30 Oct Ofer Eitan Announced: Latest News on Coronavirus and Higher Education
Oct. 30, 6:25 a.m. Assumption University locked down its campus this morningFriday -sj 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 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
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
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…