As the spring semester begins, Covid-19 is surging. The Chronicle is tracking developments across higher ed here. Read on for daily live updates and information.
1:38 p.m. Eastern, 2/1/2021
Boston College Men’s Basketball to Play With Only 4 Scholarship Athletes
The Boston College men’s basketball team has only four scholarship players available to compete in a game against Florida State University on Tuesday due to Covid-19 protocols, Sports Illustrated reports. The team’s coach, Jim Christian, said on Monday that the rest of the roster would be populated with players from the program’s scout team. —Andy Thomason
11:50 a.m. Eastern, 2/1/2021
More Than 200 Staffers at Hillsdale College Were Vaccinated Ahead of Schedule — Once It Lent a Freezer
Higher-education employees — including more than 200 affiliated with Hillsdale College, in Michigan — recently received early vaccinations against Covid-19, Kaiser Health News reported, even though the state did not put such employees on its priority list for distribution of vaccines.
The decision to vaccinate them in the early cohort was surprising, the news outlet reported, after Hillsdale — a conservative institution known for not taking federal student aid — protested the state’s closure of in-person classes and hosted an in-person graduation. A local hospital was able to secure doses of the vaccine after the college provided a special, low-temperature freezer to store them, according to Kaiser Health News.
The hospital’s chief executive, Jeremiah J. Hodshire, denied that there had been a “quid pro quo.” Instead, he ascribed the vaccine distribution to college staff members to the fact that there are many local skeptics of the coronavirus. Widening the early distribution was an attempt to match supply with demand, he told Kaiser Health News.
Some regional jealousy has followed. Matthew Johnson, president of Central Michigan University’s faculty association, told The Chronicle that his colleagues had sent him one or two emails a day since mid-January that ask why Hillsdale employees had been vaccinated ahead of guidance set by the state.
“It’s been fun being head of the faculty union at a university not far away and answering daily questions about how they were able to get it but not us,” he wrote on Twitter. —Lindsay Ellis
11:27 a.m. Eastern, 1/31/2021
Following U. of Michigan, Michigan State U. Tells Students to Stay at Home
Michigan State University on Saturday told all students living on campus and off to stay in their residences — excepting certain activities, such as going to class — for the next two weeks as cases of Covid-19 rise, the Lansing State Journal reports. University officials have characterized the rise in the Covid-19 positivity rate as “rapid.” The move follows a similar directive by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, which has seen an increase in cases as well as the emergence of a more transmissible variant of the virus. —Andy Thomason
5:39 p.m. Eastern, 1/28/2021
Notre Dame Turned Semester Around With More Testing, Adherence to Social Distancing
On August 18, 2020, it appeared as though the University of Notre Dame was on the verge of sending students home after a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases. But after a two-week suspension of in-person undergraduate classes, the university finished out the semester with relatively low levels of transmission.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention credits the turnaround to more testing, better contact tracing, and improved adherence to mitigation measures like social distancing. The report — which doesn’t name Notre Dame, but cites several dates and statistics that match the campus — says the university’s success underlines the importance of aggressive testing, among other things. —Andy Thomason
2:26 p.m. Eastern, 1/28/2021
Undergraduate-Credential Attainment Flattens Out for First Time in 8 Years
The number of undergraduates who earned a credential was flat in the 2019-20 academic year — the first time in eight years that the number hasn’t grown. According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, only 3.7 million undergraduates earned a credential, roughly unchanged from the year before. The report says a drop in first-time graduates, particularly those earning associate degrees or other such credentials, in the spring of 2020 accounted for the lack of growth. “Much of the decline in overall first-time graduates can be explained by associate degree and certificate earners,” the report says, “whose numbers dropped sharply at a time when the pandemic began shutting down the U.S. economy and higher-education institutions.” —Andy Thomason
4:41 p.m. Eastern, 1/27/2021
U. of Michigan Tells Students to Stay Home After More Transmissible Variant Appears
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is urging students living on or near the campus to stay home through February 7 in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19. The announcement comes days after a more transmissible variant of the virus was detected in the university’s athletics department.
In a message to the campus on Wednesday, the president, Mark S. Schlissel, said the emergence of the variant, which was first observed in Britain, had raised the stakes. “There is much less margin for error with the more contagious B.1.1.7 Covid-19 variant, so strict adherence to preventive measures takes on even greater importance,” he wrote.
Schlissel wrote that the recent increase in active cases appeared to be linked to social activities among students. After a rocky fall that saw several thousand infections and a stay-at-home order, the university in November decided to drastically limit in-person operations for the spring — restricting the number of students living on campus and reducing the share of in-person classes, among other things. —Andy Thomason
4:45 p.m. Eastern, 1/26/2021
Public-University Association Asks Congress to Give Colleges $97 Billion in Pandemic Relief
The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities is asking Congress to set aside $97 billion for colleges as part of lawmakers’ next Covid-19 stimulus package. In its request, the association said the roughly $37 billion Congress has directed to institutions of higher education so far during the pandemic has fallen “far short” of what they need. The association also noted that many public universities are poised to take a big hit in state appropriations in the coming year.
President Biden’s stimulus proposal calls on Congress to give $35 billion in emergency aid to higher education. —Andy Thomason
12:02 p.m. Eastern, 1/26/2021
St. Bonaventure President, Still Hospitalized, Has Been Placed on a Ventilator
The president of St. Bonaventure University, Dennis R. DePerro, has been hospitalized with Covid-19 for nearly a month, and has been placed on a ventilator, the institution announced on Monday. The New York university characterized his condition as “serious but stable.” Meanwhile, the provost, Joseph Zimmer, has been named acting president. “I know I speak for everyone in the Bonaventure family when I offer prayers for healing and strength to Dr. DePerro and his family at this difficult time,” said John Sheehan, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. —Andy Thomason
2:34 p.m. Eastern, 1/25/2021
No March Madness Cost NCAA $600 Million Last Year
The cancellation of the 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament caused a net loss of $600 million in revenue for the association last year, USA Today reports. The newspaper reported that a new financial statement reveals that the association saw a $700-million decline in revenue from television and marketing rights last year, and distributed only $246 million to conferences and institutions, compared with $611 million the year before.
The NCAA plans to hold the tournament this year, with all the games taking place in Indiana. According to USA Today, the association is set to receive $850 million this year as part of its TV contract with CBS and Turner Sports. —Andy Thomason
2:28 p.m. Eastern, 1/24/2021
U. of Michigan Athletics Program Sees State’s First Cases of More Contagious Variant
The first known cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of Covid-19 in Michigan have emerged in the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s athletics program, The Michigan Daily reports, prompting the state to shut down all athletic activities for 14 days. The newspaper reported that there were five confirmed cases of the variant in the athletics department, and 15 more people were presumed to be positive. “Canceling competitions is never something we want to do, but with so many unknowns about this variant of Covid-19, we must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools,” said Warde Manuel, the athletics director.
The variant, which was first observed in Britain, is believed to be more transmissible than other strains of Covid-19. Experts have warned that its rapid spread makes measures like social distancing and vaccination all the more important. —Andy Thomason
2:03 p.m. Eastern, 1/22/2021
Hundreds of Arizona State U. Students Have Canceled Housing Contracts
This post has been updated (2:54 p.m., 1/25) with more details from the university.
More than 1,500 students at Arizona State University have canceled their campus housing contracts this academic year, The State Press reports. Several students told the newspaper they had grown disenchanted with campus life after experiencing it during a pandemic. “I was paying so much money just to sit in a room by myself on a computer,” said one freshman who moved out of her residence hall in the fall.
The newspaper reported that 1,662 students had submitted cancellation forms that were approved, at which point each was charged a $500 fee and allowed to pay a prorated amount for room and board. That’s compared with 1,332 cancellation requests approved during the entire 2019-20 academic year. The newspaper reported that the latest housing levels indicated that thousands more students had moved out of residence halls without attempting to cancel their contracts, or without having their requests approved.
Jay Thorne, a university spokesman, wrote in an email that it was inaccurate to conclude from mid-January’s housing levels that thousands of students had left campus. Thorne said that some students had delayed their return to campus, but that the university expected more than 11,000 students to be living in the dorms this spring. —Andy Thomason
1:38 p.m. Eastern, 1/22/2021
Coastal Carolina U. President Tests Positive for Covid-19
The president of Coastal Carolina University has tested positive for Covid-19, the institution announced on Friday, reported The Sun News. Michael T. Benson told the newspaper that he was experiencing some symptoms. “Not feeling so great at the moment but have been following all the prescribed protocols and will remain in quarantine for the next 10 days,” Benson said. “As everyone has said, this is nasty stuff, and I am grateful for the notes and well wishes I’ve received.” —Andy Thomason
8:12 p.m. Eastern, 1/21/2021
William Paterson U. May Cut One-Quarter of Full-Time Faculty
William Paterson University of New Jersey is eyeing severe cuts in its academic enterprise, including eliminating as much as one-quarter of its full-time faculty, NJ.com reports. Administrators have proposed laying off 60 to 100 faculty members in response to a budget deficit spurred by the pandemic, the president of the faculty union told the newspaper. The university has also proposed cutting 10 academic programs.
“We have been transparent with the campus community in discussing that layoffs would sadly be unavoidable as we ensure that our students continue to receive an excellent education,” said Stuart Goldstein, the university’s vice president for marketing and public relations. “At this point, we are in the very early stages of a negotiated process.” —Andy Thomason
10:10 a.m. Eastern, 1/21/2021
Survey: Colleges’ Handling of Covid-19 Last Fall Made Many Students Lose Trust in Campus Leaders
More than half of college students said in December that their campuses’ handling of the pandemic this past fall had eroded their trust in the institutions’ leaders, a new survey by Third Way and New America has found.
More than 60 percent of Black students and students who were also caregivers agreed with that statement. Over all, 51 percent of students agreed. Students also questioned their colleges’ motives. Half of respondents — including 55 percent of Latinx students and 59 percent of Black students — believed their college “only cares about the money it can get from me.”
Large majorities of students worried about getting a job after graduation. And 57 percent said they felt college wouldn’t be worth the cost — a big jump from the 49 percent who said the same in August.
The survey reached more than 1,000 U.S. students in the first half of December. —Lindsay Ellis
1:57 p.m. Eastern, 1/20/2021
U. of Kansas Molecular-Biosciences Professor Dies of Covid-19
A 69-year-old professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Kansas died of Covid-19 last month, the institution announced on Wednesday. Mark Richter, a former chair of his department, died on December 26 after suffering from the disease for seven weeks, the university said. “Professor Richter was a talented researcher and an award-winning teacher to countless students during his long career at KU,” the chancellor, Douglas A. Girod, said in the university’s statement. “Beyond that, he will be remembered for his kindness, generosity, and humor, which made him a beloved friend and colleague to so many throughout the KU community. On behalf of the entire university, I offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and all who knew him.” —Andy Thomason
2 p.m. Eastern, 1/19/2021
U. of Alabama Offers Paid Covid-19 Leave in 2021 After Federal Benefit Expires
Employees of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa are now eligible for 80 hours of paid Covid-19 leave, a new benefit for 2021 that aims to replace a federal benefit that expired at the end of last year.
Like 2020’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Alabama’s new Covid-19 leave is available to those who fall ill from the virus, must quarantine because of exposure, experience side effects from a vaccine, must care for a sick loved one, or have children whose school or day care is closed.
But unlike the federal benefit, which offered full pay to those who contracted the virus, Alabama’s leave provides two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay, regardless of circumstance. The university’s Covid-19 leave also does not offer the additional 10 paid weeks the federal benefit provided for those without child care. Alabama’s leave is, however, available to all employees, irrespective of how long they’ve worked there.
Alabama’s vice president for finance and operations, Matthew Fajack, told WBRC that, on average, employees who needed time off because of Covid-19 took about 64 hours of sick time.
Concerns about the virus flared in Tuscaloosa last week, when Alabama football fans crowded downtown streets. The university announced on Wednesday that faculty members would have the option to teach their classes remotely for the first two weeks of the semester. —Rachel Cieri Mull
4:44 p.m. Eastern, 1/15/2021
Professor Who Made Face Shields for First Responders Dies of Covid-19
A Harrisburg University professor who led an effort to manufacture 3D-printed face shields for first responders has died of Covid-19, The Patriot-News reports. Charles Shearrow, a manufacturing professor, and his students produced more than 2,300 face shields for first responders when personal protective equipment began running low. “Chip was a brilliant teacher, person, and human,” his cousin, Gigi Rice, told the newspaper. “He was just a really, really good person. He was humble, even though he was the highest educated one in the family. He loved his family. And he loved his students.” —Andy Thomason
2:32 p.m. Eastern, 1/15/2021
Auburn President Defends Doing Away With Entry Testing for Spring Semester
Auburn University is not conducting re-entry testing for students — a key component of some campuses’ Covid-19 mitigation plans — this spring, even though it did so last fall. The Auburn Plainsman reports that the president, Jay Gogue, defended the move in a recent faculty meeting. “We asked the question: ‘Should we test coming back in the spring term?’ and the answer we got medically was ‘no,’” he said, according to the newspaper. “‘A one-time one-shot deal is not going to tell you anything.’” The university is conducting random, weekly testing this semester; according to Auburn’s website, the institution’s goal is to test 800 people each week.
According to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, entry testing combined with regular mass testing “might prevent or reduce” transmission of the coronavirus. Other campuses have cited entry testing as one component of a successful Covid-19 mitigation strategy. —Andy Thomason
2:07 p.m. Eastern, 1/15/2021
Boston College Professor Dies of Covid-19 Complications
Chia-Kuang (Frank) Tsung, a 44-year-old chemistry professor at Boston College, has died of complications from Covid-19, The Boston Globe reports. Tsung was a nanotechnology researcher who taught classes in the fall, but a college spokesman told the Globe that the professor had not been on campus for several days when he began experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, in October. “The timing between Frank’s last day on campus and when he fell ill at home does not correlate to any on-campus transmission,” the spokesman, Jack Dunn, told the Globe. “He was later diagnosed with Covid-19 by his primary-care provider and hospitalized.” A postdoctoral student who had worked in Tsung’s lab said the professor was “extremely energetic and extremely passionate about science.” —Andy Thomason
12:07 p.m. Eastern, 1/15/2021
U. of South Carolina Men’s Basketball Coach Tests Positive — Again
South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin has tested positive for COVID-19 a second time. Martin first tested positive in May. Then tested positive again this week. “I’m feeling good now, but this thing kicked my tail this time around,” he said. @TheAthleticCBB
— Josh Kendall (@JoshTheAthletic) January 15, 2021
5:43 p.m. Eastern, 1/14/2021
Biden Proposes $35 Billion in New Aid to Public Colleges
President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled a new Covid-19 stimulus proposal that would send $35 billion in new aid to higher education. According to a summary of the plan, the sum would go primarily to public colleges, though private historically Black colleges and minority-serving institutions would also be eligible. Colleges, which have been hit hard by the pandemic, would probably welcome the new aid, though the $35 billion, combined with the roughly $20 billion allocated by the most recent stimulus law, falls well short of the $120 billion higher-education associations have sought in recent months. —Andy Thomason
11:30 a.m. Eastern, 1/14/2021
U. of Missouri Mandates Arrival Testing, a Reversal From Fall Plan
Before classes begin next week, the University of Missouri at Columbia is requiring all undergraduates living on campus to be tested for Covid-19, a reversal of its fall plan to test only those with symptoms.
The university system’s president, Mun Y. Choi, told The Chronicle in August that the flagship institution was following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in deciding to test only symptomatic students during the fall semester.
“We also took the lead from medical organizations that said that it is, at this point, very inappropriate to test asymptomatic patients, because if there ever is a shortage of tests, we don’t want to strain that system,” Choi, who is also chancellor of the flagship, said in an interview last summer.
By contrast, the university’s current guidance for spring-semester arrival testing notes that “this measure could assist us in assessing the occurrence of the virus as students return from various parts of the country,” and that it “may help direct our health strategies and precautionary tactics.”
Funding from the Cares Act, the coronavirus stimulus legislation enacted last year, will pay for the arrival testing, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports. —Rachel Cieri Mull, with reporting contributed by Sarah Brown
2:46 p.m. Eastern, 1/13/2021
At Some Big Colleges, Community Cases Rose After Student Outbreaks, Study Finds
At some large residential colleges, Covid-19 infections among students seemed to spread into the surrounding community, raising case rates in those areas for an extended time, a new study finds.
Scientists have long known that it’s possible for a bad campus outbreak to make its way into town. The new peer-reviewed study, published on Wednesday in the journal Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, used mathematical modeling to show that at some colleges, campus outbreaks in the early fall were followed by case rises in their home counties within four weeks. Similar rises didn’t happen elsewhere in their states, suggesting that the college was the source, the study argues.
College reopenings didn’t necessarily have to bring bad outbreaks among students. At the 30 large public and private colleges the study analyzed, 12 didn’t suffer an initial student spike. Among those colleges that did see widespread student infections in the early fall, most quickly brought their numbers under control. But in at least a couple of cases, the surrounding town saw a sustained, higher case rate for weeks.
“Campuses could manage this very well,” Ellen Kuhl, a senior author of the study and chair of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, told Inside Higher Ed. “So what they would do is just transition the instruction, they would isolate the students, they would find them because they would all do very tight surveillance testing. But the communities would not. And so while the campus numbers reduced really quickly with the tight management of the disease, the counties had a much harder time to troubleshoot this and bring these high numbers down. Some of them never really did.” —Francie Diep
2:23 p.m. Eastern, 1/13/2021
Ohio State Handed Out More Than 1,000 Student Penalties Over Covid-19 Rules
Ohio State University issued 1,416 student penalties over violations of Covid-19 rules during the fall semester, The Columbus Dispatch reports. The most common of the sanctions was a formal reprimand, followed by a mandatory research or reflection paper, the newspaper reports.
The university has tallied 5,743 positive diagnoses of Covid-19 among students since mid-August; on-campus students are scheduled to move in for the spring semester starting on Monday. —Andy Thomason
4:30 p.m. Eastern, 1/12/2021
U. of Florida Encourages Students to Report Faculty Members Not Teaching in Person
Students at the University of Florida are being encouraged to use a campus-crime app to report on faculty members who are supposed to be teaching face to face but aren’t. The move has sparked outrage among instructors who say it has created a hostile environment at a time when they’re working harder than ever to teach classes that can be attended both in person and online.
On Monday, the first day of the spring semester, D’Andra Mull, vice president for student affairs, sent a welcome email to students reminding them about Covid-19 safety protocols and testing requirements. It directed them to use the GatorSafe app to report on “inconsistencies with course delivery for your face-to-face or online courses, such as not being provided the opportunity to meet in person for your face-to-face class.” The email assured them that “staff will review every concern and follow up as appropriate.”
Faculty members, many of whom have been denied accommodations to teach online even as Covid-19 cases rage in the region, reacted angrily to the message.
Students can report instructors not in person via the gators safe app. 👀💩They added a button just for this purpose. I’m more than a little disturbed by this. @UF do better. We’ve been working our asses off for you through all of this. pic.twitter.com/IcVRAEZxX7
— Lisa S. Scott 🧠 (@lisascottbcd) January 11, 2021
“To students and younger faculty like me, this is basically a snitch app,” said Vincent Edward Oluwole Adejumo, a senior lecturer of African American studies. “This whole Crime Stoppers approach is demoralizing and ridiculous. For me personally, it sends the message that we are cogs in the machine, and the machine must keep running. ‘We [administrators] don’t care about your health.’”
A campus spokesman, Steve Orlando, said the intent was not to divide members of the campus community, but to ensure that students get the kind of instruction they want.
“We had thousands of students in the first semester who asked for in-person classes,” he said. “We wanted to provide an easy way for them to let us know” if such classes aren’t being provided.
Paul Ortiz, a professor of history and president of the university’s faculty union, said the union would fight the newest reporting tool.
“It’s already a national embarrassment that smacks of McCarthyism,” he said. “At a time when we should be working together to fight the pandemic, the administration is trying to drive us apart and make us inform on each other.” —Katherine Mangan
11:44 a.m. Eastern, 1/12/2021
Football Fans Jam the Streets in Alabama. Classes Start Wednesday.
Here was the scene early Tuesday morning on the Strip in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after the Crimson Tide won college football’s national championship with a 52-24 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Some fans wore masks, but many didn’t, prompting comments on Twitter like, “Congrats on winning the Superspreader Bowl,” and “Roll Covid, I guess.”
The university will begin its spring semester on Wednesday, with a requirement that students who plan to live on the campus be tested for the coronavirus no later than January 19.
The state averaged 4,272 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That reflects a 30-percent increase from the average two weeks earlier, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. —Don Troop
10:15 a.m. Eastern, 1/12/2021
Rutgers U. President Tests Positive for Covid-19
The president of Rutgers University has tested positive for Covid-19 and will be “paring back” his schedule while he rests and quarantines for 10 days.
Jonathan Holloway, who took the New Jersey university’s helm in July, apparently contracted the coronavirus at home, despite strictly following public-health guidance, he wrote in a message to the community on Monday. He wrote that his symptoms are mild and similar to the common cold. —Rachel Cieri Mull
2:40 p.m. Eastern, 1/11/2021
‘In-Person College Instructors’ Now Eligible for Vaccine in New York
Some college faculty members in New York State are now eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to state guidance that took effect on Monday. “In-person college instructors” are included in Phase 1b, the second portion of the state’s vaccine rollout, which also includes people over the age of 75, grocery-store workers, and elementary- and secondary-school teachers.
9:35 a.m. Eastern, 1/10/2021
Stanford Cancels Plans to Bring Students Back for Winter Quarter
Stanford University has spiked plans to bring freshmen and sophomores back to campus for the winter quarter, a day after announcing that 43 students had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week, The Stanford Daily reported. That case number was nearly four times the previous week’s figure.
In December the university affirmed plans to bring students back, and last week some had begun moving in. But citing the strain on area hospitals caused by a tenfold increase in county cases since the week before Thanksgiving, university officials said only resident assistants and students with special circumstances could stay.
The announcement expressed hope that juniors and seniors could return, as planned, for the spring term. But officials cautioned that those plans, “as always, are subject to the conditions of the pandemic.” —Jennifer Ruark
12:12 p.m. Eastern, 1/9/2021
Pitt Urges Students Not to Travel Back Yet
The University of Pittsburgh has asked its 34,000 students to delay their return to its campuses at least until the last week of January, whether or not they live in university housing.
Classes will resume on January 19, as scheduled, but a statement posted Friday night by Pitt’s Covid-19 Medical Response Office said it would provide notice at least two weeks before it advised students to travel to campus.
4:14 p.m. Eastern, 1/8/2021
Biden Will Extend Repayment Pause, Supports Forgiveness of $10,000 in Student Debt
NEW: @Transition46 officials say @JoeBiden will direct the Department of Education to extend the existing pause on student loan payments & interest, & also supports Congress immediately canceling $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person, as a response to the COVID crisis.
— Molly Nagle (@MollyNagle3) January 8, 2021
2:23 p.m. Eastern, 1/8/2021
Group Wants CDC to Push for Student Vaccinations Before Summer’s ‘Mass Migration’
Should college students get priority to receive vaccinations against Covid-19? The American College Health Association thinks so.
In its spring reopening guidelines, published last week, the organization said it had asked an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that students be vaccinated before leaving campus at the end of the spring semester.
“At this time, healthy college students (those without conditions that would increase the risk of severe illness if infected with SARS-CoV-2) are in Tier 3 and may not receive vaccine until late spring 2021,” the guidelines state. “Given the risk of asymptomatic and presymptomatic students’ spreading Covid-19 to other cities, states, and countries during the ‘mass-migration events’ at the beginning and end of each semester,” the group wants the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices “to consider recommending students be vaccinated prior to the end of spring semester 2021.”
Health experts have yet to determine whether vaccinated people can still infect others. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing will remain vital to arresting the spread of the virus in the months ahead. —Don Troop
5:48 p.m. Eastern, 1/7/2021
UNC-Chapel Hill Pushes Back the Start of In-Person Classes
Less than two weeks before its spring semester is scheduled to begin, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has announced that face-to-face undergraduate classes will be pushed back by almost three weeks. The semester’s start date remains the same as originally planned, January 19, but all undergraduate learning will be remote until February 8.
The announcement cited “record Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in North Carolina and around the country” as the reason for the delay. More than a dozen other colleges, also facing high local coronavirus-case rates, have likewise postponed the start of their terms. College leaders are hoping that case numbers improve in the coming weeks, as infections related to holiday gatherings have time to resolve.
UNC had a chaotic fall term. Student cases spiked much higher than the administration had expected, resulting in a flip from in-person to all-online classes in August. For the coming spring term, the university wanted to try some face-to-face teaching again. Administrators made major changes in the infection-prevention plan, but they didn’t immediately commit to an in-person campus. Instead, they said, a final announcement would come by this Saturday.
Audrey Pettifor, a public-health adviser to the administration, told The Chronicle on Tuesday that a delayed start was on the table. Pettifor, who is also a professor of epidemiology, was supportive. “It’s probably the right thing to do,” she said.
Other faculty members have pushed for a fully remote spring. Orange County, where Chapel Hill is located, has a much lower viral rate than elsewhere in the state, where many students will travel from, Deb Aikat, an associate professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, wrote in an email. Thus, he wrote, “I respectfully feel it is unconscionable to imagine doing anything other than keeping the status quo in place and invite no one to come to Chapel Hill this month — neither students nor faculty nor staff.” —Francie Diep
11:08 a.m. Eastern, 1/6/2021
U. of Colorado Chancellor Tests Positive for Covid-19
The chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Phil DiStefano, has tested positive for Covid-19, the university announced on Tuesday. The university said DiStefano was experiencing “mild symptoms” and was isolating at home. “Like many others, I have been following public-health advice and have taken this pandemic very seriously,” DiStefano said in a news release. “Our family’s situation is a reminder of how important it is to continue to follow public-health guidance and to get tested.” —Andy Thomason
2:30 p.m. Eastern, 1/5/2021
UC-San Diego Installs Vending Machines for Covid-19 Tests
Students and employees at the University of California at San Diego can now get Covid-19 tests from vending machines.
The 11 on-campus vending machines, whose locations were announced on Saturday, offer a way to be tested for Covid-19 that doesn’t require an appointment or in-person interactions. The machines are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week, and are designed to make it easier for students to meet their weekly testing requirement.
To use the vending-machine tests, students and employees scan a bar code with their smartphones, conduct their own nasal swabs, and drop off completed tests in a bin next to the vending machines within 72 hours. They receive test results through a university app. —Rachel Cieri Mull
10:50 a.m. Eastern, 1/5/2021
Second Carroll U. Nursing Faculty Member Dies of Covid-19
An assistant professor of nursing at Carroll University died of Covid-19 on Friday, marking the program’s second loss since November.
James Mikolajczak-LaRosa, a nurse who had taught at the small Wisconsin college since 2016, was diagnosed with the disease two months ago, according to WISN, and died on New Year’s Day.
His death followed that of Kelly Raether, a local fire-department captain who was also a nurse and instructor at the university. Raether died in November after contracting the coronavirus while caring for a patient, co-workers told WISN. —Rachel Cieri Mull
1:08 p.m. Eastern, 1/4/2021
St. Bonaventure President Is Hospitalized With Covid-19
The president of St. Bonaventure University was hospitalized with Covid-19, the New York institution announced on Saturday. Dennis DePerro tested positive for the virus on Christmas Eve and was admitted to a Syracuse hospital after developing pneumonia.
Joseph Zimmer, St. Bonaventure’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, is leading the university in DePerro’s absence.
“I’ve started to feel better the last couple of days and can’t thank the hospital staff enough for the care I’ve received,” DePerro said in the university’s statement. He added: “I look forward to being back on campus very soon.” —Megan Zahneis
12:24 p.m. Eastern, 1/4/2021
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Will Be Held Entirely in Indiana
The NCAA announced on Monday that its men’s basketball tournament this year would be held entirely in Indiana, with most of the games played in Indianapolis, where the association is based. According to the NCAA’s news release, most of the participating teams will stay in Marriott hotels that are connected via skywalks to a convention center where the teams will practice.
The announcement follows months of speculation about how the NCAA would attempt to stage March Madness — its major source of annual revenue — amid a pandemic. The association has attempted to trademark the phrases “Mask Madness” and “Battle in the Bubble” in preparation for the tournament. —Andy Thomason