A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
09/25/20 — The big news this week — at least so far — concerns the recent murder of four University of Iowa athletic programs by illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld and Athletic Director Gary Barta. For two reasons, however, I will be tackling (hahaha) that complicated narrative this weekend. First, reporting is still coming in about events that transpired over the past few days, and I don’t want to jump the gun (ha). Second, I don’t want the following news to get lost in the mix, which would certainly happen if I dove (ha) into the deep end (hoho) of that sports story (I’ll stop now).
As I have mentioned in the past, one of my biggest concerns about the pandemic is that idiots in positions of leadership might take University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for granted, and in so doing swamp the biggest and best medical center in Iowa. Speaking of which, on Wednesday we got this report from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Sicker patients now packing University of Iowa hospitals.
Because UIHC is accepting only the transfers it can handle, “many hospitals across the state are disappointed when we decline to take a transfer, and many have complained to me because they believe it is happening at a higher rate than it did before.
“That’s not the case,” Gunasekaran said. “It’s that we have sicker patients now than we did before.”
When asked why patient are sicker now, Gunasekaran surmised the answer might be twofold.
“One is that there is going to be a public health impact to delaying health care for three months,” he said. “I think a lot of chronic diseases didn’t get managed as well as they could, and they progressed to a different state.”
Secondly, many other hospitals don’t have the ability to handle the sicker patients.
It isn’t only intra-state transfers that are becoming a problem however. This in particular is a massive red flag for Johnson County:
“We’ve had two months of the worst left-without-being-seen rate in our emergency department since I’ve been here,” Gunasekaran told the regents. “I regret to tell you that in the month of August, 20 percent of patients left without being seen, which has never happened.”
Typically, on the worst day, that rate is between 7 and 10 percent.
As to why this is happening, there is no secret. Iowa’s governor prioritizes revenue generation on par with the literal lives of Iowans, and that means she is keeping cases, hospitalizations and deaths higher than they should be. As Iowa’s medical professionals have become better at keeping people alive, however, patients are no longer dying off at the same rate, thus clogging the state hospital system with patients that Governor Reynolds was killing outright only a few months ago. Unfortunately, because there is no chance that Demon Kim will change her money-grubbing ways, she may very well overwhelm UIHC just as the flu season picks up, and more COVID-19 cases are generated from decreased social distancing in the cold months.
* The University of Iowa put a very sexy graph up on the COVID-19 website Wednesday, showing that positive cases in Johnson County have dwindled to a dozen or so each day. Only a week earlier, however, J. Bruce Harreld said this during a meeting with the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents:
While the UI has enough classroom capacity, Harreld said, it doesn’t have the testing capacity to bring more classes back in-person.
“I’m not comfortable [with our] testing capacity…specifically to allow us to test a large enough percentage of our population,” Harreld said. “We will need to get an infection rate of under five percent and right now…the county is at 12.6 [percent], so we have a long way to go.
After five years I’m used to having a major R1/AAU public research university say whatever suits the messaging of the moment, but it’s still rare to get such diametrically opposed claims in such a short amount of time. Is Johnson County virtually free of COVID-19, or is it so overrun that Bro Bruce couldn’t possibly think about converting more classes to in-person instruction?
* Clinton Garlock at the Daily Iowan: Undergraduate Student Government developing plan to provide mental health days in the spring. This is an interesting story because everyone seems to be a rational actor, yet the problem they’re trying to solve is actually self-generated. Which is to say that if you’re trying to figure out how to keep people from going mental during a pandemic semester, maybe the correct response is that they should stay home instead of once again crowding into the Harreld Hilton at significant risk to themselves and others.
* After illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld booted the diversity, equity and inclusion administrator out of his cabinet and out of the president’s office, there was a fair amount of pushback. Hiring a new permanent DEI administrator who only lasted six weeks certainly had something to do with that, but in any case Harreld eventually reversed course and made the DEI role a cabinet-level appointment again. That the role is currently being filled on a temporary basis is not ideal, but at least Harreld’s menace was checked.
In the aftermath of all of that anti-diversity craziness, however, various UI departments — including athletics — invented their own DEI positions. As reported by the Daily Iowan’s Mary Hartel: University of Iowa Tippie College of Business creates new DEI position.
* Madison Lotenschtein at the Daily Iowan: Hancher looks ahead while grappling with unknown. If you want to know when the pandemic is really and truly over, keep your eye on stadiums, arenas, auditoriums and theaters. If people aren’t filling those venues to capacity, the pandemic is not over.
* From Caleb McCullough at the Daily Iowan, we have the most ‘Johnson County’ story ever: Johnson County to change namesake after UI alum Lulu Merle Johnson. (I was holding out for ‘Magic’ but this is good too.)
More here from Lee Hermiston at the Gazette: Johnson County switches its namesake from slave owner to Black scholar.
* Nick Coltrain at the Des Moines Register: White House calls for ramped up COVID-19 testing, transparency at Iowa universities. There have been a lot of these stories lately about the White House insisting that Iowa’s governor do more, which the Iowa governor then completely ignores. My take is that Dr. Birx is trying to rehabilitate her obliterated credibility after having served as a willing accomplice to Trump for six months, and this story confirms that. Iowa’s universities are not a problem right now, precisely because their revenue-generating campuses are the most locked-down communities in Iowa. What was promised as an in-person semester and ‘campus experience’ is more or less like a country-club prison.
That the White House knows none of that means these regularly issued official reports are a joke. Another example here.
* Emma Platoff, Shawn Mulcahy and Anna Novak at the Texas Tribune: As Texas college towns emerge as coronavirus hot spots, universities try to keep students from infecting locals.
09/22/20 — As is its propagandistic wont these days, the University of Iowa — which is run by an illegitimate president who lied his way into office — is taking credit for driving down the number of COVID-19 cases on campus, and by extension for helping end the massive wave of local infections which occurred when that same illegitimate president opened the campus for the fall term. The reality, of course, is that what J. Bruce Harreld did was institute a massive bait-and-switch scheme which promised students something close to a typical ‘campus experience’, but instead delivered life in an academic gulag. What UI is portraying as a ‘hybrid’ semester between online and in-person classes is in fact 80% online, and will only become more so as the semester continues. But it’s actually worse than that.
To see why, here is Bro Bruce speaking before the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents only last week — as reported by Eleanor Hildebrandt at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa leaders wary of looming bar closure deadline, not ready for in-person learning.
While the UI has enough classroom capacity, Harreld said, it doesn’t have the testing capacity to bring more classes back in-person.
“I’m not comfortable [with our] testing capacity…specifically to allow us to test a large enough percentage of our population,” Harreld said.
Other than the multiple instances where Harreld can be seen lying on video, I can’t think of a better example of just how flagrantly and erratically mendacious J. Bruce Harreld really is. The same man who opened the UI campus only weeks before, and conducted absolutely no entry testing precisely to smuggle as many infected students into Iowa City and onto the UI campus as possible, before the inevitable resulting wave of infections could be detected by Johnson County, is now openly using the school’s incapacity to tests its students as justification for keeping most students online — which is not at all what he told the students to expect when he suckered them back to campus with his bait-and-switch. In fact, this double-edged deceit is so naked in both aspects that if you are a lawyer, and you are thinking of suing the University of Iowa for deceptive practices — perhaps to get some tuition money back for your own student, or as an advocate for others — that’s really the only quote you need. Harreld did no entry testing when he called students back to campus, and knew at that time that he had insufficient testing capacity to provide the in-person classes that students — and their families — were led to expect.
Because the University of Iowa now comports itself like a brute corporation instead of an academic institution, we are no longer surprised by this kind of nakedly disingenuous messaging and spin. As noted in a prior post, however, even if you’re a shyster administrator you have to know that education isn’t just about screwing people on a single-semester sale then disappearing into the night. When students enroll at a college or university they are repeat customers if not subscribers — at least until you make it clear that you really are out to fleece them. And as it stands today, even this early in the fall term, I think the enrollment die at UI is probably already cast for the spring semester.
I don’t know how many UI students will show up for classes in January — whether online or in-person — but I don’t believe enrollment will increase, even with early word of a safe and effective vaccine. Depending how hard the first months of winter are, and how relieved students may be to go entirely online after Thanksgiving, I could see a lot of students taking the spring term off because there simply wasn’t enough value for the money they shelled out in the fall. (Harreld clearly snookered them, but I also think they know that now, and won’t trust UI again.)
* From Cyrus Beschloss at College Reaction: Most students believe school re-opening was the wrong choice.
Do you think it was the right choice for your campus to allow students on campus?
• Yes: 46%
• No: 51%
• My school isn’t: 3%
Compared to traditional schooling, how has your online learning experience been?
• Learning more: 6%
• Learning less: 60%
• Learning the same: 33%
• Taking all classes in person: 1%
It has always been the position of the University of Iowa, and indeed most campus-based colleges and universities, that in-person classes are superior to online classes. As regular readers know, however, the pandemic-driven need to convert all courses to online-only last fall suddenly compelled UI to declare that online courses were just as good as in-person classes, because any other claim would have left the university open to lawsuits seeking tuition reimbursement for lesser academic goods. Now, with the fall semester underway across the country, campus-based schools are still trying to have it both ways, but by a 2:1 margin students know they are getting a lesser product.
* From Victoria Knight at Kaiser Health News: Students’ mass migration back to college gets a failing grade.
But that model failed to take into account that kids who test positive for the virus, whether sick or asymptomatic, might continue to party. From Aug. 16, when campus reopened, to Sept. 14, more than 1,900 new cases of COVID-19 were detected, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. One thousand cases occurred in the first two weeks of the fall semester.
“What is not in the models is that students will actually fail to isolate,” said Goldenfeld during a Sept. 2 press briefing, “that they would go to a party even if they knew they were COVID-positive or that they would host a party while they were COVID-positive. … We didn’t include that behavior in the model.”
Included in this article is the massive numbers of cases on the UI campus, and rightly so. It was only after Bro Bruce begged Iowa’s governor to close the local bars that the campus outbreak started to receded, making clear that Harreld’s plan — which was no plan at all — failed upon implementation. (Yet another reminder that the university’s current gloating isn’t merely unseemly, it’s a flat-out lie. The only way UI has been able to keep infections low is by going almost entirely online and by cutting students off from traditional after-hours socializing.)
* During the first week of classes at UI, Bro Bruce gave a podcast interview to a woman who runs an executive search firm, who also happens to be the chair of the Board of Directors at the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, on which Harreld serves in an ex officio capacity. I found it difficult to listen to the interview because Harreld is in full-on pontificating-and-prevaricating mode, but maybe the most interesting moment occurs at the 3:546 mark, when Harreld acknowledges that he thought the pandemic would be over in a month or two, only to be repeatedly proven wrong. Thinking back over the past five years I can’t remember Harreld ever admitting that he made a mistake — and that’s saying something given the number of mistakes he has made — but maybe he felt it was emotionally safe to do so in this particular context.
This is also the second podcast (the first was a few months back with Gary Dolphin) where Harreld asserts a new historical narrative about becoming president at UI. Contrary to what he told reporters at the time — which is that he didn’t want the job and had “better things to do” — Harreld is now claiming that he spent part of his retirement taking a hard look at the ‘crisis’ in public education, and decided as a moral imperative completely apart from pulling down half a million dollars a year that he just had to get involved, for the kids. Always so selfless….
* An op-ed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen from UI student Emma Hathaway: Their deaths are on your hands’: Immunocompromised University of Iowa student calls out governor.
Soon, I received an email to guide me through the process of working remotely and I filled out the university’s TAWA form. I don’t fall into any of the CDC categories for co-morbidities that will negatively impact my ability to fight COVID-19, and even though I can’t provide medical documentation of my illness, I wasn’t worried. I explained my situation in the “Other” textbox at the bottom of the form. Half a day later, I received this response:
Hello Emma and thank you for your request. In order to review and process, please resubmit and indicate the appropriate DCD [sic] category, and also please attach supporting medial [sic] documentation. If you feel you cannot meet these requirements, please consult with you [sic] HR Representative to explore other options. Regards, FSDS
In short: My request was rejected.
I was stopped from protecting myself from the university by the university. I am trapped in an unsafe city, in an unsafe school and without the means to ensure my safety. That right has been stripped from me.
Another reminder that Iowa’s demonic governor and the illegitimate president of UI don’t really care if they kill people. (They only care if they can be held accountable for killing people.)
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Cornell College stands apart in its COVID-19 response.
* From the Gazette’s Kat Russell: COVID-19 cases among young people and education workers continue to rise in Iowa.
* As a thug administrator at UI, Athletic Director Gary Barta had the authority and bureaucratic cover to hatchet four sports. But as I often say, it’s easy to take territory and hard to keep it. Whatever else may or may not happen down the road, in the near term Barta is counting on those who oppose his predatory decision making to simply get tired and go away, and I think that’s a miscalculation on his part. He may be able to act like a mafia hitman in the corrupt regents enterprise, but his intrinsic lack of class will make good people think twice about backing him.
From Austin Hanson at the Daily Iowan: Efforts to revive Iowa swim and dive continue.
A former Hawkeye football player and parent of current swimmer Ryan Purdy, Matt Purdy weighed in on Iowa’s decision to uphold the discontinuation of the four sports.
“It’s disrespectful if the president and the athletic director don’t come out in the next few days and reinstate these sports knowing that there’s going to be revenue coming in from ESPN and the Big Ten [Network],” Purdy said.
If you’re losing Matt Purdy, you’re losing.
* Also from Austin Hanson at the DI: Pledge campaign to save four discontinued Hawkeye sports started.
* Mike Hlas at the Gazette: Athletes of dropped Hawkeye teams complain of lack of follow-up from Iowa.
* A DI letter-to-the-editor from former UI diving coach Bob Rydze: Thoughts of a past coach.
09/19/20 — During the past five years of closely observing the University of Iowa and the Iowa Board of Regents, there have been a number of occasions when a great deal of administrative intrigue took place in a very short amount of time, necessitating extensive posts to expose the corruption. By contrast, this past week marks the first time when a great deal of administrative intrigue took place in a very short amount of time and the corruption was on full display. In fact, I can’t remember this much bad lying in a seven-day span, and that’s saying something given the bad liars at UI.
* As I noted in passing in the previous post, on Wednesday of last week the Big Ten Conference voted to resurrect the fall football season. While that absolutely thrilled the University of Iowa’s football junkies for a day or two, reality is now also setting in. With eights games set to be played starting in late October, there are still significant obstacles including implementing the hyper-aggressive, ultra-strict testing regime that the Big Ten agreed to in principle.
Specifically, Big Ten athletes and anyone associated with Big Ten sports will be tested on a daily basis using rapid antigen tests. (Assuming, of course, that the Big Ten can source the requisite supplies and equipment, in a country perpetually short of both due to the federal government’s failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.) While the academic and athletic ledgers at UI are separate, and the athletics department can blow its football-revenue windfall however it wants, the inevitable end result is that there will now be a class system separating the students on the UI campus.
If you a football player at UI, you will receive maximal testing protection because your free labor will generate tens of millions of dollars for the athletics department. On the academic side of campus, however — where UI students are all paying tuition to one degree or another — regular students will still be refused testing except under narrow criteria predicated on symptoms and exposure to documented cases. And that in turn brings us to questions about mixing those two populations, including whether the majority of courses taken by UI athletes are already online, further decreasing the possibility of infection.
As to how the Big Ten season will ultimately play out, games around the country in other conferences have already been cancelled or postponed, and it is likely that the Big Ten will either suffer similar disruptions or lose enough key players on various teams to make losses all but predictable. When it’s all over, however, it will also be abundantly clear clear that entire exercise was driven by nothing more than greed, and the Big Ten’s institutional reputation — meaning athletics and academics — will suffer appropriately going forward. (And that’s assuming there are no test-rigging scandals in the coming months, as teams do everything possible to remain on the field despite the pandemic.)
* At the University of Iowa, the conscienceless athletic director, Gary Barta, is obviously thrilled that football is back in play. Predictably, however, that does not mean the four sports that Barta and illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld killed off only months ago — under the pretext of a funding shortfall triggered by a lack of football revenue — will be restored. Indeed, not only is Barta refusing to budge, but he is openly lying to local reporters about the amount of money that the abbreviated slate of BIG TEN games will generate for the department.
In the video clip of Gazette sports report Mike Hlas embedded in this tweet, Barta insists that the infusion of football revenue will only reduce the department’s deficit by $15M or $20M. As noted in a prior post, we can actually see the amount of revenue generated by various components of the UI Athletic Department (p. 29 here), and in a regular year $60M comes from media rights, the vast majority of which pertain to football. Which is not to say that the agitated parents and supporters of the four terminated programs are going away.
From Daniel Perreault at KWWL-TV: Parents of canceled Hawkeye sports: If this is a money problem, why not fight it with money?
Since officials announced the cuts on August 21, parents asked why the Athletic’s department’s first move was to cut four sports instead of salary reductions, which came later.
“The reactive decision to cut four sports as the first move to manage a crisis like the pandemic seems unsavory at best, ludicrous at worst,” Mark Kaufman said. “It should be the last thing that is considered, not the first.”
Kaufman’s daughter Christina is a sophomore on the swim and dive team. He said the university has been less than transparent with the student-athletes.
It is baldly apparent that Barta and Harreld used the pandemic as an excuse to kill off four non-revenue sports, and they don’t want to give back that $5M in budgetary savings. As it turns out, however, it might be possible to prove that, again with the help of the local press. Only a few months ago, the University of Iowa Athletics Department touted a partnership with the brand-new Xtream Arena in Coralville, where the UI Volleyball team will now play its home games. Among the additional questions local reporters should be asking is whether Barta approached management of the new arena about also hosting and building a fan base around the UI Men’s Gymnastics and Tennis teams. And the reason reporters should ask those questions is to see if Barta made reasonable efforts to save those programs, or whether he had already decided to cut them regardless of any possible new revenue or fan support from those sports.
(If you’re managing a new arena then by definition you are looking to promote new business, and particularly repeat business and brand loyalty — and the University of Iowa is a powerhouse brand in eastern Iowa. Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to strike a deal, maybe it wouldn’t have worked if they did, but the most important question is whether Gary Barta even made the attempt — because he certainly went all-out for volleyball, which is also a revenue-losing sport at the university. What’s better: a volleyball-only ticket package, or a ticket package for multiple UI athletic events over the academic year?)
* One of the claims that the University of Iowa has made about it’s grossly insufficient testing program for non-athletes, is that when testing is conducted, it is free. While that is narrowly, technically true, it turns out that plenty of students still have to pay through the nose because of other requirements in the testing-approval process.
From Lillian Poulsen and Natalie Dunlap at the Daily Iowan: The cost of University of Iowa COVID-19 preparations.
Natvig said if someone has health insurance through the university, the telehealth video session doesn’t cost them anything. He said UI Student Health will charge someone’s insurance, but the individual student will not incur charges.
For students, faculty, and staff members who don’t have insurance through UIChoice, UISelect, Student Health Insurance Plan, and UIGradcare, Natvig said they are required to pay their copay from an outside insurance agency or pay the full amount out of pocket.
While some countries around the world actually instituted aggressive testing programs to mitigate COVID-19, and succeeded, in the United States testing programs were instituted not to mitigate the virus, but to sell tests. And the University of Iowa is no exception. Either you pay the university for insurance that makes the tests ‘free’, or you pay for the tests.
* On Friday afternoon Iowa’s governor extended the bar closings in Johnson and Story counties, home to the University of Iowa and Iowa State respectively. Those bars will now remain closed until September 27th, which oddly enough, is the Sunday before the Monday on which 100% of tuition and fees will be due even if UI students cancel their entire registration. Meaning at that point it won’t matter whether the Johnson County bursts into flames, because Bro Bruce will have socked away max money from his bait-and-switch.
Several days earlier, however, with that decision still hanging in the balance, J. Bruce Harreld disclosed some interesting info during the most recent Iowa Board of Regents meeting. From Eleanor Hildebrandt at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa leaders wary of looming bar closure deadline, not ready for in-person learning.
When asked by Regent David Barker how many classes at the university were online and whether the university would move more classes in-person, Harreld said 78 percent of classes were now online and he has no intention of moving students back to in-person learning until the county’s percent positivity rate falls below 5 percent. Johnson County’s 14-day average positivity rate is 10 percent, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Following up on previous calculations, if we factor in two weeks of 100% online courses after Thanksgiving, then UI will deliver roughly 81% of its fall credit hours via online courses. And of course that is not only the opposite of what the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents pledged last summer, but the opposite of the ‘campus experience’ Harreld promised as well.
At the same time, it is particularly interesting that Harreld believes he can aim for a low positivity rate of 5%, when Demon Kim Reynolds has set a 15% positivity rate threshold for K-12 schools to transition to online classes — and the only after appealing to her personally, and only for two weeks. Perhaps someone should ask Iowa’s governor why she is holding K-12 schools to such a high threshold, while allowing her own public universities to adopt an online threshold a full 10% lower.
As to the nagging questions of whether Harreld himself is teaching online or in-person, despite this lengthy response we still don’t know:
While discussing when students will return to in-person classes, Harreld said he was unsure if there is enough data on if students want to be face-to-face or online. In his personal experience with the class he teaches, Harreld said only a few students have opted to be in-person.
“I’m not sure we have good data to support that [students who want to be in-person]”, he said. “I am currently teaching and I have a class of 30. They’re largely campus leaders and we are teaching in a blended fashion…we have a classroom…configured for 30 students as well as online for every class. Students can choose where they want to be and so far, the most I’ve had physically in class is five. 25 have chosen to stay online wherever they are.”
Not only shouldn’t this be a hard question to answer, but even if he is teaching in-class, we now know the in-class size is five students at most.
* The degree to which the University of Iowa conducts itself not as a public institution or as an academic institution, but as a prevaricating private-sector corporation, has increased markedly under J. Bruce Harreld’s illegitimate leadership. Instead of stating facts and communicating information clearly, the order of the day is rhetorical spin if not outright lies. For example, consider this passage from an update to the UI COVID-19 website last Wednesday — and while you’re reading it, ask yourself what’s missing:
Additionally, data and contact tracing show that the spread of the disease is not occurring in UI classrooms, as a total of 11 faculty and teaching assistants have reported testing positive. In addition, a majority of those self-reporting are not teaching in the classroom this semester. The spread of the disease has been minimized in classrooms due to proactive steps the university has taken, such as:
• Mandating face coverings
• Instructor zones
• Use of plexiglass
• Changes in air filtration
• Changes in traffic patterns in buildings
Finally, these data appear to show that the increased spread of COVID-19 in the undergraduate student body has not spread into instructors in the classroom. The rate of positive tests outside of this age group remained consistent over the past four weeks in comparison to the previous four weeks.
From the item just above it should be abundantly clear that the main mechanism preventing disease transmission in UI classrooms is the rather glaring fact that almost 80% of credit hours are being delivered online. And of course the University of Iowa is aware of that, which means they intentionally left that fact out of their update on the UI COVID-19 website. (And if you’re willing to lie and deceive on that website, you’re gong to be willing to lie and deceive about anything.)
* Speaking of the UI COVID-19 website, Friday’s update included an odd section describing the workings of the UI Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT). That’s fine as far as it goes, but not only was that information communicated on the same website over the summer, but in Friday’s post it was effectively a non sequitur. Unless, that is — as I suspect — that section anticipates an administrative decision which Bro Bruce intends to blame on the CIMT in the coming weeks. (Harreld has already said the CIMT will decide whether all classes should be taken online, while also noting that he still has the final say, which of course means the CIMT won’t actually make that call, but because Harreld is a gutless administrator he will still use the CIMT to cover his ass.)
* The state universities continue cracking down on students in order to get the COVID-19 compliance they want, but at the University of Iowa the hypocrisy is contemptible. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa Greek chapters sanctioned, investigated for COVID-19 violations.
Four University of Iowa sororities have been sanctioned for violating COVID-19 student agreements by — for example — failing to cover faces and socially distance during gatherings, requiring the groups to publicly apologize, raise coronavirus awareness, and host protective-equipment drives.
For context, illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld lied his way into the job he now holds and never apologized, and UI AD Gary Barta destroyed the lives and careers of two women is his employ and never apologized. But when it comes to the students, they are damn well going to apologize.
* From the Gazette’s Miller on Friday: University of Iowa coronavirus cases top 1,900.
* From the Gazette’s Kat Russell, also on Friday: Iowa sees third-largest increase in positive COVID-19 cases reported in a 24-hour period.
* A good primer/resource from Megan Bridgeman at the Iowa City Press Citizen: How many COVID-19 cases are at the University of Iowa? Here’s how to track the cases.
* Following up on prior mention of this story — from Rob Frehse at CNN: 11 Northeastern University students dismissed for violating school’s public health protocols will have fall expenses applied to spring semester.
* John Paczkowski at Buzzfeed News: Class Of COVID-19: The Horrifying Sadness Of Sending My Kids To College During A Pandemic. Colleges and universities are going to be eager to coerce and compel students and families to commit to the spring terms as early as possible. Students and parents should resist that push, and wait as long as possible to commit. If you’re not getting your money’s worth in the fall, it’s not going to happen in the spring. (And that’s true whether a miracle vaccine shows up or not.)
09/16/20 — The big news on this calendar day was the colossal flip-flop by the Big Ten Conference, which will now play fall football starting in late October. I will have more to say about that in the next post, but as I noted on social media earlier — when I was blowing off other things I should have been doing, including writing this post — I believe today also marks the peak of success for the Big Ten Conference. While the football junkies are deliriously happy, it is self-evident to everyone else that the Big Ten not only sold out any pretense of academic integrity, but it is now going to provide student-athletes will a level of testing and protection that it previously denied to regular tuition-paying students. For more on all of that, I recommend this column by Christine Brennan at USA Today: Big Ten’s decision to play football signals darkest day in conference’s sports history.
* On Monday the 2021 U.S. News national college rankings were released, and the best that can be said about the University of Iowa’s standing in that otherwise pointless pageant is that things didn’t get a whole lot worse. From the tortured lede of the notice posted by the UI Office of Strategic Communications on the Iowa Now website: ‘US News’ ranking includes University of Iowa among nation’s best universities.
The University of Iowa is listed 34th, maintaining its ranking from last year, and is the top-ranked university for writing in the latest rankings of the nation’s public universities published by U.S. News & World Report.
Missing from the first four paragraphs of that article was any mention of Iowa’s rank among all colleges and universities, public or private, which is of course the entire point of the U.S. News rankings. To get that information in context, we turn to the first three paragraphs of Vanessa Miller’s write-up in the Gazette: University of Iowa, Northern Iowa slip in U.S. News national rankings.
As competition surges for a shrinking pool of college-bound students in the Midwest — further propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic that’s bumped some off the higher education track for now — the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa have lost some ground in newly released U.S. News & World Report rankings.
The 2021 rankings — which many college-bound students refer to while searching for a collegiate home and which Iowa university leaders often cite in appealing for state funding — have the UI tied for No. 88 among national universities and tied for No. 34 among public schools nationally.
That No. 34 placement holds the UI steady among public institution rankings, but the Iowa City school’s overall national rank slipped from No. 84, erasing most of the gains it made last year when it bumped up the list from No. 89. Iowa State University, meanwhile, improved its standing among national universities overall by reaching No. 118, up from No. 121 last year and No. 119 the year before — although still shy of the No. 115 and No. 111 rankings it had achieved in the two years before.
And here are the first three paragraphs from Rachel Schilke and Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa drops slightly in US News rankings.
The University of Iowa slid in the touted national US News and World Report rankings for top national universities, but maintained its ranking among public universities from the previous year.
Every year, US News releases its rankings of the top national universities and public universities, which are indicators of academic quality, and used by incoming students when looking for a prospective college.
The UI moved down four spots from No. 84 in the 2020 rankings to No. 88 nationally. Its ranking of No. 34 for public universities – which was held in last year’s 2020 rankings, as well – remains the same.
Two years ago UI dropped to 89 nationally, at which point the illegitimate president of the school, J. Bruce Harreld, said that drop had only to do with a change in the rankings. When Iowa’s number bounced back last year that seemed to confirm Harreld’s rationale, but then what are we to make of this year’s drop? Because Harreld is a man of endless excuses I won’t be surprised if he blames the pandemic, but the pandemic had nothing to do with this year’s rankings.
From the Gazette’s Miller:
Data that U.S. News used for its 2021 rankings came from before the coronavirus pandemic — which has compelled widespread changes across higher education, from the campus experience to the method of instruction to the cost.
For historical context, here are the U.S. News rankings for former UI president Sally Mason, whom the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents treated like garbage, in part because she was an academician, and not given to thinking of education as gussied-up job training. (The first number is Iowa’s overall national rank; the second Iowa’s rank among public universities.)
2008: 64; 24
2009: 66; 26
2010: 72; 28
2011: 72; 28
2012: 71; 28
2013: 72; 28
2014: 73; 29
2015: 71; 30
After two transitional years, Mason’s policies kept Iowa’s rankings remarkably stable. (Statistical noise in the ranking methodology can result in a variance of two points, plus or minus.) Now here are the U.S. News rankings for J. Bruce Harreld, who was hired because he was a business genius who knew how to think outside the box:
2016: 82; 34
2017: 82; 33
2018: 78; 31
2019: 89; 38
2020: 84; 34
2021: 88; 34
After Harreld’s first two transitional years — which saw improvements in both categories — Iowa has held steady among publics but fallen overall. And the scariest part about that is that Harreld spent a lot more time and money on gaming Iowa’s national college rank than Mason ever did. Meaning if he hadn’t done that, the rankings would be even worse.
While I don’t place a lot of stock in college rankings, from the moment J. Bruce Harreld was hired he certainly did. In fact, over the past five years he warped virtually every aspect of the University of Iowa to maximize Iowa’s ranking, including making UI more academically selective and costly, which unfortunately also makes it less likely that students from low-income families — which are also quite often minority families — will be able to attend UI.
While the university put the best-possible spin on this year’s rankings, and cherry-picked among the details for a few bright spots, the reporters found areas of genuine concern. From the Gazette’s Miller:
The UI saw among its biggest slides in the “best value” category, dropping from No. 76 last year to No. 108 this year.
There is nothing the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents likes to talk about more — particularly when it is raising tuition over and over — than what a great value the University of Iowa is relative to its self-selected peers. This collapse in that key metric is decidedly not what the regents are paying Harreld to deliver.
From Schilke and Wilson at the DI:
The UI’s faculty resources rank dropped 10 notches, from No. 69 to No. 79, as well.
When Harreld was hired he talked endlessly about increasing Iowa’s faculty resources, precisely because faculty resources are an important part of determining Iowa’s ranking. Having generated more than a hundred million dollars in new tuition-and-fee revenue since he was hired, however — meaning over and above all of the state cuts that Harreld whines about at every opportunity — it is not at all clear where that money has gone, or why the faculty has not benefited. (Taking the faculty for granted comes with real risks for any university president.)
While college rankings are a blight on academia, many of the core metrics have some relevance. As the U.S. News rankings have grown in influence, however, they have also become more gimmicky, relying less on verifiable data and more on reputation and prestige — thus undercutting the original justification for data-driven rankings. Driving these gimmicks is a cynical corporate attempt to make sure every college and university has a bright spot somewhere, which encourages the schools to legitimize the concept of rankings by embracing any favorable mentions.
From the UI post on Iowa Now:
In a new ranking this year that recognizes the importance of teaching writing and communications in all disciplines, the university was the top-ranked public institution and 13th overall. The ranking was determined by asking the top executives at more than 1,500 schools to nominate up to 15 institutions with stellar examples of writing in the disciplines. Colleges and universities that received 10 or more nominations were ranked.
Across all disciplines there isn’t a better school for writing in the entire country, if not the world, than the University of Iowa. Unfortunately, when you query academic execs you quickly slip into a vortex of snobbery dominated by the Ivy colleges, at which point quality no longer matters. Having said that, there may be no greater example of the corrupting influence that Harreld has had on Iowa than the fact that the talented writers in the UI Office of Strategic Communications are routinely reduced to producing propaganda. When every aspect of the messaging from UI should reflect its status as a university at the forefront of rhetoric and storytelling, Harreld’s only concern is marketing and advertising.
* This past summer J. Bruce Harreld made a world-class idiot out of himself by ranting about “lemming” schools that did not think their reopening plans through. In particular, Harreld took veiled swipes at Iowa State and Northern Iowa for changing their academic schedules for the fall term, including conducting classes on Labor Day to discourage disease-transmitting travel. As a result, when Labor Day rolled around the University of Iowa was reduced to begging its students to shelter in place, to prevent those recently infected students from spreading COVID-19 across the country.
Now four weeks into the fall term, Harreld has either learned the error of his megalomaniacal ways, or, more likely, was told to get in line by the Iowa Board of Regents. To that end, UI announced on Monday that it would be follow Northern Iowa’s lead and cancel spring break, then start the spring term a week later in January to keep the rest of the schedule the same. (Iowa State followed suit later that same day.)
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa public universities cancel spring break.
All three campuses will begin the spring semester later than planned on Jan. 25 — one week past the original UI start date of Jan. 19 and two weeks past the original UNI and ISU start date of Jan. 11.
“This change was made in consideration of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the ability to maintain the same number of instruction days while starting one week later,” according to a UI campus message.
So who’s the lemming now?
* Speaking of the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, they once again distinguished themselves this week by refusing to hear from any of the UI alumni advocating for the reinstatement of four sports that UI Athletic Director Gary Barta and his little dog Bruce summarily terminated a few weeks back. From Mark Emmert at Hawk Central: Iowa Hawkeyes alumni press on with efforts to save four sports programs despite rebuff by Board of Regents.
The Iowa Board of Regents has denied a request from Hawkeye alumni to appear at the board’s Sept. 23 meeting to appeal for the reinstatement of four sports slated to be cut at the university.
Board of Regents executive director Mark Braun sent a letter Friday to a group calling itself “Save Iowa Sports” saying: “The Board of Regents recognizes it was a very difficult decision to eliminate athletics programs, but supports (University of Iowa) President (Bruce) Harreld’s exercise of judgment in this matter.”
Ironically, however, with fall football back in play, Barta, Harreld and the regents now find themselves having to explain why those cuts must still go through, even though the department will once again be flush with cash. Gonna be fun watching them all have to admit it was just a predatory cash-grab under cover of the pandemic.
* Updating the UI COVID-19 totals, from the Gazette’s Miller: University of Iowa COVID cases top 1,800.
The University of Iowa on Monday added another 76 self-reported cases of COVID-19 since Friday — bringing its campus total less than a month into the fall semester to 1,831.
That total includes mostly students — with 72 new cases for 1,804 so far. The campus is reporting another four new employee cases since Friday for 27 total since Aug. 18.
Despite falling numbers — which were precipitated by the closing of bars in six counties — case total continues to climb, and that’s particularly remarkable given that the University of Iowa and the state have done everything possible to limit testing and discourage students from being tested. (Not only did Harreld do no testing on arrival, and lied to the UI Undergraduate Student Government about providing more sites and on-demand testing, but early reports from the UI campus made clear that quarantining and self-isolating were nightmarish experiences, thus discouraging students from reporting positive tests. As a result UI is effectively flying blind about its real infection rate — but the numbers look good!
* From Sabine Martin and Brian Grace at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa students express frustration with COVID-19 testing accessibility.
After coming in close contact with one of his peers who tested positive for COVID-19, UI freshman Will Luebke said he was directed to call the Student Health Nurseline. Luebke said that he wasn’t experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, so he was suggested to self-isolate for 10 days in place of taking a test and wait for symptoms to develop.
“[The Student Health nurseline] number was super busy and it took five different calls to talk to somebody. They told me that they wouldn’t test me, and I had to stay in my room for 10 days and if I had symptoms to call them back,” he said.
Luebke said he was frustrated that student athletes had received tests on a weekly basis while he struggled to schedule a test when he said he felt he needed one.
“I heard that all of the UI athletes get tested every week, and here I am paying full tuition and I can’t even get a test when I actually need one,” Luebke said.
This is what happens when you hire a con artist to run an R1/AAU public research university. And of course now the Big Ten plans to test football players daily, so this is just looking worse and worse.
* An essay from Iowa City resident Amy Benfer on the NBCNews website: Amid COVID-19, living in a college town means watching our leaders fail us — and the students.
* A thorough discussion from Jessica McDonald at NBCNewYork: Fact Check: Q&A on Coronavirus Vaccines.
* Rachel Weiner, Chris Alcantara and Andrew Ba Tran at the Washington Post: More cities and states are opening bars and restaurants despite mounting evidence of potential danger. On September 30th, for the first time since the pandemic hit, New York City will open restaurants for indoor seating at 25% capacity. Having driven the infection rate down and kept it down through the summer, it will be interesting to see if that holds, or if NYC quickly begins to see an increase in positive cases.
09/14/20 — As the fourth week of classes gets underway at the University of Iowa, we now have a clear picture of the magnitude of the bait-and-switch scam that was perpetrated against the vast majority of +30K students who enrolled for the fall term. From Dar Danielson at Iowa Pubic Radio, here is how the president of the Iowa Board of Regents, Mike Richards, described the board’s institutional objectives at a meeting back on April 1st:
Richards says they will get everyone back to campus when they can. “I want everyone to know that we are planning on a full normal operation of our universities for the fall of 2020 semester. This includes in-person classes, re-opening of the residence halls, food service, and other campus services,” according to Richards.
Despite clear evidence during the summer that the governor’s mitigation plan failed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, not only was Richard’s directive never rescinded, but it formed the basis for the University of Iowa’s messaging and planning going forward. While pushback from the UI faculty ultimately prompted illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld to modify his own plans, the message that students received right up until classes began on 08/24 was that the university was focused on delivering a traditional ‘campus experience’. And that included in-person classes.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic it would be assumed that students would spend their time in classes conducted through in-person instruction. After the pandemic hit last spring, however, and almost all of the UI courses were converted to online on the fly, that prompted the need for Richards to declare that the state schools would return to “full normal operations” including “in person classes” for the fall term. And of course that was also Harreld’s implicit promise when he called Iowa’s +30K students back to campus for the fall. (If you’re not taking in-person classes, then you certainly don’t need to be on the UI campus.)
As we learned from a UI press release on 08/19/20, however — meaning five days before fall classes commenced — 72% of UI classes were already slated to be delivered via online instruction. Then, only nine days later, at the end of the first week of classes, a press release on 08/28/20 revealed that online classes had increased to 76% of the courses being offered.
While that number clearly contradicts any claim that UI’s fall term is being conducted under “full normal operations”, even if that number remains at 76% it is still not the complete picture. To see why, note that although the university is indeed holding some classes in-person, all in-person instruction ends at Thanksgiving. Following a nine-day holiday break (five weekdays; four weekend days), there are still two weeks of classes prior to finals, and they will be conducted online only. And that means the percentage of class-time devoted to in-class instruction will be smaller still by the time the fall semester concludes.
From the first day of classes until Thanksgiving there are 64 classdays in the UI academic calendar, which are currently being taught at 76% online instruction. After Thanksgiving there will be another 10 classdays prior to finals, and all of those will be at 100% online instruction. To find the overall percentage of online instruction for the entire term, we multiply 64 classdays by 76% (0.76) online instruction, giving us 48.64, and 10 classdays by 100% (1.0), giving us 10. Adding 48.64 to 10 we get 58.64, which we then divide by 74 total classdays in the calendar, giving us an overall online-instruction percentage of 0.79%. Meaning right now almost 80% of the fall term — four in five classes — is already slated to be delivered online at the University of Iowa.
As noted in the previous post, there is zero chance that Harreld and his crack team of administrative brigands did not know they were close to that percentage before the fall term kicked off. Not only was the announcement made in mid-June that classes would be online-only after Thanksgiving, but the announcement that 72% of all pre-Thanksgiving classes would also be online took place prior to the start of the term. (And of course that determination was finalized even earlier.)
There is not only no conceivable sense in which the University of Iowa is engaging in “full normal operations”, but as of the latest numbers the school is only delivering 20% in-person instruction after explicitly selling in-person instruction as a means of drawing students to campus. The University of Iowa knew, well before the fall term commenced, that it would not be able to keep either of those related promises, but that isn’t what the school told the UI students. Among the questions we are left with are how many UI students had one, several or all of their classes switched online after they enrolled, or perhaps even after they arrived. And of course with four in five courses being delivered online, a significant portion of the UI student body did not actually need to be in town, which means the University of Iowa intentionally increased the risk of infections and outbreaks simply to generate demand for the school’s products and services.
* Relatedly, in light of press reports that the Big Ten Conference may cozy up to fall football again in the coming days, it is also worth asking how many student-athletes at UI — and particularly how many members of the football team and men’s basketball team, which account for the vast majority of athletic revenue at every college and university — are already taking online-only courses. If the average UI student is already at 76% online courses, and destined for 100% online coursework after Thanksgiving for an aggregate of 79%, then it wouldn’t be too hard for coaches in those revenue-producing sports to make sure most if not all of their players have no in-person classes to cut down on the risk of infection. And of course if Iowa’s student-athletes are already online-only, that would make a compelling case for taking the entire school online-only, which is precisely why the university will not answer that question if there is already a sharp divergence between the percentage of online classes for regular students and student-athletes.
09/13/20 — To understand the reckless greed driving illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld’s plan to open the campus for the fall term, note that by the first week 76% of UI classes were already online. We don’t know how many students are taking online-only loads, but what we can say is that none of those students need to be on campus to dial in. Instead of telling students with full online loads to stay home, however, Harreld sold the ‘campus experience’ as part of his bait-and-switch scam to generate as much revenue as possible from Iowa’s 30K students.
We also don’t know how many students thought they would have in-person classes, only to find out that Harreld’s bait-and-switch shifted one or more courses online after they committed to moving to Iowa City. What we do now know, however, is that part of the scam also involved closing local bars in the first week, asking students to shelter in place instead of travel during the Labor Day weekend, and punishing students for failing to following mitigation protocols. At the same time, the compliance-focused administration has done no entry or surveillance testing, and Harreld himself has not followed through on his personal promise (more here) to provide on-demand testing and new and expanded testing sites. (As every corrupt bureaucrat has discovered over the past six months, the best way to keep your COVID-19 numbers down is not to test.)
If J. Bruce Harreld had a conscience instead of a con-artist’s heart, he would have skipped the bait-and-switch scam and told only those students who absolutely had to be on campus to return to Johnson County — whether they intended to live on-campus or off-campus. Doing so would not only have decreased healthcare risks on the UI campus, it would have helped protect Johnson County as well. Instead, in order to bleed as much money from as many students as possible, Harrled brought them all back by promising something that he quickly took away. (If you’re a fully online student at UI right now, the experience you’re having is a bad experience — but you’re still paying full price.)
After five-plus months of planning — which Harreld himself bragged about repeatedly — it is not possible that Harreld did not know, well in advance, that three quarters of Iowa’s courses would be online at the start of the fall term. University administrators do not throw the course catalog together at the last minute, even during a pandemic. Calling all of the UI students back to campus for an ‘experience’ — when some of them didn’t need to return for academic reasons — was not only greedy, it was reckless. Unfortunately for everyone, including the year-round residents of Johnson County, health was never the priority. Money was always the priority.
* While UI is working hard to detect as few COVID-19 cases as possible, the school is simultaneously planning for more cases in the coming days. From Caitlin Crome at the Daily Iowan: Parklawn Hall to possibly be used as extra quarantine space for students.
Since Parklawn is so far off campus, located on North Riverside Drive behind Hancher Auditorium, Stange said UI Housing and Dining has come up with a plan to keep both students and staff safe.
“If Parklawn is used, volunteers will drive students and their belongings to the hall and meals will be delivered daily,” said Stange.
A leper colony by any other name — but still! It’s all part of the wonderful ‘campus experience’ that J. Bruce Harreld promised in order to entice students back to campus.
* Ross Dellenger at Sports Illustrated: Inside the Correlation Between College-Town Infection Rates and Football Fan Attendance.
What are the two conferences planning to allow the most fans for home games this fall? The SEC and the Big 12.
“It’s really dangerous,” says Thomas Huard, chief clinical laboratory advisor at the Texas-based Campus Health Project. “It’s going to create spread. People don’t social distance even though the seats are spread apart. You go to the bathroom, hot dog stand, beer stand.
“I think it’s a disaster.”
SEC stadiums will have an average capacity of 22.8% this fall, or about 19,400 per home game. The Big 12 is at 21.6%, or roughly 13,400, but that number is likely to rise. The data incorporate Kansas and West Virginia, which are operating without attendance for the season opener, with plans to potentially allow fans later in the year.
With a vote looming at the Big Ten Conference to put fall football back in play at Iowa, and Demon Kim talking about lifting bar closings next week, the UI and ISU campuses are poised to explode, much as they did during the first few weeks of classes — before the governor and university presidents decided to drop the hammer and take themselves out of the public eye.
* Sami Sparber and Stacy Fernández at the Texas Tribune: Texas college football returns with thousands of fans in the stadiums as campus cases grow. It is amazing what people will do to themselves, and to others, for their drug.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa reports shrinking enrollment.
The University of Iowa on Thursday reported student losses for the fall semester — with total enrollment down nearly 800 students to 30,448.
The university’s undergraduate count dropped more than 1,000 to 22,405, and its freshmen tally dipped 456 to 4,530.
At the tail end of April, during a meeting of the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, Harreld was asked about expected enrollment for the fall term. As it turns out he was spot-on about freshman enrollment, which was down about 10%, but seemed to think the other undergrad classes would hold steady, when they were down around 5% as well. Ever the hustler, Harreld also thought the expected enrollment drop across the country would present a hiring opportunity for the professional schools at the university, but I haven’t see any reports about significant hires. (Part of Harreld’s delegated mission as president, in keeping with the dictates of Iowa’s governor and the Board of Regents, is to move the campus away from academics and toward job training at both the undergrad and graduate levels.)
What remains unknown is how enrollment will look for the spring, after students have a full semester of J. Bruce Harreld’s COVID-19 ‘campus experience’. Between the increased risk from winter, the increased risk from cold and flu season, and the realization that they got suckered by a man who clearly has a strained relationship with the truth, how many students are going to opt for another four months on the good ship Iowa? And how might news — or a lack of news — about an impending vaccine factor into that decision?
More from Natalie Dunlap at the Daily Iowan: Class of 2024 sees decrease in enrollment.
* Sarah Watson at the DI: University of Iowa sanctions five Greek chapters for violating COVID-19 guidelines.
Pi Beta Phi, Gamma Phi Beta, Delta Gamma, Alpha Phi, and Alpha Xi Delta were found responsible for violating the COVID-19 student agreement. Sanctions from the Pan Hellenic Council required the chapter to post an apology on social media platforms directed to the Fraternity Student Life community and potential new members, co-sponsor a multi-chapter campaign surrounding COVID-19 awareness, and create and implement a PPE drive for a local organization.
The chapters are no longer under interim suspension, Olin wrote in the email, but came during Greek Life’s two-week long virtual recruitment at the UI.
For comparison, note that during a non-pandemic year it is not uncommon for eight or nine UI frats and sororities to find themselves not merely sanctioned but suspended, so relative to the Greek norms on campus they seem to be trying.
* Vaccine expectations are so completely out of hand that the pessimists are the people who think we won’t have a vaccine until January. Unfortunately, because of the complexities of manufacturing and delivery, even if a safe and effective vaccine is approved tomorrow it will take a long time before salvation finds its way into your arm. Fortunately, after inexplicably fanning unrealistic expectations for months — including predicting the availability of a vaccine early next year — Dr. Anthony Fauci gave several interviews this past week which are more in touch with reality.
From Greg Evans at Deadline: Dr. Anthony Fauci Predicts Yearlong Intermission Between Vaccine Arrival And Maskless Theater.
A COVID-19 vaccine would likely not be an immediate, complete solution to Broadway’s woes, suggests Dr. Anthony Fauci, who noted in an interview this week that it could take a year of reliable vaccine usage before theatergoers could safely attend shows without masks.
Fauci issued the warning during a 30-minute Instagram Live chat with actress Jennifer Garner.
Asked by Garner, “When are we going to be able to sit in a theater and watch our favorite performers up on stage again?”, Fauci responded, “I think it’s going to be a combination of a vaccine that has been around for almost a year and good public-health measures.”
As I mentioned at the end of May, in a post titled Coping With the Reality of COVID-19, the best thing you can do right now, for your own mental health, is to map out how you’re going to get through the next twelve months. Even if everything goes right there is no quick fix, and winter is coming. If you take the long view there might be good news, but if not, you will be prepared. (Be prepared.)
* C. Brandon Ogbunu at Wired: The Flagrant Hypocrisy of Bungled College Reopenings.
Even if a college or university has decided to use science to guide its policy, that doesn’t address the question of what exactly they should do, as rigorous decisionmaking requires a list of priorities.
For example, you can use all the science you want, but if you don’t actually care about the well-being of students and staff, your science-driven, presumptively safe policies won’t matter.
What, then, are the priorities of higher education in the face of this pandemic? The point of contention became clear early on: finances.
The way higher-ed has responded to the pandemic is a disgrace, but it goes deeper than academic hypocrisy or money-grubbing greed. What we’re witnessing is confirmation that higher education has little to do with education, and rightly belongs in the hospitality industry. And that’s a strong indication that it is going to disintegrate on its own.
* Maggie Angst at Mercury News: Cal State will not return to in-person classes for Spring 2021. While most colleges and universities are still trying to fake their way through the fall term, Cal State is so far ahead of the game it isn’t funny. Not only does this decision solve virtually every problem the in-person schools will never overcome, but it gives students and families certainty and peace of mind. And that in turn will inevitably pay off with spring enrollment numbers, to say nothing of drastically reduced costs across the entire Cal State system.
* Emma Court and Shruti Singh, at Bloomberg Businessweek: It’s Hard to Keep a College Safe From Covid, Even With Mass Testing.
When the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign welcomed more than 35,000 students back to its Central Illinois campus in late August, it looked like it could be more than just another school reopening in the Covid-19 era. It was a real-world example of the sort of public health measures many experts long have been urging: frequent testing—even of people with no symptoms—combined with contact tracing and technology-enabled exposure notifications.
As the article makes clear, testing is no substitute for social distancing, and when you bring thousands of young-adult students together they’re not going to keep their distance. There is no way to open a college or university safely unless — as the University of Iowa is now doing — the entire premise of what it means to have a ‘campus experience’ is thrown out the window. Instead of freely socializing, students at UI are being punished, the local bars have been closed, and as noted above 76% of classes are already online.
The big difference between Illinois and Iowa, however — and it is critical — is that Illinois knows where the infections are. With J. Bruce Harreld’s mercenary money grab, the only certainty is an intentional lack of testing that leaves the school flying blind. While that looks great on paper, sooner or later the hospitalizations and deaths will pick up and that gives the game away. (There are two and a half more months before in-person classes end at Thanksgiving, and the rest of the fall term concludes entirely online.)
* Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz at the Chronicle of Higher Education: When politics play a part in your reopening plans.
* Shawn Hubler and Anemona Hartocollis at the New York Times: How Colleges Became the New Covid Hot Spots. Not a lot of surprises here.
09/10/20 — On Wednesday the University of Iowa Faculty Senate held a special meeting which was not on the schedule. From the Daily Iowan’s Josie Fischels Sabine Martin: UI health officials address decline in COVID-19 cases in Iowa City.
At a University of Iowa Faculty Senate special Zoom meeting called Wednesday night to address the current COVID-19 situation on campus, UI health officials said that residence halls should stay open even if all classes go completely online, citing CDC guidelines.
UI Campus Health Officer Dan Fick said that students should stay on campus in the event that classes go 100 percent online. For the fall semester, 76 percent of undergraduate instruction is online.
“The CDC is not recommending students leave. Our residence halls would be open and the majority of our students would still be on campus,” he said.
As noted in a prior update, I don’t know what Fick’s motivations are, but fronting for a corrupt administration is always a bad look. We are not going to simply ignore the fact that the University of Iowa — under the black-hearted leadership of illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld — suckered students back to campus with a bait-and-switch plan. As a result all of the UI students were knowingly turned into disease vectors, and everyone at the University of Iowa knew that would be the case, including particularly the medical professionals. To now say that students — who are paying for the privilege of being abused — should stay on campus to protect others, is obscene.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa health expert latest to raise concerns over in-person classes.
Even though COVID-19 numbers for Johnson County and the University of Iowa are imperfect and should be seen as an indication of trends, what those trends show is that face-to-face learning at this time is unwise, a UI Health Care expert said Wednesday evening.
“Given the way our numbers look, I don’t think there should be any in-person instruction at any level of education,” Michael Edmond, UIHC chief quality officer and associate chief medical officer, said during a special UI Faculty Senate meeting.
Edmond, a clinical professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases, was among a handful of UIHC experts — including UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Brooks Jackson and UIHC hospital epidemiologist Jorge Salinas — to speak to the faculty.
Acknowledging that the daily tally of new COVID-19 cases has dropped in Johnson County and on the UI campus in recent days, Salinas aired concern the dips don’t paint an accurate picture of the community’s coronavirus prevalence. The rate of testing could be low or students could have gone home over the Labor Day holiday weekend and been tested elsewhere, he noted.
Among the reasons for the drop off in cases was the usual reporting lag from the weekend — except in this case it was a three-day weekend. On top of that, overall testing was down over the past few days, again because of Labor Day, so at the earliest we won’t have a clear picture of the outbreak in Johnson County until the end of this week.
* Given all of the uncertainty you would have been forgiven for thinking that UI — which is, still, at least nominally an academic institution — would have been careful about leaping to conclusions, but you would have been spectacularly wrong. Because the University of Iowa now thinks of itself as nothing more than a state-run hospitality corporation, the conscienceless marketing weasels whipped up a misleading graph and rushed it out to the public. From yesterday’s update to the UI COVID-19 website:
As you can see from the shape of the graph, and particularly the right shoulder, the unmistakable impression is not only that the worst of the outbreak in Johnson County is over, but that cases are lower now than they were before the outbreak began. As you can see from the following graph, however — which was compiled from data on the Iowa Department of Public Health website — that is not the case.
The left shoulder in this graph extends beyond the start date in the UI graph, precisely to show that cases were considerably lower prior to the commencement of classes at UI. And of course on the right-hand side the numbers are higher than the UI graph, calling into question the integrity of the university’s work product. (The Gazette has a graph which shows the entire pandemic to-date for Johnson County, which can be used for comparison.)
I will update my graph when more data is in, and the campus has settled into a pandemic rhythm. In the meantime, take a minute and think about what it means that an R1/AAU public research university would use bad or skewed data to cook up a bad graph — let alone when the school knew that the correct data was available to everyone. That’s either panic, credibility-destroying corruption, or both.
* On 08/17/20 the UI Athletics Department put out a press release about the expected financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Daily Iowan reporter Robert Read followed up on that same day: Iowa AD Gary Barta anticipates $100 million in lost revenue following postponement of fall sports. Notably, nowhere in that report was there any mention of impending program cuts. Four days later, on 08/21/20, Gary Barta and illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld published an open letter announcing that four sports were getting the axe, and there was no hope of changing their minds about those cuts. That story was also reported by the DI’s Read: Iowa to discontinue four sports programs at end of 2020-21 academic year.
In the intervening weeks there have been varying degrees of pushback, and over the past week or so a unified plan has evolved to appeal the decision by Barta and Harreld. From Read at the DI: Former Hawkeyes urge state Board of Regents to review discontinuation of four Iowa sports.
A letter authored by former University of Iowa swimmer Vickie Nauman, which is supported by over 260 alumni, was sent to the state Board of Regents on Thursday. The letter questions the UI’s “reckless manner” in cutting four sports and asks the Regents to review the matter.
“The reckless manner in which this decision was made has caused a growing concern among the broad community that the University did not abide by its own policies and procedures, put the students’ interests last, and did not operate in good faith to its current teams and their families,” Nauman wrote.
It isn’t impossible, but this will be a heavy lift for two reasons. The first concern is simply that the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents will proclaim that it is powerless to interfere in the administrative decisions at the state schools. (That is a lie, but it’s a lie no one can disprove because the board makes the rules.) Having said that, a similar situation occurred several years ago when J. Bruce Harreld suddenly announced that a number of programs and institutes on campus would be closed, with no possibility of appeal. Among those programs was the University of Iowa Labor Center, and like the petty, bratty, vindictive administrator he is, Harreld fought to kill the Labor Center for close to a year. In the end, however, he lost, and the regents were compelled by their own pledge of powerlessness to undo a vote they had previously taken.
While it is self-evident that Barta and Harreld used the pandemic as a pretext to kill off four sports that Barta does not want to have to pay for with revenue from football and men’s basketball (the only two net-positive sports at UI), the financial impact of the pandemic on the UI Athletics Department is very real, and addressing that budgetary shortfall may even involve borrowing against future projected earnings. From the Gazette’s Marc Morehouse one week ago: Big Ten football in October might take a miracle, but before second semester is a definite maybe.
UI athletics still is in the process of securing a $75 million loan. The money budgeted for those four sports likely will be used to pay back the $75 million, which turns out to be just more than $5 million a year.
The second obstacle facing those who hope to preserve the four cancelled programs is significantly more daunting. The likeliest pathway to success is to try to generate sufficient revenue to self-fund those programs, even though AD Barta — for reasons he refuses to explain — has already said he won’t allow that. Unfortunately, even on the academic side of the campus it can be hard to find granular numbers on some topics, but because the athletics ledger is separate it is almost impossible –and that means understanding the amount of money would be required is considerably tricker than it was with the Labor Center.
Still, there are glimpses. From Mark Emmert at Hawk Central in early February of this year: Iowa athletic department brings in $5.7 million more than it spent. From p.32 of last year’s operating budget (FY2020) it’s also clear that every sport loses money without television revenue.
* Coming up with $5M or more every year to fund all four sports would take a lot of effort, but in the greater scheme of things — and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — it’s not a terrible hand to be dealt. Whatever it costs to fund those four sports it is nothing — less than 5% — of the total cost of operating the UI Athletics Department — which in FY2020 was budgeted at $125M. When you’re staring at a $100M hit to that number, and a $60M-$75M deficit for the fiscal year, saving $5M by cutting four sports is not going to save you. In fact, if the pandemic disrupts men’s basketball and football into next year, nothing will save the UI Athletics Department from bankruptcy.
To that end, on Tuesday of this week the AD Barta announced a series of additional cutbacks designed to lower Iowa’s costs heading into the winter months. From the Gazette’s Erin Jordan: Iowa athletics cuts 40 positions, requires furloughs and reduces pay for some employees.
The University of Iowa athletics department will cut or leave vacant 40 positions due to COVID-19 budget cuts, officials confirmed Tuesday.
The department also will require all regular, non-contracted employees — excluding senior staff — to take 15 unpaid furlough days before Dec. 31.
Non-contracted Professional & Scientific senior staff in the athletics department will take a 5 percent base salary cut rather than the thoughtfurlough. This does not include coaches, but does include administrators, such as Athletic Director Gary Barta.
And yet as drastic as that all sounds, guess how much money that will actually save?
These layoffs, furloughs and pay reductions, expected to save $3.1 million, are on top of pay cuts announced July 1.
Whatever obstacles the supporters of the four terminated UI programs face, Gary Barta is in a world of hurt and has no good options. Even if he cuts everything except football and men’s basketball he still couldn’t raise enough money to fund the department without TV and gate revenue. In that context, I’m not sure he will have the bureaucratic bandwidth to fight off a committed attempt to save those four sports, while also trying to shepherd the department through a potentially catastrophic fiscal crisis. (The fact that Gary Barta sucks as a person and deserves to be tormented by the karmic gods does not take away from the fact that this is going to be very tough on a lot of people who were just doing their jobs, and for them and every other innocent I hope a vaccine appears sooner rather than later. Because if it doesn’t, either the athletics department is going to suit up players despite the risks, simply to make money — using amateur student-athletes, no less — or it is going to go under. Because even if he gets the first one, no one is giving Gary Barta a second $75M loan.
* Important context yesterday from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa COVID-19 case tally reaches 1,621 with 53 more in two days.
Although campuses nationally are reporting different data in different formats, UI numbers appear to far outpace most Big Ten peers — some of which are conducting proactive, random sample testing, like Ohio State University, University of Illinois, Penn State University, and the University of Maryland.
The University of Minnesota is reporting 124 positive cases in students and employees between March 17 and Sept. 3 via on-campus testing; University of Michigan is reporting 52 campus positives in the last two weeks and 344 since March 8; Penn State is reporting 433 positives since Aug. 7 from on-demand testing and random screenings.
The University of Nebraska is reporting 393 positives since Aug. 12.
Ohio State’s total comes the closest to UI’s at 1,500 student positives since Aug. 14 — although it’s taking a proactive approach by conducting random-sample testing. OSU has conducted more than 40,300 student tests since Aug. 14.
The University of Iowa did not require students to test before moving into its residence halls — like at Iowa State and other campuses — including regional privates like Coe College in Cedar Rapids. It also is not conducting random testing, like at some Big Ten peers and Mount Vernon’s Cornell College.
As regular readers know, J. Bruce Harreld is all about comparing the University of Iowa to its academic peers — provided it helps his argument. In fact, I’m old enough to remember Harreld being a punk in a DI interview a few years back, after a reporter followed his lead and looked up how Iowa’s peers handled DEI administration relative to the president’s office. At that point Harreld suddenly decided that what was really important was context, because otherwise he would have had to admit the reporter was right.
And of course only this summer, on June 24th and 25th, Harreld went on a preemptive attack against Iowa’s academic peers, whom he accused of being “lemmings” for failing to think through the intricacies of opening a major university during a lethal pandemic. Well, they may have been lemmings, but it looks like they all headed in the right direction, leaving J. Bruce Gerbil to throw himself off a cliff.
* Speaking of Mount Vernon’s Cornell College, we also have this from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Eastern Iowa private colleges take proactive COVID-19 testing approach.
Mount Vernon’s Cornell College, which runs on a block system and resumed hybrid instruction Monday, is employing a “stratified sampling” COVID-19 testing system — enabling continuous testing of students, faculty, and staff throughout the year using a “Sofia antigen test.”
The nasal swab test produces rapid results, allowing administrators to direct students to return to their residence hall room until receiving an email with results and follow-up instructions within an hour of taking the test.
Since Cornell began its testing program Aug. 31, it has tested 100 of its more than 1,000 students and employees and identified one positive employee and no positive students. That means none of Cornell’s 986 students are in isolation or quarantine.
If you open your window right now you can hear J. Bruce Harebrain screaming that the Cornell administrators are a bunch of mangy squirrels.
* From the Gazette’s Miller, today: University of Iowa reports shrinking enrollment.
The university’s undergraduate count dropped more than 1,000 to 22,405, and its freshmen tally dipped 456 to 4,530.
As for the number of UI withdrawals:
To date, 130 UI students have withdrawn – including 101 undergraduates, 21 graduate students, and eight professional students, according to UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett. For comparison, last fall, 99 students withdrew – including 72 undergrads, 24 graduate students, and three professional students.
In the context of lower enrollment, those higher withdrawal numbers are even larger on a percentage basis. I also don’t think we have seen the last of the withdrawals at UI for the fall term. (And depending what happens over the rest of the semester, there may also be bait-and-switch lawsuits.)
* Tuesday night I caught a stray report of the following administrative change, from KWWL-TV reporter Travis Breese, and the official word was posted on the UI COVID-19 website Wednesday:
Update: Housing contract release deadline extended
Housing and Dining has extended the deadline for room contract releases to accommodate students whose courses have shifted to an online format or who have expressed personal concern about COVID-19 and would prefer not to live in the residence halls at this time. The information below was shared with all students currently living on campus on Friday, Sept. 4.
Contract release requests
Students who are interested in a housing contract release for academic year 2020-2021 or deferral until spring 2021 will now have their request automatically granted until Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. Move-out must be scheduled by Sept. 10 and completed no later than Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.
That might seem like a little thing, but I think it’s a bigger thing. Along with rolling back the tuition calendar by two weeks, UI has moved back the date by which students can bag their housing contracts tol today. Not only do I think that’s good business given how much has changed in only a matter of weeks, but it’s another step toward heading off financial losses if UI is sued for engaging in a bait and switch. (Essentially, the university is acknowledging that it did exactly that, and giving aggrieved students time to opt out. If they don’t, the university will argue that the students made a fully informed decision.)
From Rachel Steil at the Daily Iowan: UHD extends deadline to cancel housing contracts as students leave dorms.
In an email to students on Sept. 4, the University Housing and Dining stated that it would allow students to cancel their 2020-21 housing contracts or to defer the housing contract until the spring semester without extra financial charges. The original deadline to cancel was Aug. 14.
“We are aware that, during the first couple weeks, some classes may have shifted to an online format,” the email said. “Also, you may have increasing personal concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19.”
To whatever degree the university believes is it inoculating itself against future litigation, it is also effectively conceding that the original planning for the fall term was a disaster. And of course now the school is guilt-tripping students about staying, by arguing that they pose a disease risk to others. (I knew the manipulation from UI would be gross, but I had no idea it would be this gross.)
* Hannah Smothers at Vice: No Wifi, No AC: Inside the Chaos of 1,400 COVID Cases at One College.
* Derek Thompson at the Atlantic: What Young, Healthy People Have to Fear From COVID-19. Solid reporting and context here, well worth your time.
* From the Chronicle of Higher Education: Live Coronavirus Updates: Here’s the Latest.
U. of Wisconsin Moves Classes Online for 2 Weeks After Outbreaks
The University of Wisconsin at Madison announced on Thursday that it would move classes online for two weeks after a series of Covid-19 outbreaks among students, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.
Between the long Labor Day weekend, using manipulated graphs, and 76% of UI classes already being online, J. Bruce Harreld and his crew clearly hope to sneak the university through the entire term without ever officially declaring that classes will be online only — even if only for a few weeks. This is what counts as leadership in Iowa state government.
* From the Washington Post: ‘The failures of everyone else get passed to the schools’. Scroll down for an entry from a UI student.
09/08/20 — Prior to the Labor Day weekend there was a lot of media attention about COVID-19 spiking on college campuses, and specifically at Iowa State and the University of Iowa. The reason for those marked increases in Iowa was blatantly obvious, and resulting from the brain-dead decision to open major universities in a state with some of the highest uncontrolled community spread in the country. So hats off to Governor Reynolds, the Iowa Board of Regents and the university presidents for ignoring reality and making people sick.
In Johnson County, where the University of Iowa is located, cases have more than doubled since the start of August, to more than 4,000. Over the past two weeks, Iowa City’s metro area added the fourth-most cases per capita in the country. The university has recorded more than 1,400 cases for the semester.
Dan Goldbert and Brianna Ehley at Politico: Colleges’ dilemma: Fight outbreaks or send sick kids home.
The University of Iowa and the University of South Dakota, both in states that have seen a recent surge of cases in the general population, are only advising students to get tested if they have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of Covid-19.
The University of Iowa this week reported more than 900 students had tested positive. Officials there warned they’d impose unspecified additional safety measures if the positivity rate does not flatten.
Eva Sileo, a senior at the University of Iowa, was surprised to learn that her school would not be testing students as they returned to campus at the start of the semester.
“I think it is profoundly irresponsible” Sileo told CNN. “It scares me a lot that they’ve brought 30,000 people back to campus from all over the world and they really have no concept of what level of exposure they were putting into this community from the get-go.”
Since the university started tracking cases on August 18, 1,395 students and 19 employees have tested positive for Covid-19, including 253 new student cases on September 2. The university has made clear on its Covid-19 dashboard that its tally only includes self-reported cases.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education: Iowa Universities Are Caught Between Coronavirus and Politics.
Leaders at the state’s two largest universities have said that the procedures on their campuses are sound and that students’ off-campus gatherings are to blame for the sharp rise in coronavirus cases. “We are now seeing the impacts of the large parties and gatherings that occurred the weekend before classes started,” Wendy Wintersteen, president of Iowa State, said in a letter to students. Bruce Harreld, president of the University of Iowa, has also called out local bars for not enforcing social-distancing and mask-wearing mandates on students. Both universities provided written responses to questions but did not make anyone available for an interview.
But a growing number of students and faculty members are calling for both institutions to take control of the situation and end face-to-face instruction for the rest of the term.
“Honestly, all of us are just tired of being scared and on guard,” said Jade Miller, a senior at Iowa studying biochemistry. Miller was particularly upset, she said, because she has been following the recommended protocols of washing her hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing. But a friend of hers has been in contact with another student who tested positive: “It was especially stressful the other day to think that I had been exposed, because I’ve been very careful.”
While administrative ass covering has long been elevated to an art form in higher-ed, here we have masterful shifting of blame for subsequent COVID-19 infections from the presidents who opened the campuses to the students who study and live there. Even if a conscientious student follows the rules to the letter, and is exhaustive in defending against COVID-19, the schools made it clear that the students only have themselves to blame if they are infected. The best you can possibly do as a student at Iowa or Iowa State is to avoid the virus that is stalking you every day, and of course if you contract COVID-19 that means you are a failure. No wonder just being at school is causing serious psychological stress for many of those students.
Having said that, and with the greatest sympathy for anyone caught in this malicious administrative trap, it is worth noting that there is also a negative external effect from associating your two AAU universities with incompetence and idiocy. If branding and marketing mean anything, and if they have a cost, then what Iowa State and Iowa in particular have engaged in over the past two weeks was an astonishingly successful campaign to paint those schools as backwards and brutish. And it’s worth taking a moment to ask what the dollar cost of all that earned (free) media might amount to over time. How many people who might have considered attending or working at UI will now take a pass because of those reports?
Between the administrative collapse that was self-evident under Harreld prior to the pandemic, and the financial toll that the virus will take at UI, important questions about community and morale and loyalty have as much or more to do with how well the University of Iowa will recover. You can’t blame the students, and betray yourself as heartless, and expect that it won’t have an effect on enrollment in the spring, or on the caliber of candidates you attract to personnel offices across the campus. For a guy who positioned himself as a strategist, J. Bruce Harreld keeps staring at his feet and walking into walls, and now he’s been doing that on a national stage.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, this past Saturday: University of Iowa dentistry college dean to leave in 2022.
The University of Iowa is losing another top administrator in the departure of its long-serving College of Dentistry dean, who announced via email Friday plans to leave by mid-2022 after 25 years in the UI leadership post.
“It has been a career honor to serve as your dean for these many years,” UI Dentistry Dean David Johnsen wrote. “When thinking what will I miss most and what I am most proud of, the answer is the same: the people!”
Of the university’s 13 deans, two are interim deans, two were chosen in the last year, three were hired in 2018, two were hired in 2017 and one in 2016.
Excluding Johnson, only two UI deans have been in their positions longer than five years.
This is the Harreld effect. Complete administrative chaos, and the university is not trading up. I don’t know if the new hires are the best available at the time, or only the people who want to work for Harreld, but this kind of turnover does lasting damage. (When the new and eminently qualified provost suddenly steps down after one year, there is a major problem.)
* Doha Modani at NBC News: More than 20 NYU students suspended for breaking coronavirus rules, school says.
NYU said in a Twitter post Saturday that more than 20 students had been suspended. The school did not provide details on the student suspensions, but tweeted the update after less than a week of in-person instruction.
“Please don’t be the next. Avoid parties and bars,” the school said. “Wear a mask. Keep your distance.”
While a less mercenary than Northeastern, the threat — “please don’t be next” — is clear enough. Even though you’re a paying customer, NYU owns your student butt. Speaking of which, at UI the predicate for similar punishment was reiterated as recently as August 28th, on the COVID-19 website:
These expectations are outlined in the student agreement on the Dean of Students website and were shared with all students before their arrival on campus. Students should understand that these procedures are a condition of their continued enrollment at the University of Iowa and that the failure to meet these procedures may be addressed through the Code of Student Life and Accountability Procedure.
Couple that we-warned-you text with Harreld’s penchant for motivational “public hangings“, and it’s only be a matter of time before UI kicks a few students off campus to show the rest of the student body it means business.
Lessons From The IBM Trenches
• Culture is a critical control system, it needed to be managed actively
• Actions speak louder than words, and is the most effective way to set the culture
• Public hanging of non-performers and culture change resistors was done in order to send a message, but this was done sparingly
Remember those words. Culture is a critical control system. Because that’s how people talk when think of human beings as money.
09/06/20 Let’s talk about buck-naked gall. Not only is the state of Iowa leading the nation in per-capita transmission of COVID-19, but on Thursday there was a spate of stories about how sending college students home for Labor Day — including from schools in Iowa — could be a disaster for communities on the receiving end of those visits.
From Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan: Students headed home from the UI may risk spreading COVID-19 to family members.
As Labor Day weekend approaches, University of Iowa epidemiologists are warning about the risk of Iowa City residents bringing COVID-19 to other areas of the state and country.
Jorge Salinas, head of epidemiology at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, told reporters on Thursday that UI students who may be traveling should be very careful about how they socialize and avoid visiting family if possible, especially those with greater health risks.
“I am not very concerned about the possibility of them going places and bringing COVID-19, because the incidence of COVID-19 in Iowa City and Johnson County is so high, one of the highest in the country,” Salinas said. “The greatest risk is actually of them carrying COVID-19 to wherever they go.”
Fortunately, while planning the academic schedule for the fall term, Iowa State and Northern Iowa had the foresight to mitigate that potential problem. Unfortunately, the pigheaded imbecile in the president’s office at the University of Iowa did not. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa expert worries more about Labor Day infection in other communities than Iowa City.
While UI administrators opted to keep this fall’s academic calendar unchanged — starting Aug. 24 and finishing Dec. 18, although moving everyone online after Thanksgiving — Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa started a week sooner on Aug. 17 in hopes of finishing the fall term entirely the day before Thanksgiving.
In making that change, ISU and UNI nixed the Labor Day holiday and said students will have class. But UI students still have the day off, and Salinas warned them to remember they’re coming from a COVID-19 hotbed and to be cautious about where they go and who they see.
From Erica Edwards at NBC News: COVID-19 at colleges: Fauci warns not to send students home.
The situation has become serious enough that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, is urging colleges: If at all possible, do not send students home.
“It’s the worst thing you could do,” he said Wednesday on NBC’s “TODAY” show. “When you send them home, particularly when you’re dealing with a university where people come from multiple different locations, you could be seeding the different places with infection,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Who could have possibly known that migrating seven to eight million college students onto campuses at the end of summer would turn them all into COVID-19 zombies?
* Taking gall at the University of Iowa to the next level — because one thing illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld can do is make any situation worse — on Friday the UI community found the following appeal in an update on the UI COVID-19 website:
Holiday weekend safety reminder
We know that many students often consider traveling during the long holiday weekend. Please make your decision carefully and consider the impact any travel plans may have on reducing the risk and spread of COVID-19 on campus and in our community. We strongly encourage you to remain in Iowa City and practice social distancing as much as possible over the Labor Day weekend to reduce the risk of exposure and spread.
So Harreld refused to conduct classes on Labor Day to disincentivize travel over the three-day weekend, then suckered UI students back to campus with the promise of a residential campus experience, only to subsequently tell the governor to close all of the bars in Johnson County. Now, only two weeks into the fall term, Harreld decided that the same students who were looking forward to a beautiful three-day weekend — perhaps with back home with relatives, or on the road with friends — to stay in a town with the bars he closed, because he exposed them all to a massive local spike of COVID-19. (If you are still defending this blithering idiot, or blaming the students for being students, you need to check yourself.)
* And speaking of Bro Bruce…where is the Field Marshal of Failure on this fine three-day weekend? Is he holed up in his own hovel — meaning the expansive presidential residence on the UI campus — or did he flee Iowa City once again, perhaps on a private jet, to spend the long Labor Day weekend at one of his multi-million-dollar homes? Because after asking students to sacrifice their Labor Day weekend because of his failed leadership, you would think the very least he could do would be to set an example himself.
* While the astronomical infection numbers in Johnson County (home to UI) and Story County (home to ISU) will inevitably come down, and the brain-dead administrators who trapped everyone in those viral cauldrons will gloat that they were right all along, it is not only self-evident that they were not, but we still have three (ISU) to three and a half months of classes (UI) to survive. And there are a lot of valid questions about how the same people who just botched the opening of those campuses — including by spreading disease throughout the surrounding communities — will weather the coming viral storms.
From Claire Benson at the Daily Iowan: Faculty say University of Iowa unprepared in COVID-19 response.
Amy Charles, an adjunct assistant professor at the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing, said she had a student in her online course test positive for COVID-19 in March, right after the UI campus first moved to online instruction. Charles said at this time, she did not believe there was a coordinated response from the university as to how to accommodate students that tested positive.
“There was a complete lack of guidance as to ‘what do we do for these students?’” Charles said.
Charles said she is worried about the UI shutting down campus once again and forcing students who may be infected with COVID-19 to move back home, spreading this virus beyond Iowa City.
“When [administration] finally freak out enough to shut down, and they send you guys home, how many of you are going to be quietly infected with this virus, and bring it home?” Charles said. “So we’re just going to explode this virus bomb all over wherever you guys came from.”
Higher education as doomsday cult.
* From Riley Beggin at Vox: Colleges are making last-minute changes as coronavirus cases spike. That’s tough for students..
There have been more than 50,000 confirmed cases on college campuses since the pandemic began, according to the New York Times, a number that has increased dramatically in recent weeks. That’s prompted a number of colleges, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to cancel in-person classes after students had already paid tuition. And as Vox’s Terry Nguyen has reported, rising case numbers have also left many students scrambling to find housing off-campus — or transportation back home.
No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. What makes the University of Iowa special is that the narcissistic president crapped all over other schools for being “lemmings”, then proceeded to lead UI off a cliff himself. So obviously time for another raise from the regents….
* On this past Tuesday the UI Faculty Senate — which held the first Faculty Council meeting of the academic year this past week — sent a letter to students via email. In part:
As the Iowa Faculty Senate officers, please know that we realize you are going through a tough time — likely one of the toughest of your lives. You are facing risks to your physical and mental well-being. You may be sick, or you might know others who are. You may have lost loved ones. Even when taking all reasonable precautions as an individual, you may feel helpless or alone given that an effective, expedient solution to the pandemic requires a collective response.
Not only was the letter student-focused, but I think it explains why J. Bruce Harreld wrote that weird-ass follow-up note to the UI community on Thursday. Harreld was basically trying to copy the heartfelt sentiment, but because he can’t get out of his own way it was a pale imitation.
* From Daily Iowan Opinions Columnist Hannah Pinski: The University of Iowa is a business first.
The University of Iowa administration has made its decisions dealing with COVID-19 based on self-interest, prioritizing profit at the expense of maintaining a top tier and safe educational institution.
Fact check: True.
* A harrowing glimpse into the pandemic reality of students who live off campus in Iowa City — from a guest opinion by Bari Bloom in the DI: Iowa City still can’t behave during COVID-19. Once again, maybe it was a bad idea to invite 32K college students to Iowa City, then suddenly expect them to not act like college students.
* A guest opinion in the Gazette from UI grad student Alex Lange: University of Iowa should change course to all virtual instruction.
The University of Iowa — like other colleges — has continued to frame students as the problem. President Bruce Harreld’s letter shaming local businesses was no help either. Even decision-makers going so far to use the emergency alert system to tell students to “help keep campus open” is shocking in a year where I have little left to be surprised by.
The level of administrative exploitation at UI, and across the country, is really something. Full-grown adults — many of them in their 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s — blaming college students for acting like college students.
* If you are active on social media you may recognize one or more of the signatories to this guest opinion in the Gazette last Thursday: Iowa has the highest coronavirus rate in the country, what do we do next?
Gov. Reynolds’s failure to ramp up testing and contact tracing to the degree necessary, her continued hesitancy to institute a statewide mask mandate and her inability to push for the economic sacrifices necessary, such as closing bars and limiting indoor restaurant dining, have tied the hands of Iowa’s cities and counties as they tried in vain to control the spread of COVID-19. The absence of an intact social safety net to protect those bearing the brunt of the economic consequences of the pandemic is also a failure at the highest levels of state and federal government.
Fact check: All true.
* From another sharp editorial by the Gazette Editorial Board: Iowa’s public universities are desperate for proactive leadership.
It seems to us that the Board of Regents remains the governing body directing our state universities. And yet a spokesman for the board told The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller this week that the board is leaving reporting and testing details up to the universities. That sounds more like an abdication of governing.
Why was no coordinated testing and tracing program developed for all three universities long before students returned to campus? Why is there no coordinated policy on reporting positive tests? Why didn’t the Regents create a uniform system for reporting critical information to students, parents and the public?
One of the most amazing things I have learned over the past five years, after paying close attention the the University of Iowa and the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, is that there is a routine willful neglect of the study of higher education in the world of higher education. Basic academic practices which would underpin the study of pollution, say, are simply omitted when it comes to understanding bureaucratic effectiveness in academia itself. Either they don’t want to know how it works, or they know but don’t want anyone else to know.
* Not only did illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld make a big deal about how “rigorous” the planning was for opening up the school, but the move-in process alone was broken up over ten days, and included all sorts of procedural protections to limit the transmission of COVID-19. Here’s how that turned out for one family — from Corina Curry at the Rockford Register Star: Rockford moms, daughters survived Iowa college COVID-19 outbreak.
The four women — along with Minnaert’s husband, Jon, who also fell ill and tested positive for COVID-19 — unknowingly drove smack into the middle of what would become one of the largest Midwest outbreaks when they moved Sweeney and Sheley back to school at the University of Iowa.
If Harreld doesn’t open the UI campus, then those individuals — and over a thousand more so far — don’t get sick. (It’s not the kids and it’s not the bars, it’s the money-grubbing administrators.)
* More awesome reputation building from J. Bruce Harreld: The University of Iowa did not have mandatory testing at the start of the semester. Protests and pushback happened next. Not only is this another hit to UI’s rapidly fading reputation, but the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents paid for that hit themselves. Five years ago they hired an egomaniac and protected him no matter what. Now he’s throwing the reputation of the school away and the paralyzed regents still won’t act.
* Iowa State was the first regent university to report enrollment for the year, and despite putting a good face on that number the fall-off is about five percent from last year: Fall enrollment of 31,825 shows strong retention. In combination with a sharp drop the previous year, enrollment at ISU is down over ten percent, and well off the all-time high of 36,321 only four years ago, in 2017.
* For context here, note that six years ago Northeastern became infamous for egregiously gaming its national college rank, so these are not good people. From Laura Krantz at the Boston Globe: Northeastern dismisses 11 first-year students for partying. They won’t get their $36,500 tuition back.
The dismissed students will not be allowed to take courses from home this semester but will be permitted to return in the spring, Nyul said. They were part of a special one-semester program for freshmen that was prepaid and cost $36,500. That money will not be refunded.
If students aren’t behaving — whether during the pandemic or no — I have no problem with kicking them out, but keeping all of that money is outright theft. Having said that, my guess is most of the money will be returned because Northeastern doesn’t want to spend it all, and then some, more defending this decision in court.