Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 2, 2020

The University of California, San Francisco, paid a ransom of $1.14 million to hackers who encrypted and threatened to publish sensitive data stolen from the institution’s School of Medicine.

UCSF is one of three universities recently targeted using ransom software known as Netwalker. Michigan State University and Columbia College Chicago were also affected. Michigan State announced last month that it decided not to pay the ransom out of concern that payment to the criminals would encourage future attacks.  

Through an anonymous tip, a BBC News reporter was able to join the live chat room where UCSF negotiated the ransom. The hackers initially demanded $3 million. A UCSF representative said the coronavirus pandemic was “financially devastating” for the university and made a counteroffer of $780,000, which was refused. They settled on a payment of 116.4 Bitcoin, worth approximately $1.14 million.

“We are continuing our investigation, but we do not currently believe patient medical records were exposed,” said a UCSF statement news release on June 26. “The data that was encrypted is important to some of the academic work we pursue as a university serving the public good,” continued the statement. “We therefore made the difficult decision to pay some portion of the ransom, approximately $1.14 million, to the individuals behind the malware attack in exchange for a tool to unlock the encrypted data and the return of data they obtained.”

July 2, 2020

Co-working company WeWork has sold Flatiron School, a successful early coding boot camp company, to Carrick Capital Partners.

Flatiron School co-founder Adam Enbar will remain CEO of the company. As part of the transaction, Flatiron School will continue to offer face-to-face programs in data science, software engineering and cybersecurity at WeWork locations, once COVD-19 restrictions have been lifted.

“We started Flatiron School with one simple idea, that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to education doesn’t work,” Enbar said in a news release. “WeWork has been an incredible partner to us on this journey, supporting our growth as we launched new disciplines and campuses, and served thousands of active students between our online and campus programs. We look forward to taking on this new chapter with Carrick, which believes in our founding mission and has the expertise and commitment to help us maximize our impact.”

Flatiron was acquired by WeWork in 2017. It is one of several assets WeWork has sold recently as the company tries to stabilize its finances. The value of WeWork plummeted after the company attempted to go public in 2019.

July 2, 2020

The deans of the University of California Health's six medical schools announced Tuesday that all medical school, residency and fellowship interviews for the 2020-21 academic year will be held in a virtual format. The decision creates a consistent approach of no in-person interviews, so that all applicants who advance to the interview stage have the same setting for presenting their skills.

"We want to create an equitable process for all," said Cathryn Nation, vice president of health sciences for University of California Health. "Applicants to UC medical schools and residency programs rigorously prepare academically and usually travel for in-person panel interviews. We don't want these individuals to feel their chance for success is influenced by their ability to appear in person at this time when the risk of coronavirus transmission remains a very real concern."

July 2, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Longwood University Week, Amorette Barber, associate professor of biology, details one cancer treatment that leaves behind adverse side effects. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 1, 2020

A recently released report features data collected from more than 180,000 college student respondents at 74 institutions on six noncognitive factors that influence student success, including academic self-efficacy, educational commitment, social comfort, academic engagement and campus engagement and resiliency. The survey data from 2013 to 2019 was produced by Campus Labs, a data collection company focused on institutional effectiveness and student engagement.

Primary findings from the survey included:

  • Academic engagement has increased over time.
  • Students show moderate levels of educational commitment, despite high scores in academic engagement and academic self-efficacy.
  • Private four-year institutions have seen a decline in levels of campus engagement.
  • Public four-year institutions have seen a decline in levels of resiliency.
  • Small campuses generally face a challenge with campus engagement.
  • Large campuses (full-time enrollments of more than 8,000) saw a rise in the number of respondents with low resiliency.

“Noncognitive factors are often used to understand a student’s readiness to engage in the academic and social challenges of higher education -- challenges that, if they persist, pose risks to retaining enrolled students,” Matt Jackson, a consultant for Campus Labs and the report's co-author, said in a written statement. “As institutions become ever more reliant on tuition dollars, utilizing noncognitive data is a pragmatic approach to keep students enrolled through the entirety of their degree-seeking experience.”

July 1, 2020

The board of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has voted to drop Woodrow Wilson from its name. "The board took this action because the racist policies and beliefs of Woodrow Wilson are fundamentally incompatible with the foundation’s values and work," said a statement from the foundation. After consulting with various stakeholders, a new name will be announced in the fall.

July 1, 2020

Mike Adams, a controversial professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, will retire Aug. 1.

Jose V. Sartarelli, the chancellor, issued this statement (in full): "Over the past several weeks, many of you have inquired about the status of a UNCW faculty member, Dr. Mike Adams, in light of the public attention generated by comments he made on his personal social media channels. We can now share the update that after a discussion with Chancellor Sartarelli, Dr. Adams has decided to retire from UNCW, effective August 1, 2020. We will have no further comment on this matter at this time, but we plan to share an update later this week regarding how we hope to move forward as a university community."

The current controversy was over a tweet by Adams attacking Governor Roy Cooper in May for shutting down the state. The tweet: “This evening I ate pizza and drank beer with six guys at a six seat table top. I almost felt like a free man who was not living in a slave state of North Carolina. Massa Cooper, let my people go.”

Adams did not respond to a request for comment.

July 1, 2020

Harvard College will no longer enforce a 2016 policy that imposes sanctions on single-gender organizations, such as fraternities and sororities, that are not affiliated with the college, President Lawrence Bacow said in a message this week to students and staff members. The policy barred members of these groups from receiving college fellowships or holding leadership positions in recognized organizations and varsity sports teams, and was challenged in federal court by campus fraternities and sororities in December 2018.

Bacow said the college expects the ongoing lawsuit to result in the policy's removal due to the June 15 Supreme Court decision that extended employment protections against discrimination based on sex to LGBTQ people. The policy does not address sexual orientation or gender identity, but enforcing it could have an impact on transgender students.

Dani Weatherford, CEO of the National Panhellenic Conference, and Judson Horras, CEO of the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represent national fraternities and sororities, said in a joint statement reacting to the policy removal that “the discriminatory nature of Harvard’s policy was apparent long ago.”

“Our focus has always been on the freedom of association rights of students and on the particularly acute harm that this policy has done to women’s-only organizations on Harvard’s campus,” the statement said. “Today’s announcement from the university is nothing short of an admission that their policy was misguided and openly discriminatory based on sex.”

July 1, 2020

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and Public Justice, a legal advocacy organization, jointly filed a motion in Rhode Island district court arguing that Brown University’s recent decision to eliminate five women’s varsity sports is in violation of a 1992 settlement agreement.

The organizations argue in their filing that the cuts will result in the university failing to provide athletic opportunities for women students that are proportionate to their enrollment numbers, a joint release said. Providing such opportunities is a requirement of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by women athletes against Brown nearly three decades ago for violations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded institutions.

Brown’s restructuring of its athletics department originally eliminated six men’s sports, but men’s track and field and cross-country were reinstated due to concerns about the impact of the program cuts on racial diversity. The university's plans involve elevating women’s and coed sailing teams to varsity status, which officials expect will keep Brown in compliance with the 1992 agreement. But the motion filed on June 29 by the ACLU of Rhode Island, where brown is located, and Public Justice argues the requirements cannot be met by varsity teams that do not yet exist and where gender participation numbers are unknown.

Brian Clark, a spokesperson for Brown, said in an email that the groups that filed the motion are “asking Brown to see into the future” and provide numbers on how many women will participate in sailing, during a time when enrollment and fall athletic competition are uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today’s motion is a pre-emptive legal action asserting a hypothetical violation that has not taken place -- and Brown would not allow this speculative scenario to emerge in future athletic seasons,” Clark wrote. “Having closely assessed roster sizes for our revised lineup of varsity teams, we are confident that the proportion of women athletes will be in compliance with both the Cohen joint agreement and Title IX for the upcoming athletic seasons.”

July 1, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Longwood University Week, Ian Danielsen, assistant professor of social work, looks at programs designed to help students with disabilities get the education they need. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.





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