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Your Daily Briefing, a New Feature for Chronicle Subscribers

March 23, 2017

Subscribers to The Chronicle now receive an email newsletter called the Daily Briefing. Through it, readers are presented with everything they need to know in higher ed to start their day. Below is an example of the Briefing, from Thursday. To receive this newsletter, subscribe to The Chronicle.

Welcome to Thursday, March 23. Today we take a look at DeVos's early days as education secretary, listen to the buzz surrounding President Trump's commencement speech at Liberty University, and offer tips on surviving Spring Break.

‘Worrisome’ signs from the Ed Department.

The Education Department, in the early days of Betsy DeVos’s tenure as education secretary, rarely discusses specific higher-education policy goals, but a pair of recent decisions indicates a possible pattern. So far in March, the department has both delayed the effective date for gainful-employment regulations and withdrawn guidance that limited some student-loan fees. Those decisions, coupled with the secrecy and potential conflicts of interest surrounding two “beachhead” team members, have led critics to worry about the potential erosion of student protections in the Trump era. Read more here.

Spanier's trial continues.

Years after Graham B. Spanier, former president of Pennsylvania State University, and two administrators decided not tell authorities that Jerry Sandusky had been seen showering with a young boy, the Nittany Lions' assistant football coach continued to molest children. That's the sobering fact that prosecutors emphasized on Wednesday during Mr. Spanier's trial. Timothy M. Curley, Penn State's former athletics director, and Gary C. Schultz, a former senior vice president for finance and business, both took the witness stand on Wednesday and spoke in open court for the first time about their culpability in the case. A man who said he was assaulted as a youth by Mr. Sandusky in 2002 also took the stand during the trial's emotional third day. Read more here and follow our Jack Stripling here as he covers the trial in Harrisburg, Pa.

Commencement politics.

President Trump will give the commencement address at Liberty University this year, while Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the University of Notre Dame. Our Alex Arriaga has the inside scoop on how both speakers were chosen, and heard some students' views on each campus about the high-profile choices.

Quick hits.

  • A "sting" investigation published on Wednesday in Nature used a fictitious researcher — whose name means "Dr. Fraud" in Polish — to find out how widespread is the influence of spurious but predatory open-access journals. Dozens of the periodicals, many of which have names resembling real journals, offered Dr. Fraud a place on their editorial board, and some suggested splitting the profits to be made from researchers desperate to be published.
  • Rick Perry, U.S. secretary of energy and former Texas governor, tweeted that the recent student-government president election at Texas A&M University at College Station, which an openly gay candidate won for the first time, had been "stolen."
  • Scholars are usually eager for resources to support their work, but a $35-million federal grant to investigate biological threats at U.S. borders would come with the possible scorn of students.
  • The Faculty Senate at Wake Forest University wants the administration to reject $3.9 million in funds from the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has signed legislation to allow licensed gun owners with eight hours of active-shooter training to carry guns on public-college campuses, among other places.

College presidents: Be bold.

F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University, stopped by The Chronicle's offices on Tuesday to discuss his continuing battle to save public higher education, often without the vocal support of his peers. Mr. Alexander has been an outspoken critic of states' deep budget cuts for public colleges, and he's been at the forefront of a proposal to leverage federal dollars to require states to maintain their appropriations for those institutions. But with few exceptions, he said, most college presidents have not been bold, preferring instead to tread meekly in calling out elected officials. "Sometimes," he said, "I wonder where the rest of the troops are." —Eric Kelderman

The talkers. 

On free speech.

Two strong opinions on Stanley Fish's essay "Free Speech Is Not an Academic Value" landed in our inbox yesterday.

Robert Bagg, former chair of the English department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, wrote that the vetting of controversial campus speakers (which Mr. Fish implicitly recommends as part of "crowd-control") "would be unmanageable anyway," and recommended "a vigorous question period after a controversial (or bonkers) speech" as the best way to respond.

Mike Gillilan, an administrator at Ball State University, wrote that "as a longtime fan of Stanley Fish and the First Amendment," he both liked the essay and wanted to "strangle him (figuratively, of course!) at the same time." He had a major quibble: in a nutshell, the simplified use of the term "free speech" as "an irresponsible stand-in for 'I should be able to say whatever awful thing I want about anybody or anything without consequence.'" Better to recognize, Mr. Gillilan wrote, that "freedom of speech" is protected by the Constitution only from restrictions by the state, and that it comes with responsibility.– Andy Thomason

Comings and goings.

  • Marc Camille, vice president for enrollment management and communications at Loyola University Maryland, was named president of Albertus Magnus College, in Connecticut.
  • Jennifer Friend, an associate dean in the School of Graduate Studies and director of the Preparing Future Faculty program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, was appointed dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Rockhurst University, in Missouri.
  • Kendra Cooks, university comptroller at Purdue University, will become chief financial officer of Wabash College, also in Indiana.

Quote of the day.

"If a professor doesn't like Republicans, I walk into a class, and I'm automatically that person. That sucks."

—Olivia Corn, president of Cornell University's College Republican chapter, on being conservative on campus and having Ann Coulter attack her on Twitter

Footnote.

From The Chronicle's Andrew Mytelka:

Spring break is here, that bane of parents, boon of students, and, for many beach resorts, both the source of and solution to their social or economic problems. And so, in The Chronicle’s vaunted tradition of service to subscribers, here’s a look at some of our best coverage of this preoccupation of American higher education.

Much of the coverage concerns the risks. In 1997 we wrote about two professors’ survey of 800 students on the beach in Panama City, Fla. Their findings: Students drink more, use more illegal drugs, and engage in riskier sexual behavior while on spring break at the beach than they do on their campuses. The professors, channeling Captain Renault in Casablanca, called their findings "shocking." One of them said they had worked only in the mornings, “because by 3 p.m., most students were too inebriated to answer the 43-question survey.”

So what’s a responsible hedonist to do? Many stories covered special spring-break projects — academic, service, volunteering. They included reviving a Louisiana swamp, picking up trash, and building homes, churches, or health-care facilities overseas.

But if all else fails, there’s always the advice offered in 2011 by a University of Vermont anthropologist: “You can 'go abroad' in your hometown by just walking around and engaging local people and by having a sense of enchantment.”

—Fernanda and Adam

Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez and Adam Harris are breaking-news reporters. Reach them at fernanda@chronicle.com and adam.harris@chronicle.com.