USA/ 22 August 2020/ Source/ https://www.insidehighered.com/
Aug. 21, 4:35 p.m. The University of Iowa announced Friday that it would discontinue four sports teams, citing a nearly $100 million decline in athletics revenue due to the Big Ten Conference’s decision to forgo fall competition. As part of a plan to close a deficit of up to $75 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year, Iowa said it would end its varsity programs in men’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s tennis after the current academic year.
President Bruce Harreld said the university considered several factors in addition to cost-cutting in its decision, including Iowa’s compliance with federal gender equity requirements and the state of the sports within the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“We are heartbroken for our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” Harreld said. “We also understand how disappointing this is for our letterwinners, alumni, donors and community members who have helped build these programs.”
— Doug Lederman
Aug. 20, 2:41 p.m. North Carolina State University announced Thursday that all undergraduate courses this semester will be online.
Randy Woodson, the chancellor, wrote that “battling the spread of COVID-19 is a challenging endeavor even when everyone is practicing safety measures. Unfortunately, the actions of a few are jeopardizing the health and safety of the larger community. This week we’ve seen a rapidly increasing trend in COVID-19 infections in the NC State community, including the clusters mentioned above. As of today, through our aggressive contact tracing program we have more than 500 students in quarantine and isolation, mostly off campus, who have either tested positive or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. We are also investigating other potential off-campus clusters. To best protect the health and safety of the entire campus community, we are making difficult decisions and implementing the following changes to campus operations.”
He said that all undergraduate classes would be online, effective Monday. Currently, a majority of classes are online.
Woodson added that students will be able to stay in residence halls. “We understand how important it is for many of our students, and their families, to have the benefits of an on-campus experience, even at this time of reduced operations. For our residential students who want to continue living on campus and receiving the support it provides, you are welcome to stay — we are not closing on-campus housing,” he wrote. “With oversight from dedicated staff and resident advisors, and the continued outstanding cooperation from student residents, we are confident that the spread of the virus can be limited. We’ll continue proactively monitoring the virus with the hope of keeping on-campus housing open throughout the semester. Of course, we’ll change direction if needed in order to protect our students and staff.”
La Salle University, in Philadelphia, announced a similar move. However, the university will also close residence halls to most students.
— Scott Jaschik
Aug. 20, 6:30 a.m. The University of Connecticut has evicted students who held a packed party in a residence hall without social distancing or face masks, The Hartford Courant reported. The students became known because video of the party was widely circulated.
The university said the students were “endangering not only their own health and well-being, but that of others.”
UConn dean of students Eleanor Daugherty and residential life director Pamela Schipani said in letter to all students that those who were evicted did not represent the entire student body. “Our residential community has demonstrated an admirable commitment to follow universal precautions and keep our community safe. In doing so, they have made considerable sacrifice. We cannot afford the cost to the public health that is associated with inviting students into a room for a late night party,” they wrote. “The vast majority of our students are doing the right thing — but every student needs to do the same.”
— Scott Jaschik
Aug. 19, 3:35 p.m. The University of Pittsburgh will extend its period of remote instruction until Sept. 14, Ann E. Cudd, the university’s provost and senior vice chancellor, said in a written statement. Pitt began its fall term this week with remote classes and had planned to move to mostly in-person next week. But Cudd said the university made the adjustment today to “allow for completion of staged arrival and shelter-in-place procedures so that all students can start in-person classes at the same time.”
Drexel University, located in Philadelphia, will remain closed to undergraduates with its courses remaining remote throughout the fall term.
“We had all hoped to stage our gradual return to campus,” John Fry, Drexel’s president, said in a statement, “but the shifting nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on other colleges and universities has necessitated a change of course for Drexel.”
The University of Notre Dame on Tuesday announced it was suspending in-person classes for two weeks after a spike of COVID-19 cases among students. And Michigan State University told students who had planned to live in residence halls to stay home as the university moved courses that were scheduled for in-person formats to remote ones. Those moves followed the Monday decision by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to go remote and to send undergraduates home after several COVID-19 clusters emerged among students.
— Paul Fain
Aug. 19, 10 a.m. Two progressive members of Congress are probing a student housing developer for pressing universities this spring on the financial ramifications of their fall reopening plans and the possibility they would cut housing occupancy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Rashida Tlaib, both Democrats, yesterday sent a letter to John G. Picerne, the founder and CEO of housing developer and operator Corvias. They requested information about the Rhode Island-based company allegedly “putting profits above public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As first reported in Inside Higher Ed earlier this month, Corvias wrote to public university officials in at least two states in May, telling university leaders the company had not accepted the risk of universities taking “unilateral actions” that would hurt student housing revenue. The company sent nearly identical letters to leaders at the University System of Georgia and Wayne State University in Detroit. Leaders at the Georgia system and many of its campuses where Corvias operates housing have denied any outside influence over their reopening decisions, as have Wayne State leaders.
Warren and Tlaib are asking Corvias to provide several pieces of information by Sept. 1. They include a list of all higher education partners for which the company manages, operates or builds student housing; copies of all written communications between the company and university partners regarding the status of student housing for the upcoming academic year; and information about whether the company has engaged in any legal action or communications telling colleges and universities they cannot reduce student housing occupancy.
Further, the Democrats’ letter asks if Corvias agrees with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s risk assessments for student housing occupancy, what steps it is taking to reduce risks of student housing residences it manages and if the company consulted public health experts or state officials before making arguments about the number of students housed in buildings. They also seek copies of the agreements between the company and universities and details about how those agreements allow for company profits.
“Reports that Corvias has been pushing for a less restricted reopening of on-campus housing that would be inconsistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines raise serious questions about the nature of these partnerships and the private sector influences affecting campuses as they make important public health decisions for the Fall,” Warren and Tlaib wrote.
Their letter also noted that an investigation of privatized housing in the military raised concerns about Corvias.
“It would be troubling if Corvias was once again prioritizing its profits over the health and safety of its residents,” they wrote.
Corvias has not responded to multiple requests for comment since its May letters were first uncovered.
— Rick Seltzer
Aug. 18, 2:33 p.m. The University of Notre Dame reported 80 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on its campus today. The university’s daily report included 418 new tests, for a positivity rate of roughly 19 percent.
Notre Dame welcomed students back to campus on Aug. 3 for its fall term, which it plans to conclude in late November. The university conducted pre-matriculation virus tests of all undergraduate and graduate students. It found 33 positive cases among those 11,836 tests, for a positivity rate of just 0.28 percent. Since Aug. 3, the university has reported a total of 147 confirmed cases from 927 tests.
Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, is scheduled to “discuss with students the current state of COVID-19 cases at the university” later today.