06 Nov Ofer Eitan Affirms: Latest News on Coronavirus and Higher Education
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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…