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Friday 5: Things To Ponder This Week In Higher Ed 1/15/21

At Innovative Educators, we have and always will stand for non-violence, equality, education and kindness. 


Our Friday 5 Live podcast kicks off again on January 22 when we will discuss mental health strategies for students, faculty and staff in this new year with Dr. Jena Morrison.  We hope you will join us!!



Pandemic and politics continue to dominate this week in higher education.  The CDC is recommending faculty and staff at higher education institutions be in the second phase of vaccinations.  Additional institutions announced they will push back the return of students to campus for the spring 2021 semester including the University of Pittsburgh, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Appalachian State University. Institutions are grappling with how to respond to the January 6 attack on the United States capitol: Lehigh University has rescinded an honorary degree it awarded President Trump while Harvard announced Rep. Elise Stefanik will be removed from an advisory board at the Institute of Politics because of baseless claims she made of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.



The Centers for Disease Control released a study last week detailing the impacts on local communities by institutions that operated in the fall with in-person classes. In the fall semester, those counties with large colleges that had in-person instruction saw a 56 percent increase in COVID cases. The inverse was also true: those counties with large colleges that taught primarily online saw COVD cases fall by 18 percent.  The CDC is asking colleges to do more to mitigate COVID spread as the spring semester starts across the country.


Number 3: College and university presidents collectively ranked the mental health of faculty and staff members as their third-most-pressing concern in a recent poll conducted by the American Council on Education. Student mental health and long-term financial viability of their institutions ranked number one and two.



This week, Education Dive and Inside Higher Ed examine a new memorandum from the Department of Education’s Office of the General Counsel which states that LGBTQ students are not included in protections under Title IX.  The Department’s Office of Civil Rights is directed to “only consider certain forms of discrimination based on LGBTQ identity as discrimination under Title IX and said that ‘sex’ should only be interpreted to mean ‘biological sex, male and female’.” The memo is a direct contradiction to recent federal appeals court decisions. The new Secretary of Education is expected to overturn this interpretation of Title IX.


“It is clear now that football players are essential workers. The problem remains that they are not treated as employees and are not compensated. As non-employees, players’ health, safety and well-being are not very well protected.” Michael Hsu, regent at the University of Minnesota



As the football season concludes for NCAA Division I institutions, the Guardian examines COVID’s influence on the season and its impact on student athletes.  Players reported feeling isolated during COVID quarantines and forced separation from family and friends during the season. Athletes addressed injuries they received as a result of a shortened pre-season.  Students cited concerns about the long-term repercussions of having been exposed to COVID during the season.  The authors argue that continuing to proceed with the fall 2020 college football season during a pandemic highlights the exploitation of student-athletes.


Follow our Friday 5 Live podcast available now on your favorite podcasting app!


This week the Chronicle examines the stress COVID is putting on student affairs practitioners.  Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, reports that he has never witnessed this level of exhaustion amongst student-affairs professionals.  Trained to deal with crises, administrators are facing burnout as they push through ten months of supporting students through pandemic, institutional concerns about enrollment stability, and a national reckoning over racial injustice. The article voices concerns that practitioners will leave student affairs work as a result of layoffs and burnout and questions the resulting impact on student success outcomes.
Author: Meg Foster
January 15, 2021
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