|Good morning || May 19, 2020|
Leading the News
Higher Ed’s Pandemic-Related Economic Challenges Unleashing “Furious” Bout Of Innovation
The Christian Science Monitor (5/18, Monitor) reports even before the pandemic, colleges and universities in the United States were “under stress from declining government support and rising skepticism about the value of a college degree.” Now, they “face a perfect storm of economic downturn: less state support, financially needier students, and quite possibly a shrinking freshman class.” To date, “eight colleges and universities are merging with others or closing, with several citing the pandemic as a complicating factor.” But the economic challenge that’s “forcing difficult cuts on college campuses has also unleashed in places a furious bout of innovation as schools rethink higher education and its delivery to students in the 21st century.”
Analysis: Colleges Fail To Consider Two Important Questions As They Plan To Reopen
According to Inside Higher Ed (5/18), “two important questions have been largely lost in the debates over” the decision to reopen college campuses. “What will it take for colleges to reopen responsibly as long as there is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 – and how realistic is it that colleges can put measures in place by fall?” What’s more, many of the steps colleges “may need to consider in reopening – from testing students in large numbers and reducing the numbers of students in residence halls to accommodate social distancing to monitoring quarantined students, disinfecting common spaces and classrooms more frequently, and installing signage promoting social distancing and Plexiglas at reception desks and other high-contact areas – come with price tags, some of them hefty.”
Campus Closures Leave International Students Unsure About Their Future In The US
The Dallas Morning News (5/18) reports the pandemic has displaced scores of college dorm residents but for international students, it has also “forced questions about their very future in the US.” The US Department of Homeland Security has “informed universities that if they decide to continue holding classes fully online in the fall, it is unlikely international students will be permitted to cross into the US.” This despite the fact that “international students often pay higher tuition fees than local students, providing an economic boost to many universities around the country.”
Opinion: College Administrators Should Harbor No Illusions About Prematurely Reopening Campuses
In a piece published by The Atlantic (5/15), the president of Paul Quinn College says that “during the present health crisis, administrators at colleges and universities should harbor no illusions.” That is, in the “absence of a vaccine or much more widespread testing, our institutions are the perfect environment for the continued spread of COVID-19,” Michael J. Sorrell argues. “Exploring options to avoid financial ruin does not make you a bad leader.” But if a school’s “cost-benefit analysis leads to a conclusion that includes the term acceptable number of casualties, it is time for a new model.”
ACT Chief Executive Officer Criticizes UC President’s Proposal To Suspend Standardized Testing Requirement
The Los Angeles Times (5/18, Watanabe) reports UC President Janet Napolitano’s “proposal to suspend a standardized testing requirement will fuel student uncertainty, strain budgets and exacerbate concerns about fairness by making the admissions process more subjective,” according to ACT CEO Marten Roorda. “I respect the right of academic leaders to choose the best solutions for their institutions and students during this difficult and unprecedented time,” he said. But this “sweeping proposal will also strain admissions offices, state budget and the broader education system.” Roorda “criticized the proposal in a letter to members of the UC Board of Regents, who are scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to suspend and possibly eliminate standardized testing as a UC admissions requirement.” Inside Higher Ed (5/18) provides additional coverage.
CUNY Undergrads Calling On University To Freeze Tuition
AM New York (5/18) reports “undergraduate CUNY students called on the public university’s administration to do away with another annual tuition increase given the financial strains many students are suffering due to the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.” They also asked the university system to “find ways to provide students with resources to be able to finish their educations on time instead of adding another burden during shaky economic times.” In response, CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodríguez told a local TV station: “No decisions have been made about tuition for next year.”
Florida’s Public University System Must Unveil Its Plan For Reopening By Month’s End, Board Of Governors Says
The AP (5/18) reports Florida’s public university system “must develop a plan by month’s end for letting the country’s second-largest four-year college system reopen this fall,” according to the chair of the system’s board of governors. In setting these guidelines, a “task force has recognized that each university has a dedicated mission with unique strengths and characteristics, as well as an extraordinary environment that includes densely populated urban areas, more rural settings and students from all regions of the state, the nation, and the world.”
University Of California President, All 10 Campus Chancellors To Take 10% Pay Cut In Upcoming Fiscal Year
The Los Angeles Times (5/18, Watanabe) reports University of California President Janet Napolitano announced Monday that “she and all 10 campus chancellors will take a 10% pay cut in the coming fiscal year to help offset the public university system’s staggering financial losses caused by the coronavirus crisis.” Napolitano also announced “salary freezes for nonunionized staff and nonstudent academic employees, along with efforts to cut costs in such areas as nonessential travel and service agreements.” UC will, however, “continue its academic advancement program, which awards merit promotions and pay increases.”
University Of South Carolina To Bring Students Back To Campus In August, Then Switch To Remote Instruction After Thanksgiving
The Washington Post (5/18, Anderson) reports many colleges and universities are “wrestling with their fall academic calendars as they worry about how to reopen campuses amid a deadly pandemic that could produce a second wave of novel coronavirus infections.” Now, the public University of South Carolina has “staked out an intriguing plan: Bring students back to campus in August, teach in person for three months and switch to remote instruction after Thanksgiving.” President Bob Caslen explained that the university’s “best current modeling predicts a spike in cases of COVID-19 at the beginning of December, which also will likely coincide with traditional flu season.”
University Of Notre Dame Bringing Students Back To Campus Two Weeks Early
The Wall Street Journal (5/18, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports the University of Notre Dame is reopening its campus two weeks ahead of schedule. The fall semester will end before Thanksgiving and classes will resume in January.
Students Recreating Campus Life Virtually Amid Quarantine
The Washington Post (5/18, Pappano) reports the “disrupted spring term has offered many lessons to college leaders trying to plan for the fall.” But one “unheralded takeaway: The powerful role incidental and impromptu interactions play in the college experience — and how hard it is to replace them.” Students have been trying, however. As soon as courses “jumped online, students began DIY-ing campus life,” establishing “satellite dorms (some right near campuses),” downloading apps like “‘Beer With Me’ (just what it sounds like)” and planning “Zoom parties, trivia nights and club meetings.”
ASEE's 2020 Annual Conference Now a Virtual Experience
Lots of great content - none of the travel!
The 2020 ASEE Annual Conference is an online event. See all the details here.
Special Call for Papers - Covid Edition
ASEE's Journal of Engineering Education and Advances in Engineering Education are issuing a special call for papers. Learn more here.
Computing Innovation Fellows Program
The Computing Research Association (CRA) and Computing Community Consortium (CCC) announce the Computing Innovation Fellows (CIFellows) Program, recognizing the significant disruption to the academic job search caused by COVID-19 and associated economic uncertainty. It provides career-enhancing bridge experiences for recent and soon-to-be PhD computing grads. The program offers 1-2 year postdoct opportunities in computing, with cohort activities to support career development and community building. Read the details here.
ASEE Resource Central
ASEE Resource Central is now live. This site provides resources for online teaching promising practices, remote work advice, student support strategies, and insights on virtual labs and capstones. Topics are searchable and organized by category. The site is continuously updated with new resources, leveraging the expertise of ASEE members and our community.
Research and Development
MSU, Detroit Sanitation Department Using Untreated Sewage To Pinpoint Coronavirus Outbreaks
MLive (MI) (5/18) reports the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Michigan State University and the Great Lakes Water Authority have established a research partnership. The entities “started collaborating in November 2017 to generally research whether viruses can be detected in Detroit’s sewer system.” Now, Dr. Irene Xagoraraki’s team “plans to collect wastewater samples and determine the genetic makeup to see if there is DNA correlation between the wastewater and COVID-19.” Then, “clinical disease records will be used to determine correlations with the samples and validate predictions.”
University Of Utah Engineer Develops Phone-Based Device To Detect Coronavirus Via Sneeze
The New York Post (5/18, Salo) reports coronavirus could soon be “detected by sneezing or coughing onto a phone.” University of Utah engineering professor Massood Tabib-Azar said he’s leading a team of researchers to “develop a quarter-sized device, which can be plugged into the phone’s charging port and test saliva particles for the virus.” Tabib-Azir, who was “awarded a $200,000 National Science Foundation Rapid Response grant to develop the new device.”
University Of Colorado Boulder Researcher Aims To Improve Modeling Systems Designed To Project Viral Incidence
Denver Westword (5/12, Roberts) reported Colorado and other regions “grappling with COVID-19 are relying heavily on modeling systems designed to project the progress of the virus in order to determine when and how to lift restrictions such as mask use and social distancing.” But according to a recently published paper, Rebecca Morrison, an “assistant professor of computer science at the University of Colorado Boulder, thinks that most of the models in use are not nearly as accurate as they should be.” Collaborating with an “international team of colleagues,” Morrison developed a “mathematical technique dubbed an ‘embedded-discrepancy operator’ that she believes is capable of improving the results.”
U.S. Automakers Begin Restarting Assembly Lines
Reuters (5/18, Klayman) reports that “after a two-month coronavirus lockdown,” the “Detroit Three automakers and their suppliers began restarting assembly lines on Monday” in “a slow revival of a sector that employs nearly 1 million people in the United States.” Fiat Chrysler Automobile, General Motors Co, and Ford Motor Co have been “preparing for weeks to reopen their North American factories in a push to restart work in an industry that accounts for about 6% of U.S. economic activity.”
Aviation Manufacturers Look To Dispel Travelers’ Belief That Aircraft Cabins Have Poor Ventilation Systems
Reuters (5/18, Hepher) reports that “jet manufacturers and airlines are launching an urgent initiative to convince nervous travelers that the air they breathe on planes is safe, believing this is critical to rebuilding a travel industry floored by the novel coronavirus.” The Boeing Company “has appointed former engineering and development chief Mike Delaney to head wider efforts to build confidence, and Airbus leaders say the industry is moving from an initial crisis phase to securing public trust.” This “has triggered, among other things, a concerted effort to explain how cabin air filtration works in a bid to scotch the myth that the pressurised fuselage contains only static or recycled air.” Delaney said, “The air system on an airplane is as good as anything you will be exposed to.” Boeing and Airbus both “say cabin air pours downwards not lengthways through the fuselage, reducing risks of infection. Half that air is then recycled through hospital-grade HEPA filters designed to remove some 99.97% of contaminants including viruses. The other half is flushed outside through valves.”
Airlines Struggling To Find Space To Park Aircraft
CNET News (5/18) reports that “according to Cirium...about 17,000 jets are now parked worldwide, representing about two-thirds of all commercial airliners.” It is “not just a terrible financial prospect for an airline – an airplane not carrying paying passengers is a depreciating asset – it’s also billions of dollars of highly sophisticated aircraft, all needing parking spots. And it’s about more than just finding a place to wait out the pandemic, says [Craig] Barton, who’s responsible for overseeing [American Airline’s] fleet of 950 planes. Every airliner also needs constant attention so it’s ready to return to the sky.” American Airlines “is parking aircraft not just at its” Dallas-Fort Worth “home base, but also at airports in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Pittsburgh, where it operates large maintenance bases, and at facilities in Mobile, Alabama; San Antonio; Greensboro and North Carolina. Other airlines are also parking their planes in multiple locations, but with carriers everywhere the goal is to use whatever space is available.”
Engineering and Public Policy
White House Economic Adviser: Administration Prepared To Provide More Coronavirus Aid If Necessary
Reuters (5/18, Heavey) reports that White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNBC’s Squawk Box Monday that the Trump Administration “is prepared to take further steps if needed to shore up the nation’s economy during the novel coronavirus outbreak, but any final action will not look like House Democrats’ proposed legislation.” Hassett also said “that the administration understood state and local governments were hurting during the outbreak and that Trump previously has said he was open to additional funding for costs related to the pandemic.”
The Hill (5/18, Chalfant) reports that Hassett told reporters Monday “that a fourth stimulus package may not be needed.” Hassett said, “I think it’s possible that we will see a strong-enough economy that we don’t need a phase four.” Hassett “said the administration is currently in a ‘wait and see’ mode to assess the full impact of previous stimulus legislation on the U.S. economy before resuming formal talks on a fourth package.”
Trump Administration’s Economic Response To Pandemic Criticized As Inadequate. The Hill (5/18, Lillis) reports “many economists, business groups, lawmakers and labor advocates contend the multi-trillion-dollar response” from the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic “has been insufficient, misguided or both,” as “despite nearly $3 trillion in emergency spending, much of the economy appears to be in freefall, and there are warnings of a long and painful road to economic recovery.” Among the ineffective measures is the SBA-managed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has seen businesses struggle “to decode the obscure and evolving rules,” while others “said they simply don’t trust the government to make good on its loan forgiveness pledge.” U.S. Black Chambers President Ron Busby said around 80 percent of the organization’s members found the PPP “so complicated, confusing and took too long that people didn’t continue the process.”
The Washington Post (5/18, A1, Werner) reports a $500 billion Treasury fund created as part of the March CARES Act “has lent barely any money, according to an initial report issued by a new Congressional Oversight Commission.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell “are expected to be asked about the law’s economic impact on Tuesday when they testify before the Senate Banking Committee.”
Lawmakers Say Auto Industry Could Need Federal Aid
Politico (5/18, Rodriguez) reports that while auto plants are resuming operations, it is “unclear whether production and consumer demand will ramp up enough for them to survive without federal aid.” Politico says “the auto industry has refrained from asking the Trump administration or Congress for aid during the coronavirus pandemic, but the decline in auto production and sales has caught the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.” Last week, a “bipartisan group of more than 50 lawmakers from car-producing states...put Congress on notice that the auto industry, which was left out of House Democrats’ $3 trillion stimulus, will need economic help as part of future pandemic relief packages.” According to “auto industry sources in touch with lawmakers,” their main focus “is to build demand for autos, which could come from offering some form of incentives for Americans to buy a new car.”
Some Businesses Unable To Reopen Despite PPP Funding
Fox Business (5/18, Henney) reports that “despite the massive rescue program” enacted by the federal government, “some owners are choosing to keep their businesses closed.” A Monday report from Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable shows “31 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses have shuttered their doors as a result of the virus outbreak” during the last three months, and of those businesses that “have not yet reopened, about 34 percent said it was because they could not afford to pay their bills or their rent.” Small-business owners are also not sure how they will afford reopening or rehiring the same workers. On its website, the SBA said forgiveness for the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program loans “is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.” However, SBA Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware said in a recent report that “SBA’s requirements could result in an unintended burden to the borrowers.”
Survey Finds Minority-Owned Businesses Struggle To Obtain PPP Loans. The New York Times (5/18, Flitter) reports that according to a survey conducted by the Global Strategy Group for two “equal-rights organizations,” Color of Change and UnidosUS, “black and Latino business owners are struggling to get government assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program...and many say they are on the brink of closing permanently.” According to the Times, “Just 12 percent of the owners who applied for government-backed loans in the $650 billion program reported receiving what they had asked for, and nearly half of all owners said they anticipated having to permanently close in the next six months.” The Times adds, “By comparison, in a survey of small businesses by the Census Bureau from April 26 to May 2, three-quarters said they had asked for a loan and 38 percent of them said they had received one.”
Monday's Lead Stories
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