Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 11, 2022

The University of Wyoming has announced a new approach to COVID-19 testing in the spring semester.

The university will no longer require all students and employees to be tested. It will test those who seek it out, and it will test a random sample of 3 percent of students and employees on Jan. 18.

“There’s already good reason to believe that the virus, particularly the Omicron variant, is widespread in our community. Positivity rates are now growing rapidly, and the risk of creating an environment for further transmission at a mass testing event likely would offset information we would gain from it,” said President Ed Seidel. “We’re making this late change in plans in response to the rapidly changing landscape caused by Omicron, which is highly transmissible but appears to cause less severe illness than previous versions of COVID-19.”

January 11, 2022

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sided with Harvard University in a lawsuit brought by chemistry professor Charles Lieber seeking to force the university to pay his legal fees.

Lieber was convicted last month of lying to federal authorities about his ties to a Chinese scientific talent program and of failing to report the income on his taxes.

In a ruling issued Monday, Massachusetts’ highest court found that Harvard acted consistently with its indemnification policy in determining that it was “reasonably likely” that Lieber ultimately would not be eligible for indemnification and therefore was not entitled to advance payment of his legal fees.

The opinion says Harvard’s executive president, Katherine N. Lapp, “determined that indemnification was likely to be precluded under any of a number of exceptions set forth in the policy, including where a qualified person is adjudicated or determined not to have acted in good faith or in the reasonable belief that his or her actions were in the best interests of Harvard; is adjudicated or determined to have engaged in criminal misconduct, intentional wrongdoing, recklessness, or gross negligence; or is found to have committed an act or omission that he or she knew or should have known was a violation of Harvard policies.”

January 11, 2022

Today on the Academic Minute: Frederick Engram, assistant professor of instruction at the University of Texas at Arlington, discusses why instructors aren’t always allowed to teach what they believe. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 10, 2022

With a lack of clear guidance from the NCAA, student athletes’ opportunities to earn money from name, image and likeness rights are wide-open for experimentation. Now a top transfer prospect has a $1 million offer to take his football talent to Eastern Michigan University, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Caleb Williams, a highly touted quarterback who played his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma, announced last week that he was considering transferring to another program. In short order, Charlie Batch, a former Eastern Michigan University and NFL quarterback, targeted the transfer prospect with a million-dollar proposition from an investment firm he works with.

According to the Free Press, Batch tweeted at Williams, “GameAbove Capital is prepared to pay you ONE MILLION DOLLARS for one year! Are you ready [to] be an EAGLE?”

In his announcement that he was entering the transfer portal, Williams said he might stay at Oklahoma, though he indicated the recent departure of former head coach Lincoln Riley for the University of Southern California played a role in his decision to consider other options.

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.

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