Live Updates: Latest News in Higher Education



Live Updates: Latest News in Higher Education

Ohio Governor Signs Bill With Higher Ed Provisions

Ohio governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, signed a wide-ranging bill on higher education Thursday, reported.

Among the provisions:

  • A ban on state colleges and universities charging more tuition and fees for online courses than in-person courses. Colleges must base special fees for online courses at state colleges and universities on the actual cost borne by the college.
  • A requirement that every state institution of higher education adopt a formal system in which students, groups or faculty members could submit complaints about free speech violations by a college employee.
  • A requirement that every state institution of higher education that takes disciplinary action against a student notify the student of the action, provide reasons for it and offer a fair and impartial appeal hearing.
  • A ban on state colleges and universities hiring any company for supplies, services or construction work unless the contract declares the company is not boycotting Israel and will not for the duration of the contract.
Saint Leo Won’t Merge With Marymount California

Saint Leo University and Marymount California University have abandoned plans to merge, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

The main campus of Saint Leo is in Florida. The university is known for its many online offerings in addition to its main campus.

Marymount California had been seeking a buyer or merger arrangement for a while. Marymount’s undergraduate enrollment has declined steadily since it peaked at 1,179 students during the 2014–15 academic year, data from the National Center for Education Statistics showed. During the 2019–20 academic year, the university enrolled 622 undergraduates.

But in December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Saint Leo’s accreditor, rejected the plan. The accrediting agency rejected the prospectus for the acquisition because Saint Leo “did not provide an acceptable plan and supporting documentation to ensure that it has the capacity to comply with” SACS’s financial responsibility standard, according to a SACS report.

Initially, Saint Leo said it would seek the accreditor’s approval at a later date.

A Saint Leo statement on Wednesday said, “The parties did not receive regulatory approval as anticipated in December 2021 and, faced with an extended timeline for consummation of the transaction, ultimately decided it was in the best interests of both universities to part ways amicably.”

Biden Will Speak at Delaware Commencement

President Biden will be the speaker at the commencement of the University of Delaware on May 28, the university announced Tuesday.

Biden is a graduate of the university.

Before President Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic, presidents typically spoke at a public college, a private college and a service academy.

President Leaves Spouse Accused of Harassment

Judy Sakaki, president of Sonoma State University, part of the California State University system, announced Monday that she is separating from her husband, Patrick McCallum, a lobbyist for higher education, who has been accused of harassing women, the Los Angeles Times reported. The university paid $600,000 this year to settle a complaint by Lisa Vollendorf, a former provost, who reported on the harassment and said the university didn’t do enough about her complaint.

Sakaki and McCallum last week strongly denied the allegations of harassment. But amid growing criticism, their stances have changed. On Friday, McCallum said, “I want to apologize to anyone who has felt uncomfortable in my presence or through my actions. It was never my intent to act disrespectfully, but it’s clear that I made some people uncomfortable. For that, I’m truly sorry.”

However, McCallum has sent what the Times characterized as “several rambling messages” since then, including one about the “hurtful allegations” that were first reported by the Times, and he criticized Vollendorf in an email.

Sakaki said the email was “sent without my knowledge or consent and does not reflect my viewpoint. I consider the matters between Dr. Vollendorf and me to be resolved.

“I ask for privacy and time to address these personal matters,” Sakaki added, “as I continue my service to our campus and community.”

She added that she was “disavowing the words and actions of my husband, Patrick McCallum.”

Also on Monday, State Senator Bill Dodd, a Democrat whose district includes Sonoma State, issued this statement: “The reports are a significant distraction for the university at a critical time, and raise serious questions about her leadership and judgement. It is concerning and deserves close scrutiny by the CSU chancellor and board of trustees as to how the interests of students and employees can be best served going forward.”

Lamps Bought to Curb COVID-19 Damaged Eyes

At the start of the spring semester, the State University of New York at Geneseo purchased 17 ultraviolet lamps to stop the spread of COVID-19. But the lamps damaged the eyes of eight professors and an unknown number of students, WXXI News reported.

Kathy Mapes, associate professor of history at SUNY Geneseo, said she thought the lamp was a space heater. She woke up at 1 a.m. with burning eyes the first night after she was in a classroom with the lamp.

Mapes said she was diagnosed with UV keratitis. The condition is caused by unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays. She was told that the tissue covering her cornea was damaged.

The State Labor Department has found that the lamps were not properly installed in five classrooms. In addition, the report faulted Geneseo for not posting warnings in all of the rooms with the lamps.

A SUNY Geneseo spokesperson said university officials couldn’t talk about the incidents because an investigation of them is ongoing.

Howard U Moves to Online Classes

Howard University will hold only online undergraduate classes (except for lab classes) during the final weeks of the semester.

Final exams for undergraduate courses will also be online.

A letter to the campus from Anthony K. Wutoh, the provost, and Hugh Mighty, dean of the College of Medicine, said the positivity rate on campus increased, from 2 percent to 5 percent, in the last week. It has also increased in the Washington, D.C., area.

Columbia U President to Retire Next Year

Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, announced today that he will step down at the end of the 2022–23 academic year, his 21st year as president.

A letter to the campus from Lisa Carnoy and Jonathan Lavine, co-chairs of the Columbia board, praised his work on the Manhattanville campus, 17 acres that are a few blocks from the Morningside Heights campus. “When Lee was inaugurated in 2002, the Columbia he inherited was resource constrained, land constrained, and facing an uncertain future. Today, after raising more than $13 billion during his tenure for scholarships, research, capital projects, and endowment, the university’s financial standing and academic standing are stronger than ever,” they wrote.

$600,000 for Not Investigating Provost’s Complaint

The California State University system paid $600,000 to the ex-provost of Sonoma State University for not investigating her complaint about the husband of the president, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Lisa Vollendorf, then the university’s provost, reported that several women alleged they were sexually harassed by Patrick McCallum, a higher education lobbyist who is married to Sonoma State president Judy Sakaki, a legal claim filed with Cal State indicates. Vollendorf was recently appointed president of Empire State College of the State University of New York.

Vollendorf told the Cal State general counsel that three women, two of them campus employees, alleged McCallum talked about his sex life, ran his fingers through one woman’s hair and then made “inappropriate personal comments” about her appearance during a party at his house, according to settlement records. The women described the behavior as “creepy,” “disgusting” and “pervy,” the records said.

Cal State officials said they did not launch a formal investigation into the harassment claims and instead spoke to Sakaki about the accusations. CSU officials said in a statement that a Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 officer conducted a review of the allegations and concluded “the reported conduct might not rise to the level of sexual harassment as defined by university policy” if the accusations were investigated and substantiated. The CSU’s definition of sexual harassment includes “unwelcome verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

In statements issued to the Times Wednesday, McCallum said he had done nothing wrong, and Sakaki denied retaliating against Vollendorf, saying the accusations “are utterly without basis.”

“Sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in any form are unacceptable on our campus,” Sakaki said. “I was surprised and saddened to learn of the allegations against my spouse,” she added, saying that “he denies engaging in any inappropriate behavior.”

Vollendorf provided a statement saying that leaders in higher education have an obligation to do “the right thing even when it’s the hard thing.”

“I sincerely hope that broader knowledge of stories like these results in systemic change so nobody is ever again subjected to the treatment I witnessed, reported, and experienced,” she said.

Two years into the pandemic, colleges are still fine-tuning their COVID-19 mitigation policies, changing course as needed to keep students safe and case counts low. In the latest pivot, some colleges are reinstating mask mandates—just as coronavirus cases begin to increase on campus.

Over the last week, colleges across the country—including American University and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; Columbia University in New York; and Rice University in Texas, to name a few—have reinstated mask mandates to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

Many of the colleges making such changes already have vaccine and booster mandates.

Read more »
Rice Restores Classroom Mask Policy

Rice University is restoring a mandatory masking policy in the classroom for all students. Instructors may remove their masks while lecturing.

The university also ordered the cancellation of “large college parties” this past weekend.

Kevin E. Kirby, chair of Rice’s Crisis Management Advisory Committee and vice president for administration, wrote to faculty, staff and students with the rationale for the changes.

“We constantly monitor the COVID-19 situation on campus, which has been quite encouraging over the past two months,” Kirby wrote. “But over the past few days, there’s been a significant rise in the number of positive cases reported in our community—about 145. Over 90 percent of the positive cases are undergraduates, with about half occurring in two residential colleges. The vast majority of these positive test results have been reported not through Rice testing, but rather through the self-administered antigen tests that were distributed across campus earlier this semester. While most of the people who tested positive have symptoms, we know of no serious illness among Rice community members.”

Johns Hopkins Strengthens COVID-19 Rules

Johns Hopkins University has strengthened COVID-19 rules following a rise in cases.

“Since Spring Break, we have received reports of COVID cases among undergraduates who have recently traveled or who were exposed to someone who has recently traveled,” said an email to students from Kevin Shollenberger, vice provost for student health and well-being. “Nearly 100 undergraduate students have reported a positive test since April 1, with cases evenly split among residential and non-residential students. Consistent with what we have seen this term, many students who tested positive are asymptomatic, and the rest are experiencing only mild symptoms.”

In response, Hopkins is temporarily instituting twice-weekly COVID-19 testing for undergraduates. The university is also reinstituting masking requirements for all persons in common areas of residence halls or in university dining facilities, except when actively eating or drinking.

U of Michigan Warns Students

The University of Michigan warned students Friday that COVID-19 cases are increasing, WXYZ News reported.

“These cases are almost always linked to indoor social gatherings,” said Preeti Malani, the university’s chief health officer.

Most of the cases are mild, as they are hitting students who have been vaccinated.

The university’s COVID-19 data center said on Thursday, “The number of COVID-19 cases on campus increased again slightly last week from the previous week with small pockets of cases linked to various social gatherings and other events around the campus community. Cases in Washtenaw County are now increasing after plateauing the previous week. U-M students accounted for 26 percent (119 out of 459) of COVID-19 cases.”

Professor Sues U of Florida Over COVID-19

A professor is suing the University of Florida in federal court for suppressing his free speech rights, The Gainesville Sun reported.

Richard Burt, of the Florida English department, said that administrators offered conflicting and shifting demands for in-person classes at the start of the fall term, barred him from discussing COVID-19 with his students, and ordered him to undergo a mental exam when he pushed back.

His suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and an order from the court blocking administrators from limiting his rights to free speech.

The University of Florida declined to respond.

Cornell Sees Surge in Cases

Cornell University reported 151 new positive cases of coronavirus on Tuesday. Cornell has a total of 263 active student cases.

Of Cornell students, 97 percent are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The university raised its status level to yellow (among green, yellow and red). Under yellow status, all faculty, staff, students and visitors must wear masks when in certain settings, including in classrooms and laboratories, at health-care and testing facilities, and on public transportation.

Students Complain About Chinese Quarantine Rules

Students in China, which is currently facing several serious outbreaks of COVID-19, are complaining about quarantine rules, CNN reported.

At the Jilin Agricultural Science and Technology University, students took to social media to plead for help. They said they had been left to fend for themselves after a cluster was detected on campus. In a widely shared post on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, a user claiming to be a student at the university complained that infected students had been isolated in libraries and academic buildings, “all breaking down and crying.”

“Many students in my dormitory had fever, but counselors just gave us fever reducers and told us to sleep with a warm quilt,” the user wrote. “There is a serious shortage of daily necessities. Girls have no sanitary pads. Students are bleeding and hurting, crying and calling their families.”

Other postings said that students were in their dormitories and had found “their doors were sealed off and they can’t even go to the dormitory’s public toilet.”

CNN has reached out to the university through its official Weibo account for comment. The university’s official website, and any additional contact information, has been taken off-line as of Friday.


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