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Friday 5: Things To Ponder This Week In Higher Ed 9/11/20

Congratulations to New England College whose image of the Library Unicorn welcoming students to campus won our first Back to School Picture contest!  Check it out below!  Join us next Friday, September 18, for our next Friday 5 Live when Eric Salahub shares with us tips and tricks for engaging students online, recommendations we can use in the classroom and in student services.  We hope you will join us to get some practical ways we can create an active learning environment for our students!

Library Unicorn welcoming students


The State of Higher Education This Week

COVID responses continue to dominate the headlines in higher education this week.  Bradley University announced on Tuesday that all students would be required to quarantine in their residences for two weeks as a result of COVID cases.  West Virginia University shifted classes online in response to an increase in cases at the Morgantown campus.  Baylor University and Louisiana Tech’s football game was postponed when 38 Louisiana Tech players tested positive for COVID-19. Some institutions like the University of Connecticut and Penn State University are already announcing spring plans which are consistent with fall plans of hybrid learning formats.



Education Dive reports this week on strikes and collective action taking place at colleges across the country.  At the University of Michigan, graduate student instructors and staff assistants are striking this week demanding: increased coronavirus testing, allowing graduate employees to switch to remote work, and “cutting ties with the local police and federal immigration authorities.” Another strike at the University of Iowa is demanding a shift to online learning.  Experts recommend that college leadership consult faculty before making decisions.  Institutions like the University of Florida have worked with employee unions to reach agreements.  


The New York Times this week examined students’ experiences of being quarantined on campus. Experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci recommend institutions quarantine students who are ill with COVID.  Unfortunately, students are sharing that the practice of quarantining at college is putting them and others at risk.  A student at UNC reported that ill with COVID, she had to move herself into the quarantine dorm where no one from staff checked on her during her illness. UNC has subsequently shifted online for the fall.  Students at the University of Alabama have turned in classmates they have seen flouting quarantine.  “Some public health experts say the spotty oversight of quarantine dorms raises questions about whether universities have made more fundamental changes that might have helped them limit outbreaks in the first place — changes like significantly reducing dorm occupancy and repeatedly testing all students for the virus.” As institutions, like James Madison University, shift online, there is growing concern that students will spread COVID to their home communities and vulnerable populations there as they move home.


2,000: The number of students in quarantine at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville


Institutions at all levels, K-12 and higher education, are using technology for contact tracing purposes.  Colleges, like the University of Alabama, are using apps to help trace and track students’ exposure to COVID. However, there is concern that such use of technology may lead institutions into questionable privacy territory for schools. Colleges and universities must still conform to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other laws governing student privacy.  Experts are concerned that ongoing location tracking could lead to the appropriation and misuse of data by law enforcement and immigration.


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5 Students Share Their Perspectives On The Fall 2020 Semester


The Chronicle this week examined public-private partnerships (known as P3s) which are becoming an increasingly common way for institutions to pay for revenue-generating structures like residence halls.  COVID is highlighting vulnerabilities in these public-private partnerships.  A simplified explanation of how a P3 might work: “In a residence-hall project, for example, an outside entity puts up money, draws up plans, or offers services in the building, then reaps repayment and profit from the room and board fees associated with the project. Often the college is responsible for maintaining a healthy enrollment to keep the residence hall filled.”  We reported last month on P3s potential influence in campus reopening decisions in Georgia.  In Maryland where many public residence halls were built using P3s, parents and students are demanding to have leases cancelled or housing refunded at institutions like Towson University which are online for the fall semester.
Author: Meg Foster
September 11, 2020
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