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Leading the News
New, Rapid COVID-19 Tests Expected To Become Available In US This Month
The Houston Chronicle (10/7, Duarte) reports “new COVID-19 tests that can produce results in as little as 15 minutes are expected to become available in the United States as soon as this month, a development that would help could help companies bring workers back to the office and schools bring students into the classroom safely, doctors said.” These “rapid tests manufactured by medical device companies such as Abbott Labs show promise for accurate, widespread testing, according to researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas A&M.” HHS “said it purchased the kits from Abbott to distribute to states to streamline the process and avoid having state governments compete for the available stocks, as they did for ventilators and other equipment early in the pandemic.”
Colleges Cancel Diversity Programs In Relation To White House Executive Order
Inside Higher Ed (10/7, Flaherty) reports that “two campuses are halting diversity efforts in relation to the White House’s recent executive order against “divisive concepts” in federally funded programs.” In a campus memo, “the University of Iowa’s interim associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, Liz Tovar, said, ‘Let us state unequivocally that diversity, equity and inclusion remain as core values within our institution.’” However, she continued, “after consulting with multiple entities, and given the seriousness of the penalties for non-compliance with the order, which include the loss of federal funding, we are recommending that all units temporarily pause for a two-week period.” John A. Logan College in Illinois “also suspended diversity events, including a Hispanic Heritage Month talk planned for next week.”
Education Dive (10/7, Bauer-Wolf) reports that Texas State University President Denise Trauth “told faculty and staff members recently the school would temporarily cease employee diversity training so as not to jeopardize students’ federal financial aid and instructor grants.”
The New York Post (10/7, Moore) reports that President Trump’s executive order “released on Sept. 22 said ‘many people are pushing a different vision of America that is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual.’” Those who do not comply “with the executive order risk losing federal funds.”
Newsweek (10/7, Batchelor) reports that “other colleges have vowed to challenge the order in an effort to continue with their diversity programs.” The University of Michigan’s president, Mark S. Schlissel, “said the school was ‘dismayed by an executive order that is a direct violation of our right to free speech and has the potential to undermine serious efforts to acknowledge and address long-standing racist practices that fail to account for disparate treatment of our citizens throughout our society.”
Colleges Scramble To Comb Diversity Programs For Content That May Receive Federal Attention After Mandate. The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/8, Mangan) reports that Roberto E. Barrios, “a professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, was looking forward to giving a virtual talk at a local community college about how this time of racial upheaval had prompted some soul searching about his own Hispanic identity.” Last week he learned that “his talk, and all other planned diversity efforts at John A. Logan College, had been abruptly halted.” The college’s president, Ron House, “said it needed to put those programs on hold so it could review the implications of President Trump’s September 22 executive order banning diversity training he considers ‘offensive and anti-American.’” The order “has colleges nationwide scrambling to respond, or in some cases wondering how.”
Students, Professors Struggle To Form Vibrant Online Classrooms Amid Pandemic
The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/7, McMurtrie) reports that professors are wrestling “with the challenge of creating a sense of community in their online courses.” Relationships “are the foundation of good learning, teaching experts say.” Feeling comfortable “with classmates, wanting to engage in debates and share ideas, having a sense of belonging – these are all critical components of a vibrant classroom, and something particularly challenging to create online.” Many students “struggle to secure reliable Wi-Fi access and quiet places to learn, which may limit their ability to engage with classmates.” Faculty members “also worry about how to thread the needle between keeping expectations high for their students and adapting to their circumstances.” From a distance “of hundreds, or thousands, of miles away, in a politically and economically fraught time, it is hard to develop and maintain connections.”
Colleges Trim Budgets, Cut Personnel Amid Pandemic
Inside Higher Ed (10/7, Whitford) reports that “last month, employment in state government education dropped by 49,000 jobs and employment in private education fell by 69,000 jobs, according to employment data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Since February, “the private education sector has lost more than 350,000 jobs.” State government education “is mostly publicly owned colleges and universities.” Under the government’s classification system, “the private education line includes employment at schools, colleges, universities and training centers.” The latest cuts “were the result of a second round of pandemic-necessitated budget tightening at many colleges that had already slimmed down their expenses in other budget categories last spring.” Unless the pandemic ends suddenly, “the short-term austerity measures are likely a precursor to larger, more comprehensive budget overhauls.”
California Colleges Unsuccessfully Prepared For COVID-19 Outbreaks
The Los Angeles Times (10/7, Shalby) reports that “this fall, as colleges around the country wrestled with how to reopen amid the coronavirus crisis, officials in California required a cautious approach.” Classes “were put online, isolation rooms were set up on campus, and restrictions were placed on the number of students permitted to live in dormitories or come on campus.” However, “what deans and provosts couldn’t control were the thousands of students who returned to fill apartments and houses in neighborhoods surrounding their schools, determined to salvage some semblance of a college experience.” Unchecked by campus rules and safeguards, “students became fertile ground for the virus, which has spread rapidly on and around several California campuses despite sparsely populated dormitories and classrooms.” From San Diego to Chico, “the outbreaks have thrown universities into crisis mode as they scramble to slow the virus’ spread with tighter restrictions and attempts to cajole students into safer behavior.”
Experts Say COVID-19 May Lower College Cost, Others Say It’s Unlikely
CNBC (10/7, Hess) reports that “the coronavirus pandemic has put a lot of pressure on colleges and universities.” Schools “have been forced to close their campuses, move classes online and take on the responsibility of testing, quarantining and protecting students.” Now, “some experts wonder if schools will also be forced to lower tuition.” Experts “such as Edwin Koc, director of research for the National Association of Colleges and Employers, suggests that declining enrollments will force schools to cut prices.” Other experts “such as Ted Rounsaville, associate partner for McKinsey’s higher education group, say it is too soon to tell if college costs will buck decades-long trends and actually decrease.”
HBCU Homecomings Celebrated Amid Pandemic In NYTimes
In the New York Times (10/7, Alexander), contributor Charanna Alexander writes that “at historically Black colleges and universities (known as H.B.C.U.s), homecoming is more than a football game. ... for many alumni like me, it’s fall’s biggest event.” This year, “festivities at most schools have been canceled because of the pandemic.” Some are “hosting digital events and virtual performances; others, like Morehouse College, have focused on other kinds of outreach, including voter registration.” A virtual civic event “can’t be quite as lively as a normal homecoming, said Joe Carlos, the associate director of alumni engagement at Morehouse, but he hopes it will be just as uplifting.” He adds, “Its going to be different. Nothing replaces a hug and that spirit of camaraderie and family, which is what homecoming is about.”
Test-Optional Policies Amid Pandemic May Be Confusing College Applicants
The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/8, Hoover) reports that COVID-19 “shredded the standardized-testing process” and colleges on “are still adjusting to the implications.” One large implication is that “an unprecedented number of applicants probably won’t submit an ACT or SAT score this year” and “‘unprecedented’ could end up meaning ‘most.’” That’s one takeaway “from new findings by EAB, a Washington, DC, consulting firm that works with colleges.” Recently, “it analyzed nearly 42,000 applications at 57 test-optional institutions: Just 45 percent of students had sent a test score.” The Chronicle states that some of this lack of clarity about test cancellations and lack of submissions “is a reflection of the ambivalence of the admissions field toward test-optional.”
Column: California Institute Of Technology Unwilling To Address Institutional Racism
Los Angeles Times (10/7), business columnist Michael Hiltzik writes that “at first blush, the California Institute of Technology seemed to respond promptly and well to the uproar sparked this summer over its apparent complicity with the racist eugenics movement of a century ago.” Caltech, “one of the nation’s leading scientific research institutions, took steps to increase diversity in its undergraduate and graduate programs, publish data on diversity at all levels from faculty appointments to undergrads, and improve its institutional response to discriminatory behavior.” The Pasadena university “also established a task force to examine its policies on naming campus buildings.” However, “the membership of this committee neither has the background nor is willing to address institutional racism at Caltech.”
Study: One In Five Schools Able To Close Race-Based Gaps For Students Participating In Dual Credit Programs
Education Week ’s (10/7, Sparks) “Inside School Research” blog reports that “allowing students to take college credits in high school can give students a year or more head start on earning a degree, but in most schools, students don’t get an equal chance to participate.” Nationwide, “12% of white students take dual-credit courses in high school, compared to only 8 % of Hispanic students and 7 percent of Black students, according to a new report by the Aspen Institute and Columbia University’s Community College Research Center.” It found “only 1 in 5 school districts have been able to close race-based gaps among students participating in the dual-credit programs.” Researchers “developed a tool, based on common practices in the schools that have closed gaps, to help school districts and colleges improve access for students.”
Report: Dual-Enrollment Programs Offer Lessons To Community Colleges To Help Students Of Color
Education Dive (10/7, Schwartz) reports that “nine dual-enrollment programs that have strong outcomes for underrepresented students of color offer lessons to other community colleges hoping to achieve the same, according to a new report from The Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center (CCRC).” Researchers “found common elements among the programs, including that they evaluate equity gaps and set goals to close them, advertise to communities of color and proactively support struggling students.” The report’s takeaways “may be especially relevant during the pandemic, which threatens to expand equity gaps in higher education and diminish community college enrollment.”
New Prism Magazine Online
Our cover story, "A Virtual Reality" examines how engineering educators find creative substitutes for in-person labs and other hands-on learning experiences. This story and more, at the Prism online site.
Conference Report on Increasing Participation of Minority-Serving Institutions in the NSF CISE Core Programs
This new meeting report details outcomes from an event that assembled 90 MSI faculty to learn about increasing the number and competitiveness of their proposals to NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Core Programs.
Webinar: Supporting Underrepresented Engineering Students in the Time of COVID-19 - Oct. 22 at 2 PM, ET
Explore how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting traditionally underrepresented students in engineering and how faculty and administrators can better support these students, sharing preliminary insights and lessons learned from two NSF RAPID grants. Register Now!
Webinar: Supporting Engineering Graduate Students in the Time of COVID-19 - Nov. 5 at 1 PM, ET
This free webinar will explore how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting engineering graduate students and how faculty and administrators can better support these students, sharing preliminary insights and lessons learned from three NSF RAPID grants. Register now!
Research and Development
Nobel Prize In Chemistry Awarded To Two Scientists For Gene Editing Tool
The AP (10/7, Keyton, Larson, Jordans) reports the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna on Wednesday “for developing CRISPR-cas9, a very simple technique for cutting a gene at a specific spot, allowing scientists to operate on flaws that are the root cause of many diseases.” Their breakthrough research “was published in 2012, making the discovery very recent compared with a lot of other Nobel-winning research, which is often honored only after decades have passed.” The Denver Post (10/7) reports Doudna did her postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado Boulder. This is only the “fourth time that a Nobel in the sciences was awarded exclusively to women, who have long received less recognition for their work than men in the prize’s 119-year history.”
West Virginia University Researchers Developing Better Methane Monitoring Network To Increase Mine Safety
WVNews (10/6) reports West Virginia University researchers are “developing an improved methane monitoring network in an effort to increase safety in longwall mines.” With a grant from the Alpha Foundation, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources professors Derek Johnson and Nigel Clark will develop a second-generation, cost-effective, multi-natal network of methane sensors that will be distributed in longwall mines to measure methane during operations. The network’s goal is to “monitor and alert miners of elevated methane levels before they would even have to walk into the mine.” Johnson said, “A refined network of sensors will enable a proactive response to rising trends which will hopefully improve not only safety – but also productivity.”
Researchers Develop New Imaging System That Can See Through Obstructions
Gizmodo (10/5) reported researchers at Stanford University “have created a new imaging system that can see through obstructions like fog, or at least reconstruct what’s on the other side.” According to the researchers’ paper, which was published in Nature Communications last month, the system “works in a similar fashion to the laser-powered LIDAR scanners that autonomous cars use to image the world around them in three-dimensions.” Gizmodo adds, “Improvements will be needed to make this a real-time and viable solution before an autonomous car could safely drive down the road, even at nominal speeds, on a foggy day. But it’s not like humans are getting any better at the task either.”
Opinion: Educator Provides Tips To Replicate Experimental Learning Of Labs In Virtual Classrooms
In an opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed (10/7), Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College’s dean of engineering Alexis Abramson writes, “With COVID-19 a reality for the foreseeable future, all of us in higher education administration must think outside the box if we are to continue to ensure we meet the highest educational needs of our students. Every institution has a different set of constituents, resources and needs, but we can offer some general advice to other educators seeking to incorporate more hands-on learning into their virtual and hybrid courses.” She advises that educators should “focus on the most important things your students need to learn,” repurpose “common household items and spaces,” look to “relatively inexpensive scientific kits,” use “free online materials and inexpensive equipment,” among other pieces of advice.
GM, Other Automakers Invest $50 Million In Envisics
The Wall Street Journal (10/7, Vartabedian, Subscription Publication) reports GM Ventures, SAIC Capital, and Hyundai Mobis have invested $50 million into Envisics, a UK-based startup developing hardware and software that will allow drivers to interact with partially-autonomous vehicles via the vehicle’s windshield. Car and Driver (10/7, Beresford) reports, “Envisics’ technology fuses automated reality with head-up displays so that hazards such as pedestrians and other vehicles can be illuminated through the use of a 3D hologram.” The startup’s “reimagined head-up display can also be utilized when route navigation is in use, as the automated reality can illuminate where on the road a driver should be or project arrows where a driver should turn.”
TechCrunch (10/7) reports GM Ventures President Matt Tsien said, “GM is very impressed with Envisics’ holographic augmented reality-enhanced head-up display technology.” Tsien continued, “This technology will help us revolutionize the in-vehicle experience with a variety of safe, highly integrated and intuitive applications, including applications that will enhance the hands-free driving experience in future EVs, like the Cadillac LYRIQ.” In a statement, Hyundai Mobis CTO Sung Hwan said that the company “will jointly develop autonomous driving specialized AR HUDs with Envisics, targeting mass production by 2025.” Hwan added, “We will proactively present the next generation AR HUD to global automakers with increased safety and convenience to avoid distracting the driver.”
Also reporting are VentureBeat (10/7) and Autoblog (10/7).
Engineering and Public Policy
Treasury Secretary, House Speaker Discuss Piecemeal Stimulus Measures Following Trump Reversal
The AP (10/7, Taylor, Madhani) reports President Donald Trump “tried to salvage a few priority items lost in the rubble of COVID-19 relief talks that he blew up, pressing for $1,200 stimulus checks and new aid for airlines and other businesses hard hit by the pandemic.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has rejected such piecemeal entreaties all along,” but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi “talked briefly on Wednesday morning,” during which Pelosi “directed Mnuchin to a measure she had attempted to pass on Friday on short notice under fast-track procedures, but only after Democrats made a number of changes Republicans did not like.”
Reuters (10/7, Lambert, Heavey, Cowan, Cornwell) reports Mnuchin and Pelosi also spoke “by phone on Wednesday evening about a potential standalone bill for $25 billion in aid to airlines that Democrats tried to advance last week, her spokesman wrote on Twitter.” Mnuchin, “who had been Pelosi’s negotiating partner as they tried to reach a comprehensive package in recent days, agreed to talk again on Thursday, the spokesman, Drew Hammill, said.”
The Wall Street Journal (10/7, A1, Peterson, Duehren, Timiraos, Subscription Publication) describes differing messages from Trump that brought additional uncertainty to the chances for more stimulus.
The AP (10/7, Taylor, Madhani) reports the White House “tried to salvage its favorite items lost in the rubble of COVID-19 relief talks that...Trump blew up,” including “$1,200 stimulus checks and a new wave of aid for airlines and other businesses hard hit by the pandemic.” The AP adds that “Trump pressed for passage of these chunks of assistance” by means of “a barrage of tweets.” The AP calls the move “an about-face from his abrupt and puzzling move on Tuesday afternoon to abandon talks.” Reuters (10/7, Lambert, Heavey, Cowan, Cornwell) reports, “Top White House officials on Wednesday downplayed the possibility of either a comprehensive coronavirus aid deal with the U.S. Congress or even standalone measures.” Chief of Staff Meadows “told reporters that ‘the stimulus negotiations are off,’” while NEC Director Kudlow said, “This would probably be low, low-probability stuff.”
Additional coverage by the New York Times (10/7, Smialek), Politico (10/7, Zanona), the Washington Post (10/7, A1, Stein, Werner), Bloomberg (10/7, Wasson, House), NPR (10/7, Schaper), The Hill (10/7, Marcos), Fox Business (10/7, Henney), and CNN (10/7, Mattingly).
Economists Say Decision To End Talks Will Weaken Economy. The New York Times (10/7, Casselman, Tankersley) reports that “economists of all stripes agree” Trump’s move “could be a costly mistake,” and the AP (10/7, Rugaber) reports economists say Trump’s decision to cut off the talks “will further weaken an economy straining to recover from an epic collapse...and deepen the hardships for jobless Americans and struggling businesses.” According to an NFIB survey, “half of all small businesses expect to need more aid from the government over the next 12 months to survive.” USA Today (10/7, Menton) reports that delaying the “urgently needed unemployment aid and a second round of $1,200 direct payments” would “affect millions of out-of-work Americans who are struggling financially following a wave of job losses in the coronavirus recession, especially those in hard-hit industries like travel and hospitality who are relying on another stimulus check to make ends meet, experts say.”
Economists Lower Growth Forecasts
The Wall Street Journal (10/7, Subscription Publication) reports economists are reducing their forecasts for US economic growth this year as the chances for another round of government stimulus appear to be fading. The Journal says economists additional permanent layoffs and business closures which indicate the slow growth that came in the wake of the last economic downturn.
Consumer Borrowing Declined By $7.2B In August
The AP (10/7, Crutsinger) reports US consumers reduced their borrowing in August, “with credit card use dropping for a sixth straight month, reflecting caution in the midst of the pandemic-triggered recession.” According to the Federal Reserve, “total borrowing fell by $7.2 billion after a gain of $14.7 billion in July. It was the biggest decline since a $12 billion fall in May when pandemic-driven shutdowns ground the economy to a near standstill.”
DOD Awards University Of Toledo $3 Million Grant To Help Military Families With Childhood Education
The Toledo (OH) Blade (10/6) reports the Department of Defense awarded the University of Toledo a $3 million grant “that will be used to help military-connected families nationwide with early childhood education.” The funding will help Toledo’s NURTURES program, which “stands for Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science. The program aims to improve prekindergarten through third grade education in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, collectively known as STEM.” Charlene Czerniak, UT professor emeritus of science education and research, “said the NURTURES program will be using the new funds to expand its reach to the military bases, military-connected schools, and Purple Star schools in Alabama, Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Georgia, and Washington.”
Initiative Launched To Get One Million Girls Interested In STEM
Education Dive (10/7, De La Rosa) reports several STEM organizations, including the Intel Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, STEM Next Opportunity Fund, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, “are partnering to form the Million Girls Moonshot initiative to hook one million more girls on these subject areas over the next five years.” The initiative will “provide grants and in-kind resources to Mott-funded afterschool networks to increase access to STEM learning experiences.” Dr. Penny Noyce, founding board chair for STEM Next Opportunity Fund and daughter of Intel co-founder Robert Noyce, said, “The purpose of the Million Girls Moonshot is to work towards closing the gender gap.” She added, “We are trying to pull together a cross-section of technology companies, government organizations, state and afterschool providers to provide grant funding, in-kind resources and access to resources and STEM mentors.”
Gates Foundation Launches Grant Program To Make Algebra I More Culturally Relevant
Education Week’s (10/7, Schwartz) “Teaching Now” blog reports the Gates Foundation “announced Wednesday it is launching a multimillion dollar grant program aimed at raising achievement in Algebra I for Black and Latino students, students in poverty, and English-language learners.” The grants will be awarded “through the foundation’s Grand Challenge platform, an initiative that targets persistent challenges in global health and development. Funding will be awarded in two phases: 10 to 15 awardees will receive $100,000 each, and then those winners will be eligible to apply for $1 million grants.” The goal behind the grants is to “engage students with more culturally relevant instruction – including by redesigning courses so that they draw on students’ lived experiences, strengthen their math identities, and explore issues of social justice.”
Wednesday's Lead Stories
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