Latest News on Coronavirus and Higher Education

Latest News on Coronavirus and Higher Education

Latest News on Coronavirus and Higher Education


Miami U Students Sue Over COVID-19 Punishments

Nov. 12, 6:20 a.m. Two students at Miami University of Ohio have sued the university in federal court saying that Miami suspended them based on “erroneous” information, WCPO reported.

The students were suspends based on their having hosted at an off-campus party on August 26. The Oxford, Ohio police cited them for violating city ordinances prohibiting noise and mass gatherings.

Miami officials based their actions on the Oxford police. But Miami only sent out information about new rules five days after August 26, the suit says.

Miami officials did not respond to a request by WCPO for comment.

— Scott Jaschik

Allegheny Requires All Employees to Take 2-Week Furlough

Nov. 11, 6:20 a.m. Allegheny College is requiring all employees to take a two-week furlough between Dec. 14 and June 30, The Erie Times-News reported.

“Allegheny College has made the difficult decision to implement a mandatory two-week furlough program for college employees, a direct result of the continued financial impact the global pandemic has had on the college’s revenues and expenses,” President Hilary Link said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we have come to a determination that such temporary furloughs are an important step in our work to keep the college strong into the future.”

Employees will be eligible for unemployment compensation for their weeks on furlough.

— Scott Jaschik

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Sees Surge in Cases

Nov. 10, 6:23 a.m. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo experienced its largest surge in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, and then on Friday as well, The Tribune reported.

Last week, the university added 130 student cases, raising its total number of positive tests from 280 to 410. As of Friday, 596 students are in quarantine, and 66 are isolating.

President Jeffrey Armstrong emailed the campus, “We want to reiterate how critically important it is that each member of our campus community exercise personal responsibility in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. What you do matters, and can make things better or worse for everyone.”

— Scott Jaschik

Clemson to Expand Testing to Nearby Colleges

Nov. 9, 6:18 a.m. Clemson University has built an on-campus COVID-19 testing facility and will soon expand services to colleges and other organizations nearby, The Greenville News reported.

Currently, it can test 2,500 samples a day but is expecting to double that number by mid-November. Eventually, the lab will be able to conduct 9,000 tests a day.

When it reaches that level, it will offer to test students at nearby community colleges, such as Tri-County Technical College.

— Scott Jaschik

Students at British University Tear Down Fences

Nov. 6, 6:23 a.m. Students at the University of Manchester, in Britain, awoke in a COVID-19 lockdown to find that fences had been put up around some of their residence halls. The BBC reported that the students responded by tearing down the fences.

One management student, who asked not to be identified, said, “Morale is really low; we’re really disappointed we didn’t hear about this beforehand and about the fact it went up without any explanation. They’re huge metal barriers; they’re connected to one another and there’s literally no gaps.”

The university apologized. Nancy Rothwell, president and vice chancellor, issued a statement that said, “The fencing was intended as a response to a number of concerns received over recent weeks from staff and students on this site about safety and security; particularly about access by people who are not residents. There was never any intent to prevent students from entering or exiting the site. The fences are being taken down from Friday morning and students are being contacted immediately. Alternative security measures, including additional security patrols, are being put in place. I apologize once again for the issues caused by this incident.”

— Scott Jaschik

50 Presidents Call for Research Support During COVID-19

Nov. 5, 6:28 a.m. Fifty presidents of colleges and universities, all members of the Council on Competitiveness, have issued an open letter in Science calling for the federal government to maintain research support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As colleges and universities across the nation make difficult decisions to advance their vital missions this fall, the $55 billion in federal support for university-performed R&D (i.e., on-campus research) is at risk. Maintaining the strength of the U.S. research enterprise — the same research enterprise that has enabled the rapid sequencing of the COVID-19 genome and launched numerous treatment and vaccine studies — must be a national priority,” the letter says.

“We cannot afford to shut down critical projects with long-term national benefits or to postpone projects that provide the hands-on graduate and undergraduate student research experiences necessary to train the next generation of scientists and engineers. In these difficult times, we call upon the federal government to provide the leadership, critical funding, and programmatic flexibility necessary to enable the nation’s colleges and universities to continue the U.S. commitment to research, exploration, and new knowledge creation that will power our economy and provide opportunity for all,” the letter says.

— Scott Jaschik

Protest Over Florida’s Plan to Open Campus

Nov. 3, 6:15 a.m. Faculty members and graduate students held a protest at the University of Florida over the institution’s plan to offer the same number of classes in the spring as were offered last spring, The Gainesville Sun reported.

The protest was held outside the president’s home and featured a graduate student dressed as the Grim Reaper.

“People shouldn’t have to choose between their livelihood and their lives,” said Ara Hagopian, a graduate student and organizing chair with Graduate Assistants United.

Currently, 35 percent of classes are either fully face-to-face or offered in a hybrid format.

Provost Joe Glover said in an email to deans that the university is moving toward “more robust” in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester and each college should schedule at least as many face-to-face classes as were given last spring.

— Scott Jaschik

Skidmore Suspends 46 Students

Nov. 2, 6:20 a.m. Skidmore College suspended 46 students for violating the college’s COVID-19 rules, News10 reported.

Skidmore said investigations into other reports of “unacceptable behavior” are ongoing and the college “urged all students to follow the guidelines they agreed to in order to bring the semester to a successful close.”

— Scott Jaschik

Assumption Locks Down Campus

Oct. 30, 6:25 a.m. Assumption University locked down its campus this morning and will remain locked down for at least one week, CBS Boston reported.

Assumption cited a rise in COVID-19 cases.

All classes will be online. Students will only be allowed to leave their residence hall, floor or apartment to pick up meals, for medical emergencies or twice-per-week COVID-19 testing.

— Scott Jaschik

Duquesne Suspends All Greek Activities

Oct. 29, 6:15 a.m. Duquesne University has suspended all Greek activity on the campus because of “repeated and egregious” violations of COVID-19 rules, KDKA reported.

A letter to Greek organizations said that members held gatherings over the 25-person indoor limit and threw parties that violated both coronavirus policies and “more typical conduct standards.” It also said that members of sororities and fraternities were deliberately misleading in an attempt to limit contact tracing. “At a time when the university and, indeed, our region needed you most to live the values you espouse, as a system you failed to do so. Furthermore, you deliberately persisted in behaviors known to endanger people,” the letter said.

— Scott Jaschik

CDC Report Examines a Campus Sports Outbreak

Oct. 28, 4:35 p.m. A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday examines a COVID-19 outbreak that affected more than a third of the 45 members of an unidentified Chicago-area university’s men’s and women’s soccer teams this fall.

The report found that the university brought athletes back to its campus in June and required two negative tests before they could participate in team activities. In August one member of the men’s team reported COVID-like symptoms to a coach, and said he had attended a birthday party and an unsanctioned soccer match involving the men’s and women’s teams in the preceding two weeks.

The CDC interviewed all 45 athletes and concluded that there had been 18 social gatherings (in addition to the coed soccer game) during the two-week period. Several of the gatherings were seen as the likely spreading incidents, at which relatively little mask wearing was reported.

“This outbreak highlights challenges to implementation of prevention strategies associated with persuading students at colleges and universities to adopt and adhere to recommended mitigation measures outside campus,” the CDC report said. “University protocols mandated mask use during training sessions, and coaching staff members reported universal compliance. However, multiple students reported inconsistent mask use and social distancing at social gatherings, which quickly negated the benefits of pretraining testing, on-campus mask use, and social distancing prevention measures.”

— Doug Lederman

Bethune-Cookman, Keuka Go Virtual for Rest of Fall Term

Oct. 28, 3:45 p.m. Private colleges in Florida and New York announced this week that they would complete the rest of the fall term with all virtual instruction.

Bethune-Cookman University, in Daytona Beach, Fla., said in a letter to students and employees Monday that today would be the last day of in-person instruction and that it would complete the last three weeks of the fall term virtually. Officials cited a spike in COVID-19 and a desire to “begin reducing the on-campus density for the remainder of the fall semester.” Bethune-Cookman’s president, E. LaBrent Chrite, encouraged the historically Black institution’s students to “expedite their planned departure from campus beginning this week,” if they are able to, but said they could remain on campus through Nov. 20. Those who remain will operate under a shelter-in-place order and a curfew.

Bethune-Cookman also became the first institution in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I to cancel competition for the rest of the 2020-21 academic year.

“The recent spike in COVID-19 positivity rates in the state, across Volusia County and on our campus, provides clear and unambiguous evidence, in our view, that now is simply not the time to resume athletic competition,” Chrite wrote. “While the decision to opt out of spring competition is the only responsible one for us at this time, it was not made lightly. We know that this decision greatly impacts our student athletes, our coaching staff, our Marching Wildcats and others.”

Keuka College, in New York’s Finger Lakes region, began the fall semester with in-person instruction but shifted to virtual learning three weeks ago when COVID cases emerged after a “non-sanctioned off-campus gathering,” the college said in a notice Monday.

Although officials said that the number of cases had fallen from a high of 70 on Oct. 15 to about a dozen now, they “decided continuing the remote-learning model is the safest course of action,” the announcement said.

Keuka said that students who return home will be eligible for a room and board credit for the rest of the term, and that students who can’t leave can remain.

— Doug Lederman

Wyoming President Sheltering in Place

Oct. 28, 6:21 a.m. Ed Seidel, president of the University of Wyoming, will shelter in place for 14 days because he was at an event with someone who was subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19. Thus far, Seidel has tested negative for the virus.

“I have worked to follow the guidelines and requirements for face protection and physical distancing while becoming acquainted with the UW community and our state during my first months as president,” Seidel said. “I take seriously my own responsibility to model the conscientious behavior that I have asked our students, faculty and staff to follow. While my contact with the individual who unfortunately tested positive did not meet the standard for me to be officially quarantined by the Department of Health, I’m going to work from home during the 14 days following the known exposure because I feel strongly that it is my responsibility to lead through example. As COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly around the nation and in Wyoming, it is important that we take every precaution to limit the spread of the virus.”

— Scott Jaschik

Political Divide Over Colleges’ Fall Reopenings

Oct. 27, 5:20 p.m. The American public is divided over just about everything — so why wouldn’t it be divided over whether colleges and universities should have brought students back to their physical campuses this fall?

A survey released by the Pew Research Center this week finds Americans split down the middle on the question of whether colleges that are providing “in-person instruction did/did not make the right decision bringing students back to campus this fall.”

Fifty percent of those surveyed by Pew said colleges made the right call — while 48 percent said they did not. But as will probably surprise no one, the proportions look very different by political party. Almost three-quarters of Republicans (74 percent) said that colleges and universities that opened their campuses for in-person instruction made the right decision, while more than two-thirds of Democrats (68 percent) said the institutions were wrong to open.

The survey also sought respondents’ views about the validity of online education, which many students are encountering even if they are physically on campus this fall.

Asked whether a course taken only online provides equal educational value (or not) to a course taken in a classroom, fewer than one in three Americans (30 percent) says it does — while 68 percent say online courses are inferior. Respondents with a bachelor’s degree were most likely (75 percent) to say an online course doesn’t measure up, compared to 64 percent of those with a high school diploma or less.

And Americans continue to be deeply divided about the state of higher education generally (though nobody is all that happy with it).

A majority of respondents to the Pew poll (56 percent) said that the U.S. higher education system is going in the wrong direction, while 41 percent said it is going in the right direction.

While half of Democrats (49 percent) say higher education is going in the right direction and the same proportion say it’s heading in the wrong direction, a full two-thirds of Republicans (66 percent) say it’s going in the wrong direction.

— Doug Lederman

U of Vermont Freezes Tuition, Room and Board for All Students

Oct. 27, 6:21 a.m. The University of Vermont announced a complete freeze on tuition, room and board — for all students, undergraduates and graduates, in-state and out-of-state, on Monday.

The university froze tuition last year, but President Suresh Garimella cited COVID-19 as a reason to extend it.

Garimella will also recommend a reduction in the student comprehensive fee and the postponement of a previously approved increase of $140 for the multipurpose center, even while substantial facility improvements for recreation and wellness are underway.

And he announced a campaign to raise $150 million — for which $18 million has already been raised — for financial support for students.

— Scott Jaschik

Bucknell Warns Students to Remain in Place

Oct. 26, 6:23 a.m. Bucknell University told students to remain in their rooms this weekend, except for getting food, reported.

The university acted after confirming seven COVID-19 cases.

President John Bravman emailed all students, “Return to your room (or off-campus residence) and remain in place. You may leave your residence for meal service or emergencies (such as a fire alarm).” He specified that all events scheduled for Sunday would be virtual.

— Scott Jaschik

University of Dayton Freshman Dies of COVID-19 Complications

Oct. 23, 2 p.m. An 18-year-old freshman at the University of Dayton died yesterday, reportedly of COVID-19-related complications.

The Roman Catholic university in Ohio announced the death of Michael Lang, a first-year student in its College of Arts and Sciences, in a message today addressed to students, faculty members and staff members. Lang was from LaGrange, Ill.

He died after a long hospitalization “apparently due to complications from COVID-19,” according to the message. Lang left campus Sept. 13 “to return home for remote study,” it said.

“We extend our deepest sympathy and prayers to his family, friends, professors and our campus community,” said the message, signed by Eric F. Spina, the university’s president, William M. Fischer, its vice president for student development, and Crystal Sullivan, its executive director of campus ministry. “Campus ministers, housing and residence life, and counseling staff are always available for you and for those you know who may be deeply affected by this loss.”

The university invited campus community members to light a candle of remembrance and pray for Lang in its chapel this afternoon.

Students moved into University of Dayton residences over two weeks starting Aug. 8. The university has since seen several spikes and declines in COVID-19 cases detected, moving between different campus statuses indicating varying levels of outbreak containment and transitioning between in-person and remote learning.

The university’s COVID-19 dashboard lists 42 active cases and 1,368 recovered cases as of Oct. 22. It covers a period beginning Aug. 10.

No additional information is available at this time, according to Cilla Shindell, the university’s executive director of news and communications.

Lang is at least the third college student reported to have died from COVID-19 or related complications this fall. Chad Dorrill, a 19-year-old sophomore studying to become a physical therapist at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, died Sept. 28. Jamain Stephens, a 20-year-old senior who played defensive tackle on the football team at California University of Pennsylvania, died Sept. 8.

— Rick Seltzer

Michigan State to Increase In-Person Classes in the Spring

Oct. 23, 6:23 a.m. Michigan State University on Thursday announced the first steps toward a spring semester that will feature more classes in person than this semester, but still far fewer than normal.

“In the fall, only about 40 in-person classes were offered at MSU. This spring, we expect to offer about 400 in-person educational experiences. We will prioritize offering classes that can only be taught in person in order to keep our students on track for an on-time graduation. To protect the health and wellness of the community, most classes still will be offered only as online courses,” said a letter from Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the president.

In addition, he announced that about 2,500 additional single-occupancy residence hall spaces will be available for those who want or need to be on campus.

— Scott Jaschik

Medical Colleges Call for National Strategy on Testing

Oct. 22, 6:43 a.m. The Association of American Medical Colleges on Thursday called for a national strategy on COVID-19 testing.

“Seven months after the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 cases continue to increase in most states and in the nation’s capital,” said David J. Skorton, AAMC president and CEO. “At the same time, current testing levels for the SARS-CoV-2 virus are inadequate in identifying the actual number of individuals infected and in suppressing the potential spread of the virus in our country.”

The AAMC’s key point is to call for “a clear and transparent national testing strategy with specific methods to calculate diagnostic and screening testing targets, and a mandate that each state implements the standards the same way.”

Every person with symptoms and every person in close contact with those who have COVID-19 should be tested, the AAMC says.

In addition, the AAMC called for screening tests for “every person who enters a health care facility for an inpatient admission or outpatient surgery.” And it called for “routine testing of every K-12 teacher, all health care providers in hospital settings, and first responders (including law enforcement officers, paramedics, and EMTs).” It also called for the country to “conduct a strategic sampling of incarcerated individuals, residents and staff in homeless shelters, and residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”

— Scott Jaschik

Chapman University Opens for In-Person Instruction

Oct. 22, 6:27 a.m. Chapman University opened for in-person instruction for the first time this semester, The Orange County Register reported.

Students have the option of returning or of continuing with online instruction.

About 35 percent of students came back to campus for in-person learning.

— Scott Jaschik

Binghamton Resumes In-Person Classes Today

Oct. 22, 6:20 a.m. Binghamton University, of the State University of New York, is resuming classes today after a two-week pause due to COVID-19 cases.

President Harvey Stenger said, “All of us at Binghamton can be proud of what we have accomplished. We have been successful because everyone did their part, something that typifies a campus that comes together to solve challenges.”

On Wednesday, 787 individuals had been tested for COVID-19, with only one positive result.

— Scott Jaschik

Oops: ‘Significant Outbreak’ in Study Abroad Program Isn’t Quite as Significant

Oct. 21, 1:45 p.m. The University of Dallas announced Monday that two-thirds of the students in its study abroad program in Rome had contracted COVID-19, with its officials expressing “deep sadness and disappointment” over the “significant outbreak.”

Late Tuesday, the university made another announcement: the Italian authorities messed up and the outbreak, while still bad, isn’t nearly as significant as originally described.

“There are no words to excuse the unforgivable error committed yesterday by our laboratory,” the Italian health agency told Dallas officials (in Italian) in a letter Tuesday. Instead of there having been 52 positive tests and 26 negative ones among the 78 students, as Peter Hatlie, dean and director of Dallas’s Rome program, was originally told, the numbers were flipped, and 26 students were positive and 52 negative, Hatlie wrote.

“We are of course relieved and reassured that the number of positive cases is some 40% lower within our community than reported yesterday,” Hatlie wrote.

“As of the writing of this letter, I am in contact with the local health authority to understand the implications of these corrected figures for student and staff mobility in the coming days. Despite their egregious if uncharacteristic miscarriage of duty in recent days, we still need to seek guidance from them in this regard and other respects, including the prospect of follow-up testing, for it is their legal responsibility to protect all citizens and visitors within their jurisdiction. More on this and related issues when that information becomes available.”

— Doug Lederman

St. John Fisher Goes Online for Rest of Semester

Oct. 21, 6:25 a.m. St. John Fisher College, in Rochester, N.Y., announced Tuesday that it would go all online for the rest of the semester.

“While the number of confirmed cases does not meet the New York State threshold that would require us to take further action, we remain focused on the safety and well-being of our students, employees, and the surrounding community. Therefore, we have decided to transition to remote instruction for the remainder of the fall semester,” the college said.

Classes are canceled tomorrow and Friday and will resume — online — Monday.

The college has had 52 confirmed cases since Oct. 10, The Democrat & Chronicle reported.

— Scott Jaschik

Michigan Receives Stay-at-Home Order

Oct. 20, 3:01 p.m. The University of Michigan is subject to a stay-at-home order (with exceptions) from its county health office for the next two weeks, The Detroit Free Press reported.

Sixty-one percent of the COVID-19 cases in the county in which the university is located are from its students.

The university announced it is shifting more classes to online only.

Students will be permitted to leave their residences only for certain activities, including to go to class, to get food, to get medicine or seek medical treatment, to get tested for COVID-19, or to vote.

— Scott Jaschik

Athletic Cuts at East Carolina

Oct. 20, 6:25 a.m. The athletics program at East Carolina University has announced pay cuts and furloughs for the entire athletic department.

  • Football and men’s basketball head coaches will have their base salaries temporarily cut by 20 percent.
  • Baseball and women’s basketball head coaches will have their base salaries temporarily cut by 15 percent.
  • Coaches and staff members making greater than or equal to $100,000 will have their salaries cut by 12 percent.
  • Coaches and staff members making $50,000 to $99,999 will have their salaries temporarily cut by 10 percent.
  • Coaches and staff members making below $50,000 will be furloughed for 12 days.
  • A group of employees will be on an extended furlough ranging from six weeks to 35 weeks.

— Scott Jaschik

Louisville Shortens Spring Break

Oct. 20, 6:15 a.m. The University of Louisville has shortened spring break from the normal week to two days, The Louisville Courier Journal reported.

Many universities with students on campus have eliminated spring break, fearing that students would travel and return to campus with COVID-19. But Louisville officials believe that students will need some break during the semester. They hope to discourage travel by shortening the break.

— Scott Jaschik

Lafayette Suspends Athletics, Closes Buildings

Oct. 19, 6:15 a.m. Lafayette College suspended athletic activities and in-person dining and closed several buildings as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak at the college, Lehigh Valley Live reported.

Seven students were detected with COVID-19.

Before that, Lafayette had not experienced any major COVID-19 outbreaks.

— Scott Jaschik

Saint Augustine’s University President Dies Due to COVID-19 Complications

Oct. 16 1:45 p.m. Irving McPhail, president of Saint Augustine’s University, died yesterday due to COVID-19 complications.

McPhail quarantined after learning he’d been in contact with someone outside the university who tested positive for COVID-19. He received a positive COVID-19 test result about 10 days ago, according to James Perry, chairman of the university’s board. McPhail later developed symptoms including headaches and a fever, and he was hospitalized and put on a ventilator, Perry said.

One of McPhail’s staff members also tested positive for the virus but has recovered and is back at work. Two Saint Augustine’s students have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the fall semester, and both have recovered, Perry said.

Maria Lumpkin, vice president and chief of staff at Saint Augustine’s, has stepped in as interim president.

Saint Augustine’s is a private historically Black university in Raleigh, N.C. It enrolled about 900 undergraduates as of last fall. McPhail only became the university’s president in July. He was previously the sixth president and CEO at the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering Inc., the founding chancellor at the Community College of Baltimore County, president at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley and president at Lemoyne-Owen College.

— Emma Whitford

Goshen Puts Athletics on Hold Due to COVID-19

Oct. 16, 6:30 a.m. Goshen College, in Indiana, has paused all athletic activities for a week, due to “a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.”

The fitness center will also be closed.

“While we understand this isn’t what any of us want, it is necessary to keep all of our student-athletes and our campus as safe as possible,” wrote Erica Albertin, interim athletic director, and Gilberto Perez Jr., vice president for student life and dean of students. “Your health is our guiding concern, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who are in isolation or quarantine.”

— Scott Jaschik

Chicago Business School Goes Online After Students Attend Party

Oct. 15, 6:25 a.m. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is going online-only for two weeks because a large group of students attended a party off campus, and some of those students tested positive for COVID-19, CBS Chicago reported.

More than 100 students in the full-time M.B.A. program were at the party. All of those students are now in quarantine.

“Not a good look for them. Not a good look for the university,” said a Chicago student, Daniel Simon.

— Scott Jaschik

Oct. 14, 6:21 a.m. The University of Florida paused its football program due to 19 players having COVID-19, The Orlando Sentinel reported.

Five players were detected Sunday and the remainder on Tuesday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, team activities are paused as of Tuesday afternoon,” Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said in a statement. “Head coach Dan Mullen has been in communication with football players and their parents, and I have had conversations with the Southeastern Conference office, last week’s opponent Texas A&M, and this week’s opponent [Louisiana State University].”

Mullen had earlier called for fans to fill the stadium to capacity. But university officials said they would stick with their original limit of 20 percent capacity.

— Scott Jaschik

BYU Idaho Warns Students Against Intentionally Contracting COVID-19, Selling Plasma

Oct. 13, 12:00 p.m. Brigham Young University Idaho released a campus update Monday saying that the university is “troubled” by accounts that students have deliberately exposed themselves to COVID-19 in the hopes of selling plasma that contains antibodies for the disease.

“The university condemns this behavior and is actively seeking evidence of any such conduct among our student body. Students who are determined to have intentionally exposed themselves or others to the virus will be immediately suspended from the university and may be permanently dismissed,” the university said in the update.

Idaho plasma centers are offering greater compensation for donations containing COVID-19 antibodies, has reported.

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of plasma with COVID-19 antibodies to treat the disease in hospital settings and has concluded that the product may be effective as a treatment.

— Lilah Burke

Ohio Wesleyan Eliminates 18 Majors

Oct. 13, 7:39 a.m. Ohio Wesleyan University has eliminated 18 majors and consolidated other programs to save $4 million a year, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The majors include comparative literature, computational neuroscience, dance, earth science education, earth sciences, geology, German, health promotion, journalism, Middle Eastern studies, planetary science, religion and urban studies.

An example of the consolidations is that Black world studies and women’s and gender studies will join and become a Department of Critical Identity Studies.

All students currently majoring in one of the eliminated fields will be able to complete the major.

COVID-19 was not the sole cause of the cuts, university officials said.

President Rock Jones said, “Through the administrative and academic actions OWU has taken during the past six months, Ohio Wesleyan has become a more focused, more efficient university.”

— Scott Jaschik

Kutztown Loses 1,000 Students to Online Option

Oct. 13, 6:22 a.m. Kutztown University, in Pennsylvania, welcomed 3,300 students to campus in the fall. But more than 1,000 left within weeks, fearing COVID-19 and opting for online education, The Morning Call reported.

In addition to not having the students on campus, the university is losing $3.5 million in room and board fees it would have collected.

Paul Berlet, a Kutztown student who didn’t return this year, said, “It’s not a safe, healthy environment right now, especially when you factor in the lack of social gatherings, which is good, and the inability of the administration to actually keep these people safe.”

— Scott Jaschik

At U of New Hampshire, Faculty and Staff Outpace Students in COVID-19 Infections

Oct. 12, 6:21 a.m. Like most colleges, the University of New Hampshire has devoted considerable resources to telling students what they should do (and not do) to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But The Concord Monitor reports that for the past two weeks, staff and faculty have had 104 positive cases, while students have had 91 cases.

Erika Mantz, a spokeswoman for the university, couldn’t say why the university has seen a spike of positive COVID-19 cases in faculty and staff.

“While any positive COVID case is a concern, the university is identifying more positive cases as a result of its regular testing of all community members, not just those with symptoms,” she said.

— Scott Jaschik

Professor Quits to Protest Working Amid COVID-19

Oct. 9, 6:28 a.m. A professor at Dominican University in Illinois quit his job this week to protest working conditions with COVID-19, NBC Chicago reported.

Gary Wilson said he quit after a student in his advanced anatomy lab class tested positive for the coronavirus. “I told them I’m resigning because this is an unsafe workplace,” Wilson said. “All you need is one person to infect everyone. Look at the White House.”

Wilson said all 60 students in the class should quarantine for 14 days.

The university confirmed that a student had tested positive for the virus. But the university said that contact tracing had been used and that only three students needed to quarantine.

— Scott Jaschik

New England Sports League Cancels Winter Season

Oct. 8, 2:25 p.m. The New England Small College Athletic Conference on Thursday announced the cancellation of the Division III league’s winter sports season. The league appears to be one of the first to take this step, with the National Collegiate Athletic Association going ahead with winter sports championships, if sometimes with reduced season lengths or tournament sizes.

The presidents of the league’s members, which include 11 selective liberal arts colleges in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New York, said that changes in many of the institutions’ academic calendars for the spring semester meant that many students would not return to their campuses until late January or early February, cutting deeply into the traditional season of intra-conference competition.

Middlebury College, for instance, announced today that it would hold its January term virtually and that students would return for the spring two weeks later than normal, in late February. Bowdoin College said this week that it would bring sophomores, juniors and seniors to campus for the spring term, also two weeks later than usual.

“We understand this decision will disappoint many of our students, given the important role athletics plays in the student experience,” the statement read. “We remain committed to providing meaningful opportunities for our students to engage in athletic activities. Students may continue to participate in practice activities, strength and conditioning, skill development and leadership programming in accordance with NCAA, Conference and institutional policies, as well as state and local health guidelines.”

The league also said that members “may schedule outside competition at their discretion.” The NESCAC members are Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity and Williams Colleges, and Tufts and Wesleyan Universities.

— Doug Lederman

Top Journal, Citing COVID-19, Endorses Biden, Without Naming Him

Oct. 8, 6:28 a.m. A top journal endorsed Joe Biden for president because the Trump administration is “dangerously incompetent.” The endorsement, by The New England Journal of Medicine, is the first time the journal has endorsed anyone.

“Although we tend to focus on technology, most of the interventions that have large effects are not complicated,” the editorial says. “The United States instituted quarantine and isolation measures late and inconsistently, often without any effort to enforce them, after the disease had spread substantially in many communities. Our rules on social distancing have in many places been lackadaisical at best, with loosening of restrictions long before adequate disease control had been achieved. And in much of the country, people simply don’t wear masks, largely because our leaders have stated outright that masks are political tools rather than effective infection control measures. The government has appropriately invested heavily in vaccine development, but its rhetoric has politicized the development process and led to growing public distrust.”

The editorial continues, “The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls.”

The editorial does not mention Biden or President Trump by name.

It concludes, “Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

— Scott Jaschik

Syracuse Limits Social Gatherings After Party Linked to 45 Cases

Oct. 7, 6:28 a.m. Syracuse University has limited social gatherings to five people after an off-campus party was linked to 45 cases of COVID-19, reported. More COVID-19 cases are expected from the party.

The limits do not apply to courses.

Previously, the university banned social events with more than 25 people.

The university is also asking all fraternities and sororities to adopt a “no-visitors” policy.

— Scott Jaschik

Research: Only 25% of Colleges Doing Surveillance Testing

Oct. 6, 11:20 a.m. An analysis of testing strategies at more than 1,400 institutions found that more than two-thirds either have no clear testing plan or are only testing “at-risk” students, those who either feel sick or who have had contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus, National Public Radio reported. The analysis was done by researchers at the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College, in North Carolina.

Just 25 percent of colleges are conducting mass screening or random “surveillance” testing of students. Only 6 percent are routinely testing all of their students.

Some experts have argued that frequent surveillance testing is necessary to contain outbreaks because the virus can be spread by asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals. Recently revised guidance on testing at higher education institutions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “a strategy of entry screening combined with regular serial testing might prevent or reduce” transmission of the virus, although the guidance stops short of explicitly recommending serial testing as a strategy.

Officials at many institutions that are not testing regularly say that doing so would be too expensive for them.

— Elizabeth Redden

Doane President Proposes Closing Numerous Programs

Oct. 6, 6:30 a.m. The president of Doane University, in Nebraska, has proposed ending a number of programs because of financial pressures created by the COVID-19 pandemic, 10/11 Now reported.

The president, Jacque Carter, proposed ending:

  • Minor in Asian studies
  • Minor in computational science
  • Major in criminal justice
  • Major in English as a second language
  • Major in film and media production
  • Minor in gender studies
  • Major and minor in German
  • Major in graphic arts and print design
  • Major in health and society
  • Major in international studies
  • Major in law, politics and society
  • Major and minor in philosophy
  • Major and minor in political science
  • Major and minor in religious studies

The Faculty Council has this month to provide its recommendations. The board of the university will vote on the cuts in November.

— Scott Jaschik

Oct. 5, 12:15 p.m. The Belmont campus of Scott Community College, part of Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, is closed until Monday, Oct. 12, after a small number of staff reported positive cases of COVID-19.

As of Monday morning, two staff members had reported testing positive for the virus, according to a college spokesman.

“In an abundance of caution,” the campus was closed to everyone to prevent spreading the virus, the website states. Students will take their courses online this week, and services will be provided virtually. No one is allowed onto campus. Faculty can make appointments to pick up items they need to work from home.

The college’s other campuses remain open.

— Madeline St. Amour

Instagram Connects Freshmen During Pandemic

Oct. 5, 6:27 a.m. Instagram has become a key tool for freshmen to make friends, either from their homes or from colleges that limit their movement on campus, The Boston Globe reported.

The story focuses on collegeboston2024, an account created by Lucy Garberg, a freshman at Tufts University. “My hope is that this account will bring us together,” she wrote in May.

The site has thousands of followers and requires seven students to manage.

“We can’t really rely on naturally organic, flowing relationships, which is what I thought was going to happen in college,” said Jaime Kim, a student Garberg recruited to help her manage the account. “We definitely have to … go out of our way to reach out to people.”

— Scott Jaschik

Notre Dame President Tests Positive for COVID-19

Oct. 2, 1:20 p.m. The University of Notre Dame announced Friday that its president, the Reverend John Jenkins, tested positive for COVID-19 just days after attending a White House event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

A colleague Father Jenkins was in regular contact with had tested positive for the virus, and Father Jenkins was subsequently tested, according to a message to students, faculty and staff members. He will quarantine at home.

“My symptoms are mild and I will continue to work from home,” Father Jenkins said in a statement. “The positive test is a good reminder for me and perhaps for all of how vigilant we need to be.”

The announcement follows the news overnight of U.S. president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump testing positive for the virus.

Earlier this week, Jenkins was criticized for not wearing a mask or social distancing at White House event for Barrett.

— Emma Whitford

Penn State Releases Student Punishments

Oct. 2, 6:24 a.m. Pennsylvania State University on Thursday released a list of the punishments students have received for violating COVID-19 rules since Aug. 17. The punishments include:

  • Suspensions for the rest of the academic year: 10.
  • Removal from on-campus housing: 17.
  • Probation or probation with a transcript notation: 204.
  • Warnings, “which may include a discussion about the situation, an explanation of the misconduct and expectations going forward, and a warning that a further violation may result in more serious consequences”: 1,046.

“The university’s top priority in response to the pandemic has been the health and safety of our community. We are grateful for the seriousness with which most of our students take the virus’ threat, but we will continue to hold accountable those students who threaten our community by violating our clearly stated expectations,” said Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs.

— Scott Jaschik

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking Tuition Refund for Remote Learning

Oct. 1, 3:35 p.m. A federal judge on Thursday largely dismissed a lawsuit in which a group of Northeastern University students sought refunds of their tuition and other payments after the university, like most colleges in the country, closed its campuses and shifted to remote learning because of the coronavirus last spring.

Many such cases were filed last spring and summer, and this appears to be the first one decided by a federal court.

In his ruling, Judge Richard G. Stearns granted Northeastern’s motion to dismiss the class action on all of the students’ demands except for possible refund of the campus recreation fee, which he agreed could proceed.

The two named plaintiffs, Thom Gallo and Manny Chong, undergraduate and graduate students, respectively, had paid Northeastern between $23,400 and $26,100 in tuition, plus several hundred dollars in fees for the spring term. Chong petitioned the university for a refund based on the “pedagogical inferiority of online instruction,” and when that was rejected, he and Gallo filed a class action on behalf of similarly situated students, saying that the university either breached its contract with them or engaged in unjust enrichment.

The judge, citing the annual financial responsibility agreement that students sign with Northeastern, concluded that the university did not commit to providing in-person instruction, invalidating the breach-of-contract claim. Stearns dismissed the claims for refunded student fees because, he said, students pay those fees “to ‘support’ certain facilities during terms for which those students are enrolled in classes, not to gain access to any on-campus facility or resource.”

Stearns permitted the recreation fee claim to proceed because that fee gives students the option to attend home sporting events and to use fitness facilities that were unavailable to them when the campus closed.

— Doug Lederman

University of Denver Suspends 38 Athletes for Attending Off-Campus Party

Oct. 1, 6:23 a.m. The University of Denver suspended 38 members of the swim and dive team for attending a large off-campus party in violation of COVID-19 rules set by the university, 9News reported.

“We will continue to swiftly pursue disciplinary action if members of our community disregard the protocols and public health orders designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said a letter explaining the decision. “We can’t have anyone in our community believe they don’t need to abide by DU’s, the city’s or the state’s COVID-19 restrictions while the rest of the community is working so hard to have protocols in place intended to keep everyone safe and healthy.”

All of the athletes will be required to test for COVID-19 and are under “location restrictions” until they test negative, the letter says.

— Scott Jaschik

U of Florida Approves Regulation for Furlough Policy

Sept. 30, 6:30 a.m. The University of Florida Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved a regulation for a furlough policy that would apply to faculty members, sworn law enforcement and postdoctoral associate employees. “Furloughs are designed to be a proportionate response to such conditions and a job preservation tool, where possible, in lieu of layoffs or other separations from employment,” the policy says.

The university said it does not plan to use the policy right now but wants it in place should it lose more money during the pandemic.

Paul Ortiz, president of the United Faculty of Florida Union, said many are worried about the new policy, WCJB reported. “I beg you to first consider the many alternatives that exist to going down the furlough road. I am looking for a firm commitment from the BOT and President [Kent] Fuchs to use the university’s unrestricted net assets and other resources in order to buffer our campus from the types of budget cuts that will negatively impact the working lives and fragile earning power of members of our community already reeling from the global pandemic and the after-effects of the Great Recession,” Ortiz said.

— Scott Jaschik

CDC: COVID-19 Cases Among Young Adults Rose Sharply as Campuses Filled

Sept. 29, 5 p.m. The number of young adults with COVID-19 rose by 55 percent from early August to early September, as most colleges were bringing students back to their campuses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report Tuesday.

The federal agency’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” found that the incidence of COVID cases among people aged 18 to 22 years increased by nearly 63 percent from Aug. 2 to Aug. 29, then dropped off slightly through Sept. 5, accounting for the 55 percent rise. The increases were greatest in the Northeast (144 percent) and Midwest (123 percent). The increases were particularly sharp among white young adults, as seen below.

The CDC study includes its usual disclaimer that the increases in cases “were not solely attributable to increased testing.”

The report suggested that multiple factors are likely at play, but said, “Because approximately 45 percent of persons aged 18-22 years attend colleges and universities and 55 percent of those attending identified as white persons, it is likely that some of this increase is linked to resumption of in-person attendance at some colleges and universities.”

It concluded by stating, “Mitigation and preventive measures targeted to young adults (e.g., social media toolkits discussing the importance of mask wearing, social distancing, and hand hygiene), including those attending colleges and universities, can likely reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission among their contacts and communities. Institutions of higher education should support students and communities by taking action to promote healthy environments.”

— Doug Lederman

Police Break Up Party of More Than 1,000 Near Florida State

Sept. 29, 7:30 a.m. Police broke up a party Sunday near Florida State University with more than 1,000 people — most of them students, the Associated Press reported. Large social gatherings, with people not practicing social distancing or wearing masks, are one way COVID-19 is spread.

Florida State reported that more than 1,400 students and 26 employees had tested positive for COVID-19 through Sept. 18.

The party came just days after Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, said the state should create a “bill of rights” for students. “I personally think it’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party,” DeSantis said Thursday. “That’s what college kids do.”

— Scott Jaschik

Florida May Protect Partying Students

Sept. 25, 6:25 a.m. Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said the state could create a “bill of rights” to protect college students who face expulsion for attending parties under COVID-19 rules, Politico reported.

“I personally think it’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party,” DeSantis said Thursday. “That’s what college kids do.”

He did not provide details.

— Scott Jaschik

Health Agency in Boulder Further Restricts Student Behavior

Sept. 24, 12:45 p.m. The public health agency in Boulder County, Colo., on Thursday issued an order further restricting the behavior of college-aged people in the county, home to the University of Colorado at Boulder. The order from Boulder County Public Health, which takes effect today at 4 p.m. MST, forbids gatherings “of any size” among 18- to 22-year-olds within the county, and requires residents of 36 off-campus facilities (mostly fraternities and sororities) to remain in place for two weeks.

“A gathering is defined as more than one individual coming together or being physically near each other for any shared and common purpose, including socializing or participating in any activity together including but not limited to shopping, dining, or exercising,” the order stated.

The county’s order follows on the university’s decision Monday to begin two weeks of remote instruction Wednesday, which itself followed the announcement of a recommended stay-at-home period it began last week.

The university’s chancellor, Phil DiStefano, said Thursday that the county’s order gives students three options: stay in Boulder and follow the public health guidelines, return to their permanent residences and study fully online for the rest of the spring, or “choose to not follow the rules that protect our community from COVID-19 spread and run the risk of serious health consequences to yourself and others … Please do not choose this option,” he wrote.

DiStefano continued, “Like many of our peer universities across the country, we continue to face new challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have enacted similar approaches to ours and are successfully reducing their positive cases. I believe we can as well, but only if we work together and make sacrifices for each other.”

— Doug Lederman

Sacred Heart Threatens to Send Students Home

Sept. 24, 6:25 a.m. The president of Sacred Heart University, in Connecticut, threatened to send students home if all students don’t follow guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking in a video message, John Petillo said that most students were following the rules. But he said “a significant number” are not. The university is receiving reports of gatherings, both on and off campus, in which rules are violated and face masks are not being worn.

These violations, he said, result in “too many positive COVID cases” among students, especially those in off-campus housing. And parents are urging the university to go fully remote in instruction. (Currently, it is teaching in a hybrid model.)

The university says that it has 119 cases of COVID-19, 94 of them from students in off-campus housing.

— Scott Jaschik

U of Michigan Resident Advisers End Strike

Sept. 23, 12:00 p.m. University of Michigan resident assistants have accepted a deal with the university and ended their strike, which began Sept. 8.

The staff had raised concerns about COVID-19 protections for residential staff and demanded, among other things, regular access to testing for RAs, hazard pay, personal protective equipment, greater enforcement of university policy and greater transparency from the administration. The staff is not unionized.

University officials have said the deal included priority testing for RAs through the university’s surveillance program, additional PPE and the creation of a council where concerns can be raised, mLive reported.

The residential life staffers began their strike the same day that Michigan’s graduate employees began theirs, and the two engaged in mutual actions. The graduate employees’ strike ended Sept. 16.

“This wouldn’t have happened without everyone that extended a helping hand in our direction,” the RA staff posted on Twitter. “Solidarity forever!”

— Lilah Burke

Middlebury Punishes 22 Students for Violating COVID-19 Rules

Sept. 23, 6:21 a.m. Middlebury College has punished 22 students for rules violations related to COVID-19.

“We have concluded that 22 students violated college policies related to COVID-19. We took swift action according to our sanctioning guidelines shared earlier with the community. These sanctions included revoking on-campus housing privileges and disallowing the students from visiting, studying, or taking courses on campus,” said a message on Middlebury’s website from Derek Doucet, dean of students.

He continued, “We cannot share any more details of particular conduct cases because of privacy concerns. I can tell you that these were very difficult decisions to make, but there is nothing more important than the health and safety of our community. Students removed from campus because of COVID-19 violations are ordinarily eligible to return in the following semester.”

Scott Jaschik

Sept. 22, 3:40 p.m. The University of Notre Dame postponed a Sept. 26 football game against Wake Forest University after seven players on the Fighting Irish team tested positive for COVID-19, Notre Dame’s athletics department said in a statement. All football-related activities are on pause “until further testing is completed,” the statement said.

Notre Dame administered 94 COVID-19 tests to football players on Monday, and the seven athletes who tested positive are now in isolation, the statement said. A total of 13 players are in isolation and 10 are in quarantine, based on this and last week’s testing results from the football team, the statement said.

Greta Anderson

Researchers Estimate Campus Openings Linked to ~3,000 New Daily Cases

Sept. 22, 10:48 a.m. A new working paper estimates that reopening college campuses for in-person instruction has been associated with more than 3,000 additional COVID-19 cases per day in the United States.

The researchers found an increase of 2.4 daily cases per 100,000 people in counties with a campus that opened for in-person instruction.

“No such increase is observed in counties with no colleges, closed colleges or those that opened primarily online,” they write.

“The uptick in local COVID-19 incidence was higher in colleges with greater exposure to students from states with high recent COVID-19 case rates. College reopenings that drew students from areas with a 10 percent greater weekly incidence were associated with an additional 1.19 new cases per 100,000 per day.”

The lead author of the study, conducted by a group of scholars with expertise in economics, epidemiology and higher education, is Martin Andersen, assistant professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Researchers plan to publish the paper, titled “College Openings, Mobility, and the Incidence of COVID-19 Cases,” on a server for preprints (e.g., articles that have not yet been peer reviewed), medRxiv.

–Elizabeth Redden

Elon Moves to Level 3 Alert

Sept. 22, 6:20 a.m. Elon University has moved to level 3 — high alert following an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The university moved to level 2 four days prior after an outbreak among athletes led to the suspension of athletic practices. Since the move to level 2, 79 students have tested positive for COVID-19.

The move to high alert level has prompted the university to increase testing. The university’s mobile testing lab plans to conduct tests of 300 people who have had indirect contact with people who have tested positive. And random testing will be increased to 400 tests. (Elon enrolls about 7,000 students.)

In addition, certain classes with a “significant proportion” of positive cases will move online.

— Scott Jaschik

Northeastern Lets Suspended Students Apply Tuition to Spring Semester

Sept. 18, 6:23 a.m. Northeastern University has backed down, in part, on its decision to charge full tuition to 11 students it suspended for violating the rules mandating social distancing and wearing face masks, The Boston Globe reported.

The university originally said that it would take the entire tuition payment for the semester, $36,500. But now the university is taking only $8,740. The rest can be applied to the spring semester’s tuition.

“The university’s response is still not acceptable, although it is telling that they appear to be backtracking from their initial position about taking these families’ money without an obligation to deliver any services whatsoever,” said Brett Joshpe, a lawyer for two of the students’ families.

— Scott Jaschik

President Sorry for Posting Photo

Sept. 17, 6:27 a.m. The president of Allegheny College is apologizing for posting a photograph of herself outside, off campus, The Meadville Tribune reported.

The photo was posted to Instagram at a time when the college’s students were all supposed to be on campus in a quarantine.

Hilary Link, the president, apologized. “Posting the picture without the whole context was not my best choice,” Link told the Tribune on Tuesday. “I was watching my 14-year-old son in his first-ever varsity soccer game for the Meadville High School in a stadium very, very physically distanced from every other person except my husband — wearing masks,” Link said. “Everybody was wearing masks. Outdoors. Absolutely following guidelines that we set out for our facility and staff who do not live on campus.”

Students and parents complained about her photo.

— Scott Jaschik

Big Ten Will Play Football in October

Sept. 16, 10:10 a.m. The Big Ten Conference reversed course on its decision to postpone college football until spring 2021 and will instead resume competition Oct. 23, the league announced Wednesday. The decision applies only to football, and the future of other fall sports “will be announced shortly,” a Big Ten news release said.

The conference, which includes big-time football programs such as Pennsylvania State University, the University of Michigan and Ohio State University, originally decided in August that the medical risks of COVID-19 for athletes called for postponement. The league’s leaders were concerned about a heart condition, myocarditis, that some athletes who previously had COVID-19 are at risk of developing due to heart inflammation while battling symptoms of the virus.

League leaders faced political pressure to resume the season from governors of several states and from the federal government, including United States senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, and even President Donald Trump, who met with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren earlier this month. Parents of Big Ten athletes also protested the decision and several University of Nebraska football players sued the league, USA Today reported.

Along with the decision to resume fall play, the league developed new protocols for testing athletes for COVID-19, cardiac screening and “an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition,” the press release said. All athletes, coaches and others on the field for practice and games will be tested daily for COVID-19 and athletes who test positive will not be able to return to games for 21 days, the release said. The resumption of practice or games will be determined by the team and staff members’ coronavirus positivity rate.

“Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student-athletes can realize their dream of competing in the sports they love,” Warren said in the release. “We are incredibly grateful for the collaborative work that our Return to Competition Task Force have accomplished to ensure the health, safety and wellness of student-athletes, coaches and administrators.”

— Greta Anderson

SUNY, Faculty Union Reach Agreement on Testing Professors

Sept. 15, 6:24 a.m. The State University of New York and its faculty union, United University Professions, announced an agreement under which faculty members will be tested for the coronavirus.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said, “We will now regularly test UUP faculty members serving on campus for the virus. I want to thank President Frederick Kowal for his continued leadership in protecting his members and all of SUNY as we make COVID-19 testing available for all of our UUP faculty and other professional members. This will help us pinpoint and isolate cases on our campuses, avoid outbreaks, and most importantly — keep our dedicated faculty members safe. I look forward to working closely with UUP leadership in the months ahead as we navigate these uncertain times.”

Kowal said, “We welcome this opportunity to make the SUNY state-operated campuses as safe as we possibly can for students, for the surrounding campus communities and for our UUP membership, with this new agreement for mandatory COVID-19 testing of employees represented by UUP.”

— Scott Jaschik

University of Arizona Recommends Shelter in Place for Students

Sept. 14, 3:40 p.m. The University of Arizona and the Pima County Health Department are recommending students on campus and near campus shelter in place for 14 days as the university battles a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Students following that recommendation, which has also been described as a voluntary quarantine, would still be able to travel to certain activities like essential in-person classes or to purchase necessities like food or medication that can’t be delivered. Leaders are still determining the exact geographic area to be covered by the recommendation. They expect to release additional details later today.

Without intervention, officials worry the coronavirus could incubate among students and spread to more vulnerable populations in the region.

“The university is not an island,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of public health for Pima County, during a virtual news conference today. “It may seem that way, sometimes, but it’s not.”

Local government officials were already considering steps like removing pool permits from apartment complexes that host a large number of students. The university has confirmed well over 600 positive cases this month.

Officials during today’s news conference blamed off-campus social gatherings for accelerating transmission of the virus. The university has been operating with limited in-person courses since beginning the fall semester at the end of August.

The university’s president, Robert C. Robbins, called Monday’s announcement a “last-ditch effort” to ask students to follow social distancing rules before more drastic changes must be made.

“I’m short of saying ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,’ because there are only certain things that I can do,” Robbins said. “But this is part of being a good member of society, to take into account the health of others — not just your individual health, and not just your individual desire to go out and have a good time and party.”

— Rick Seltzer

Athletes With COVID-19 at Risk of Heart Inflammation, Small Study Finds

Sept. 12, 2:32 p.m. Roughly one in six college athletes who contracted COVID-19 later showed evidence of heart inflammation that could be dangerous if they return to play, a new study found.

The small study, conducted on 26 athletes at Ohio State University and published in JAMA Cardiology, revealed through cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging that four of the athletes had myocarditis, heart inflammation that can cause serious damage. Several others showed evidence of previous myocarditis that could have resulted from the coronavirus.

The threat of COVID-driven myocarditis among competitive athletes has been a source of contention in recent weeks. The Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences opted not to play this fall in significant part because of concern among its member universities about the potentially fatal heart ailment.

Last week, officials at Pennsylvania State University sent conflicting signals about the threat. After the university’s director of athletic medicine said at a public meeting that about a third of Big Ten Conference athletes who tested positive for the coronavirus showed signs of myocarditis, university officials sought to correct the record, citing the 15 percent figure.

— Doug Lederman

Missouri President, Under Threat of Suit, Removes Twitter Blocks

Sept. 11, 6:24 a.m. University of Missouri president Mun Choi has removed blocks on his Twitter account from students who were posting criticism of the university’s policies on reopening the campus, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

Choi removed the blocks after a lawyer threatened to sue over them. “Not only is it immoral and repugnant for President Choi to block students and other persons on social media who are trying to raise awareness of campus safety issues in the middle of a global pandemic, it is also unlawful,” the lawyer wrote.

A spokesman for Choi said some of the posts that led the president to block the accounts were obscene.

— Scott Jaschik

California State to Stay Virtual in Spring 2021

Sept. 10, 7:45 p.m. The California State University system has announced that all 23 of its campuses will continue to offer virtual instruction for the academic term beginning in January 2021.

“After extensive consultation with campus presidents and other stakeholders, and careful consideration of a multitude of factors — regarding the pandemic and its consequences, as well as other matters impacting the university and its operations — I am announcing that the CSU will continue with this primarily virtual instructional approach for the academic term that begins in January 2021, and also will continue with reduced populations in campus housing,” CSU chancellor Timothy P. White announced in a message to the university Wednesday. “This decision is the only responsible one available to us at this time. And it is the only one that supports our twin North Stars of safeguarding the health, safety and well-being of our faculty, staff, students and communities, as well as enabling degree progression for the largest number of students.”

White said the decision was announced now in order to give students and their families time to plan for the spring 2021 semester. He also cited the need to publish and promote course offerings and to meet accreditation requirements for virtual courses.

— Marjorie Valbrun

Wisconsin Pauses In-Person Instruction, Quarantines 2 Residence Halls

Sept. 10, 7:55 a.m. The University of Wisconsin at Madison announced Wednesday evening that it would pause in-person instruction for two weeks, citing a positive COVID-19 testing rate that had risen above 20 percent this week.

Much of the increase was driven by off-campus activity, but “the latest numbers also show a sharp increase in certain residence halls,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “We will not contain this spread without significant additional action.”

In addition to the two weeks of fully virtual instruction for undergraduate and graduate students alike, Wisconsin said it would impose a quarantine on two residence halls where positive cases have spiked, close all in-person study spaces at libraries and the student union, and cancel all in-person gatherings of more than 10 people.

“I share the disappointment and frustration of students and employees who had hoped we might enjoy these first few weeks of the academic year together,” Blank said.

— Doug Lederman

Stanford Medical Faculty Attack ‘Falsehoods’ by Trump Adviser

Sept. 10, 6:28 a.m. More than 70 professors at Stanford University’s medical school have signed a letter criticizing the “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science” by Scott Atlas, a former colleague currently advising President Trump on the coronavirus.

Specifically, the letter defends face masks, social distancing and the development of a vaccine and says that young children can get the virus.

“Failure to follow the science — or deliberately misrepresenting the science — will lead to immense avoidable harm,” the letter says.

— Scott Jaschik

Tennessee Evacuates Residence Hall So More Students Can Isolate

Sept. 9, 1:30 p.m. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where the number of students with COVID-19 has almost tripled this month, to 612, told students in one of its residence halls Wednesday that they would have to move out to make room for self-isolating peers.

“I recognize that this is unexpected news and that shifting residence halls will disrupt your semester. I am sorry for the disruption, and we are here to support you academically, socially, mentally, and financially,” Frank Cuevas, vice chancellor for student life, said in an email to residents of Massey Hall Wednesday. “I know this is not how you envisioned your semester, and we will work to support you through this. As circumstances evolve on campus we are adjusting our operational plans to help manage through this pandemic, with our top priority being the health and well-being of our campus community.”

Like many major public universities, Tennessee is seeing large numbers of students test positive for COVID-19 and much larger numbers in isolation or quarantine. The University of Tennessee System coronavirus dashboard shows a doubling of the number of students in either isolation or quarantine at the Knoxville campus between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8, to 2025 from 990.

Tennessee officials said the hotel they had secured was inadequate to house all the isolating students. They chose Massey for the overflow, they said, because of its size and the fact that it has proportionally few students living there now. The students who live there can choose between either moving to another residence hall on the campus or canceling their housing contract and moving back home. The university said it would provide “supplies and staff” to help students move to another room on the campus, and would “make every effort” to keep roommates together.

— Doug Lederman

Wisconsin-Madison Restricts Student Activities

Sept. 9, 6:29 a.m. The University of Wisconsin at Madison has restricted students to “essential activities” for two weeks, to control the spread of COVID-19.

The following activities were defined as essential:

  • Classes
  • Medical care, including COVID-19 testing
  • Purchasing food
  • Going to a job
  • “Engaging in an individual outdoor activity, such as running or walking”
  • Attending a religious service

The university reported an increase in positive test results for the virus.

— Scott Jaschik

Florida State Shows Increase

Sept. 9, 6:19 a.m. Florida State University is seeing an increase in the number of students testing positive for the coronavirus, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. More than 700 students tested positive last week.

“Florida State does not plan a shift to remote instruction at this time. If a decision is made to transition to all remote instruction in the future, the university will notify the community,” the university said. “The current increase in cases was not unexpected as it correlates to the marked increase in voluntary testing of the campus community during the first two weeks of the fall semester.”

— Scott Jaschik

Advice for Keeping Students Safe Amid COVID-19 Outbreaks

Sept. 4, 10:20 a.m. As a growing number of colleges and universities struggle to control COVID-19 after resuming in-person instruction, the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) released results of a survey of public health experts and others on how colleges should respond now to outbreaks of the virus. The more than 100 respondents to the survey included physicians, health-care administrators, students and community leaders.

Colleges should conduct daily saliva testing as well as random sample blood/mucosal testing to track the spread, prevalence and incidence of the virus, the survey found. Respondents said colleges also should have contact tracing capacity in place. The survey found that institutions should run crowdsourced symptom monitoring with as many students and employees as possible, using wearable wrist and bed sensor devices. And it said colleges should require students to wear a device to track their movement and notify students when they are not practicing adequate social distancing.

“The safety of our campuses for students, faculty, staff, surrounding neighborhoods and local health personnel requires vigorous and innovative measures. To date, we have not seen a national strategy to address these outbreaks and ensure the safety of those involved with higher education. The suggestions provided through this survey can help universities answer these difficult questions and make decisions based in science and a public health approach,” Karen Wolk Feinstein, president and CEO of PRHI, said in a statement.

Masks should be mandatory for students, the survey said. And colleges should use and enforce codes of conduct to encourage social distancing. The survey also said colleges should not penalize faculty members for choosing to work remotely.

The group of respondents said college leaders should close hot spots for transmission, including bars that violate protocols and fraternity homes.

“Close fraternity houses. Period,” the report on the survey’s results said.

Respondents urged college leaders to communicate with their local communities about measures institutions have taken to keep them safe.

“Ask the community how they think the university can be a partner in protecting all,” the report said. “They did not have a voice in campus reopenings, so engage them now.”

The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative is the operating arm of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and a member of the national Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement.

— Paul Fain

Sept. 4, 9:45 a.m. Pennsylvania State University has issued new information after its director of athletic medicine drew attention this week by saying in a public meeting that about a third of Big Ten Conference athletes who tested positive for the coronavirus showed signs of myocarditis.

The official, Wayne Sebastianelli, made the comments Monday at a local school board meeting about “initial preliminary data that had been verbally shared by a colleague on a forthcoming study,” a Penn State Health spokesman said, according to multiple news outlets. Sebastianelli didn’t know the study had been published with a significantly lower rate of myocarditis — about 15 percent for athletes who had the virus.

Penn State also said that its athletes who’d tested positive for the coronavirus had no cases of myocarditis.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can cut the heart’s ability to pump and cause abnormal heart rhythms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the heart and lead to heart failure, heart attack, stroke or sudden death.

— Rick Seltzer

Maryland Suspends Athletic Activities After COVID-19 Spike

Sept. 4, 6:25 a.m. The University of Maryland at College Park suspended all athletic activities after a spike in athletes testing positive for the coronavirus, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Maryland said that 501 student athletes were tested for COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday. Of those, 46 had positive tests. They were on 10 teams.

The Big Ten is not playing games this fall, but has been allowing athletes who have tested negative to practice.

— Scott Jaschik

Democrats Urge Campus Ban on Vaping During Pandemic

Sept. 3, 5:46 p.m. Top House and Senate Democrats are urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advise colleges to bar e-cigarettes for the fall semester.

In the letter, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the House economic and consumer policy oversight subcommittee, and Senator Dick Durbin cited a Journal of Adolescent Health study, which found that 13- to 24-year-olds who vape are five times more likely than nonvapers to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

“With the added public health risk posed by coronavirus, the CDC must act quickly and forcefully,” wrote Krishnamoorthi and Durbin, both of Illinois.

— Kery Murakami

Union Calls on Louisiana Board to End Face-to-Face Activities

Sept. 3, 3:30 p.m. The United Campus Workers of Louisiana today called for regents to stop face-to-face activities because of the coronavirus.

A statement from the union, which was chartered a year ago and has about 120 members who are graduate workers, faculty members and staff members, focused heavily on the situation at Louisiana State University. LSU has counted a total of 366 positive cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 15, with most coming since Aug. 25.

More information has been learned about the transmission of the coronavirus since the university created its reopening plans, the union said in its statement. It raised concerns about the risk of transmission in enclosed spaces and from people who are not showing symptoms of the infection.

“In light of these facts, reopening a university system that operates in all 64 parishes in Louisiana endangers everyone in the state, particularly the state’s underserved and high-risk populations,” said the union’s statement. “For the safety of the LSU community and the state at large, United Campus Workers of Louisiana calls on the Louisiana Board of Regents to act in accordance with its ‘constitutional mandate to serve the educational, health care and economic development goals of Louisiana’ and immediately halt face to face activities on campus.”

The statement comes shortly after LSU’s interim president, Tom Galligan, said four student organizations have been charged with violating the university’s code of conduct regarding the coronavirus. Video has surfaced that appears to show off-campus parties with few precautions in place.

“We have seen the videos, and they are very concerning,” Galligan said, according to KSLA. “We’re going to investigate, communicate and, as necessary, we’ll enforce.”

Galligan also signaled a high level of concern about the virus’s spread.

“I’m concerned and I’m monitoring and we’re looking at it very carefully, because if it keeps going up, we’re going to go remote,” he said, according to KSLA.

The union does not have a collective bargaining agreement with LSU.

— Rick Seltzer

Positive Cases Top 1,000 at the University of Dayton

Sept. 3, 2:43 p.m. The University of Dayton announced this afternoon on its COVID-19 dashboard that the cumulative number of positive cases among students on campus has reached 1,042, including 639 active cases. The rest — 403 students — have recovered.

The private university enrolls roughly 11,500 students, including about 9,000 undergraduates, meaning its total positive cases comprise almost 10 percent of all students. The university’s first day of classes was Aug. 24. UD has created five campus status levels for COVID-19, with level five being to largely vacate the campus and have most students leave on-campus housing. The university reached level four last week, which includes pivoting to remote learning while students stay in on-campus housing. It shifted to remote learning last month when cases spiked.

UD in a statement cited a flattening of seven-day averages for new positive cases as an encouraging sign. It said the university has been aggressive with the testing, isolation and quarantining of students.

“University leaders continue to work closely with local public health officials and UD’s panel of local medical experts to monitor, assess and contain the situation on campus,” the university said. “We will determine next week what steps to take based on the situation and trends we see at that time. While we hope the trends will indicate that we can return to at least some in-person learning, we also may need to consider further restrictions, including the possibility of moving to fully remote learning, if Public Health believes our campus is contributing to broader community spread.”

— Paul Fain

About One-Third of Positive Big Ten Athletes Showed Signs of Myocarditis

Sept. 3, 1:00 p.m. A potentially dangerous inflammation of the heart muscle was detected in about a third of Big Ten Conference athletes who’d tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Centre Daily Times.

Pennsylvania State University’s director of athletic medicine, Wayne Sebastianelli, shared the estimate at a State College area school Board of Directors meeting Monday, the newspaper reported. MRI scans showed the athletes in question had myocarditis, an inflammation that can be deadly if not addressed.

“When we looked at our COVID-positive athletes, whether they were symptomatic or not, 30 to roughly 35 percent of their heart muscles [are] inflamed,” Sebastianelli said. “And we really just don’t know what to do with it right now. It’s still very early in the infection. Some of that has led to the Pac-12 and the Big Ten’s decision to sort of put a hiatus on what’s happening.”

The Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed fall sports in August. Both cited uncertainty about college athletes’ health amid coronavirus infections.

But other major football conferences continue to forge ahead with plans to hold modified seasons. That’s led to some pushback, with Nebraska football players filing a lawsuit against the Big Ten. The lawsuit prompted the revelation that the league’s members voted 11 to 3 in favor of postponing the football season. Recently, reports have surfaced that the Big Ten was discussing a season to begin the week of Thanksgiving.

Earlier today, ESPN reported that 21 universities in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference and Big 12 Conference — the three conferences making up college football’s Power Five that plan to play sports this fall — would not disclose data on COVID-19 cases when asked. Almost half of the 65 institutions across all Power Five conferences declined to share data about positive tests recorded to date.

— Rick Seltzer

Many Colleges Playing Big-Time Football Withhold COVID-19 Numbers

Sept. 3, 12:15 p.m. Twenty-one institutions in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference and Big 12 Conference declined to disclose positive COVID-19 cases among athletes to ESPN, citing federal student privacy laws, the media outlet reported. These three “Power Five” conferences are all preparing to play football games this month.

Of the 65 total Power Five institutions surveyed by ESPN, nearly one-third did not provide information about their coronavirus protocols for athletes in addition to withholding the number of positive tests among athletes, the outlet reported.

Greta Anderson

Temple Extends Remote Instruction for Rest of Semester

Sept. 3, 9:50 a.m. Four days after announcing a two-week suspension of in-person classes, Temple University in Philadelphia today extended the move for the rest of the fall semester for almost all courses.

Only essential courses — those that require some in-person instruction to meet educational objectives — are not covered by the decision. Temple estimates 95 percent of its courses will be delivered online for the rest of the semester.

Students in university housing who choose to leave by Sept. 13 will receive full refunds of housing and meal plan charges. But students can remain on campus if they want or need to do so.

“We know this is disappointing for the many students and their families who had hoped for an on-campus experience,” said the university’s president, Richard M. Englert, and its provost, JoAnne A. Epps, in a public letter announcing the decision. “Please know that if the data supported a decision to safely continue the fall semester experience on campus, we would have made every effort to do so. Unfortunately, the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are simply too great for our students, faculty, staff and neighboring community.”

Two days ago, Philadelphia’s health commissioner declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Temple. The university’s COVID-19 dashboard listed 212 actives cases as of 1 p.m. yesterday, all among students. All but one were recorded among on-campus students.

Temple began fall classes 10 days ago, Aug. 24.

— Rick Seltzer

Ohio State Reports 882 Positive Cases

Sept. 3, 8:32 a.m. Ohio State University reported 882 positive cases of COVID-19 among students, and 20 positives among employees. Classes began at Ohio State on Aug. 25.

The university has a 3.13 percent positivity rate among students and a 4.3 percent positivity rate average over the last week, according to its dashboard site. But it reported a 9.66 positivity rate for students who live off campus and were tested in the last 24 hours, with a 5.7 percent rate for students who live on campus. The university currently has 462 students in isolation and quarantine.

Ohio State recently suspended 228 students for violating coronavirus-related safety guidelines. And it has threatened to crack down on students who host gatherings of more than 10 people who are not wearing masks or social distancing.

— Paul Fain

30 of 40 Greek Houses at Indiana Are in Quarantine

Sept. 3, 6:27 a.m. Thirty of the 40 Greek houses at Indiana University are under quarantine for COVID-19, The Indianapolis Star reported.

There is an 8.1 percent positive rate among students living in fraternity and sorority housing. Residence halls have a 1.6 percent positive rate.

All communal houses at Indiana have been ordered to suspend activities, except housing and dining.

— Scott Jaschik

NCAA to Furlough All Employees Except Top Executives

Sept. 2, 5:50 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association will furlough 600 employees amid severe budget strains due to the pandemic’s impact on college athletics, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press. The furloughs of three to eight weeks will affect the entire staff of the Indianapolis-based NCAA except for senior executives, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Beginning Sept. 21, all staff members in the NCAA’s national office will be furloughed for three weeks, according to the memo. And some employees will be furloughed for up to eight weeks depending on their jobs and the seasonal timing of their duties. USA Today reported in March that Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s president, and other top managers were taking pay cuts of 20 percent. That move followed the cancellation of the Division I men’s basketball tournament, which generates nearly all of the NCAA’s roughly $1.1 billion in typical annual revenue, the newspaper reported.

— Paul Fain

Iowa State Reverses Plan to Play Football Opener in Front of 25,000 Fans

Sept. 2, 3:50 p.m. Iowa State University’s announcement Monday that it would let as many as 25,000 fans attend its football season opener Sept. 12 drew both scorn and, as recently as today, support from Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, who said at a news briefing Wednesday that “we can do these things safely and responsibly. We can open our schools back up, we can open our colleges back up, we can continue to move forward, but we have to have personal responsibility.”

But the university’s athletics department announced today that the game will be played without fans after all.

The statement from the athletics director, Jamie Pollard, didn’t exactly embrace the decision, saying that Iowa State president Wendy Wintersteen had reversed the decision “after weighing feedback she has received from the community … Our department has always taken great pride in working hand-in-hand with the university and this situation is no different. We are in this together and will do everything we can to support Dr. Wintersteen and her leadership team in their efforts to lead our institution during very challenging times.”

— Doug Lederman

University of Georgia Reports 821 Cases in First Full Week of Classes

Sept. 2, 2:17 p.m. The University of Georgia reported 821 new cases of COVID-19 for the week of Aug. 24-30, bringing the total number of cases reported since Aug. 10 to more than 1,000.

Of the 821 individuals with reported positive tests, 798 were students, 19 were staff members and four were faculty.

The university’s surveillance testing program of asymptomatic students turned up 97 positive cases out of 1,810 tests conducted, for an overall positivity rate of 5.4 percent.

University of Georgia president Jere W. Morehead described the rise in positive tests as “concerning” and urged students to take steps to avoid exposure.

“I urge you: continue to wear your masks, maintain your distance from others, make wise decisions, and stay away from social venues where appropriate distancing is impossible to maintain,” Morehead said on Twitter. “Resist the temptation to organize or attend a large social gathering. And, for those of you heading out of town over the Labor Day weekend, be very careful and think about the health of everyone around you.”

— Elizabeth Redden

University of Kentucky at 760 Cases, Only Testing Greek Life Members

Sept. 2, 12:55 p.m. The health department for Lexington, Ky., has reported that there have been 760 coronavirus cases among students at the University of Kentucky.

The university tested every on-campus student upon arrival, resulting in 254 positive results, and is currently retesting 5,000 members of Greek life organizations.

But it has no current plans to test other students or student populations. University officials have said they are waiting on further data to decide how to proceed, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

— Lilah Burke

All-Student Quarantine at Gettysburg

Sept. 2, 7:50 a.m. Gettysburg College announced late Tuesday that all of its students must quarantine in their residence halls through at least the end of the week, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus that has infected 25 of 348 students tested through Tuesday afternoon.

“This interim all-student quarantine allows us to better understand the path of the virus on campus, informed by the results of the remainder of this week’s tests,” the dean of students, Julie Ramsey, wrote in a message to the campus. All classes will be remote and students can leave their rooms only to pick up food, use the bathroom or get their COVID-19 test.

Ramsey said college officials would reassess their plan for the rest of the semester at the end of the week.

— Doug Lederman

James Madison Goes Remote in September

Sept. 2, 6:28 a.m. James Madison University announced Tuesday that it is abandoning plans for an in-person semester, instead moving to an online September.

President Jonathan R. Alger wrote to students and faculty members that “We spent the last several months planning to start this year with a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online classes. In the days since students have been back on campus, we have observed their vibrancy, excitement to engage with their faculty, and large-scale adherence to COVID-19 rules and guidance. However, we have also observed troubling public health trends. As a result of a rapid increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in our student population in a short period of time, the university is concerned about capacity in the number of isolation and quarantine spaces we can provide. Protecting the health of our Harrisonburg and Rockingham County community — including students, faculty, staff — is our top priority, and we need to act swiftly to stop the spread as best we can.”

Alger continued, “After consultation with the Virginia Department of Health, James Madison University will transition to primarily online learning, with some hybrid instruction for accreditation and licensure requirements, graduate research, and specialized upper-class courses requiring equipment and space, through the month of September.”

Scott Jaschik

COVID-19 ‘Outbreak’ Declared at Temple University

Sept. 1, 4:15 p.m. The Philadelphia health commissioner on Tuesday said there is a COVID-19 “outbreak” at Temple University and told students to “assume everyone around you is infected,” 6ABC reported.

The university reverted to online instruction on Sunday after reporting 103 people on campus had tested positive for the coronavirus. According to contact tracing, the outbreak stemmed from off-campus apartments and small social gatherings, 6ABC reported.

“For any Temple student who is listening to this today, I want to be really clear, and we are asking you to follow this guidance: you should assume that everyone around you is infected,” Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, said during a press conference Tuesday.

Greta Anderson

White House Warns Against Sending Infected Students Home

Sept. 1, 3:58 p.m. White House officials are worried college students infected by coronavirus will go back to their home communities and spread the disease. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, in a call Monday called on governors to urge college presidents in their states not to send students who test positive for the virus home and to keep them on or near campuses.

Not doing so could lead to another national outbreak, Birx said, according to an aide to one of the governors who was on the call, which included Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Birx cited the University of Wisconsin at Madison as an example. The university has set up housing for students to isolate themselves if they test positive, and for others at high risk of having been exposed to quarantine themselves, so that the rest of campus can continue functioning.

The call was first reported by The Daily Beast. The site quoted Birx as having said, “Sending these individuals back home in their asymptomatic state to spread the virus in their hometown or among their vulnerable households could really recreate what we experienced over the June time frame in the South. So I think every university president should have a plan for not only testing but caring for their students that need to isolate.”

Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government and public affairs, said colleges already are doing what Birx urged. “Any college that brings students back to campus will have a clear plan in place to isolate those who test positive and to provide medical assistance to individuals who need it,” he said. “There is simply no way that a campus would go through the extensive planning related to reopening in the COVID environment — cleaning, testing, tracing and distancing — and fail to ask themselves, ‘How do we isolate and treat students who test positive?’”

— Kery Murakami

With Many Students Quarantined, Colorado College Goes Virtual

Sept. 1, 1:30 p.m. First Colorado College quarantined students in one of its three residence halls for two weeks after a student tested positive for COVID-19. Then the liberal arts college in Colorado Springs had to do the same with its other two residence halls, just as the first residence hall completed its quarantine period.

On Tuesday, college officials conceded that “despite our rigorous testing and response protocols … our earlier plans to bring the rest of our student body to campus … are no longer feasible.” The college plans to deliver classes remotely for the rest of 2020 and require all students not in quarantine to leave campus by mid-September.

Colorado is probably best known for its block scheduling plan, which multiple colleges copied this year presuming that it would give them more flexibility to respond to potential COVID-19-required pivots.

The college’s COVID-19 dashboard shows only three positive cases (out of 1,111 tests), but it has not been updated since last Wednesday. The dashboard showed about a quarter of its 805 students living on campus as being in either quarantine or isolation, again as of last Wednesday.

— Doug Lederman

Illinois State Records Over 1,000 Cases

Sept. 1, 12:30 p.m. More than 1,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19 at Illinois State University roughly two weeks into the fall semester.

The 1,023 cases the university reported as of Tuesday represent nearly 5 percent of its student body, WGLT reported. The university has conducted about 4,400 tests at three locations on campus since Aug. 17, and its testing positivity rate for the last week is 24 percent.

Illinois State is located in Normal, Ill., which has enacted emergency orders aimed at curbing the spread of infections. One of those orders is a temporary ban on gatherings of more than 10 people near campus. The other in part requires customers at bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to be seated to be served.

University leaders say they have moved 80 percent of classes online, are encouraging faculty and staff members to work remotely if possible, and have de-densified dorms. But Illinois State’s on-campus coronavirus testing is reportedly slower and more expensive than tests being used in large numbers at the state flagship, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Illinois State was forced to change its testing strategy after the federal government redirected testing supplies to nursing homes — a series of events that contributed to university leaders deciding to shift plans toward online classes about a month ago, as the start of the semester neared.

— Rick Seltzer

Sept. 1, 6:39 a.m. Scott Atlas, an adviser to President Trump on the coronavirus, said Monday that college football can be played safely during the pandemic, Click Orlando reported.

He said college football players “are among the most fit people in the universe. They’re very low-risk people.”

“They have testing, they have doctors. This is the best possible healthy environment for the healthiest people. And so to start saying that we can’t have these sports when so many people in the community also depend upon the athletes themselves or their families — this shouldn’t really be a point of controversy,” Atlas said.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences called off the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns, but other big-time football conferences are playing this fall.

— Scott Jaschik

U of New England Warns Students They May Face Charges

Sept. 1, 6:27 a.m. The University of New England, in Maine, is warning students who attended an off-campus party that they will face disciplinary action, News Center Maine reported.

President James Herbert announced the university’s first positive case of COVID-19 and two additional cases among undergraduate students.

Herbert said the cases stemmed from “precisely the situation we have warned students against — a large off-campus gathering without masks and [social] distancing.”

— Scott Jaschik

Students, Employees Hold ‘Die-in’ at Georgia College

Aug. 28, 12:30 p.m. Students and staff members at Georgia College staged a protest this morning as the public liberal arts college’s COVID-19 numbers continue to mount.

The “die-in,” which was sponsored by the United Campus Workers of Georgia at GCSU union, featured masked and (mostly) physically distanced students and employees carrying signs such as “I can’t teach if I’m dead” and “I won’t die for the USG,” a reference to the University System of Georgia, of which Georgia College is a part.

UCWGA-GCSU is demanding online learning options for students and instructors, hazard pay, contact tracing, greater diagnostic testing and security from layoffs. The union has said neither testing nor quarantine housing has been provided by the university. Up to a third of students may currently be in quarantine.

College officials, who have issued mild statements and declined to answer numerous questions from Inside Higher Ed reporters as the proportion of students with COVID-19 has hit 8 percent, have said any decisions about the campus’s status must be made in consultation with officials from the system and from the state health department. Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, has generally opposed aggressive efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Georgia College updated its COVID-19 webpage Friday morning to add another 40 student cases from Thursday, pushing its student total to 514 and its campus total to 535. The college has about 7,000 students total, but its on-campus population is lower.

— Doug Lederman

Notre Dame Plans to Restart Undergraduate Classes in Person

Aug. 28, 11:05 a.m. The University of Notre Dame is moving to hold in-person undergraduate classes again in stages starting Wednesday, it announced this morning.

Notre Dame will resume in-person classes after two weeks of remote undergraduate instruction and physical lockdown prompted by spiking COVID-19 infections. The university announced Aug. 18 that it was closing public spaces on campus, restricting access to residence halls and asking students not to come to campus while its leaders reassessed plans amid a rising coronavirus infection rate.

At the time, Notre Dame counted 147 confirmed cases since Aug. 3 out of a total of 927 tests performed. The university only began classes Aug. 10.

When announcing that it plans to resume in-person classes for undergraduates, Notre Dame said that the number of new cases has decreased “substantially.” It cited a positivity rate of 6.3 percent from Aug. 20 through Aug. 25, as well as a positivity rate of less than 1 percent among over 1,200 surveillance tests on “members of the campus community.”

The university’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 12 new positive cases out of 409 total tests on Wednesday, the last day for which data have been posted. In the first three days of this week, it shows 66 new positive cases out of a total of 1,504 tests.

“With these encouraging numbers, we believe we can plan to return to in-person classes and gradually open up the campus,” the university’s president, the Reverend John I. Jenkins, said in a news release.

Two security firms and state troopers have been monitoring off-campus quarantine sites at Notre Dame after students were said to be leaving them in violation of rules, The South Bend Tribune reported yesterday. A Notre Dame spokesman has declined to provide additional information, citing student privacy concerns.

Father Jenkins said he was proud of staff members who have gone “above and beyond their ordinary responsibilities to keep the campus open and safe.” He also stressed those on campus should wear masks, maintain physical distance, wash their hands, complete a daily health check, report for surveillance testing as requested and limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

“The virus dealt us a blow and we stumbled, but we steadied ourselves and now we move on,” Father Jenkins said. “Let us redouble our diligence in observing health protocols and recommit to a semester of learning and growth. Together, we are writing one of the great comebacks in Notre Dame history.”

Colleges across the country have been grappling with the question of how they will decide whether to continue holding in-person classes amid COVID-19 spikes. Relatively few have posted firm guidelines.

The World Health Organization has recommended that governments should not begin reopening until positivity testing rates remain at or below 5 percent for at least 14 days.

— Rick Seltzer

U of Michigan President Sorry for Comparing COVID-19 Testing to HIV Testing

Aug. 28, 6:23 a.m. University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel apologized this week for comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to the HIV epidemic of the 1980s, MLive reported.

Schlissel said during a town hall that testing can give a false sense of security, and “that happened in the HIV epidemic when people got a negative test, and they presented it to their sex partners and spread the disease nonetheless.”

UM’s Queer Advocacy Coalition criticized the statement for reinforcing stereotypes about gay people.

“The analogy I used is not a good or fair one. In using this analogy to make my point, I unintentionally reinforced stereotypes that have been historically and unjustly assigned to the LGBTQIA+ community as well as other communities and persons affected by HIV and AIDS,” Schlissel wrote to the Queer Advocacy Coalition. “Again, for this I apologize, especially as it relates to groups that have been historically maligned and stereotyped. It was not my intention to disparage any community or person affected by HIV and AIDS.”

— Scott Jaschik

U of South Carolina President ‘Will Pull the Plug if I Have To’

Aug. 28, 5:30 a.m. Bob Caslen, president of the University of South Carolina, has ordered the development of a plan to shut down the campus after the number of cases of COVID-19 doubled in a day, to 380, The Post and Courier reported.

“We cannot sustain [191] new cases a day,” Caslen told faculty and staff. “And I certainly will pull the plug if I have to.”

Many of the cases are from the Greek system. Five houses are under quarantine.

“Was it predictable? Yes. Is it acceptable? Absolutely not,” Caslen said. “We had appealed to students to do the right thing, although we knew realistically what we could expect.”

— Scott Jaschik

Bloomsburg University, Kalamazoo Go All Online for Semester

Aug. 27, 2:52 p.m. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and Kalamazoo College have both announced that all classes will be online for the fall semester.

Bashar W. Hanna, Bloomsburg’s president, said that he wanted to offer courses in person. “Unfortunately, the circumstances have changed, and we have seen a concerning trend in positive COVID-19 cases within the BU community. After consultation with my leadership team, the members of our Council of Trustees, and the Office of the Chancellor, I have decided that, effective Monday, August 31, BU will transition to remote learning for all courses in progress,” he said.

Jorge G. Gonzalez, president of Kalamazoo, said, “I know that this is a deeply disappointing decision for everyone, especially for those of you looking forward to your first on-campus experience. While faculty and staff across the college are prepared for a return to campus next month, external factors have led us to this difficult decision.”

— Scott Jaschik

Cuomo Outlines Remote Learning Thresholds Via Twitter

Aug. 27, 2:45 p.m. New York governor Andrew Cuomo took to Twitter this morning to outline metrics that would trigger remote learning at colleges with coronavirus outbreaks.

“As college students return to campus, schools must be prepared for all possibilities,” he wrote. “If a college experiences 100 COVID cases or an outbreak equal to 5 percent of its population (whichever is less) — that college MUST go to remote learning for 2 weeks while the situation is evaluated.”

Many of the colleges that have already seen outbreaks this fall have reported case counts much higher than those thresholds.

— Lilah Burke

Georgia College Has 447 Cases, More Than 6% of Student Body

Aug. 26, 3:00 p.m. A total of 447 people — and roughly 440 students — at Georgia College have contracted COVID-19, according to the public liberal arts institution’s public dashboard. That is more than 6 percent of its nearly 7,000 students.

Inside Higher Ed‘s reporting has not revealed any other campus with anywhere near that proportion of COVID-19 positivity among the student body to date.

Officials at the college did not respond to several inquiries from Inside Higher Ed about how many students are in isolation or quarantining, or about the college’s plans to restrict in-person events or learning.

— Doug Lederman

Under Pressure, Arizona State Publishes Some COVID-19 Data

Aug. 26, 1:50 p.m. Arizona State University has come under criticism in recent weeks for declining to publish data about the spread of COVID-19 among its 100,000-plus students and employees, citing privacy concerns. On Wednesday, the university responded — partially.

In a message to the campus, President Michael Crow said that the university had test results from 32,729 students and employees and has “161 known positive cases within our community,” including students and staff members on and off the campus.

Crow said he knew that there “has been and will continue to be interest in this number,” and he committed to “regular updates about our COVID management strategy.”

But in response to an inquiry from Inside Higher Ed, an Arizona State spokesman acknowledged via email that the university did not plan to “have a dashboard/website, etc. with a running total. But we will have regular updates on trends — and we will be disclosing case counts in the future updates.”

University officials have cited privacy concerns as a reason not to publish COVID-19 case data regularly, but experts have dismissed that as a valid reason not to publish information that is not personally identifiable.

— Doug Lederman

USC Reports 43 Cases, Despite Holding Classes Online

Aug. 25, 8:58 a.m. The University of Southern California resumed classes one week ago, with most of its courses offered online. Residence halls have remained largely closed and the university told students they should not return to Los Angeles for the fall term. Despite these efforts, the university has reported 43 COVID-19 cases among students living in off-campus housing. Over 100 students are now in quarantine due to exposure, according to a memo from Sarah Van Orman, chief health officer for USC Student Health.

“This increase comes despite the continued State and County health guidance that significantly restricts in-person instruction and on-campus activities for universities located in counties that are on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list, including Los Angeles County,” Van Orman wrote. “For students who remain on or near campus in shared living arrangements, we strongly advise you to act with caution and strictly follow all guidelines for physical distancing (6 ft.), avoiding gatherings with other outside your home, wearing face coverings around others to protect against respiratory droplets and proceed with high adherence to hand hygiene and frequent surface contact cleaning.”

— Lilah Burke

Alabama Reports 531 Cases, 159 at Mizzou, 107 at Iowa

Aug. 25, 7:45 a.m. The University of Alabama on Monday had 531 positive cases of COVID-19 among its students, faculty and staff members, the University of Alabama system reported.

The university’s classes began less than a week earlier, on Aug. 19. It reported 310 positive cases among nearly 30,000 students who were tested when they arrived on campus. Those cases were not included in the 531 new ones. The university’s isolation space for students with the virus currently is 20 percent occupied, the system said.

In an attempt to tamp down the outbreak, the city of Tuscaloosa, where the university is located, on Monday shut down its bars and bar service at restaurants for two weeks, reported.

The University of Missouri at Columbia reported 159 active cases of the virus among its students on Monday, the first day of classes at the university.

The University of Iowa also began its in-person classes on Monday. It had 107 self-reported cases among students during the previous week, and four among employees.

Alabama’s president, Stuart Bell, did not blame students when addressing the spike in cases.

“Our challenge is not the students,” Bell said, according to “Our challenge is the virus and there’s a difference, folks. What we have to do is identify where does the virus thrive and where does the virus spread and how can we work together with our students, with our faculty and with our staff to make sure that we minimize those places, those incidents. It’s not student behavior, OK. It’s how do we have protocols so that we make it to where our students can be successful, and we can minimize the impact of the virus.”

— Paul Fain

Ohio State University Hands Out 228 Interim Suspensions

Aug. 24, 4:03 p.m. Ohio State University has issued 228 interim suspensions to students for violating new coronavirus-related safety guidelines, WSYX/WTTE ABC 6 has reported. The university has threatened consequences for students who host gatherings of more than 10 people, where people are not wearing masks or social distancing.

— Lilah Burke

Cases Spike at Auburn, Bars Shutter in Tuscaloosa

Aug. 24, 3:45 p.m. Auburn University reported 207 new positive cases of COVID-19 from last week, including 202 students and five employees. Those numbers are a fivefold increase from the 41 positives cases reported during the previous week. The university has had 545 total positive cases since March.

Students packed bars in downtown Auburn over the weekend, reported. And officials now are investigating reports of students not wearing masks or practicing social distancing in the bars. The state of Alabama has a mask mandate in place until the end of the month.

The University of Alabama today declined to release specific numbers of positive cases on campus, according to But the University of Alabama system plans to announce those numbers later today.

Cases appear to be spreading in Tuscaloosa, however, where the university is located. And the city today closed bars and suspended bar service at restaurants for two weeks, the site reported, to try to slow the spread of the virus.

“They have made tough decisions, and I appreciate Mayor Walt Maddox and the University of Alabama leadership for tackling a serious problem as quickly as possible,” Kay Ivey, the state’s Republican governor, said in a statement.

— Paul Fain

On the First Day of Class for Many, Zoom Is Down

Aug. 24, 10:00 a.m. The academic year is off to a rough start at several institutions.

Zoom, the videoconferencing platform now used by nearly everyone during the age of social distancing, is facing technical difficulties. The company’s meetings and video webinar services were partially down since at least 8:51 a.m. Eastern time, according to its status updates site.

The outages are concentrated on the East Coast, according to website that tracks outages of online platforms. By about 11 a.m., service was restored for some users.

Students and faculty members at several universities posted about the disruption on social media, including those at Temple and Widener Universities, Florida State University, and Pennsylvania State University.

A company spokesperson provided the following statement: “We have resolved an issue that caused some users to be unable to start and join Zoom Meetings and Webinars or manage aspects of their account on the Zoom website. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.”

— Madeline St. Amour

University of Iowa Drops Four Sports, Citing Impact of COVID-19

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

North Carolina State, La Salle Move Undergraduate Classes Online

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

UConn Evicts Students Who Held Party Without Social Distancing

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

Drexel Pivots to Online, Pitt Extends Remote-Only

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

Warren and Tlaib Question Student Housing Developer Over Reopening Pressure

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

Positive Cases Spike at Notre Dame

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.

— Paul Fain

COVID-19 Cluster at Kansas’ Bethel College

Aug. 17, 4:25 p.m. Nearly 10 percent of the first roughly 500 students and employees tested for COVID-19 at Bethel College, in Kansas, have the virus, the local health agency and Bethel’s president announced Monday.

In a videotaped statement, Jonathan Gering, Bethel’s president, said that “approximately 50” of those tested as they came to campus this week had the virus, including 43 students and seven employees. Those who tested positive were in isolation on the campus, and contact tracing had begun to identify others who had contact with those infected. Some of those identified are already in quarantine, Gering said.

The 43 infected students came from “faraway states and nearby locations as well,” Gering said. They represented a sizable fraction of Bethel’s roughly 500-student enrollment, since only about two-thirds of students had arrived on campus already for Wednesday’s planned first day of classes.

Gering said Bethel would delay the arrival of those students who had not yet come to the campus. “We’ll get you here when it’s safe to do so,” he said. Courses will begin online.

He also said that the college had moved to “orange” in its color-coded virus response system, and that students would be discouraged from leaving campus and visitors barred from coming onto campus.

— Doug Lederman

UNC Chapel Hill Pivots to Remote Instruction

Aug. 17, 4:05 p.m. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has announced that all of its undergraduate instruction will be remote, effective Aug. 19 — nine days after the university held its first in-person classes for the fall term.

The university cited a “spate of COVID-19 infection clusters” in making the decision. Three announced clusters last week were in student housing, with a fourth linked to a fraternity. UNC on its COVID-19 dashboard reported 130 new positive student cases in the last week, and five positive cases among employees.

Chapel Hill reported a high and rapidly increasing positivity rate among the nearly 1,000 students it had tested as of this morning.

“In just the past week (Aug. 10-16), we have seen the COVID-19 positivity rate rise from 2.8 percent to 13.6 percent at Campus Health,” said Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Chapel Hill’s chancellor, and Robert A. Blouin, its executive vice chancellor and provost, wrote to employees.

In addition to shifting its instruction to remote learning, the university said it would continue to “greatly reduce residence hall occupancy,” which it said were at 60 percent capacity.

Barbara K. Rimer, dean of UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, on Monday wrote on her blog that the university should “take an off-ramp and return to remote operations for teaching and learning.”

She cited reports of noncompliance with social distancing by students off campus, saying the reopening was not working. “The rationale for taking an off-ramp now is that the number of clusters is growing and soon could become out of control, threatening the health of others on campus and in the community and putting scarce resources at risk,” wrote Rimer.

UNC’s campus health services reported that 177 students were in isolation Monday, with 349 in quarantine.

“There are no easy answers as the nation navigates through the pandemic. At this point we haven’t received any information that would lead to similar modifications at any of our other universities,” Peter Hans, the UNC system’s president, said in a written statement. “Whether at Chapel Hill or another institution, students must continue to wear facial coverings and maintain social distancing, as their personal responsibility, particularly in off-campus settings, is critical to the success of this semester and to protect public health.”

— Paul Fain

UNC Chapel Hill Faculty Call Emergency Meeting After Fourth COVID Cluster

Aug. 16, 4:41 p.m. The Faculty Executive Committee at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will hold a meeting Monday to discuss the growing number of coronavirus cases after the university reported a fourth cluster of cases on Sunday, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. A cluster is defined as five or more cases in close proximity.

Three of the announced clusters were in student housing complexes, and the fourth was linked to a fraternity.

The chair of the faculty, Mimi Chapman, wrote to the UNC System Board of Governors over the weekend urging it to give UNC Chapel Hill’s chancellor authority to make decisions in response to the pandemic.

“We knew there would be positive cases on our campus. But clusters, five or more people that are connected in one place, are a different story,” Chapman wrote. “The presence of clusters should be triggering reconsideration of residential, in-person learning. However, moving to remote instruction cannot be done without your approval.”

Classes began at the Chapel Hill campus last week. The university opened for in-person classes over the objections of the local county health director.

— Elizabeth Redden

UNC Chapel Hill Reports 2 COVID-19 Clusters

Aug. 14, 4:32 p.m. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill informed students, faculty and staff members this afternoon that it has identified two clusters of COVID-19 cases at student housing complexes.

A cluster is five or more cases in close proximity within a single residential hall or dwelling. Those in the clusters “are isolating and receiving medical monitoring,” according to an alert issued this afternoon. Local health officials have been notified, and efforts are under way to identify others who could have been exposed.

“All residents in these living spaces have been provided additional information about these clusters and next steps,” the alert said. “Contact tracing has been initiated with direct communication to anyone determined to have been a close contact with a positive individual. A close contact is defined as someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes when either person has not been wearing a face covering. Those identified as a close contact will be notified directly and provided with further guidance.”

The clusters are at the Ehringhaus Community and Granville Towers. Ehringhaus has four-bedroom suites and is heavily skewed toward first-year student residents. Granville Towers are privately managed.

Chapel Hill’s COVID-19 dashboard shows main campus housing occupancy at 60.7 percent as of Monday and Granville Towers occupancy at 76.6 percent.

The university cited the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act when issuing the alert. That act set requirements for disseminating health and safety information on campus. But Chapel Hill does not plan to provide details about individual positive cases, citing privacy considerations and laws.

Chapel Hill held its first day of classes Monday.

— Rick Seltzer

Twenty-Eight COVID-19 Cases at the U. of Tennessee, Knoxville

Aug. 13, 5:30 p.m. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville reported that 20 students and 8 staff members have COVID-19, WATE News reported today. Due to potential exposure, 155 people are self-isolating, officials said. Students started moving into residence halls at the university on Aug. 9.

— Lilah Burke

Medical Advisers to NCAA Discourage Fall Sports Competition

Aug. 13, 1:30 p.m. Several medical experts with key roles in advising the National Collegiate Athletic Association offered discouraging words about fall sports competition in a conference call with reporters Thursday, according to news reports.

“I feel like the Titanic. We have hit the iceberg, and we’re trying to make decisions of what time should we have the band play,” ESPN quoted Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University and a member of the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel, as saying. “We need to focus on what’s important. What’s important right now is we need to control this virus. Not having fall sports this year, in controlling this virus, would be to me the No. 1 priority.”

Most college sports conferences have opted not to hold intercollegiate competition this fall, but several leagues that play high-profile (and high-dollar) football are planning to play on.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory and a member of the NCAA panel, said of the leagues planning to compete: “There will be transmissions [of COVID-19], and they will have to stop their games,” according to ESPN.

Officials at the Big Ten and the Pac-12, the two leagues in the Power Five football series that have opted not to play this fall, have especially cited concerns about apparently increased incidence of myocarditis, a potentially deadly heart condition, related to COVID-19. The NCAA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brian Hainline, said on the conference call that between 1 and 2 percent of all athletes who’ve been tested by NCAA members have tested positive for the coronavirus, and that at least a dozen have myocarditis, ESPN reported.

Dr. Kraft said colleges were “playing with fire” regarding myocarditis.

— Doug Lederman

Athletic Departments May Need ‘Extraordinary Support’ as Cancellations Hit Revenue

Aug. 13, 12:23 p.m. The recent spate of athletic conference decisions to postpone fall sports means substantial revenue shocks for college athletic departments, and cutting expenses will not always be enough to absorb the blow, according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service.

Because sports are strategically important for universities, Moody’s expects universities to provide “extraordinary support” like internal loans in order to stay current on debt payments for athletic facilities. Colleges and universities may tap their financial reserves to close budget gaps tied to the pandemic, the ratings agency said in a report released Thursday morning.

“Athletic expenses have grown significantly in recent years, including certain fixed costs such as debt service, which will impact universities’ ability to adjust to the disruption,” said Dennis Gephardt, vice president at Moody’s, in a statement.

Fall sports cancellations reached a crescendo this week when two of the most important conferences for college football, the Big Ten and the Pac-12, joined many non-Power Five conferences and programs in pulling the plug on fall sports amid COVID-19 concerns. Although the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference and Big 12 were still hoping to play football, the ramifications of existing cancellations will be felt across higher education.

Football has been the biggest driver of athletic revenue in the sector. Football contributed $5.8 billion in 2018, a whopping 40 percent of the $14.6 billion in total athletic revenue counted by Moody’s. Growth in revenue has been driven by media rights like the payments television networks make for the right to broadcast games.

Disappearing ticket sales will also hit revenue. Although some donor support might be expected to offset losses, a significant portion of donor support comes from seating priority programs — donors buying the right to pick seats under certain conditions.

This situation is particularly important because the median athletic department broke even in 2018, meaning a significant number of departments lost money.

Moody’s called that year a relatively strong revenue year. Still, more than a third of Division I public universities, 37 percent, reported expenses exceeded revenue that year. The median operating deficit among that group was 3 percent.

Conferences that generate more athletic revenue generally reported better operating performance than others. The financial health of operations varies greatly across athletic conferences.

“Compensation for coaches as well as other athletic support and administrative expenses among NCAA Division I members make up the largest portion of the expense base for a combined 35 percent and will be a focus for expense management efforts in fiscal 2021,” Moody’s said in its note. “With games canceled, universities will save some money on game day operations and travel expenses.”

Athletics requires more capital than other arms of higher education. Median debt-to-operating-revenue was 58 percent for public higher education overall, compared to 66 percent for institutions competing in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. Facility expenses and debt service at Division I public universities drove increases in debt between 2013 and 2018, with debt growing 54 percent in that period to a total of $2.3 billion.

“Given the revenue shocks, many athletic departments will not be able to cover debt service with net revenue from recurring operations, prompting the need to fill the gap from appropriate auxiliary and/or other reserves. In many cases, this is likely to take the form of internal loans that the athletic departments will need to repay the university over time,” the Moody’s report said.

All of this follows the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournaments in the spring. Men’s basketball accounted for about 15 percent of 2018 athletic revenue across higher education. Women’s basketball was 7 percent.

Still to be determined is how the spread of COVID-19 affects sports scheduled for later in the year and how universities balance pressures on athletics against pressures to other parts of their operations.

“Budget difficulties at athletic departments will add to the financial strains facing universities, including a tuition revenue pinch, reduced state funding and incremental expenses to combat the coronavirus,” the Moody’s report said.

— Rick Seltzer

A survey by Pearson finds that 77 percent of Americans think that reopening colleges and universities is vital to a healthy economy. But 62 percent say colleges and universities are risking the lives of students by reopening in the fall.

–Scott Jaschik

Aug. 11, 4:40 p.m. The Pac-12, another “Power Five” conference, quickly followed the Big Ten Conference with a decision to postpone fall sports for the remainder of 2020 at its institutions on the West Coast. The postponement also includes winter sports, which are on hold for the remainder of the year, and the conference will consider playing all sports impacted by the decision in 2021, the Pac-12 said in a release about the decision.

Three Power Five conferences, the Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference, which include the nation’s top football programs and gain most from the sport’s financial benefits, have not yet announced postponement of the fall sports season and are moving forward with modified schedules as of Aug. 11.

Aug. 11, 3:32 p.m. The Big Ten Conference officially postponed its 2020-21 fall sports season, including football. The decision affects some of the top college football teams in the country and was discouraged by several federal lawmakers on Monday.

Kevin Warren, commissioner of the Big Ten, said in a news release that athletes’ mental and physical health was “at the center” of the decision and that the coronavirus posed too many potential medical risks for the season to proceed this fall. Spring competition for football and other fall sports, including cross country, field hockey, soccer and volleyball, will be considered, the Big Ten said in the statement.

— Greta Anderson

Notre Dame President Apologizes for Photos

Aug. 11, 7:20 a.m. Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, has apologized for letting several students take photographs of him that were not safe.

“In a few instances, over recent days, I stopped for photos with some of you on the quad,” Father Jenkins wrote to students. “While all of the scientific evidence indicates that the risk of transmission is far lower outdoors than indoors, I want to remind you (and myself!) that we should stay at least six feet apart. I recognize that it’s not easy, particularly when we are reuniting with such great friends. I am sorry for my poor example, and I am recommitting to do my best. I am confident you will too.”

— Scott Jaschik

Financial Aid Applications Lag for Low-Income Students

Aug. 10, 12:45 p.m. Applications for federal and state financial aid for college are a leading indicator of how many students will enroll in and complete a college degree. A University of Michigan study shows that those applications have not increased with the additional need created by the coronavirus pandemic

The study found no increases in Michigan in students filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the Tuition Incentive Program, Michigan’s largest state scholarship program for low-income students.

“It is worrying that we haven’t seen any aid application expansion, and particularly that the gaps based on race or school income level have widened. FAFSA and TIP completion rates would need to be even higher than normal to keep up with the challenges created by the pandemic,” said Kevin Stange, associate professor at the Ford School of Public Policy.

— Scott Jaschik

Report: Big Ten Votes to Cancel Football Season

Aug. 10, 12:06 p.m. University presidents in the Big Ten Conference, one of the NCAA Division I “Power Five” conferences, voted to cancel the 2020 football season, The Detroit Free Press reported. The conference had originally planned for conference-only competition, but has faced increased pressure over the last week from athletes organizing to improve health and safety measures for play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Other Power Five conferences, which include the country’s top college athletics programs, are expected to make announcements about the fall season early this week, ESPN reported. Division II and III leaders decided last week that they would cancel fall athletic championships, and the first conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the Mid-American Conference, postponed fall sports on Aug. 8.

— Greta Anderson



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