A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
09/03/20 — Five years ago today the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents used a rigged, taxpayer funded search to appoint Jerre Stead’s little buddy as the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, even though J. Bruce Harreld had no public sector or academic administrative experience, and was never the CEO of anything. Perhaps in celebration of that catastrophic milestone, Harreld posted an oddly cryptic message to the Iowa Now website, even as his failed COVID-19 plan disintegrates and cases soar across Iowa City and Johnson County.
However, we also react to new information as it comes in. We adapt. In that process, we are bound to make mistakes, but our only option is to act in good faith on the information available to us.
I don’t know why Harreld is putting out an ass-covering statement two weeks into the semester, and I don’t care. The University of Iowa doesn’t need another press release from the same man whose arrogance and ignorance led to the mess we’re in, yet asking people to absolve him of responsibility while the campus is on fire is entirely on-brand. Case counts will inevitably fall if only because there are no more students, faculty and staff to infect, but nothing will get better at the University of Iowa until J. Bruce Harreld is gone.
* As recently as noon yesterday, the plan was for Iowa State to welcome 25K screaming Cyclone fans to Jack Trice Stadium in Ames a week from this coming Saturday. At her press conference late yesterday morning (which was pushed back from Tuesday, because the governor had to get her talking-point ducks in a row after a series of setbacks on Monday), Demon Kim made clear that she was perfectly fine with filling the stadium to 40% capacity. Two hours later, Iowa State announced that there would be no fans at Iowa State’s first home game, because apparently the president of the school, Wendy Wintersteen, decided the night before that she didn’t want to go down in history as a mass murderer.
From Amy Mayer at Iowa Public Radio: Iowa State University President Reverses Decision On Football Fans.
Iowa State University’s Jack Trice Stadium will have no fans for the Cyclones’ home opener on Sept. 12.
The Wednesday announcement comes after the school was widely criticized for its plan to allow 25,000 season-ticket holders to attend the game, with masks and social-distancing requirements.
In a statement, Iowa State Athletics Director Jamie Pollard said university president Wendy Wintersteen informed him Tuesday that she had reversed her earlier decision to allow fans.
The purported timeline here may seem ludicrous, but it is important to remember that Iowa state government is a clown car. The reason the timeline sounds wrong is because the ISU president purportedly told her AD that fans would be banned on Tuesday night, only for the governor to come out Wednesday morning and say she thought that having 25K fans in the stands was a great idea. For that to make sense it would seem that the governor had to be completely out of the loop on the decision making at Iowa State — which is also her alma mater — but there is zero chance that the governor was not informed about Wintersteen’s reported change of heart prior to her Wednesday presser.
So why would the governor openly advocate for something that she knew would not happen? Well, as it turns out Kim Reynolds is a passionate advocate for libertarian utopianism — meaning the proposition that government really shouldn’t even exist, and everyone should always be one hundred percent personally responsible for everything. In that philosophical context, Reynolds could not come out Wednesday and openly disagree with the ISU plan, because that would not only contravene her ‘personal responsibility’ brand, it would open up a Pandora’s box on policy. (If you’re banning fans in the ISU stands for health reasons, why aren’t you mandating masks?)
Even the obvious option of having Iowa State make the reversal announcement the night before, or early Wednesday morning, was off the table, because Reynolds would still have to take ownership of that decision as governor — and Reynolds clearly did not want to own that decision. (A lot of otherwise well-informed people don’t seem to know this, but the Iowa Board of Regents — which the governor appoints — is part of the executive branch and answers to the governor.) Between angering ISU fans for taking their opening game away, and angering libertarians for sticking her government nose in citizen business, that would be a lot of votes to put at risk when she is up for reelection in 2022. So the best option Reynolds had left was to come out and pretend to throw her support behind a proposition that she already knew was off the table, only to then be exposed as both a fool and complicit in that political theater several hours later. (When that’s your best option as governor, you’re governoring wrong.)
* Over the preceding weeks there was a well-organized movement at the University of Iowa to have a ‘sickout’ on Wednesday. After planning for that protest drew substantial pledge support, the new interim UI provost issued a counter-threat about this impending employee betrayal. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa leadership condemns faculty planned sickout.
“I respectfully remind you that as role models, you have an obligation to deliver instruction as assigned, and to provide appropriate notice of absences due to illness,” [Interim Provost Kevin] Kregel wrote Tuesday in a broadly distributed message. “We also would expect appropriate documentation of sick leave usage.”
That sort of public finger wagging is precisely why Harreld hand-picked Kregel to be the interim provost for two years, and Kregel certainly seems up to his toady duties as right-hand man to the deranged university president whose policies precipitated the protest. In any event, the planned sickout took place yesterday, and as of Wednesday evening the organizers were declaring success on social media:
Today, 916 students, faculty and staff members at the University of Iowa called in sick to demand that UIowa move to 100% online instruction.
I don’t know what those numbers mean at a school with 32K students, thousands of faculty and tens of thousands of staff (including University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics), but it’s not nothing. I also think there are a lot of people at UI who support the move to online classes, but who weren’t in a position to actively advocate, meaning those numbers are more a floor of support than the ceiling. More on the protest over the past few days here: Sabine Martin at the Daily Iowan; an open letter to Kregel and Dean Keller in the Gazette; a follow-up yesterday from the Gazette’s Miller, and Natalie Dunlap at the DI.
* The annual introduction of the new shared governance leaders at the University of Iowa was posted yesterday on the Iowa Now website. If you’re not familiar with the concept of shared governance in higher education, it is both an admirable goal and established tradition on the faculty side, and a perpetual pain in the ass on the administrative side, but in most places everyone makes it work because it makes the campus better. Unfortunately, ever since shared governance was obliterated during the rigged hire of J. Bruce Harreld in 2015, most of the people involved in shared governance at UI simply end up being used by Harreld whenever it suits his purpose. (And because no one involved in shared governance wants to admit that they’re powerless, let alone co-opted or complicit, everyone pretends that shared governance is still meaningful at UI.)
Having said that, one of the new shared-governance leaders this year is Faculty Senate President Joe Yockey, and he is a wild card. (For the most part, the Faculty Senate presidents over the past five years have been doormats to varying degrees.) Having been personally trotted out by Harreld to legitimize the UI Utility P3 in late 2019 and early 2020, Yockey is thus intimately familiar with the source of the rot in central administration, and is now in a position to push back administratively. Speaking of which….
* The one story that genuinely surprised me over the past twenty-four hours was this, from Alexandra Skores at the DI: UI Faculty Council discusses utilizing P3 allocations to accommodate financial pressure.
The DI reported in May that Harreld told the state Board of Regents the UI was facing $76 million in expenses and lost revenue through August from responding to the coronavirus. UI media-relations Director Anne Bassett told the DI that the funds from the public/private partnership will not be used to supplement any lost funding, however.
“The university has been clear that these resources are to be used to invest in the future success of the university,” she said. “Utilizing these funds to backfill a budget hole would rob future generations of the benefit of these resources, so the UI must and will practice discipline in allocating these resources.”
UI Professor of English Loren Glass asked Yockey if the decision to not allocate the public/private partnership funding toward operational budgets was a policy or legal decision. Yockey said it was a decision based on policy. A 501C-3 board would approve all funding if an allocation was to be made.
As regular readers know, J. Bruce Harreld has been manic about insisting that profits from the P3 will be spent on initiatives which are aligned with the strategic plan. While that certainly sounds like a coherent official position, what Harreld really means is that expenditures must align with his interpretation of the strategic plan. If he and others in central administration like what you’re proposing then you might get some money. If they don’t, you won’t, no matter how much it might advance the UI Strategic Plan.
Now however, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Glass and Yockey have hit on the most important dynamic, which is that there is no legal prohibition against using profits from the P3 to fund operations. Indeed, directly funding operations would limit the likelihood that Harreld and his administrative henchpersons will use the P3 as a slush fund, primarily to fund for-profit entrepreneurial ventures. (J. Bruce Harreld isn’t aggressively protecting that money because he cares about the strategic plan.)
* Another surprising development yesterday was the publication — on the UI COVID-19 website — of a new, more forgiving tuition calendar for the fall semester. As noted endlessly in these virtual pages, the administrative objective at Iowa seems to be hanging on to some pretense of in-person classes until September 21st, at which point students will be obligated to pay 100% of tuition and fees. The problem with that plan is that at 76% online classes already, and likely heading higher sooner rather than later, the entire fall term looks like a bait-and-switch scam in which students were suckered back to campus with the promise of a traditional, non-pandemic semester. (For example, after only a week of classes Harreld freaked out and demanded that the governor close all of the bars in Iowa City, thus killing the usual and expected nightlife in the community.)
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, in a story which also caught up on the most recent infection numbers on campus: University of Iowa student coronavirus cases top 1,000.
The UI also announced a revised tuition calendar allowing students to get back more of their money if they withdraw from classes later.
Previously, students were responsible for 25 percent of tuition as of Sept. 6; 50 percent by Sept. 13; 75 percent by Sept. 20; and 100 percent by Sept. 27.
Now, students who fully withdraw from the UI before Sept. 13 will be responsible for only 10 percent of their tuition.
They’ll be responsible for a quarter of their tuition before Sept. 20 and half their tuition before Sept. 27. But they must pay full tuition if they withdraw after Oct. 4, according to the revised calendar.
I don’t know if the UI lawyers started freaking out or what, but that’s not only the right decision for students, it’s a smart decision for the school. Leaving the door open to lawsuits is the last thing Iowa should be doing right now, after getting so much so wrong in such a short amount of time. And of course pushing the students around in the fall could precipitate an even greater enrollment collapse for the spring term, which will also kick off in the dead of winter, when the pandemic has merged with cold and flu season.
* Perhaps not surprisingly, the bait-and-switch question is not only pertinent to the University of Iowa. From Chris Quintana at USA Today: An online class by any other name? College students pay rent, enroll – then find courses aren’t in-person. It may turn out that this was a central component of the reopening plans at may colleges and universities, because faculty were understandably resistant to in-person classes. Instead of acknowledging reality, administrators sold a promise they never intended to follow through on — and that should be a crime.
* Alexandra Skores at the Daily Iowan: UI Faculty Council discusses need to recruit and retain underrepresented faculty and staff.
The University of Iowa Faculty Council discussed concerns for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty members. The conversation comes after the departure of many Hawkeye leaders over the last year who had led the UI’s diversity efforts.
Interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liz Tovar said one area she has set her focuses on is the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff at the UI.
As regular readers know this has been a disaster under J. Bruce Harreld, whose administrative interest in diversity ranges from non-existent to hostile. It is going to take a long time to right the diversity ship at UI, and it is never going to happen until the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents fires Harreld and hires an academic president.
* Good reporting here from Mary Hartel at the Daily Iowan, highlighting the conflicted pandemic reality of students at the University of Iowa: UI Students share the mental implications that come with receiving positive test results.
“I think that I’ve heard multiple times people say that they’re glad that they’re getting it over with now instead of during finals because there’s just so much pessimism about it since it seems that so many people are now getting it.” Molina said.
Molina said he, too, felt a sense of relief after testing positive, in the sense that he would not have to repeatedly get tested and quarantined as the spread and exposure increases in Iowa City.
We are putting young people in an impossible position, then asking them to make responsible decisions. While it may sound crazy to want to contract COVID-19 and get it over with, in the context of a college semester that’s not objectively wrong. Given the weighting of finals in determining the grade for the average course, taking sick in the final few weeks of a term — when you are already on the hook for the cost — could mean losing four months of work and thousands of dollars.
* Eleanor Hildrebrandt at the DI: USG reassesses Student Activity Fee to support students during COVID-19. A smart move by the USG, and another reminder that UI students deserve so much more than the failed leadership of J. Bruce Harreld. It is just sickening that the regents continue to carry this idiot on the books.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: For UI employees with school-age children, the school year causes more dilemmas, survey shows.
Of 690 UI employees who responded to a “child needs assessment survey” — out of 1,204 faculty and staff with at least one dependent age 5 to 15, a 57 percent response rate — more than 37 percent said they would send their kids to school for hybrid learning if offered.
Many parents across Iowa City — home to the UI campus — lost that option for at least two weeks over the weekend when the Iowa City Community School Board voted unanimously to begin the fall term in an online-only setting, with COVID-19 cases surging across the community.
The flip side, of course, is that by forcing the state universities to open, the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents — which operates under the authority of the governor — put those same parents in a position they should never have been in, at a time when community transmission of COVID-19 was unacceptably high. Just as the students are overwhelmed, so are employees at UI. There was an opportunity for the governor, the university and the local community — including the K-12 school district — to get on the same page and figure out the best solution for all, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Iowa’s demonic governor insisted that K-12 schools open into the teeth of uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, while rigging the metrics and corrupting the stats that she would use to determine whether schools went online. (Later today there will be a hearing in that regard for the Iowa City Community School District, which is seeking an injunction against the governor’s order.)
* Mark Emmert at the Des Moines Register: Most Iowa assistant football coaches get pay raises even after mandatory pay cuts factored in. This is from the same UI athletics department that just axed four sports because there wasn’t enough money to go around without revenue from football.
* Isaac Hamlet at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts adjusts 100th season for COVID-19. Glad to see these attempts to work around the pandemic, and to see writers leading that effort. There are always conceptual and practical problems in any medium, and the pandemic is no different. Learning how to write around obstacles is a critical part of the craft.
09/01/20 — As I commented on social media, yesterday was like watching the state of Iowa flunk a test in which the only question was how to spell Iowa. After Demon Kim’s order on Thursday, which closed the bars in six counties without due process — primarily to protect revenue generation at the state’s three public universities — the big news yesterday was that Iowa State plans to allow 25,000 fans into Jack Trice Stadium in two weeks, for the first home football game. Needless to say, it would have been something to see the looks on the faces of the bar owners in Ames and Story County, who just had their businesses killed four days earlier by the governor, purportedly out of an abundance of caution concerning COVID-19 transmission.
If you are not familiar with ISU’s stadium, it is not particularly big. Unlike the great college coliseums, which seat over 100K fans, Trice seats about 61,500 all-told — meaning the university intends to fill roughly 40.1% of the seats. One look at the seating chart, however, makes clear that there is no way to put 25K fans in Trice stadium will maintaining six feet of separation, which was a central concern for Demon Kim when she locked up the bars in that very same town.
While the University of Iowa is not currently contemplating fall football, it was actually illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld who spurred Iowa’s governor to close the bars in Story and five other counties. In fact, here is a now-ironic quote from the suck-up letter that Harreld sent to Demon Kim all of five days ago, after she agreed to lock up the bars in Iowa City and Johnson County as well:
I would like to thank Governor Kim Reynolds for her recent action regarding bars and gatherings larger than 10 people. Without those actions I was very concerned about the rise in cases and the upcoming weekend.
What must the bar owners in Ames be thinking now, after the governor forced them to close because of concerns about overcrowding during the coronavirus pandemic, only to then have the governor turn around and tacitly approve jamming 25K raging football fans into a 62K-person stadium? Even better, how much business will those bars lose on game day — and how much more profit will Iowa’s state-run football concessions generate at the stadium — precisely because all of the bars are closed across Story County, and in nearby Polk and Dallas Counties? Oh — and did I mention that Iowa State also happens to be Demon Kim’s late-onset alma mater?
Making Iowa State’s administrative hypocrisy all the more absurd was the fact that yesterday, out of all the municipalities being tracked by the New York Times, Ames, Iowa had the highest prevalence of COVID-19 per-1K population in the United States. (Ames was in good company, however, as Iowa City ranked second, moving up from third the day before.)
* Speaking of J. Bruce Harreld, not only did the White House put boot prints on his face yesterday regarding the critical importance of testing college students, but in various reports Harreld finally got credit for advocating for fall football in the Big Ten, on the same day that the University of Iowa Athletics Department announced that it was suspending all workouts “through at least Labor Day” because of a rash of positive tests. From the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read: Iowa athletics pauses all workouts amid COVID-19 outbreak.
“Due to the recent increase in cases in the community, we have made the decision to pause voluntary and mandatory workouts until after Labor Day,” UI professor and head team physician Dr. Andrew Peterson said in a release. “We remain confident in our overall process, including testing, contact tracing and daily health screening.”
Note that even with more aggressive testing and tracking than Harreld has implemented for the greater student body, the UI Athletics Department was knocked out of commission after only the first week of classes.
* From Tony Leys at the Des Moines Register: White House says Iowa has the highest coronavirus rate in country, should close more bars.
White House coronavirus experts warned Iowa leaders Sunday, Aug. 30, that the state has the country’s steepest coronavirus outbreak, and the state should close bars in 61 counties and test all returning college students for the virus.
Four days after Demon Kim closed the bars in six counties, the White House publicly rebuked her leadership by encouraging her to close bars in ten times as many counties. At the same time, the White House also clubbed J. Bruce Harreld senseless by stating that all college students should be tested, after he tested no students on entry to the UI campus or surrounding community. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t all so horrifying, but there is another problem, which is that the White House is sending conflicting messages to Iowa, including pushing the widely discredited idea that herd immunity is a legitimate goal.
Over the past six months Kim Reynolds has effectively followed the ‘Sweden plan’, even after Sweden admitted it made a mistake in aiming for herd immunity. Having openly prioritized the livelihoods of Iowans over their very lives, it is not at all clear how Reynolds will respond to this humiliation, or to the call for aggressive testing at the state schools. (When news of the scathing White House report broke yesterday, I speculated on social media that Reynolds would cancel her regularly scheduled press conference for today. Several hours before the press conference was scheduled to begin, the governor’s office announced it was being rescheduled for tomorrow.)
* Another very strong editorial from the Gazette Editorial Board: Hawkeye hot spot: UI’s semester was doomed before it started.
There’s plenty of blame being laid on students and businesses. UI has even set up an official channel for community members to report violations to the authorities. But what about the institutional actors who made it all possible?
The Gazette editorial also encouraged aggressive testing at the state schools, and that proved particularly timely and prescient because of the White House report.
* A thorough and smart deep dive from Laura Belin, on how we got where we are at the regent schools: Kim Reynolds set young people up to fail. Now she’s setting them up to blame.
The official narrative seems designed to conceal three inconvenient facts. Reynolds didn’t follow expert advice that could have prevented this summer’s explosive growth in cases. For months, she discouraged young, healthy Iowans from worrying about the virus. And despite her “#StepUpMaskUp” public relations campaign, Reynolds has failed to practice what she preaches when attending large gatherings herself.
What is wrong in Iowa, at every level, is not the result of a few reckless bars or college students. It is the direct result of the failed leadesship of Kim Reynolds.
* Yesterday Kathie Obradovich at the Iowa Capital Dispatch had some very strong words to say about personal responsibility: Who’s to blame for campus COVID outbreaks?
Students have to not only avoid but make socially unacceptable large parties where distancing is a joke and no one wears a mask. The idea that these young adults can’t or shouldn’t have to be accountable for destructively self-centered behavior is repugnant. If students won’t use self-restraint, universities should send them home immediately.
At about the same time, a photograph appeared on social media showing Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds huddled with forty-plus people for a group photograph, without masks or social distancing. While I think Obradovich would agree that everyone should take personal responsibility for their conduct during the pandemic, the reality — as we all know, unless we live in a perfect utopian fantasy in our own minds — is that young adults often have trouble making the right decision. Indeed, out of a certain population a given percentage will choose to drink inappropriately or do drugs or have unprotected sex, and the same goes for other risk-taking behaviors, including not using a mask or socially distancing.
Unlike the former-alcoholic governor, who not only really should know better, and who should be setting an example for the very young people who enraged Obradovich, we know that a certain percentage of young people simply won’t make the right choices. And because we know that — even though we don’t know which specific students will fail — the adults in charge should never have opened the state campuses during uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. And after decades of writing columns for the Des Moines Register, this is a point I should not have to make to Kathie Obradovich, unless she really is a utopian fantasist about personal responsibility.
* This coming Thursday the Iowa City Community School District and a statewide teacher’s union have a court hearing about the governor’s contention that she can control whether individual K-12 school districts go online in the face of COVID-19. After initially stiffing an ICCSD request to start the school year online, the governor recently relented and approved that request. My concern was that by accepting the governor’s grant of permission, ICCSD might effectively concede that the governor did have that global authority, and thus also concede Thursday’s hearing. Fortunately, however, the people at ICCSD are very smart, and that will not be the case.
From Cleo Krejci at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: Iowa City schools, teachers union move forward with lawsuit over in-person classes.
Despite the state of Iowa approving a two-week waiver allowing Iowa City schools to begin the semester online, the Iowa State Education Association and the school district are moving forward with a lawsuit challenging the state’s authority to mandate in-person instruction.
On Monday, the state teachers union and the Iowa City school district filed an update to the lawsuit saying a hearing is still necessary to determine what will happen after the two-week waiver expires.
The governor’s broad assertion of power over K-12 schools must be proven in court. If the governor — or the attorney general’s office, which is obligated to represent her — cannot make that case, then every school district in Iowa will not only be able to do what they think best, they will also be liberated from the governor’s irrational qualifying metrics and corrupted state data. And maybe, as a result, more Iowans won’t end up in the hospital or dead.
08/30/20 — One of the things I have learned over the past five years, watching both illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld and the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, is that it takes a while for things to play out. What looks like self-evident news on the day it is first reported may morph into something else as time passes, and as related or consequent events take place. And of course in comparing two or more related events we may also expose inconsistencies, contradictions and lies of omission or commission.
Such is the case with J. Bruce Harreld’s meeting with the UI Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Tuesday evening, which was followed Thursday morning by the governor’s decision to close all bars in six Iowa Counties. Not so coincidentally, three of those counties are host to one of Iowa’s public universities — which are collectively overseen by the regents — and the other three are both relatively populous and in close proximity to the three state universities. Conversely, Iowa’s governor chose not to close any of the small-town bars in any of Iowa’s other 93 counties, many of which are sparsely populated, even though hundreds of those bars are in easy driving distance of each of the state schools.
As noted in a prior post this past week, after only a day or so my thinking began to evolve about what transpired when Harreld talked to the USG, and it has continue to evolve over the intervening five days. In fact, I now believe we have to look at the events from last week through three different lenses to understand every facet of what happened, and how subsequent events are likely to play out in the near future. I also believe that this story is far from over, and that the governor and Harreld have engaged in gross governmental overreach not for the safety and well-being of Iowans and members of the UI community specifically, but for the purpose of protecting revenue generation at Iowa’s state universities.
The first perspective we need to consider is one of simple fact. On Tuesday evening, during a videotaped virtual meeting with the Undergraduate Student Government, J. Bruce Harreld said the following:
The other question is closing the bars. Yeah, I lay awake a lot — lie awake at night, thinking about this — and first of all let’s understand: there are some bars…and restaurants…that are directly in violation of the current order from the governor. So I think — I’m going to talk to the governor about closing ’em down. Closin’ ’em down. We need — and maybe all of ’em in the…in the county. I mean, I really think we’re at that…at that stage. Secondly, um…I’m going to have a serious conversation about — and it’s not just — it’s not just the bars…or restaurants. It’s also apartment complexes. I’ve walked around the apartment complexes and listened to the parties. I’ve walked — I jog, I jog around parts of the community, and I’ve seen the backyard parties. I think we need to take a serious look at alcohol sales.
Roughly thirty-six hours later, on Thursday morning, Iowa’s governor did indeed issue an order closing all of the bars in Johnson County, along with those in Story (home to Iowa State), Black Hawk (home to Northern Iowa), Polk (just south of Story, home to Des Moines, and easily accessible to ISU students by interstate highway), Dallas (just west of Polk and easily accessible to ISU students by interstate highway), and Linn (between Johnson and Black Hawk, and easily accessible to both UI and UNi students by interstate highway). What Harreld said he wanted for the University of Iowa on Tuesday night, he also seems to have secured for the state’s other two public universities, and in record time.
And yet, it is precisely the speed of the purported decision making which calls into question the very premise of that apparent cause and effect, and that brings us to the second perspective we need to consider. By Harreld’s telling on Tuesday night he had not yet talked to Governor Reynolds. Meaning unless he called the governor that evening, the earliest opportunity he would have had to convey his concerns would have been Wednesday morning, roughly twenty-four hours before the governor handed down a much broader ban than Harreld was apparently seeking. So what is the likelihood that the president of the University of Iowa personally got on the phone with the governor on Wednesday, and persuaded or compelled her to perpetrate a far more sweeping ban on drinking establishments than even he was asking for?
While he clearly is the illegitimate president of Iowa’s flagship public research university, in the great scheme of Iowa state government J. Bruce Harreld is an administrative pipsqueak. Not only does he not call the governor and tell her what to do, he doesn’t even call the governor and ask for things. As a factual matter Harreld is an employee of the Iowa Board of Regents, and as such reports to them. And they would not like it if Harreld went stomping over their heads to made demands on the governor — so what’s going on here?
Well, as regular readers know, J. Bruce Harreld is defined by toxic ego needs. (He’s the guy in your class, or at work, who constantly positions himself to look good, and who takes credit for every success whether he had anything to do with it or not.) So when Harreld was bragged to the young’uns Tuesday night, about how he was going to “talk to the governor about closin’ ’em down”, the most likely scenario is that Harreld already knew he had a Wednesday call with the governor, to talk about the high COVID-19 test totals in Johnson County.
Fortuitously, because of an innocuous remark in the governor’s fifty-minute press conference on Thursday, we now know that to be the case. [See the 21:59 mark here.]
Uh, yesterday I did have the opportunity to have a call…uh…with the presidents of the Iowa regent universities, to discuss what they’re seeing on campus, and in their communities, as well as what their needs are going forward.
So instead of J. Bruce Harreld getting on his dingy white horse and riding off to see the governor, which is the heroic narrative Harreld presented to the USG, the governor had a prearranged call on Wednesday to talk with all three of the state university presidents — which Harreld neglected to mention Tuesday night. Whether there was any actual presidential imploring done on that call, or whether it was entirely theatrical and conducted for ass-covering purposes only, we don’t know. What we do know is that the governor doesn’t take a random phone call on Wednesday and then drop a bureaucratic bomb the next day. Even to set up that phone call the governor’s office had to have an interest in advancing the resulting policy, and the Board of Regents had to be involved long before Harreld tried to make himself feel important by deceiving the USG about his incredible powers of persuasion.
Having said all that, there is one way in which Harreld, the other two university presidents, the Board of Regents, and Demon Kim Reynolds herself are all completely aligned, and that’s in doing whatever it takes to generate as much revenue as possible from tuition and fees at the state schools. And that in turn is almost certainly why the governor and the board arranged that call, in part, to give each other mutual cover in launching what will turn out to be massive governmental overreach in the six counties affected by the governor’s ban. All of which brings us to the third perspective from which we need to appraise these events, even as they are still playing out.
I don’t respect the exploitative downtown bars in Iowa City, and never have, but when a governor uses her statutory powers to impose sweeping and potentially catastrophic financial penalties on private businesses, the courts need to take a look. Explicitly, the governor of Iowa is using her authority to kill small businesses in Johnson County — along with Story, Black Hawk, Polk, Dallas and Linn — without any evidentiary basis for doing so. If anything, the state’s decision to open the regent campuses triggered the increase in COVID-19 cases in Johnson, Story and Black Hawk, and by rights those counties should be petitioning the governor to close the state universities. (Each of those three host counties had established a fairly low trajectory of infection prior to the return of the students, and the vast majority of those students — some 80K overall — are not hanging out in crowded bars.)
As noted by Iowa Public Radio reporter Kate Payne on Twitter this past Friday — meaning the day after the governor’s announcement:
Per @nytimes analysis, Iowa’s current rate of new coronavirus cases is 238 per 100K.
If Iowa were a country, that would be the third highest rate in the world.
What’s wrong in Iowa is not wrong because college kids are hanging out in bars. What’s wrong is that the governor’s strategy for dealing with COVID-19 has failed, yet even now she refuses to impose a mask mandate. In that context, the governor’s determination to crush small businesses in service of revenue generation at the state schools should constitute a crime in itself. To that point, if I am a negatively affected business owner in Johnson County — or any of the other five counties for that matter — I am filing suit against the governor, and in that suit I am presenting video clips of J. Bruce Harreld’s lunatic rants about COVID-19, about UI’s “lemming” peers, and about UI’s decision not to conduct any entry testing when students arrived on campus and in the local community. And then I am asking the judge why I am being punished, without due process, for the failings of Harreld and the governor.
While J. Bruce Harreld was living out of state for five-plus months, I’m telling the judge I was living and working in Johnson County, and we were doing okay. Infections rates were low for months, but then the state opened the UI campus for the fall term — without coordinating with the downtown businesses — and a massive outbreak followed. While certainly not a surprise, how is that my fault, and where is the evidence that I wasn’t following the governor’s proclamation? Yes, there were some bad apples, and those establishments should be punished, but what is the due-process basis for closing all bars in specific counties? More to the point, what is the healthcare justification for doing so, when the whole state is on fire?
In Johnson County the legal exposure is even worse precisely because J. Bruce Hero shot off his mouth on Tuesday. In speaking to the USG Harreld explicitly stated that he was going to tell the governor to close all of the bars in Johnson County, whether they had violated the governor’s proclamation or not. Thirty-six hours later she did exactly what Harreld said he was going to tell her to do. No due process, no investigations, no punishment of individual businesses which were proven to have violated her orders — just a blanket ban across the county, and five other counties to boot.
As to why Harreld wanted all of the bars closed in Johnson County, that was clearly to protect the revenue and effective profits at the place of business that he runs, for the governor. And again we know that because the governor’s ban extends only to 9/20, which is the last day before students are obligated to pay 100% of tuition and fees even if they drop out. On the very day that it becomes impossible for Harreld to squeeze another dime out of UI students during the fall semester, the governor’s bar ban in Johnson County goes away, and any judge worth their salt would be interested in that salient fact.
* In the intervening few days, cases in Iowa City and Ames — home to UI and ISU, respectively — continued to climb. From Iowa Public Radio reporter Katie Payne, today:
Per @nytimes analysis Ames has the highest number of new coronavirus cases, relative to population, of any metro area in the US. Iowa City is #3
(list is limited to areas w at least 50K people).
Ames & IC also 1&3 for new cases growing the fastest.
(More on the explosive outbreaks in Johnson and Story counties, from Pat Rynard at Iowa Starting Line: Ames, Iowa City COVID Outbreaks Are Worst In The World.)
Unquestionably, the precipitating event in both counties was the opening of the regent universities during statewide uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. indeed, apart from the state schools, or the six counties where the governor banned alcohol, cases are also sharply on the rise, though the absolute numbers are much smaller because most of Iowa’s counties are quite small. Because of the alcohol ban, however, the press, and consequently the public, will inevitably blame the students, even though the governor, regents, and university presidents are to blame.
* Not surprisingly, as a result of Reynolds’ sweeping ban on bars — which is clearly also tied to protecting revenue generation at the state schools — lawsuits are already in play, and I expect many more. From Katie Akin at the Des Moines Register: Lawsuit seeks to overturn Gov. Reynolds’ second round of bar closures.
The lawsuit contends that Reynolds did not give sufficient reason for the closures when she issued her Aug. 27 order, and that although she is empowered to take action if a “public health disaster exists,” there is no such situation currently in Polk and Dallas counties, where the companies’ bars are located.
Under Iowa law, a public health disaster occurs when there are a large number of deaths, disabilities or negative health consequences among an affected population. A public health disaster may also be declared when there is “widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent that poses a significant risk of substantial future harm.”
It is really something watching Demon Kim argue that there is such a catastrophic health emergency in Polk and Dallas counties — which do not have a regent university — that she has to close all of the bars, but damn those mangy kids in those counties better get back to K-12 or there will be hell to pay for the local school districts.
* In yet another mundane post on the UI COVID-19 website, the university announced that the percentage of online undergraduate credit hours has now risen to 76%, up from 72% at the start of the semester. At that rate it will only take another six weeks for UI to reach 100% online-only classes, and that will come after the students are already locked into full tuition and fees for the term.
* Along with the idiocy at UI, and with the shadowy Board of Regents, there is the germane question of whether the governor’s office can be trusted about COVID-19 statistics and metrics, and after five months the answer is definitively no. From the Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood: Leaders in Iowa’s biggest cities and counties say they don’t trust the state’s coronavirus numbers.
As Iowa’s positive coronavirus cases climbed this week to their highest level yet, local elected officials in several of the state’s most populated counties said they are increasingly relying on data sources other than the state health department to make decisions about protecting residents in their communities.
In places such as Polk, Story, Johnson and Linn counties, several officials complained they no longer trust state data or metrics because case numbers have been consistently under-reported and contain inaccuracies — and that Gov. Kim Reynolds’ guidance thus far has failed to quell the coronavirus’ spread.
Under Demon Kim’s leadership, Iowa is simultaneously the most corrupt and backwards state when it comes to data, metrics, mask mandates and other methods of mitigation. Worse than Florida, Texas, Georgia — you name it. As a result, Iowa’s counties and municipalities don’t just have a right to look elsewhere for data, they have an ethical obligation.
08/28/20 — The big news yesterday, obviously, was that illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld — as he threatened to do Tuesday evening, during a virtual meeting with the Undergraduate Student Senate — went running off to Governor Mommy to get her to close the bars in Johnson County. Apparently duly concerned about revenue generation not only at the University of Iowa, but at Iowa State and Northern Iowa, Demon Kim issued an order that will close bars in Polk, Linn, Johnson, Story, Dallas and Black Hawk counties for the next three and a half weeks . (Restaurants can remain open, but must stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m.)
As I have mentioned multiple times in these virtual pages, Harreld’s likely objective in opening the campus at all was stringing students along until September 21st, which is the date at which 100% of tuition and fees will be due even if a student drops out. At that point Harreld can take all of the remaining classes online, or even close the campus again, and all he would have to cough up would be prorated refunds for room and board for students who chose to leave. With all of the students locked in, and facing the choice of online courses from dorm or home, a fair percentage might just choose to stay on despite the pandemic. (Particularly if their at-home experience last spring was less than enjoyable.)
From Ian Richardson and Nick Coltrain at the Des Moines Register: Gov. Kim Reynolds closes bars in 6 counties amid coronavirus spikes.
The order is effective starting Thursday at 5 p.m. and lasts until Sept. 20.
After five solid months of planning by Harreld, his intent was to avoid testing any University of Iowa students as a means of ignoring on-campus outbreaks. His objective, clearly, was to try to sneak through to September 21st, at which point revenue for the term would be guaranteed, and he could do whatever he wanted. Unfortunately, because Harreld is delusional about both himself and the world around him, that plan collapsed in the first week, after only four days of classes. In its place we now see that intent in the governor’s order, which ends on the last day that University of Iowa students can cancel their enrollment for less than full price.
* As to why the governor chose yesterday to drop this bomb on dozens if not hundreds of small businesses that may now go under — because the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents insisted on opening the state universities during uncontrolled transmission of COVID-19 — that’s probably because yesterday also produced the highest number of confirmed cases we have seen in Iowa. From Zach Thompson at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: New single-day highs: 334 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Johnson County, among 1,475 statewide.
At 10 a.m. Thursday, Iowa was reporting an additional 1,475 cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional COVID-19-related deaths — including two in Johnson County — since the state’s tally at 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to Coronavirus.Iowa.gov. The state was reporting 334 new cases in Johnson County.
Officials report a total of 1,079 people with COVID-19 have died from the disease across the state, including 26 in Johnson County. The deaths reported Thursday were the county’s 17th and 18th in the last six weeks. Between June and the first part of July, the county had gone more than seven weeks without reporting a death related to the disease; the first death related to the disease was reported on April 4.
Although the numbers in Johnson County look bad, and will inevitably get worse, it is important to note that Johnson County is not an extreme outlier. If anything, Johnson is now finally catching up to other parts of the state, precisely because tens of thousands of students descended on what was, until recently, a mostly empty campus. Overall the entire state is on fire, and that’s the direct result of failed long-tern mitigation policies by Governor Kim Reynolds.
As to how this will all turn out locally I have no idea, but three things are certain. First, this is a massive panic move on the part of Harreld, Reynolds, and the Board of Regents. They are completely and utterly freaked, and they do not care if they have to crush a bunch of small business to lock up as much revenue as possible from tuition and fees.
Second, the massive new case numbers this week did not originate in crowded bars this past weekend. Because of the incubation period of the disease, the current numbers are the result of infections several weeks ago — meaning right around the time that tens of thousands of students started filtering back into Iowa City for the fall term. Whatever chaos was born from the crowded bars that made headlines this past Friday and Saturday, we won’t see that for another week or two — along with many more new cases from intermingling undergrads.
Third, no matter how many UI students frequent the downtown bars, or have a few friends over for drinks, the vast majority of the 32K students on campus are not partying, and the same goes for the 2K or so faculty and 20K or so staff at UI. This is not a bar-hopping problem, it is a mass-migration problem, and for that reason the case numbers will not fall off anytime soon. And even when they do — if they do — we will be staring at autumn, and at cold and flu seasons, with a demonic governor and a moronic university president calling the shots.
* As for the local business owners who are now facing potential ruin, I think we will hear from one or more of them, perhaps even in court. There has always been tension between the university and businesses in Iowa City, but there has often been partnership as well. What J. Bruce Harreld just did, however — after ignoring downtown IC for five years, and cooling his heels at one of his out-of-state multi-million-dollar homes for the past five-plus months, instead of building alliances — was start a war.
More on the aftershocks here, from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa university communities respond to bar closures due to rise in COVID-19 cases.
* I took a quick look through the video of Harreld’s meeting with the USG, and it was as depressing as I thought it would be. All of these incredibly sincere young people, and there they are being talked at by a bloviating fraud who is completely detached from reality. For example, as noted in the 06/08/20 entry here, Harreld has a completely wrong conviction that flu season in Iowa starts in February and March. That is one hundred percent false, yet once again, in Tuesday’s meeting, he said the same thing.
“…our flu season tends to start later here…. So if you look at it over the last several years it tends to start in the late February–early March period….”
No, it does not. That is categorically and inexcusably wrong, yet this imbecile continues to present that erroneous information as fact. Iowa’s flu season does not start in “late February [or] early March”, and all you have to do to prove that to yourself is perform the most basic internet search on that topic. From Sarah Kay LeBlanc at the Des Moines Register, on 01/07/20 — meaning this year: Iowa’s flu season is deadlier than last year’s, and it’s only just begun.
As of the last week of December, nearly 700 people statewide tested positive for the flu, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Eleven had died.
At the same time in 2018, 153 people had been diagnosed with the flu and one person had died.
Iowa is one of 34 states where the flu is widespread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Others include neighboring Nebraska, Wisconsin and Illinois.
The fact that the same man whose COVID-19 plan just blew up in his face also blithely presents demonstrably false healthcare information to the UI Undergraduate Student Government would be grounds for termination in any serious state government, but in Iowa it is par for the course. Unfortunately, even this bit of communicable-disease misinformation could turn out to be catastrophic for UI, for University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and for Iowa City and Johnson County, because Harreld might be tempted to delay the push for influenza vaccinations until after the winter break. (The reason your doctor starts talking to you about a flu shot in October is because influenza can explode as soon as the weather turns cold.)
In December, the virus was so rampant that Blank Children’s Hospital’s pediatric clinic had to keep children in the emergency department after an increase in respiratory illnesses caused the hospital to run out of beds.
Though this year’s flu season is expected to get worse, it has not yet reached the level of the 2017-2018 season, when 270 people died in Iowa and 1,889 were hospitalized.
Being perpetually, factually wrong about Iowa’s flu season is not a trivial matter when you are responsible for the health and safety of more than 50K people in the UI community. Having already mismanaged the opening of the UI campus and put UIHC at risk, what is Harreld going to do if the flu season takes off early this year? And looking down the road, how can Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Bord of Regents expect Harreld to open the campus in the spring when things are already this bad in the fall?
* Because of the explosion of cases in Johnson County, Kirkwood Community College — which has a small campus in Iowa City — announced yesterday that the first two weeks of IC classes will be online only, pending further assessment. (The main campus in Cedar Rapids, just to the north of Iowa City, will continue with plans for in-person classes.)
08/27/20 — What I thought would be a quiet Tuesday (two days ago) turned out to be anything but. Before we dig into the low-lights, however, I want to step back and make a general observation as context for the rest of this post. The University of Iowa, under the failed leadership of illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld, had over five months to figure out how to open the UI campus for the fall term. Even before classes began, however, there were multiple reports of incompetence and dereliction regarding what should have been the simplest process of all, meaning accommodating the quarantine of COVID-19-positive students. And yet, as Katie Peikes reported for Iowa Public Radio News on Sunday — meaning the day before the first day of UI classes — that was clearly not the case.
Well, if you can’t get the easy stuff right it’s probably fair to assume that you can’t get anything right, and only four days into Iowa’s fall term that is clearly the case. The plan that J. Bruce Harreld had — which he is now backing away from, if not also blaming on the UI Critical Incident Management Team — was inexcusably naive, and Harreld is not handling that realization well. And we know that because on Tuesday Harreld not only blamed Iowa City businesses (specifically, popular bars) for a spike in COVID-19 cases among the very same students that he himself called back to campus, but he also flip-flopped on testing in the face of condemnation from the students, and particularly from the Undergraduate Student Senate. (More on all of that in a moment.)
As long-time readers know, the main selling point for Harreld’s crony candidacy in 2015, and his rigged appointment by the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, was that as a former senior executive from the private sector Harreld would think outside the box about strategic objectives. And yet, we now know this purported visionary bungled his way to the wrong answers over half a year, only to then reverse course and freak out when his carefully laid and completely wrong plans blew up in his face. As I said on social media Tuesday night, the caliber of the students at the University of Iowa is so much higher than the caliber of the dolt in the president’s office that his continued employment can only be seen as disrespect. If Demon Kim Reynolds wants to pack the Board of Regents with political and business cronies, and those cronies want to hire another crony to continue to run the University of Iowa into the ground, no one can stop them. But they should try not to hire any more blithering idiots.
* The first indication that something was up on Tuesday came from a Twitter thread by Daily Iowan reporter Rylee Wilson, which I stumbled on as it was evolving. In the fourth tweet in that thread Wilson linked to an open letter that J. Bruce Harreld had written to the downtown business community, and you can find that letter here. (For the site link, click here.)
Here is the key passage:
Over the past two weeks, I have been exceedingly disappointed in some of the downtown Iowa City businesses and your choices to disregard the proclamation from the governor. These actions have led to an increase in the transmission of COVID-19 in our community, and we, as a community, will now have to respond.
In order to understand how deranged this formulation is, consider that a few weeks ago the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally was held in South Dakota, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Predictably, there are now increasing reports of infections arising from that rally, including from attendees who frequented the local bars. In that same vein, what Harreld did when he opened the UI campus for the fall term was authorize a four-month-long student rally on the UI campus, and in the surrounding community — which he is now complaining about because the students are, predictably, also heading to the local bars. If J. Bruce Harreld didn’t want Iowa students in the local bars in Iowa City, then he should have kept the UI campus closed for the fall semester, but of course he knows that. Which means what his letter is really about is scapegoating local businesses instead of taking responsibility for his failed decision making.
Speaking of which, if you are not aware of Harreld’s bio it is important to understand that he was never the CEO of anything (for reasons that have become glaringly obvious over the past five years), but he does have a Harvard MBA. So at the very least Harreld should have known that the very businesses that have been hanging on by a thread for the past five-plus months, since he closed the UI campus last March, would be absolutely desperate to have any paying customers at all. Even the most basic financial assessment of downtown Iowa City businesses which are dependent on student clientele would have made clear that those businesses would do anything to survive, and as a graduate of the Harvard School of Business — where he also taught part-time for six year — Harreld would have known that. Meaning, once again, the fact that he is now railing against those same self-interested businesses is less an indictment of them than an indictment of his own administrative incompetence and treachery.
More on all that here, from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa President Harreld scolds bars for ‘your choices’ after weekend partying.
* Also included in Harreld’s panicky open letter was this interesting claim:
Your decisions will directly impact the university’s ability to honor the choices our students made to be in our community and on our campus. Our students want to be here. The university wants them here and the university knows how to keep them safe.
As noted repeatedly in these virtual pages, Harreld recently took the course that he teaches — the ironically named President’s Leadership Class — offline for the fall term. If the University of Iowa “knows how to keep [students] safe” then why did Harreld choose to decrease his own personal exposure to COVID-19 by shifting his class to online-only? Not surprisingly, we have no statement from Harreld about why he did that, because — as with his lunatic assertions that the coronavirus is different in different states, and different in different regions of Iowa — Harreld isn’t in the question-answering business, he’s in the blame-avoidance business. And if he can get everyone to start talking about a few sleazy bars downtown, you can bet that’s what Harreld is going to do.)
* One comical aspect of Harreld’s letter is that it links to the most recent version of the governor’s twenty-eight-page, sixteen-thousand-plus-word proclamation about what is and is not allowable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even better, the official version of that document is an image-only .pdf, meaning it cannot be searched using keywords. So again, as a Harvard MBA grad and former marketing weasel for IBM, what expectation should Harreld have had about how many people would actually take the time to read that massive document, while their businesses are facing bankruptcy.
* After a solid forty-eight hours of catastrophic messaging from J. Bruce Harreld, on Tuesday night and into Wednesday we began to hear from the CEO of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Suresh Gunasekaran. While Gunasekaran and medical professionals at UIHC played a prominent role in public messaging during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, over the summer they disappeared from the press and it is safe to assume they were muzzled by Harreld. (There is no conscientious medical professional in America who would have recommended or agreed with Harreld’s plan to conduct zero entry testing of UI students prior to beginning the fall term.)
On Wednesday evening the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller published an extensive report about Gunasekaran’s views on the pandemic, which were refreshing for their candor:
“From a public health standpoint, this is very very alarming for Johnson County,” he told The Gazette. “This is the single greatest five-day positivity in terms of total number of people in the county that are positive. And so this gives me great concern.”
That increase — plus a surge in the number of people screened and then seen at UIHC’s flu-like-illness clinic, along with a rise in its test positivity rate — aligns with the return of tens of thousands of students and employees to the UI campus.
“We can’t scientifically associate it with the return of students to campus because we don’t actually ask that information, there’s privacy around that,” Gunasekaran said. “So we are assuming these are related.”
While this clearly runs against Harreld’s idiotic narrative that the downtown Iowa City bars are to blame, Gunasekaran is not assigning blame but looking ahead, and doesn’t like what he sees:
“If this keeps up for another week or two, there will be very very grave consequences in terms of what this will mean in terms of health care in Iowa,” he said. “We very much need to get this under control.”
This needs to be the peak of the wave, so to speak, and cases need to begin ebbing.
“The longer we stay at this very high level, or even continue to go up, that’s going in a couple of weeks to lead to the hospitalizations, and potentially lead to infections, in people that are not 18 to 25 but are older.”
Then, he said, the hospital faces a much greater challenge in caring for COVID-19 patients.
As noted in a recent post (see the 08/05/20 entry here), my biggest fear was that Harreld would gamble, then rely on UIHC to clean up the mess if he blew it. Now here we are only three days into the fall term and Harreld has clearly already blown it, and I don’t see how his mistakes will be undone. Between college kids acting like college kids, and the idiocy of bringing 32K untested students back to UI in the first place, severe outbreaks seem inevitable.
* More on the increase in COVID-19 cases in Johnson County, from Paul Brennan at Little Village: Johnson County has confirmed more than 300 new COVID-19 cases in four days.
* As noted earlier, on Tuesday evening Harreld also appeared, via video, at a virtual meeting of the Undergraduate Student Government, and made some news there as well. I haven’t had time to watch the video yet, which was posted Wednesday morning, but you can find it here. Fortunately, as usual we have able reporting from the Daily Iowan — this time from Rylee Wilson and Caleb McCullough: USG members disappointed in Harreld’s response to campus issues.
Undergraduate student government members said they felt no progress came out of meeting with University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld as he spoke to the group on COVID-19, in-person classes, racism on campus and more.
Harreld spoke over Zoom at a student government meeting on Tuesday and took questions from student government members.
I have racked my brain trying to remember if Harreld ever participated in a student government session before, let alone answered questions, and I can’t recall him doing so. That’s probably more my faulty memory than fact, because in five years one would think he would have occasion to do that, if only to head off trouble or spread advantageous lies. In any event, the fact that Harreld was talking to the undergrad student leaders only two days into the fall term was another sign that he was attempting to put out raging fires on the UI campus. Unfortunately, in typical Harreld fashion he ended up making things even worse, because — as ever — he simply does not have the temperament to lead a public university.
Case in point:
Director of Justice and Equity Ruth Kahssai asked Harreld how Black students can trust his office and the UI to take their concerns seriously.
“When seen threats of white supremacy involving the protests pretty closely on our campus. It’s still not fully handled or communicated to the study body,” Kahssai told Harreld.
Harreld told Kahssai this was the first time he had heard of her bring up white supremacy to him.
“This is the first time you’ve ever talked to me about white supremacy. If you know of any white supremacists, please bring them forward,” Harreld said.
Kahssai told The Daily Iowan that this meeting was not the first time she had brought these concerns to Harreld, the Office of the President, and other administrative offices, and that aside from one meeting, Harreld had not been engaging with students on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion during the summer.
“His response is to say that I, as a Black woman, should go out and find the white supremacists, when a minute earlier I said that I was scared of that – I think that’s incredibly racist, ignorant and just harmful,” she said.
Kahssai said she felt that there was not real progress made from the conversation with Harreld, and that administration was coming to students to do the work of administrators.
“As a Black female student, these meetings are traumatizing to sit and experience consistent racism all the time,” she said. “We are also only students, so I really encourage people to get involved and engaged in this moment when we see these things – believe them at their forefront. It cannot continuously be on Black women or Black students or BIPOC students to be raising the alarms about everything.
However you interpret that exchange with Harreld — and particularly his cavalier charge that a young Black woman “bring [white supremacists] forward” — note that his response is consistent with how he has responded to racial concerns in the past. As noted in a prior post (see 07/20/20 here), Harreld’s persistent tendency is to downplay the lived experience of persons of color, and to insist that as a white person he has had all of the same life experiences, so there’s no difference.
* On the COVID-19 front, the big news from Harreld’s meeting with the USG was this:
LGBTQ constituency senator Joseph Haggerty asked how many students would need to contract COVID-19 before the university takes classes online.
While Harreld said the Critical Incident Management Team would decide when to take classes online, he said he was concerned that moving classes online would not prevent the spread of the virus off campus.
You can see an extremely outdated rundown of the UI Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) here. I am also guessing that until Tuesday night, most of the people who currently populate that important group were probably unaware that they would make the determination about whether UI classes go online. While Harreld says a lot of dumb stuff, however, it is relatively rare for him to say something cosmically dumb, which brings us to his “concern” at the end of that quote.
I don’t know if J. Bruce Harreld is in some sort of cognitive decline, but back in the spring, when he himself closed the University of Iowa campus, we found out what would happen if the university moved classes online. This was literally only six months ago, yet now J. Bruce Gerbil is wondering if going online in the fall might somehow produce a different result. No. As soon as UI moves classes online, most of the on-campus students and many of the off-campus students will move back home — and just like last spring, the risk of COVID-19 transmission will be blunted in the surrounding area.
As for Harreld’s assertion that the CIMT will decide whether to close the campus, that probably also came as a surprise to the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, who only last March adopted new language in their policy manual giving the board president unprecedented powers in the face of threats to health or property. In that context, and given the board’s obligations to at least pretend to balance policy across all three state universities, it is likely that the final-final decision to take any campus offline will ultimately be made by current board president Mike Richards.
* In other news, despite Harreld’s insistence that only symptomatic testing would be done at UI, late Tuesday night — following Harreld’s meeting with the USG — the university announced that testing stations would be set up on the UI campus. From Eleanor Hildebrandt and Alexandra Skores: University of Iowa to begin updating testing as Johnson County coronavirus cases continue to climb.
UI Dean of Students Angie Reams said the university is working on getting a testing location on the east side of campus as well as opening QuickCare for COVID-19 testing.
“We are going to start expanding some testing to the QuickCare that is in the Old Capitol Mall, as well as try to put up an east side testing location that is more accessible to the east side residence halls,” Reams said. “We hope more information will be out tomorrow [Wednesday], but we are waiting for updates from the [UI] hospital. We do plan to communicate that [plan] to campus soon.”
Again, after five months of planning and insisting on absolutely no entry testing for students coming to campus or to the surrounding community, Harreld reversed himself in two days.
* As reported by the DI’s Alexandra Skores, Harreld is getting tough with those delinquent college students that he called back to the UI campus: Off-campus behavior may lead to suspensions or cancellations of housing contracts.
* On the sporting front, UI men’s basketball fifth-year senior Jordan Bohannan let slip yesterday that seven players on the Hawkeye squad have already been infected with COVID-19. Given a sixteen-man roster, that’s almost half of the team that will already have immunity for the 2020-2021 seasons, drawing ever close to the herd-immunity promised land. Another month or two and the men’s team should be relatively bulletproof, at least at the squad level, though coaches and staff will still be at risk for exposure.
* It’s been a while since we last checked in on the Mike Crow at Arizona State. As it turns out, that celebrity university president took a decidedly different tack to opening the ASU campus, including aggressive testing. As a result — and somewhat curiously, given the recent wave of outbreaks across that state — ASU has a very low positivity rate of 0.49%. Whether that number is accurate or not I don’t know, and there is plenty of reason to doubt Crow’s integrity, but the fact that testing was aggressive means the ASU community has a much better idea about where it stands. (Oddly, however, until Tuesday Crow refused to release testing data, and still seems to be playing cute with reporting about any concentrations of positive tests.)
* A handy Twitter thread about college testing and closings.
08/25/20 — The first day of classes at the University of Iowa yesterday came with an extra helping of pandemic-related messaging and news. There weren’t a lot of surprises, but front and center in the ass-covering department was illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, who made it known that whatever happens with COVID-19 it won’t be his fault. Back in the real world, however, Harreld is the one who opened the campus and insisted he could do so safely, and he’s supposed to be the smartest guy in the room wherever he goes, so yeah — whatever happens at UI is very much his professional and personal responsibility.
* We set the stage for Harreld’s administrative cowardice with this report from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on Sunday, the day before the first day of classes: Maskless students pack bars before University of Iowa classes resume.
Many students mingled shoulder-to-shoulder in long lines to get into The Summit, Bo James, The Airliner and other bars without wearing masks or with masks tucked under their chins.
Since door checkers at the bars required patrons to wear masks to enter, many pulled them out along with their IDs and strapped them behind their ears — before promptly pulling them off once inside.
At 1:06 a.m. Sunday, Iowa City police took a “COVID complaint” at The Summit on Clinton Street, with the call also noting, “Joe’s Place and Airliner are all over capacity and not enforcing mask mandate.”
A Gazette reporter’s check of establishments around midnight confirmed most, if not all, did not appear to be enforcing social distancing inside or mask wearing — rebuffing mandates proclaimed by Iowa City’s mayor.
As noted in the prior update (see 08/23/20 below), there is nothing surprising about this. If you call 32K students back to campus during a pandemic, let alone tell them you’re doing so because you want them to have a “residential university experience“, then a certain percentage of those students are going to take that to mean it’s undergraduate business as usual. And yes, you can complain that those college students should know better, or that they’re legal adults and thus responsible for their own conduct, but if you’re an academician you know better because you’re fully aware of the importance of the final stages of human brain development — which continue into the mid-20’s — in making such critical judgements.
* On Monday morning a post was added to the UI COVID-19 website, which included both a ninety-second video message from Harreld and a more extensive letter, along with various administrative notices and text. (Because of a comment Harreld makes in the video it looks to have been shot on August 19th, which was last Wednesday.) There isn’t anything particularly good or bad about the video, but its very banality speaks to the generic nature of the pitch that Harreld and his crack messaging team felt was appropriate in the middle of last week.
Now contrast that with the following excerpt from the accompanying letter, and the change in tone in the intervening five days could not be more clear.
As you know, universities like ours have recently moved instruction online when students failed to follow their university and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in order to reduce COVID-19 transmission. To that end, each of you chose to be here, and now the choices you make as an individual will determine the outcome for everyone.
Not surprisingly, the words “…each of you chose to be here…” got a lot of notice on social media, and we will return to those brazenly gutless words in a moment. The overall intent of that passage, however, was clearly to act as a disclaimer, absolving Harreld and the university of any future responsibility after the alcohol-fueled spectacle of the preceding weekend. Indeed, no one put a gun to anybody’s head and told them they had to attend the University of Iowa this fall, but as already noted that doesn’t mean Harreld and the university are without culpability for what happens in the coming weeks and months. (Assuming in-person classes at UI even last that long.)
More on Harreld’s attempt to inoculate himself and the school from the illness, hospitalizations and even deaths to come, from the Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren Smith: ‘The choices you make…will determine the outcome for everyone’: UI president cautions students filling Iowa City’s bars.
* There were a lot of scary infection numbers flying around on Sunday and Monday, but the short-term trend is clear. COVID-19 cases are increasing in Johnson County — which is home to Iowa City, and to the University of Iowa — and that increase coincides with the return of students to the UI campus. From Zach Thompson at the Press Citizen: As UI, Johnson County officials confirm students behind spike in COVID-19 cases, positivity rates climb.
Monday morning’s 7-day positivity rate was 19.52% (369 positive results from 1,890 tests administered in the last week), a sharp increase from the 7.53% 7-day positivity rate one week ago (101 cases among 1,342 tests administered), according to the Press-Citizen’s tracking of state data. The county’s 14-day positivity rate, a key metric in the state’s return-to-learn plan, reached 14.54% Monday (470 new cases among the 3,232 tests reported in the last two weeks), according to the Press-Citizen’s tracking.
While the University of Iowa initially said its first report about positive cases would be released this coming Friday, and every Friday thereafter, the following numbers were also released Monday morning — as reported by Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan: UI reports 111 COVID-19 cases on campus as classes begin. (For context, Iowa State reported an overall 13.6% positivity rate for the first week of classes.)
More here from the Gazette’s Gage Miskimen: Iowa’s COVID-19 seven-day rolling average its highest ever.
* As to the question of choice — particularly given Harreld’s self-serving, pants-wetting determination to prevent himself from being correctly identified as the agent of the coming outbreaks across Iowa City and Johnson County — UI students and parents have a right to ask whether the University of Iowa was honest about its representations prior to the commencement of classes. For example, if Harreld had issued yesterday’s video and letter two months ago, including proactively blaming students for anything that goes wrong in the future, that would have been a marked departure from this summer’s marketing drumbeat about an on-campus “experience” at UI this fall.
Because I am not a lawyer I don’t know how hard it is to prove a bait-and-switch case, of which there are many varieties, but if you’re sold one thing and get another that’s often cause for legal action. And one of the things that stands out in that regard is that UI waited until August 19th — after move-in had already begun — before quietly announcing, in an otherwise innocuous website post, that fully 72% of UI courses would be online only. Not only does that prompt obvious questions about when that percentage was known, but it calls into question the university’s downplaying of that percentage against constant talk about the value of in-person classes.
As noted in a recent update, if the University of Iowa hangs on until mid-September before converting to online-only courses (following the date at which students are obligated to pay 100% of tuition and fees), then a compelling case could be made that that was the plan all along. (Once you’re at 72%, it’s not that hard to get to 100%.) And of course we could also make that same case regarding the specific course that Harreld will now be teaching online, which he himself advertising as in-person at the end of June.
* When the Iowa Board of Regents closed the three state university campuses last spring, in advance of COVID-19, there was no specific administrative mechanism which allowed the board to do so. In order to solve that procedural problem the board added a section of text to its policy manual — section 1.1(E) — which grants the board president broad powers to act in an emergency that poses threats to health or property. As reported by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on 03/12/20: Regents to consider new ’emergency authorization’ power for its president.
The board will convene in public to discuss approving a new “emergency authorizations” policy giving the regents president — currently Mike Richards — the ability to “respond promptly to emergency circumstances.”
“The president of the Board of Regents is authorized to determine a state of emergency exists at one or more of the institutions under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents based upon circumstances that pose an imminent threat to the health or safety of persons or property at the affected institution(s),” according to the proposed policy language.
“In the event of an emergency, the president is authorized to take such action as may be necessary to safeguard persons or property at the affected institution(s).”
Such action could include suspension of all or any portion of the board’s policy manual — which covers campuses’ facilities and academic mandates, among other things.
What may not have occurred to the Board of Regents in March, however — when it was commonly assumed that mitigation efforts would pacify the virus in mere months — is that this new authority effectively puts the regent president on the hook for injury or loss of life. In fact, were one of the state university presidents to preside over a catastrophe on their campus, it is now the responsibility of the board president to intercede without consensus, and without waiting for a scheduled meeting at which to act. Effectively, the board granted the board president the power and obligation to declare martial law when there is an “imminent threat” to health or safety — and clearly a pandemic would qualify in that regard. Failure to do so would now constitute administrative dereliction of duty, and could make the board president personally vulnerable to legal action.
* A strong and smart editorial right out of the gate from the Daily Iowan Editorial Board: The University of Iowa is not safe.
What is so disappointing about Gaughan’s situation is that it did not happen as COVID-19 was entering the U.S. It did not happen weeks into the pandemic when there were still questions on transmission and the best way to combat it.
The situation happened five months after the UI stated that students would not be returning to campus due to the pandemic after spring break.
For five months the administration had the opportunity to plan ahead for the fall semester. Five months in the midst of a life-threatening pandemic in a populated area, and this is what was prepared.
The fact that UI was not prepared to deal with the most obvious eventualities when students returned is both inexcusable and completely predictable. If you wanted to bend over backwards to be charitable to J. Bruce Blowhard you could characterize him as a marginally successful marketing weasel, but most of the time he seems to have more in common with propagandists and con artists. For Harreld words are simply what you put forward to get what you want, to cover your ass, or to distance yourself from your incompetence.
* There is an interesting bit of higher-ed theater playing out right now at the University of Alabama. After UNC, NC State, and Michigan State cancelled in-person classes and went online-only, and Notre Dame began a two-week, online-only pause before reassessing in-person classes, it became abundantly clear that if you want to protect sports the best thing you can do is kick all the other students off campus. And of course as a football-first university, Alabama is legendary for its administrative excesses in that regard, so one would expect that they would be quite eager to cancel in-person classes as well.
From Scottie Andrew and Tina Burnside at CNN: The University of Alabama reports over 500 Covid-19 cases less than a week after classes started.
Six days after classes began, the University of Alabama has experienced an “unacceptable rise” in coronavirus cases, the university’s president said.
The University of Alabama’s main campus in Tuscaloosa has recorded 531 total cases. The remaining campuses in Birmingham and Huntsville have recorded 35 cases cumulatively, according to the university’s Covid-19 dashboard.
With over 46,150 tests and 566 positive cases, the coronavirus positivity rate on University of Alabama campuses sits around 1.2%, according to the dashboard.
I don’t know how long Alabama will pretend to put up a good fight against the virus, but my guess is the school will throw in the towel in a matter of weeks, as soon as testing data makes it plausibly possible. At that point I also expect most of the SEC to follow suit, simply to avoid giving Alabama an advantage on game day. That in turn will reverberate throughout other conferences that still intend to play football and other sports in the fall, at which point the Big Ten schools — which already cancelled fall sports — will have to reassess themselves. (As previously noted, the Big Ten has yet to cancel winter sports, including men’s basketball, so there is still plenty of motivation to cancel in-person classes.)
08/23/20 — When we last checked in on the intentionally derelict reopening plan at the University of Iowa, we found that corrupt UI administrators cherry-picked lingo from the CDC website to justify refusing to test students when they arrived on the UI campus. (See the 08/05/20 entry here.) Not only did that save UI a great deal of money, but because three quarters of the 32K students live off-campus, that bureaucratic neglect shifted the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks onto the Iowa City and Johnson County governments, increasing their testing and tracing costs.
Compared to Iowa State, which tested its resident students as they arrived, thus identifying and quarantining over 175 COVID-19-positive students — and implying a 2.2% positivity rate for students overall — the inevitable result of the willful neglect at UI is not only that Iowa will begin classes tomorrow with no visibility as to the magnitude of on-campus infections, but the school is already seeding future outbreaks. (Ironically, only this past week the White House recommended entry testing for Iowa’s colleges, as reported by Andrea May Sahouri at the Des Moines Register: White House coronavirus leader concerned about Iowa, recommends universities test students upon arrival. As to why that’s ironic, back in the spring the White House kneecapped the CDC, which led in turn to the inadequate and incompetent higher-ed guidance that UI just used to avoid entry testing, which the White House now says colleges and universities in Iowa should conduct.)
Adding administrative insult to injury, we also recently learned that more than 70% of all UI classes will be online-only, even though illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld called all 32K students back to campus for an in-person college experience. Meaning while UI students are spreading COVID-19 throughout the local communities, many of them will only spend a minimal amount of time on the UI campus itself, thus decreasing the risk of infections and outbreaks at the school. (If it strikes you that the University of Iowa has become an abusive and toxic neighbor since J. Bruce Harreld was appointed by a rigged search in 2015, you would be correct.)
If that was all there was to the intentional shirking of responsibility at UI it would be bad enough, but yesterday I looked up the course that J. Bruce Harreld said he would be teaching on campus this year, in-person. Perversely titled the President’s Leadership Class (PLC), I was surprised to find that it also seems to have been changed — at the last possible minute — to an online-only course:
Obviously nothing says presidential leadership like subjecting other people to potentially lethal healthcare risk you won’t accept yourself, but okay — that’s our Bro Bruce. The obvious question now is whether Iowa’s illegitimate absentee president will even return to the UI campus, after having spent the past six months at an undisclosed, out-of-state location. Indeed, precisely because of the miracle of modern technology, Brucey could teach the PLC from his multi-million-dollar chalet near Vail if he wanted to. (As recently as August 10th, the unofficial acting president of UI, Rod Lehnertz, said Harreld would be returning to campus to teach, so maybe Lehnertz can clear up any uncertainties about what Harreld is doing, and where he will be doing it.)
* As to the detrimental impact of J. Bruce Harreld’s biological assault-by-proxy on Iowa City and Johnson County, the early results look promising…for the virus. From the Press-Citizen’s Zach Thompson, today: Johnson County’s positivity rates soar as UI prepares to resume in-person classes Monday.
Sunday morning’s 7-day positivity rate was 16.32% (288 positive results from 1,765 tests administered in the last week), a sharp increase from the 7.66% 7-day positivity rate one week ago (105 cases among 1,371 tests administered), according to the Press-Citizen’s tracking of state data.
I don’t know how this all ends up, or how long Harreld intends to hold out on implementing online-only classes, but his legacy will be defined by the inevitable outbreaks to come, which may also lead to hospitalizations and deaths the could have been prevented. But of course teaching online, Harreld is safe from either outcome himself.
* More on the coming inevitable spread of COVID-19 on the UI campus, in Iowa City and across Johnson County, from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, today: Maskless students pack bars before University of Iowa classes resume.
Since door checkers at the bars required patrons to wear masks to enter, many pulled them out along with their IDs and strapped them behind their ears — before promptly pulling them off once inside.
At 1:06 a.m. Sunday, Iowa City police took a “COVID complaint” at The Summit on Clinton Street, with the call also noting, “Joe’s Place and Airliner are all over capacity and not enforcing mask mandate.”
A Gazette reporter’s check of establishments around midnight confirmed most, if not all, did not appear to be enforcing social distancing inside or mask wearing — rebuffing mandates proclaimed by Iowa City’s mayor.
If someone you care about gets sick, ends up in the hospital or dies, feel free to contact the money-grubbing president of the University of Iowa and let him know how you feel.
* Following up on the UI freshman who tested positive for COVID-19, only to then be victimized by the incompetent bureaucracy at the University of Iowa, we have an extensive report from Zachary Oren Smith at the Press-Citizen: ‘I just can’t do this’: UI Student who tested positive for COVID-19 recounts school response.
Gaughan spent the night on the floor and woke to ants in her blankets. At about 11:30 a.m. Monday, staff brought a meal of cold rice and meat, a bag of chips, a bag of cookies and a cup of apple sauce. With it came her daily ration of three plastic bottles of water. This was Gaughan’s third day in Iowa City, and she was already ready to leave.
While she wanted to go home, her parents, she said, are in a CDC-recognized high-risk category. She booked a hotel room in Naperville, Illinois.
She was unable to get a zip car, so she opted to buy a bus ticket, instead.
This is what happens when you hire a broken-down marketing weasel to run a major public research university. For comparison, contrast the dark reality this student faced with the megalomaniacal ranting of illegitimate UI president Harreld during one of his live video presentations back in late June. Because I’m guessing few if any of Iowa’s “lemming” peers will end up subjecting anyone to this kind of secondary trauma.
* Between that first incident and today we also have reporting from Katie Peikes at Iowa Public Radio News about another botched quarantine at the University of Iowa, making clear that the first reported incident was not a fluke.
When he arrived at the instructed time, the room was locked, even though the email he received said it would be unlocked. He stood in the hallway for 20 minutes waiting for someone to come unlock the room.
All of the items that the university had said would be in his room were there, except for trash bags. For the first two days in quarantine, Hellman put his trash into a couple of plastic bags he had brought with him. Hellman said the university provided him with trash bags Thursday evening.
Meals were “inconsistent,” on his first full day in quarantine, he said. Both he and a neighbor failed to receive one meal each that they had ordered. Since then, all the meals he has ordered have arrived.
From these reports, and who knows how many other incidents that have not been reported, it is clear that despite endless bragging from illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld about the extensive and rigorous planning he put into opening the campus, the University of Iowa has taken a half-assed approach. And the most obvious reason for that is that Harreld does intend to covert the entire campus to online-only classes around mid-September, after the students are legally obligated to pay 100% of tuition and fees. Whether Harreld will actually close the campus again I don’t know, but the more pressing concern would seem to be whether he can even hold out that long.
* A Gazette letter to the editor from Nora Claire Miller: The failure of University of Iowa Leadership.
By positioning disease prevention as an individual choice, rather than a collective one, the University of Iowa places the burden of public health on faculty and staff who are afraid to lose their jobs during a pandemic, on terrified students who don’t want to lose their scholarships, and on 18 to 24-year-olds, a population who, due to the stage of their brain development, are the most likely to flout public health requirements to, say, play a game of beer pong with their friends.
Given that Harreld opted to take his own course online, I wonder how many other UI faculty had that same ‘choice’.
* The stress on colleges and universities that are trying to open for in-person classes is evident everywhere. The president of the University of Minnesota is recommending that move-in day be delayed for two weeks, and that the first two weeks of classes be online-only. The interim president of the Wisconsin System says he has a metric in mind that will trigger the closing of the main campus, but he won’t say what that metric is. At Alabama a sharp spike in cases has compelled the cancellation of in-person student events with additional changes coming.
In that context, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported late Friday on similar stresses at Iowa State, which is just finishing its first week of in-person, blended and virtual classes: Iowa State University rebukes students for partying, enacts new policy threatening suspension.
A week after maskless Iowa State University students were seen crammed into bars and off-campus parties, ISU President Wendy Wintersteen on Friday issued a campus letter rebuking the “unacceptable” behavior and enacting a new COVID-19 safety policy for student social gatherings that could lead to suspension.
Per the new policy, effective Friday, all on- or off-campus social gatherings or parties involving ISU students must comply with all public health orders in place at the federal, state, county, city and university level.
That means, under current restrictions, students at the parties or gatherings must wear face coverings, and comply with federal physical distancing guidelines ensuring 6 feet of separation.
Needless to say, that is not going to work. More importantly, while it is understandable that academic administrators across the country would be frustrated with students who are not compliant with mitigation practices, the fault lies with the administrators themselves, not the students. Because every damn one of those administrators knew better than to bring students back to their campuses in the first place.
All academic administrators, including the imbeciles and thieves, know that undergraduate students are still going through critical stages of brain development. Calling students to campus, then yelling at them about their behavior, is ass-covering abuse. The most basic precepts of reason and education make clear that conducting in-person classes in a pandemic is indefensible, and the fact that administrators across the country are doing so anyway — and for money no less — discredits the higher education industry.
What academic administrators are doing — and are openly acknowledging — has everything to do with the hospitality industry and nothing to do with education. They are selling a theme-park-grade ‘experience’ despite the known and unknown health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether or not crimes are being committed in the process, what the Iowa regent universities are doing is a literal bait and switch in which the promise of a in-person ‘college experience’ is being replaced by the reality of mostly online classes and punitive ultimatums. (And if the regent universities convert to online-only for the fall term, that bait-and-switch will be complete.)
* As closely as I have followed the downward arc of Harreld’s presidential tenure at UI, there are still moments when I am baffled by what the man is thinking. We find one such moment in this report from Chad Leistikow at Hawk Central: Leistikow: 5 thoughts on Big Ten football, including on Kevin Warren, a winter season and extra eligibility.
It is widely believed that Iowa president Bruce Harreld dissented, too, but he has not stated as such on the record. Harreld’s office on Thursday morning declined a Register request for an interview.
Following the Big Ten’s announcement that fall sports would be cancelled, the narrative from UI was that Harreld ‘fought like hell’ for football, and was one of two presidents who voted in favor of fall sports. Subsequently, the idea that there was a formal vote was called into question, and for those who were against fall sports it is perhaps understandable that they would not want their names associated with that otherwise responsible act. (College football fans are a bloodthirsty lot.) But what is Harreld’s excuse for not wanting to talk to the register? If he really was a proud supporter of Hawkeye football, why would he and the university not confirm that on the record?
And of course the most likely answer is that Harreld and the media manipulators at UI lied about or exaggerated his advocacy for sports during the Big Ten meeting.
* Speaking of blood, the first administrative killing spree took place at UI on Friday, with Bro Bruce Harreld and Athletic Director Gary Barta teaming up to murder the University of Iowa’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis. Unfortunately, all of those sports do not generate enough revenue to sustain their own operations, and were thus subsidized by revenue from football and, to a much smaller extent, men’s basketball. Given the provocation or excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the very real collapse of revenue at UI, the profit-obsessed Harreld and Barta took the opportunity to wipe out sports they didn’t have any use for anyway.
While the athletics budget is clearly in freefall, and I do expect Harreld to do something similar on the academic side of the campus — killing off programs and even departments that he doesn’t want to pay for — I do think there is a grim silver lining in the pain to come. While these clever administrators believe they are in some semblance of control, the reality is that they are not. Whatever opportunistic cuts they make on the front end of the current academic year, by the time we get to the end of the spring term the scale of damage will be such that even they won’t be able to control it.
Again, absent a miracle vaccine, we are going from ‘bad to badder’, as Harreld would say, and that includes a long winter that we have yet to endure with COVID-19 on the loose. Not only is it more likely than not that there will be no winter sports, meaning no college basketball and no March Madness for the second year running, but with all of the low-hanging fruit already cut from the athletics budget, Barta will find himself staring at sports like the storied Hawkeye wrestling program, which is a money-loser despite being revered. Throw in fewer students coming back to campus for the spring term, after seeing what a waste the fall was, and on both sides of the campus we are in for a long downhill slide into fiscal oblivion that no one will control to advantage.
08/20/20 — One minute you think you have a blog post ready to go, the next minute people start dropping news bombs on your head. But okay! Such are the risks of written communication, and a good reminder why you should never learn to write.
* Last night I ran across a social media post on Twitter which contained an extensive recitation of a very bad experience with the University of Iowa’s COVID-19 response. It was quite late when I read it, and I couldn’t access the original post on another social media site because I wasn’t registered there, so I figured I would wait and see if someone else corroborated the posting. Per usual, the Gazette’s indefatigable Vanessa Miller was on job: UI apologizes after COVID-19-positive student details ‘awful’ quarantine experience.
The University of Iowa is apologizing for how a student was treated after testing positive for COVID-19 and has committed to handling cases differently in the future.
The apology came after a post was widely shared on social media from a person who identified as a UI freshman living in the Daum Residence Hall recounted an experience the individual wouldn’t wish on “my worst enemy.”
According to the student’s social media post, after receiving a positive result, the student reported to the residence hall assistant and was told to quarantine in “my room.” More than four hours later, after 11:30 p.m., “I was told I would be moved to an isolation room in Currier.”
The person was told to walk “by myself” from Daum to Currier and was not offered help moving a “heavy cart of my things.”
“All while being in a strange place late at night,” according to the post. “It was my second night in Iowa.”
Between the University of Iowa promising to keep students safe, and ostensibly focusing on the ‘student experience’, it is obvious that there is a great deal of blame to go around here, starting at the top with illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld — who will of course blame everyone else. After a summer of idiotic campus presentations, and a website full of idiotic updates and notices, and repeatedly making clear to students that their safety is their own responsibility, the first positive test on the UI campus resulted in this:
The freshman reported being told to not to share about the circumstances and that those he or she had been in contact with still hadn’t been quarantined or tested.
“The only way they found out they were exposed is because I told them,” the person wrote, adding about the university: “They are telling students and parents they are prepared for COVID, but they lied. They are not.”
“I was told that ‘we weren’t expecting anyone to have COVID on the first day’ so none of the isolation rooms had been set up or cleaned,” according to the post. “I really hope the university transitions to online at this point because they are not prepared for students who test positive.”
The student estimated the university won’t be open for more than a few weeks.
When a traumatized freshman who has only been in town for two days has a better fix on the situation than the brain-dead, absentee, incompetent, self-congratulatory, toxic university president, that’s obviously a problem. In fact, from this one incident alone we can conclude that the university is unprepared to do anything except fail miserably at hosting in-person classes and on-campus living, and for that Harreld should be fired. And yet, precisely because the deranged UI president has decreed that no testing will take place — along with, apparently, suppressing the results of positive tests and silencing students — we don’t have any way to gauge how far off the pandemic rails the university has already gone. (So you should assume it’s ten times worse than you think right now.)
* On Monday, following a rapid spike in positive COVID-19 cases, the University of North Carolina announced that it would convert to online-only courses for the remainder of the fall term. On Tuesday, for the same reason, Notre Dame announced that it would go online-only for two weeks before reassessing the positivity rate on campus, and Michigan State — which does not start classes until September 2nd — announced it would be going online-only for the full fall term as well. Now, today, after I had this post ready to go, which I am in no way bitter about, North Carolina State announced that it will also go online-only for the fall term starting Monday.
While the pandemic itself makes these decisions seem sensible, it is equally obvious that plenty of other major colleges and universities still intend to hold at least some in-person classes, and that includes the University of Iowa. So what is going on? Why are some college campuses closing early, while others are holding fast?
One thing that binds UNC, Notre Dame, Michigan State and now North Carolina State together is that they are all home to major athletic programs, with rabid fan bases and big-money TV contracts. In that context it is entirely possible, if not likely, that the decision to cancel or at least suspend in-person classes is an attempt to protect the viability of revenue-producing sports on those campuses. If there are no students on campus other than student-athletes, then the incidence of infection on the individual teams will likely plummet, making fall and/or winter sports more viable.
While the Big Ten — of which Michigan State is a member — has already cancelled fall sports, and the commissioner put out an open letter yesterday explaining why that decision will not be revisited, no official decision has yet been made about winter sports, including particularly men’s basketball. Were all of the other Big Ten schools to go online-only in the coming weeks, not only would that make it much easier to protect the winter teams, but it might also open a back door to implementing a ‘winter’ version of football as well. (It would be extremely difficult for colleges and allied conferences to turn down any chance at a football season, because football revenue covers the costs for most of the other athletic programs at every school.)
One potential problem with kicking the non-athlete students off campus, while retaining the student-athletes for the express purpose of generating revenue, is that doing so would shred any remaining pretense that colleges are not exploiting student-athletes for profit. From Rob Howe at Hawkeye Nation: College Football Could Work With OnLine Only Classes.
Of course, if colleges are putting student-athletes in a bubble in order to raise millions for athletic departments while deeming campuses unsafe for the general student population, that raises the topic of paying players and allowing them to earn money from their names, images and likenesses.
While it would clearly be a very bad look, and might even be used against the NCAA and Power 5 conferences in future litigation by enslaved student-athletes, the truth is that most of the people who love college sports don’t care if student-athletes are exploited, or even if athletes die. They just want their sports, and in particularly their football, and if they can get it they will take it no questions asked. (College sports fans also know they can count on college-sports reporters to ask a few pseudo-philosophical questions before turning back to the gridiron, thus absolving all involved. See also: CTE.)
While it is early yet, a good many people do seem to be aware that the best possible outcome for college sports would be to kick all the other kids off campus and protect student-athletes from infection — and they’re not being shy about making that connection. In fact, following today’s announcement by UNC, the UNC athletic department put out its own short statement that said, “We will continue to hold practices and workouts for our teams…” Throw in television networks and executives pining for college games, and the massive loss of revenue from TV advertising and gate revenue, and from a purely financial perspective it makes perfect sense to provide watered-down instruction via online courses, while generating as much revenue as possible from sports. (And that’s particularly true if you can charge full price for those weak online courses, while legally locking students into a commitment to pay for the full term before pulling that administrative switcheroo — which seems to be the plan at UI.)
Speaking of UI, the purported genius at the top of the org chart — illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld — has, with characteristic foresight, perfectly positioned the school on the wrong side of all this issue. Not only did the Big Ten already rule out fall sports, but because Harreld insisted on opening the campus to generate maximal revenue on the academic side of the ledger, he is making it impossible to protect winters sports as well. (Apparently, there is still a diehard ground of parents and boosters at each Big Ten school, who are signing petitions and writing angry social media posts, when what they should be doing is demanding that each Big Ten school follow Michigan State’s lead.)
Making matters exponentially worse at UI — because he is a master at screwing everything up — Harreld also implemented a plan in which there will be no active testing for COVID-19 on the Iowa campus. The best guess as to why Harreld did that is that he wants to avoid any awareness of on-campus outbreaks until after students are obligated to pay 100% of tuition and fees, which occurs on September 21st. The problem with gouging out his own eyes, however, is that Harreld now has no testing mechanism by which he can justify ordering the campus to pivot to online-only courses. (Among the sixteen fake metrics released by UI earlier this week, which will ostensibly be used to determine whether the campus should switch to online-only courses, we find, “Cases at other Iowa universities”. It may be that what Harreld ends up praying for is that ISU or UNI, which both started classes a week ahead of UI, pull the plug on their campus, thus giving Harreld a chance to follow suit.)
* Adding to the web of deceit at the University of Iowa, in an otherwise obscure posting on the UI COVID-19 website on Monday, the school announced that more than 70% of all classes will be online-only, despite having called the students back to campus for in-person instruction and the always-exciting ‘student experience’. As reported by Alexandra Skores at the Daily Iowan:
As the UI is set to begin a hybrid in-person and online fall semester, 72 percent of classes will be online, 16 percent face-to-face, and 12 percent blended instruction, which is a combination of in-person and online learning.
Way back at the April meeting of the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, which took place after all three campuses were closed because of the pandemic, the presidents of the state’s public universities were falling all over themselves to explain how important the on-campus ‘experience’ was for their students. On July 8th and July 9th the University of Iowa also conducted live campus presentations about the “student experience”, as a prelude to welcoming students back for that all-important face-to-face interaction that you just can’t get through a web cam. Only now, after all the hype, we come to find that UI is delivering more than 70% of its classes in a virtual context.
While it isn’t even surprising that the University of Iowa is running a massive con on its own students, there are still important questions to be asked. For example, just as UI wants to lock students into legal commitments before blowing up the fall term, local real-estate magnates certainly wanted UI students called back to Iowa City, in order to populate their student-apartment holdings. So did J. Bruce Harreld have any conversations with those local apartment barons — one of whom is, ironically, Regent David Barker, who owns student housing in multiple communities around the U.S.?
Such questions will only grow louder if Harreld does string students along until mid-September, then switch to online-only classes after they are locked into their contracts at UI. And of course that will also mean thousands of UI students are locked into off-campus contracts as well, including for housing they no longer need. So who would look into that kind of crony abuse of power? Well, that would be…the corrupt Iowan Board of Regents, of which David Barker is one of nine voting members who would never question the propriety of one of their own.
More here from the Gazette’s Miller: 72% of University of Iowa undergrad classes move online for fall.
* Because I am still not very good at anticipating the convergence of insanity and corruption, I have no idea what J. Bruce Harreld is going to do. What he should do, however, is self-evident. Although it might cost him a few million on the academic side of the ledger to go online-only now, before classes even start, that would be counterbalanced by the negation of any risk of lawsuits related to on-campus infection or death from COVID-19. In exchange for doing that, Harreld and his bro-buddies in the athletic department would have the campus pretty much to themselves, and could go back to pretending to implement sterile procedures for their teams, thus making winter sports — and perhaps even a late football season — viable. And of course sports would come a massive infusion of revenue on the athletics side of the ledger, which would dwarf any academic shortfall.
While the regents can raise tuition to cover academic losses, they can’t do so regarding athletics at either UI or Iowa State. Perversely, however, that restriction incentivizes taking a financial hit to academics, which can be recouped by raising the cost of tuition in the coming months. (By which I mean more than the board already intends.) If athletics take a big hit, however, that money may never be recovered — even if, by some miracle, the pandemic lifts in the near future.
As to the political implications, there was a protest yesterday by a student group which ended at the empty UI Presidential Residence, where Harreld has not been seen for six months. Were Harreld to shift to online-only coursework sooner rather than later, he would be hailed by the faculty, by the athletic director and by prominent UI coaches, and pretty much adored by fans across the state — all for the simple act of betraying 32K students that he suckered into coming back to school. All of which is to say that I expect UI to shift to online-only classes sooner rather than later, once Harreld figures out how to rig a belated test-based justification for doing so.
* Today’s fall welcome message from Harreld and interim toady provost Kregel is just sad. Then again, Harreld is still using a five-year-old picture of himself for his official presidential posts, so you can see his priorities.
* Iowa State has finished testing resident students, and the total number infected with COVID-19 is almost exactly the same number which prompted the University of North Carolina to cancel in-person classes four days ago. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa State finds a total 175 coronavirus cases during move-in.
In the final three days of Iowa State’s weekslong process to move more than 8,000 students into its 18 residence halls, the university found another 34 students with COVID-19 — meaning a total of 175 ISU students started the term in mandatory isolation, with their close contacts in quarantine.
Iowa State — the only of Iowa’s three public universities that made students get tested before moving into its residence halls — performed a total of 8,094 tests, returning a 2.2 percent positivity rate.
UNC had 130 positive tests after the first week of classes, 177 total students in isolation on Monday, and summarily pulled the plug on in-person classes for the rest of the fall term.
* Zach Thompson at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: Of the 301 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Iowa of the last 24 hours, 44 — nearly 15% — were in Johnson County. The real problem with testing for Johnson County is that the main driver of the coming outbreaks will be the UI community. and as Thompson noted yesterday in a tweet, UI is doing everything possible to produce zero reportable results.
* Tim Elfrink at the Washington Post: ‘We’ve got to do better than this’: College students raise alarm by packing bars, avoiding masks. Anyone who believes students will respond differently because there is a pandemic on the loose doesn’t know anything about brain development.
* This will get lost in the ongoing craziness, but it’s another red flag for the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents. From Rick Ruggles at the Omaha World-Herald: UNK wants more out-of-staters, will give them resident tuition next year.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha offers a tuition rate of 150% the resident price for students from 11 western Iowa counties.
If anything, the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic will incentivize colleges to look for revenue everywhere, even if only to limit losses. In that context, losing money on students who enroll in the next year or two could still pay off relative to the alternative, particularly if those students stick around for four or five years.
More on how this will shape up in the coming months and years — from Chris Dunker at the Lincoln Journal Star: ‘A bias for action’ — Carter outlines 5-year strategic plan for NU.
* Very good reporting here on the quiet suffering so many are dealing with — from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Now with derecho, 2020 continues bringing mental health woes for Iowans.
* Anjali Huynh at Little Village: An Iowa City woman’s months-long fight against COVID-19 was marked by fear and frustration. Another reminder that this is not the flu.
* Insight into the falloff in college enrollment, from Cyrus Beschloss at College Reaction: Pressing pause on the college experience.
Enrollment: 22% of current college students say they are not attending college this Fall.
• Most of whom are working full-time in the interim.
Work: 27% of students lost their job this summer.
Between nationwide attempts to hold in-person classes, and damage to the economy from the pandemic, this will not end well. However bad you think it is right now, it will be much worse by winter, and absent a miracle vaccine I have no idea how any college or university will offer in-person, on-campus instruction for the spring term.
* Madeline St. Amour at Inside Higher Ed: Displaced Workers and Public College Enrollment.
08/18/20 — For two late updates, and a rapidly growing stampede toward online-only courses at schools with major sports programs, scroll down to the item below on Notre Dame, as reported by the Indy Star.
* The race to strip as much revenue from University of Iowa students and families as possible, before converting UI classes to online-only in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, has begun. Back in late spring, on social media, I speculated that summer might prove problematic because people would tend to congregate in air conditioning to avoid the heat, thus decreasing social distancing. That concern spiked in early June when several colleges and universities — including the University of North Carolina (UNC) — announced that they would shift their fall terms forward to avoid the cold period at the end of the semester, thus necessarily reconvening in even hotter and more humid weather in August. (Later, both Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa announced a similar shift, moving their schedules forward one week and cancelling all classes after Thanksgiving break to avoid cold and flu season.)
Classes began at UNC one week ago yesterday, on August 10th. Yesterday morning a brassy editorial appeared in the Daily Tarheel — the student-run campus paper — calling out a rapid increase in the campus positivity rate. Mere hours later, the university announced that all undergraduate courses at UNC would be converted to online-only for the remainder of the fall term. Despite having only been in session for a week, and having shifted the fall term forward to avoid trouble in colder months, the trend in new cases was so significant that the university made its decision in a matter of hours.
As regular readers know, when it is to the administrative advantage of illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld — as it is when he wants to increase tuition again on UI students — he refers constantly to Iowa’s so-called peer institutions, of which the University of North Carolina is a particular favorite. With UNC having thrown in the towel on in-person classes in a single week, however, Harreld either won’t mention UNC at all, will characterize UNC as cowards and defeatists, or will reprise his insane rant at the end of June about how the virus is different in different parts of the country. (There is a very high likelihood that the news from North Carolina is precisely why Harreld pressed that loony theory in two successive presentations to the UI community. By asserting that the virus is different not only in different states, but different regions of Iowa, he can argue that problems on another campus have no bearing on classes at UI.)
At Iowa State, which is only testing returning resident students, 141 active cases have been caught so far, with another 2,500 tests or so yet to be reported. By comparison, UNC pulled the plug on its semester with 177 positive tests over the past week. (Iowa State students with positive test results are required to quarantine on campus or at home.) At that rate, Iowa State should equal or exceed UNC’s total by the end of this week.
Adding to the daunting challenge facing Iowa State, which the University of Iowa will face next week when classes resume, college students on both campuses are not conducting themselves with utmost pandemic discipline. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa State begins unprecedented fall semester after typical weekend partying.
With students back in Ames for Monday’s start of classes, onlookers over the weekend flooded social media with photos of packed bars, crowded backyards, and other images depicting new and returning Cyclones partying shoulder-to-shoulder — without masks — to celebrate what would appear to be a typical fall semester.
But this fall is not only atypical, it’s unprecedented — as COVID-19 continues to infect and kill Iowans, prompting administrators last spring to nix in-person classes entirely and spend months and millions preparing for a safe return to at least a hybrid version of instruction this fall.
“We know there were large gatherings and parties over the weekend,” according to a Monday morning message from Wendy Wintersteen. “Disregarding health and safety measures puts our community at risk and it jeopardizes our chances for successfully completing the semester in November.”
From Linh Ta at the Iowa Capital Dispatch: 141 ISU students test positive for COVID-19, while ‘801 Day’ parties spark concerns.
Snapchat images that circulated over the weekend show full bars and packed outdoor house parties as students participated in the Iowa State tradition of “801 Day,” where students start drinking at 8:01 a.m. the Saturday prior to the start of class.
From Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan: 5,500 students to move into University of Iowa residence halls this week.
Annika Tjoa, a first-year from New Hartford, Iowa, said students in her dorm were not adhering to the restrictions put in place.
“It’s hard because we’re paying a lot of money to be here, and part of that is meeting people,” she said. “We’re stuck wanting to meet people and hang out and do normal college things, but we don’t want to make [the pandemic] worse.”
You can see the problem for Bro Bruce at UI. The flagship campus at one peer school has already thrown in the towel, and Iowa State — which started a week early — looks poised to erupt in outbreaks. How does Harreld hold the line and ignore outbreaks on the UI campus until mid-September, when students will be obligated for most or all of their tuition and fees? (By lying.)
* Speaking of the inevitable toll from the pandemic, we get excellent visibility to what the state schools actually expect in this report from Katie Peakes at Iowa Public Radio News: Iowa Universities Set Aside Dorm Rooms For Isolation, Quarantine.
Iowa’s three public universities have at least 725 rooms between them reserved for isolation and quarantine, according to data from student life and housing directors:
Iowa State University: 150 rooms for isolation and 250 for quarantine.
University of Iowa: between 250 and 300 rooms set aside for isolation and quarantine.
University of Northern Iowa: More than 75 rooms for quarantine and isolation, and continuing to evolve.
Despite soulless recruiters and administrators selling an ‘experience’ to students — in the middle of a pandemic no less — Iowa’s public schools clearly understand that COVID-19 is not the flu.
* While the real world continues to be concerned about the lethal pandemic ravaging the globe — and particularly the United States, thanks to catastrophically inept and corrupt federal, state and campus leadership — the delusional world of college sports continues to be aghast and indignant that anyone would take sports away for any reason, including the possibility that some players, coaches, staff and/or fans might die. Leading the weeping this past week was UI AD Gary Barta, still traumatized by the Big Ten’s decision to cancel fall sports, including cash-cow football.
From Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: Iowa AD Gary Barta anticipates $100 million in lost revenue following postponement of fall sports.
In a letter sent to Iowa football season ticket holders on Monday, athletic director Gary Barta said the athletic department anticipates approximately $100 million in lost revenue and an overall budget deficit of between $60-75 million following the Big Ten’s decision last week to postpone fall sports.
In the letter, Barta said the department is “working hard to find solutions” and that the decisions ahead will be very challenging.
The University of Iowa is extraordinarily fortunate that Hawkeye Sports [TM] is legally required to maintain a separate ledger, and cannot be subsidized by increased tuition and fees. (There will be a lot of colleges which boost tuition next year precisely to try to fill the economic crater caused by the pandemic.) As to where UI athletics might make up some of its massive shortfall, one place to look would be to see if former regent president Bruce Rastetter ever followed through on the $5M donation that he took credit for, even though he only made a down payment at the time.
More on the ‘Barta letter’ from Chad Leistikow at Hawkeye Nation: ‘A catastrophe’: Iowa athletics forecasts $100 million in lost revenue after cancellation of fall football.
* From Robert Read at the DI: Iowa athletics department reports COVID-19 testing update.
The Iowa athletics department announced Monday that it conducted 335 COVID-19 tests for the week of Aug. 10-16 and received four positive tests and 331 negative tests.
Those tests were conducted when Big Ten football was still in play, and with the UI athletics department enforcing rigorous protocols and aggressive testing — none of which applies to the greater student body at UI, which is moving back to campus in force this week. The only reason testing may look even better next week is that the University of Iowa won’t be doing any testing.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa reveals metrics to determine if sooner online-only shift is necessary. The “metrics” in question come from a UI COVID-19 update that I mentioned in the previous post, but on closer inspection they aren’t really metrics at all. Instead, UI simply published a list of sixteen factors that will be considered in deciding whether to shift to online-only courses. In reality, the only real metrics that UI will be watching are the amount of revenue expected from tuition and fees, and the amount of revenue that might be lost to lawsuits if and when people end up in the hospital or dead.
* From the Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren Smith: Records show only 2% of UI employees filed for COVID-related accommodation. This is a complicated subject, in part — as Smith notes — because UI may have suppressed accommodations by making the application process particularly invasive. Then there’s the related fact that some accommodations are being made at the department level, and thus do not rise to the level of central administration. (And of course a significant amount of courses are online only to begin with, so the faculty teaching those courses need no accommodations.)
* From the Indy Star: Notre Dame reports 89 new COVID-19 infections in one day Monday.
Update: Well that didn’t take long. From Douglas Belkin at the WSJ, a few hours after the above link was posted: After Reopening, Notre Dame to Move Classes Online Due to Coronavirus Cases.
The University of Notre Dame is canceling in-person classes and moving them online for at least two weeks after seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. On Monday, one week after classes began, 80 students tested positive out of 418, or 19% of students tested.
Two weeks ought’a clean that right up! In reality, I think schools like UNC and Notre Dame are pulling the plug on in-person classes early precisely to preserve the viability of their athletic departments, which generate massive amounts of revenue for the schools. Give the students a sub-par online education at full price, maximize television and gate revenue from sports, and it’s almost like there isn’t even a pandemic at all.
Update: Okay, this is an implosion. An hour after the previous update: Michigan State University to go online-only, pivots away from face-to-face instruction. To be clear, this is a completely preemptive move driven by what is happening at other schools — meaning UNC and Notre Dame specifically:
Students were scheduled to move into on-campus housing between Aug. 27 and Aug. 31. Many students have already moved back into off campus apartments in the East Lansing area. Classes are scheduled to start Sept. 2.
Michigan State is also a prominent sports school, and may be trying to preserve the possibility of winter sports including basketball, or even attempting to get a second bite at the fall-football apple after the Big Ten cancelled fall sports.
MSU’s athletic department said its athletes can stay.
“Michigan State student-athletes who are engaged in practices or workouts can return to (or stay on) campus this fall,” it said in a statement. “Spartan athletics will continue to follow medical advice and local guidelines regarding the most current safety protocols and procedures for all team activities.”
What does seem to be clear is that any major university trying to safely hold in-person classes is going to fail. And if that’s the case — then from the point of view of the cash-conscious administrators — why not bag classes and try to protect the mounting of vulnerable revenue from athletics?
* Saying the quiet part out loud, here is Chris Quintana at USA Today: COVID-19 will hit colleges when students arrive for fall semester. So why open at all? Money is a factor.