Your Daily Briefing, a New Feature for Chronicle Subscribers

April 25, 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 Tuesday. To receive this newsletter, subscribe to The Chronicle.

Welcome to Tuesday, April 25. Today the Department of Education makes changes to help students after the data-retrieval tool outage, international students face lingering anxieties over President Trump's travel ban, and a college president tries to move on from a challenging legacy.

Helping those affected by Fafsa tool's outage.

The Department of Education has announced steps that it is taking to help those affected by the outage of the IRS's data-retrieval tool. New "flexibilities" for filers of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid include allowing them to use a signed paper copy of their 2015 tax returns as acceptable verification documentation, and altering the requirements for verification of nonfiling.

The department faced scrutiny when the retrieval tool was suspended, as critics said it would present another obstacle for students to obtain financial aid. Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, said in a news release on Monday that the department would "continue to look for additional ways to ease the burdens created by the IRS DRT outage."

Student anxiety and the travel ban.

In January, President Trump tried to bar travelers to the United States from several predominantly Muslim countries. The ban has since been put on hold by a federal judge, but international students are feeling its effects anyway. At Wayne State University, which enrolls more students from countries affected by the ban than most other American colleges do, students don't know whether U.S. visa policy will change next week, let alone next fall. Staff members there are working to maintain Wayne State's international enrollment despite widespread worries over the ban. For more on the travel ban's effect, read our Karen Fischer's story here.

Quick hits.

  • Kristina M. Johnson, an under secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy during the Obama administration, has been named chancellor of the State University of New York system.
  • Twenty-one state attorneys general sent a letter to Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, on Monday, opposing the Education Department's decision to withdraw several Obama-era memos on loan servicing.
  • A new report from researchers at Tel Aviv University says that American colleges have been a "hotbed of anti-Semitism" in recent years.

Helping community-college students understand their majors.

Community-college students need better information on what various majors end up earning, a new study suggests. Surveying more than 370 students at two community colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area, researchers found that fewer than 40 percent could rank majors accurately in terms of labor-market outcomes. The students tended to significantly overestimate salaries and underestimate employment prospects. They based major selections less on employment considerations than on their enjoyment of the courses offered. —Peter Schmidt

The talkers.

  • Free speech isn't an "unchanging absolute," writes Ulrich Baer in The New York Times, and we should thank student protesters who are vigilant about free speech's parameters.
  • In an interview, Tressie McMillan Cottom, an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, argues that in an unequal society, profit-seeking education will always produce inequality.
  • Got a controversial speaker coming to your campus? Ask what the speaker will bring to the educational experience there rather than to the free-speech marketplace, writes Aaron R. Hanlon in The New Republic.

Teaching abroad.

Thinking about taking a leap of faith, ditching the American academic job market, and teaching abroad? You probably have a lot to mull over, and we're here to help. In our latest Focus collection, "Teaching Abroad," you can read about how other academics have adjusted to working in various political situations around the globe. It's all in one convenient place: Check it out here.

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A president's changing legacy.

Last May, Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, faced pushback from students and faculty members for keeping John C. Calhoun's name on a residential college there. Calhoun, a Yale graduate who became a U.S. senator from South Carolina and a U.S. vice president, was a defender of slavery. Mr. Salovey subsequently created a task force to consider questions about renaming entities like Calhoun College. Now that the college will be renamed, and Yale moves on from that debate, how does a president who uses a collaborative leadership style move forward? In a profile, the Yale Daily News, the student newspaper, describes how Mr. Salovey is working to redefine his presidency.

Comings and goings.

  • John Knapp, president of Hope College, in Michigan, has been appointed president of Washington & Jefferson College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Kathryn LaFontana, associate vice president for academic affairs for mission, new programs, and assessment at the College of New Rochelle, will become vice president for academic affairs at Ursuline College.
  • Stephani Pianka, vice president for financial operations, was promoted to senior vice president for finance and budget and chief financial officer at New York University.
  • Rénard Harris has been appointed associate vice president and chief diversity officer at the College of Charleston. He has been serving in the roles on an interim basis since August.
  • Tim Chapin, who has been serving as interim dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University, was appointed permanently to the role.

**A paid message from UMass Lowell: We teach to change lives. We learn to change the world. We are UMass Lowell, and we are taking the world in our hands. **

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From The Chronicle's Andrew Mytelka:

Universities in Finland may see an avalanche of applications to their Ph.D. programs after a tweetstorm this past weekend about the swords that are awarded to doctoral-degree recipients there in many disciplines. Bulwer-Lytton may have declared that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” but to judge from the response, it seems that many think otherwise. “I'm doing my Ph.D. in Finland. I want a sword,” wrote Selina Durin. Others expressed regret with their Ph.D. programs. “All I got was a bit of paper and three letters,” wrote Eden. “Time to transfer?” asked Conor. “UCLA, where is my sword?” said MOFia.

The online swordplay was set off by Sari Rautiainen, a postdoc working on catalytic biomass conversion at the University of Stockholm, who got her Ph.D. from the University of Helsinki. On Saturday, the day of the global March for Science, she tweeted, “My sword stays at home today, but I #marchforscience.” Not surprisingly, readers focused on the weaponry. Prescott Perez-Fox tweeted that such swords bring “new meaning to the phrase ‘defend your thesis,’” presumably since everyone but the student could be armed.

At the University of Jyväskylä, for example, the swords cost extra (about $250 each), with the “sword belt for ladies” a cool $50. But doctoral hats, also de rigueur at Finnish commencements, are $800 each, and a “doctoral lyre” (I am not making this up) will set you back $80. If you’re an impoverished grad student, you could try to borrow them, but the university says, “We cannot guarantee the availability of hats and swords to borrow.”

—Fernanda and Adam

Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz and Adam Harris are breaking-news reporters. Reach them at and