Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 10, 2022

The University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League have issued statements backing Lia Thomas, a member of the women’s swim team at Penn. Thomas has been breaking records and has been subject of much criticism because she is transgender.

Penn said on Twitter that as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, “Penn is governed by the policies of the national governing body. Lia Thomas has met or exceeded all NCAA protocols over the past two years for a transgender female student-athlete to compete for a women’s team. She will continue to represent the Penn women’s swimming team in competition this season.”

The Ivy League statement also said that Thomas has complied with all the protocols. It said, “The Ivy League reaffirms its unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form.”

January 10, 2022

The websites of about 5,000 institutions, including high schools and colleges, were down last week in the wake of a ransomware attack on Finalsite, which makes software for websites.

Cybercriminals have increasingly targeted higher education institutions and have hit at least three community colleges with ransomware since the end of November. The attack on Finalsite demonstrates the value attackers find in going after service and solution providers as well. By disrupting a service provider like Finalsite, the scale of the attack becomes more devastating, since thousands of victims are forced to grapple with disruptions at once.

Finalsite officials said they first detected ransomware on their systems last Tuesday and immediately launched an investigation with the help of third-party forensic specialists. They said, 99.9 percent of disrupted websites were back in service by Sunday,

Brett Callow, a threat analyst with Emsisoft, said that cybercriminals view service and solution providers as attractive targets.

“An attack on a university affects only that university, while an attack on a service or solution provider can affect multiple universities—and that may increase their chance of getting a payout,” Callow said via email. “Incidents such as this are far from uncommon and show no signs of slowing. It’s almost inevitable that we’ll see more highly disruptive attacks on service and solution providers as the year progresses.”

 

January 10, 2022

Students who return to college and finish their bachelor’s degrees have immediate increases in annual income after graduation, as well as increases in income growth each year that follows, a new study from Kansas State University found.

Amanda Gaulke, assistant professor of economics in the College of Arts and Sciences at KSU and researcher for the study, found that students who return to college and finish their bachelor’s degrees earn on average $4,294 more immediately after graduation and see extra income growth of $1,121 per year, on average. The study, published in the Economics of Education Review, found that students who re-enroll but don’t complete their degrees also make slight income gains. The average age at graduation for students who re-enroll and finish their degrees is 27, Gaulke said in a press release, noting that those students “have a lot of working years left to experience improved labor market outcomes.”

“This information is important for people who are wondering if they should return to school,” Gaulke said. “When thinking in terms of weighing costs and benefits, it is important for those people to know that there are real economic benefits of going back and completing a bachelor’s degree.”

January 10, 2022

Today on the Academic Minute: Sal Agnihothri, professor of supply chain and business analytics at Binghamton University, weighs the risks of sharing health data through your phone. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 7, 2022

The University of Kansas on Tuesday suspended two fraternities for five years following an investigation that accused the groups of hazing, the Associated Press reported.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tammara Durham wrote a letter to the two fraternities, Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Delta Theta, informing them that they will be removed from campus until the spring of 2027. Investigations conducted by national fraternity leadership and reviewed by a university panel found that both fraternities participated in a pattern of hazing that included sleep deprivation, assaults, forced workouts, destruction of pledges’ property and retaliation for reporting the behavior to university officials, the letter from Durham stated.

One pledge from Phi Gamma Delta suffered a concussion after being thrown against a locker, and pledges were forced to sleep in beds covered in vomit, urine and trash, according to the investigation. Phi Delta Theta was accused of having members break the personal items of pledges and throw their pillows and mattresses from windows. In 2018, the Interfraternity Council at the University of Kansas halted the activities of its 24 fraternities amid allegations of hazing among the chapters.

January 7, 2022

Yale University has asked students to avoid eating at local restaurants, even outdoors.

The advice applies to students who live on or off campus. Students at Yale are required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus—including a booster shot—and the flu, according to the college website. Students are also being asked to take a COVID-19 test prior to traveling to campus and must undergo required coronavirus testing when they arrive at Yale, isolating until they receive results.

“If your arrival test is negative, you may move around campus, but avoid local businesses, restaurants, and bars, including outdoor drinking or dining,” Melanie Boyd, dean of student affairs, wrote in a message to students outlining COVID-19 protocols for the spring semester.

Despite numerous headlines declaring that Yale has officially banned students from eating at off-campus restaurants, the guidance from the university does not include an explicit directive.

The move, first reported by the Yale Daily News, has been widely panned by critics online.

The university has also asked students to avoid out-of-state travel through Feb. 7.

January 7, 2022

More colleges and universities have announced that they are moving most or all of their classes online to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Carnegie Mellon University announced that the first two weeks of most campus courses, which start Jan. 18, would be remote.

The University of Texas at Austin announced, “We are asking faculty members to teach remotely for the first two weeks of the semester, with a target date of January 31 to return to the originally assigned teaching modality. Some may choose to teach in person, while also providing online delivery between January 18 and January 28.”

The University of Rochester announced that all classes in January (except those in the nursing or medical schools) would be taught remotely.

January 7, 2022

Today on the Academic Minute: Arran Caza, associate professor of management at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, explains the best way to educate future business leaders. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 6, 2022

D’Youville College on Wednesday announced plans to shift to a 32-hour workweek, adjusting the employee workweek to four eight-hour days without any change to employees’ pay or benefits. Employees at the private college in Buffalo, N.Y., previously worked five 7.5 hour-days, or 37.5 hours per week.

“This shift is propelled by technology and requires departments to move the dial on technology acceptance, professional development, and workflow optimization in order to remain eligible for the reduced work week hours,” D’Youville president Lorrie Clemo said in a press release. “While it may seem novel, it actually just aligns our organization to the average annual hours currently worked by European Union countries.”

Clemo said the college will start with a six-month trial period for the new policy. “However, I’m confident the policy shift is going to improve the overall wellbeing of our employees and competitiveness of our institution,” she said.

January 6, 2022

The vice chancellor of the San Mateo Community College District in California was charged with embezzling taxpayer money, The Mercury News reported Wednesday. The charges result from an ongoing probe into corruption by top district officials.

Jose Nuñez pleaded not guilty to 15 felony charges, including allegations that he illegally used district computers and work hours to support a political ally and a statewide bond measure that would have awarded $2 billion for capital projects at community colleges. Nuñez was also charged with embezzling government funds and failing to report gifts from donors.

Nuñez has been placed on administrative leave. Ron Galatolo, chancellor of the district, was fired in February as a result of the two-year criminal investigation, though no charges have been filed against him.

“Although the facts of the case are still limited, the College District has placed Mr. Nuñez on administrative leave to allow the legal process to take its course,” a district spokesperson told The Mercury News. “The College District has an unwavering commitment to integrity, transparency, and accountability and supports the District Attorney’s goal of ensuring that these standards are met by all public officials.”

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