February 24, 2021

Today’s higher ed news from throughout the country

Basketball and safety

Fans of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill mens basketball team flooded a popular outdoor strip celebrating a victory over rival Duke University Feb. 7, drawing criticism for flouting coronavirus safety protocols. 

    The university is now permitting  instructors to teach online through Feb. 17 if they choose. In-person classes began Feb. 8.

Meanwhile, the university’s student conduct office received more than 300 referrals of COVID-19 protocol violations resulting from the event, The Daily Tar Heel reported

This follows an incident last week where the university removed nine people from campus housing following allegations they violated the college’s coronavirus safety rules, The Associated Press reported.

Uptick in cases 

Citing an uptick in coronavirus cases identified through its testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, the University of Massachusetts Amherst moved classes online for at least two weeks. Students were asked to stay in their residence halls or off-campus housing during that time, except for meals, COVID-19 testing and medical appointments.

Reduce the cost of admission

Failure to comply with new measures could result in removal from residence halls and suspension, wrote Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. This was proposed because more than 1,000 students at Columbia University, in New York, aren’t paying tuition as they demand the school reduce the cost of attendance and increase financial aid, NBC News reported. 

The students called on the administration to end expansion in its neighborhood, divest from companies with human rights violations, half the campus police’s budget and redirect funds to social and health services, and bargain “in good faith” with unions. 

No SAT or ACT

The coronavirus upended a key element of the college admissions process in a matter of months, shutting down sites used to host students taking the SAT and ACT.

Testing critics’ chief complaints are exams are racially biased and benefit wealthy students who can afford expensive tutoring. Removing testing requirements altogether — referred to as going test-blind — would correct inequities faced by Black and Latino students even more than would making them optional, some argue. 

Online recruiting fair

Proposing a first-ever online recruiting fair, which the pandemic made virtual by necessity, Angel Pérez, head of the top college admissions association, got an e-mail from a student thanking him. The student wrote that he had been exposed to institutions he wouldn’t have otherwise. 

It was an “aha!” moment for Pérez, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. It was evidence that although hallmarks of the college recruitment cycle had been absent for months, the options arising in their place were generally more accessible.

Herd immunity

Herd immunity occurs when enough people have become immune to a virus, either through vaccination or recovering from an infection, that its spread becomes unlikely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not yet know what share of people would need protection from the coronavirus to achieve herd immunity or how long such a protection lasts, a CDC spokesperson said in an email to Higher Ed Dive. 

• Colleges shouldn’t anticipate reaching herd immunity levels against the coronavirus anytime soon, especially given the slow rollout of the vaccine, health experts said. 

• In the meantime, schools should continue employing safety measures — such as mask-wearing, handwashing and social distancing — even if some people on campus are vaccinated. 

• It’s also key to inform students about what is known and still unknown about the vaccine, as well as provide low-risk ways for them to socially interact, experts said. 

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