucky is strongly discouraging university-sponsored or -endorsed domestic travel.

-- Rick Seltzer

No Fans for March Madness Tournaments

March 11, 4:51 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association will move forward with its men’s and women’s championship basketball tournaments without public spectators, Mark Emmert, the NCAA's president, said in a statement Wednesday.

This means only essential staff and some family members will be permitted to be in the audience of the upcoming weeks of March Madness tournament games, which begin March 17. The precautions will help to protect the fans from transmitting COVID-19, as “behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of the disease,” the NCAA’s coronavirus advisory panel said in a statement.

A number of individual institutions, athletic conferences and governments have already canceled or issued limitations or bans on spectators at NCAA events across the country.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.”

-- Greta Anderson

Striking Grad Students Criticize UC Santa Cruz's Move Online

March, 11, 4:45 p.m. Striking graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have put out a statement regarding the university's move to suspend face-to-face classes and begin instruction online in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The university, the students said, has weaponized the public health crisis to break the wildcat strike.

"We see the university’s turn to emergency measures as a rehearsal for a permanent shift to large scale online instruction, accelerating the creep of online teaching with little oversight, with no bargaining, and with little to no transparency," the statement said. "As UCSC looks for ways to operate in the spring after losing around 80 graduate student employees, the turn to online learning would set an alarming precedent for how a university can function without its workers."

The university dismissed or declined to appoint around 80 graduate student teaching assistants who were withholding grades. The graduate student strike began in December. It is a labor action in demand of a cost-of-living adjustment by the university.

“For undergraduates, this is not the education that they paid for,” the statement said. “Online teaching is a poor substitute for learning in a classroom, and has been shown to diminish the value of a university education."

The grads will continue with a digital picket, which involves continuing to withhold grades, keeping any grade updates off Canvas, not teaching classes online and having undergraduates submit assignments directly to TAs.

The university responded, "As local, national and global public health recommendations increasingly shift to efforts to mitigate transmission by social distancing, UC Santa Cruz is proactively taking steps to protect our campus community. In our assessment of the current situation, we believe that this is the best action for our campus and the broader Santa Cruz community."

-- Lilah Burke

SUNY and CUNY Move to Distance Learning

March 11, 3:55 p.m. The State University of New York and City University of New York systems will move to distance learning for the rest of the semester, the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, has announced.

"This will help us reduce density and reduce the spread of this virus," the governor said in a statement on Twitter.

A statement from the governor's office later clarified that the two public university systems will "implement plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning March 19, for the remainder of the spring semester in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York. All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses."

Hundreds of thousands of students will be affected by the move, making it one of the most significant yet seen across the country. SUNY reported fall head-count enrollment of more than 415,000 across its campuses. CUNY reported nearly 275,000 in 2018.

The SUNY Student Assembly issued a response voicing appreciation for the move while also acknowledging the fact that students will require assistance.

"Continuing SUNY’s tradition of inclusive and accessible academic excellence is as important as ever," the assembly's statement said. "The SUNY Student Assembly looks forward to working with Chancellor [Kristina M.] Johnson and her team to ensure that students have all the resources and support that they need as we make this transition.”

-- Rick Seltzer

AAC&U Conference Cancellation

March 11, 3:32 p.m. Another association has called off a conference, as the Association of American Colleges & Universities canceled its 2020 Conference on Diversity, Equity and Student Success, which had been slated to be held in New Orleans March 19-21.

AAC&U is planning to present some keynote sessions and workshops virtually. Materials from presentations for concurrent sessions will go up online. The association plans to reach out to those registered soon with information about participating virtually or options for refunds.

“The health and safety of conference participants and AAC&U staff members are our highest priorities and were the determining factors in this difficult decision,” AAC&U said in a statement.

-- Rick Seltzer

Big Ten Says Hoops Tournaments Still On

March 11, 3:15 p.m. The Big Ten Conference said Wednesday afternoon that its men's basketball tournament will continue as scheduled. The games are set to tip off this evening.

"The Big Ten Conference’s main priority is to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, administrators, event staff, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus," the Big Ten said in a statement.

The Ivy League on Tuesday canceled its men's and women's basketball tournaments over coronavirus concerns. Some conference basketball players criticized the move, creating an online petition calling for the tournaments to be reinstated.

"The hypocrisy of our Ivy League presidents is baffling and alarming," said the petition. "We are disappointed and disheartened that they would discriminate against one sport and allow the others to continue to compete."

On Wednesday the conference dropped all athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the spring.

Local authorities have banned large gatherings in San Francisco and the Seattle area, according to news reports.

-- Paul Fain

University Closures Continue

March 11, 1:30 p.m. The University of Massachusetts system, the University System of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University are among the latest institutions to move classes online and to urge students to leave campus.

UMass's five campuses will "shift to a virtual mode of instruction" beginning on March 16 and through at least April 3, the system said in a statement. Most of the system's 75,000 students will not be on campus during that time, said UMass.

The University System of Maryland on Tuesday urged all of its universities across the 12-institution system to prepare for students to remain off campus for at least two weeks after the system's spring break, which begins Saturday and ends on March 22.

George Washington and Johns Hopkins both announced the suspension of in-person classes, which will move to online or remote versions.

UVA’s shift to online instruction will begin on March 19, James E. Ryan, the university’s president, said in a statement.

“Students who are away on spring break are strongly encouraged to return home or to remain home if they are already there,” Ryan said. “Students on grounds and in Charlottesville are strongly encouraged to return home by this weekend.”

Georgetown’s move to online will begin on March 19. The university strongly encouraged undergraduate students to move to their permanent addresses.

“We understand that for some number of students there will be a compelling reason to remain on campus,” the university said in a statement. “Campus will remain open and key services will be available.”

-- Paul Fain

More Campus and Conference Suspensions

March 11, 12:30 p.m. Michigan State University was one of the latest and largest universities to announce the suspension of all in-person classes, effective at noon Wednesday. The university said in a statement that health authorities were investigating and monitoring someone linked to the campus for coronavirus-related concerns.

Notre Dame University also announced Wednesday that it is moving to online instruction and canceling in-person classes, beginning March 23 though at least April 13.

By Wednesday morning, roughly 90 colleges and universities had shut down their campuses or suspended in-person instruction and moved it online or to distance delivery, according to a crowdsourced Google sheet created by Bryan Alexander, a futurist, researcher and senior scholar at Georgetown University.

Several others are helping Alexander maintain the database, which is being populated by contributors throughout higher education. It has crashed several times due to heavy traffic.

ASU+GSV, a meeting focused on education technology, postsecondary education and workforce development that had been scheduled for April in San Diego, has been postponed until the fall.

Organizers of the conference, which hosted 5,500 attendees last year, said postponing was “the best option to protect our community and to have a truly productive convening.”

The American Association of Geographers also announced the cancelation of its April meeting in Denver. The group said Wednesday morning that it would shift to an online version, free of charge.

-- Paul Fain

Low-Income Students and Campus Shutdowns

March 11, noon. Harvard University is giving students less than a week to pack up, leave campus and not return after spring break is over.

Primus, a student organization at Harvard that advocates for the university's low-income and first-generation students, put out a statement highlighting several ways this expectation will be close to impossible for students who are not privileged.

Many can't afford unexpected travel costs to get home. They're expected to pay for storage units for on-campus belongings. Students won't be able to rely on their on-campus jobs. And they're being ask to make all these changes while still attending classes this week.

On top of that, students will have to take courses online, which requires internet access and computers.

"These closures disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups of students on campus," said Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, later adding, "I know what it means to be affected by something that money can't stop, but money helps you through. So when you don't come from money, you feel the full brunt of it."

Beyond financial constraints, some students may not have safe homes to return to, he said. Jack said he knows of one student who lives an hour from home but never visits, because the student is queer and doesn't get a bed at home. Other students never had three square meals a day and a consistent roof over their heads until coming to college, Jack added.

"Even if college is hell, it can still be a sanctuary for some students," he said.

Primus has organized a document of resources and answers for students on financial assistance and help from alumni. But Jack said it's unfair to expect students to take on the job of the university.

"We must be better, as college officials, at outlining processes so students can just be students," he said. "Right now, colleges are addressing this pandemic almost solely as a public health issue, when it's actually one affecting inequalities on campuses."

-- Madeline St. Amour

Unrest at the University of Dayton

March 11, 11:30 a.m. A large crowd including students from the University of Dayton gathered on the Ohio campus yesterday after the university on Tuesday suspended in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns. The university called on all residential students to leave campus by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Students began gathering in large numbers after the announcement. The Dayton Daily News reported that police officers from multiple departments, some wearing riot gear, cleared the crowd, which dispersed by 2:15 a.m. One person was injured in the disturbance, according to the university.

Students were not reacting to the coronavirus measures, the university said, but instead “wanted one last large gathering” before Dayton’s spring break, which begins Friday.

“A large disorderly crowd that grew to more than 1,000 people gathered on Lowes Street starting around 11 p.m., throwing objects and bottles in the street and at police, and jumping on cars,” the university said in a written statement. “Police gave verbal orders to disperse which were ignored. Police initially launched pepper balls, which contain powder with an irritant that disperses quickly, that were unsuccessful in reducing the crowd size.”

UD students gathered in large crowds on Lowes Street in the South Student Neighborhood Tuesday night in reaction to the news that university housing would close Wednesday for most students due to the spread of the coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/82XL9uCR04

— Flyer News (@FlyerNews) March 11, 2020

-- Paul Fain

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How will colleges with fewer resources fare with coronavirus closures?

mer, 03/11/2020 - 00:00

More and more colleges and universities are moving classes online and closing campuses as precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

But some experts are concerned about the potential effects on colleges with fewer resources, like regional and community colleges, and their students.

“I think everybody’s worried,” said Mildred Garcia, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, a membership organization for regional state colleges. “This is something that people have not really experienced in a big way.”

Several community colleges have canceled in-person classes in Washington State, where more than 160 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Shoreline Community College, about 12 miles north of Seattle, switched to remote learning for most courses on Tuesday.

“No one can practice for something like this,” said Cheryl Roberts, president of the college. But Shoreline had a head start on preparations, as well as some past practice in moving courses online.

The college activated an infectious disease protocol and started working on a continuity of business plan when the outbreak began in China weeks ago, Roberts said. Shoreline also dealt with “snowmageddon” last year, which helped prepare faculty and the college for moving to online platforms quickly.

The department that handles online learning held extra trainings last week for faculty members, she said, and there is extra support available for students as well. While there are fewer than 10 people in the department, Roberts said they are prepared for an uptick in demand.

Another concern is students who may not have access to computers or internet connections at home. For many low-income students, their device is a smartphone. Shoreline is repurposing 70 laptops from its computer labs for students to borrow, Roberts said, and campus services like the library and online tutoring will remain open.

Staff are currently working on a plan for if the campus has to go completely remote for a long period of time. This includes connecting students with community services for food and finding ways to deliver checks for those who apply for emergency funds.

They’re also thinking about how to ensure online platforms are accessible for students with disabilities, and how to offer counseling remotely as students deal with stress from this disruption.

The college is also trying to develop a live chat system so that students will have still have “high-touch” service in a high-tech system, Roberts said.

“People’s needs aren’t going to go away,” she said.

In fact, students’ needs might increase.

“I think students will have a harder time finishing the semester because these changes will be so disruptive,” said Rebecca Anne Glazier, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Because regional and community colleges generally serve less privileged populations, Glazier expects many will wait to close campuses until they feel they have to. Closures of school districts could prompt that, she said.

If that happens, many students could have to juggle childcare and getting access to courses online. Lower-income students who work on their phones may have limited data plans, which may not be enough to suddenly handle online coursework and lectures for all of their classes.

If colleges end up closing campus housing and sending students home, there have to be supports for helping students with those transportation costs, said Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education policy and practice at the Education Trust. There’s also the question of whether institutions are prepared to reimburse students for housing costs.

“I think it could have a differential impact on students, especially students who are the most vulnerable,” Del Pilar said.

There also could be economic effects, Glazier said. Working students might have their shifts cut if people are staying home and not using services. Those in the service industry might get fewer customers and thus fewer tips.

“As professors, we just need to recognize how many pressures our students are under,” she said. “Maybe just give a little bit of grace.”

Colleges in rural areas might be better prepared for this than people would expect, though, according to Randy Smith, president of the Rural Community College Alliance.

These institutions often have to deal with weather disasters, like fires and tornadoes, Smith said.

“I think we face a lot of risks in that way,” he said. “Certainly our emergency plans are very active.”

For the most part, rural areas also have access to high-speed internet, as well, Smith said. Nearly all rural colleges have some offering of online courses already, he added.

But concerns remain over the other resources students have. Garcia, from AASCU, pointed out that many students at regional colleges are low income, and while many institutions have policies for loaning laptops, it may not be enough to cover everyone who needs one.

At Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, a statewide community college system, staff are working on a plan in the event they need to close completely, according to Jon Barefoot, assistant vice president for public safety and emergency preparedness. That includes figuring out how to make support services available. He doesn’t know the exact need for loaner laptops, for example, but he knows the current supply is limited.

Fortunately, the system had already been working on business continuity planning before the coronavirus infection started to spread, and faculty already were encouraged to keep backup plans and lessons in the learning management system for times they are sick.

Still, working at a community college system with fewer resources than elite private institutions, Barefoot said they know that “we won’t have the ability to waste resources” in times of crisis.

If they start moving classes online or close campuses, staff will start tracking expenses to hopefully be reimbursed by the state or federal governments, he said. Shoreline Community College is already tracking expenses, Roberts said.

Beyond the logistics and technical issues, some experts are also concerned with how this could affect learning, especially for traditionally underserved students.

For coursework that’s entirely online, students who aren’t well prepared tend to not do as well, according to Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research institution. These students tend to be lower income, students of color and men.

“If you don’t already know how to study and learn, then you’re going to struggle with a purely online course,” Baum said.

If students were in corequisite courses and suddenly get moved online, they’ll lose that additional help, Del Pilar added. Many colleges haven’t figured out how to move those additional supports online, he said.

Synchronous classes -- those that have all students log on at once to listen to a professor in real time -- are better than asynchronous classes to prevent this, she said. But it mostly comes down to building relationships between faculty and students.

Sending personal emails, calling students by name and working on discussion boards in real time can help students engage with online courses more, Glazier said.

Still, online courses have a retention gap of about 10 to 40 percent across disciplines and colleges compared to face-to-face courses, she said.

“I think we’ll have to pay real close attention and learn from the situation,” Garcia said. “Those who are less resourced, we need to figure out better ways of taking care of them.”

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Harvard, Cornell, MIT and others ask students to leave campus due to coronavirus

mer, 03/11/2020 - 00:00

Amid growing concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus, colleges across the country are telling students to go home.

Harvard University, in Massachusetts, was one of a rapidly growing number of colleges that announced on Tuesday it would transition from in-person to online instruction and ask students to depart campus in an effort to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes a respiratory illness known as COVID-19. Harvard instructed students not to return after spring break, which starts this weekend, and said students would complete their coursework remotely "until further notice."

University officials said students who must remain on campus due to extenuating circumstances “will also receive instruction remotely and must prepare for severely limited on-campus activities and interactions.” Graduate students will also transition to working remotely “wherever possible,” the announcement said.

"The decision to move to virtual instruction was not made lightly," Harvard president Lawrence Bacow said in a statement. "The goal of these changes is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings."

Other colleges that made major announcements about changes to the academic schedule on Tuesday include Berea College, a Kentucky institution where tuition is free and where every student works in a campus job. Berea said the college would cease instruction this Friday and ask students to move out on Saturday.

“Faculty are requested to give immediate consideration to how their courses can be brought to closure in that time, and we apologize for the very short notice. Because most students will have left campus and not all will have internet access, instruction should not continue, although assignments for students to complete and submit can be part of the plan and electronic communications may continue,” Berea’s president, Lyle Roelofs, said in a statement.

Berea said it would provide accommodations for students for whom returning home would be a hardship, and said all students will continue to be paid for their campus work positions through the end of the semester even if they are off campus and unable to work.

Cornell University, in New York, also said it was moving to online learning for the remainder of the semester after its spring break, which starts March 28. Students are receiving instructions on moving out of campus housing, but they can seek permission to stay if they are unable to return to their permanent residences.

"While there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins County, we want to do all we can to minimize the community spread of the virus, which could prove challenging if many of our community members were to leave for spring break (March 28-April 5) and return to campus," Cornell president Martha E. Pollack wrote in a message to the campus.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology also is transitioning to online instruction on March 30 and requiring undergraduates to leave the campus by next Tuesday, March 17. The university said it would "consider limited exceptions to allow certain undergraduate students to remain on campus." Online instruction will continue through the remainder of the semester.

Duke University, which is currently on spring break, has asked all undergraduate, graduate and professional students not to return to campus, if at all possible. Duke has suspended in-person classes “until further notice” and plans to begin remote instruction March 23.

“Students who do remain in campus housing or in the Durham area should be aware that access to many facilities and services -- including dining, recreation and libraries -- will be limited. In addition, student activities and gatherings will be curtailed,” the university said in a statement.

Smith College, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, is asking students to leave campus by March 20 and telling them not to expect to return this semester. Alternate modes of instruction will start March 30, after an extended spring break.

"Room and board will be provided only to students who have no option but to remain on campus, including those from countries with travel restrictions, those whose legal residence is Smith College and those with other extenuating circumstances," the college said in its announcement.

Another liberal arts college, Bucknell University, in Pennsylvania, instructed students to leave campus by March 17 and said the university would transition to online learning for the remainder of the semester. And Colorado College, a liberal arts college that offers one class at a time in 3.5-week blocks, said it would offer the next block via virtual learning and that students should plan to remain off campus at least through the end of the next block and possibly for the remainder of the academic year.

Other institutions that said they are suspending in-person instruction in favor of remote teaching and would ask students to leave campus for shorter periods include Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, which is asking undergraduate students not to return to campus after spring break and to stay home until April 12; Rutgers University, in New Jersey, which is starting spring break early and asking students to remain off campus through at least April 3; Indiana University, which is encouraging students to return home to take classes remotely through at least April 6; and Syracuse University, in New York, which is asking students to leave campus this week and not return until in-person teaching resumes no earlier than March 30.

Baldwin-Wallace University, in Ohio, is switching to remote instruction and encouraging students to return to their homes through April 10. Youngstown State University, also in Ohio, said it would extend spring break for an additional week, through March 22, and use the time to finalize alternative instructional modes "that will allow most students to continue their education without coming to campus during the coronavirus outbreak."

A growing number of colleges have announced closures or transitions to online learning in recent days (for more information, see Inside Higher Ed's roundups from Monday and Tuesday).

The California State University system on Tuesday instructed leaders of its 23 campuses to “consider shifting the delivery of as much of the curriculum as possible to non-face-to-face modalities” to minimize disruptions to student learning caused by the coronavirus. The system said "in-person instruction should cease for two to four days while faculty and administration focus on the final details of converting to non-in-person instructional modalities."

The University of California, Los Angeles -- which is on a quarter rather than a semester system -- said Tuesday it is transitioning to online learning through April 10, the second week of its spring quarter. Students will be encouraged to start the spring quarter remotely, though university housing will be available for those who need it.

The rapid move to online education formats has raised concerns among faculty. Rudy Fichtenbaum, the president of the American Association of University Professors, said that while the group applauds administrators’ efforts to keep students, faculty and staff safe, it is hearing from members that decisions about closing campuses or moving instruction online “are being made without adequate faculty involvement in decision making” in violation of AAUP guidance.

“In certain situations, it is necessary to close a campus or move to online instruction to safeguard the health of the campus community,” Fichtenbaum said. “Faculty and academic staff -- through their shared governance bodies or, when applicable, their unions -- should be consulted on how best to implement this decision. In order to ensure full participation, administrations should share information with faculty and seek input from the appropriate faculty bodies. In cases where the institution is moving to an all-online model to avoid virus transmission on campus, it is incumbent on administrations to provide all instructional faculty with the appropriate software and training. Administrations should also consider the needs and limitations of students, who may lack access to the internet or face other obstacles to completing their coursework remotely.”

In college sports news, the Ivy League called off its basketball tournaments and said it would impose strict limits on spectators at other events. Mark Emmert, the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said that NCAA member colleges and conferences will make their own decisions regarding regular season and conference tournament play.

“As we have stated, we will make decisions on our events based on the best, most current public health guidance available,” Emmert said in a statement. “Neither the NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel, made up of leading public health and infectious disease experts in America, nor the CDC or local health officials have advised against holding sporting events. In the event circumstances change, we will make decisions accordingly.”

And in news from the high seas, the Semester at Sea study abroad program, which is affiliated with Colorado State University, said it would end the voyage early, citing U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warnings against cruise travel. The study abroad program, which had been scheduled to visit seven countries on four continents, had to alter its itinerary and was at one point denied permission to dock in the Seychelles by public health and port authorities, even though the program says there was no evidence of health concerns.

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