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February 13, 2018

Welcome to Tuesday, February 13. Today the Trump administration proposes some familiar cuts in higher ed, colleges go door to door with their mascots, and one Briefing reader shares a nightmare office-sharing scenario.

Trump's budget proposal for 2019.

In its 2019 budget proposal, released on Monday, the Trump administration proposed steep cuts in the budgets of the Education Department and the National Science Foundation, and the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. The proposal, for the fiscal year that begins on October 1, is probably dead on arrival in Congress, with legislators on both sides of the aisle already expressing sharp opposition to many of the planned cuts. But it is useful as a messaging document. And the messaging in President Trump's Year 2 is a lot like it was in Year 1.

The administration has proposed eliminating the public-service loan-forgiveness program and subsidized Stafford loans. It would simplify income-driven repayment plans. New this year is a proposal to expand Pell Grants to short-term programs, such as coding academies. Support for similar plans has been bipartisan, but some observers have expressed concern that the proposal, if enacted, could allow bad actors to swoop in. Here are the education-specific budget documents.

Quick hits.

Academic teams fight fake news.

Bless you if this terrifying BuzzFeed News article on the imminent fracturing of the information landscape hasn't yet appeared on your social-media feeds. Featured prominently are several academic teams, including at the the Universities of Michigan and Washington, that are trying to warn the world about an information apocalypse. Read on, if you dare.

FIRE's not-top-10.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education announced its 2018 list of worst colleges for free speech on Monday. Among the dishonored: Harvard University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Evergreen State College. Read the full list.

Also new on

  • Columbia University researchers are working on a study that could alter our understanding of campus sexual assault.
  • With gender and race on everyone’s mind, the selection of Lawrence S. Bacow to lead Harvard University seems noticeably retro.
  • Here's how to identify and invest in high-achieving, low-income students, according to one prominent college president.
  • One state has been has been pulling out all the stops to attract more adults to attend college. Here's what happened.

A scholarly pirate.

You've probably already heard about Sci-Hub, the widely used piracy website for academic journals. The Verge is out with a deep, deep dive on Alexandra Elbakyan, the programmer behind the website. The profile doubles as an examination of the complex academic-publishing industry. Read it here.

The talkers.

  • Erin Bartram writes about why the difficulty of publishing and the loss of hope for landing a tenure-track job have made her want to leave academe.
  • Canceling everyone's student-loan debt would create a boost for the economy, writes Eric Levitz in New York Magazine.

The personal touch.

According to a fun Wall Street Journal feature, colleges and universities are increasingly using a personal touch to coax accepted students to enroll. For Butler University, that means two men and a 6-year-old English bulldog named Trip. The article has echoes of some of our Eric Hoover's coverage of the lighter side of college admissions — on alumni interviews, campus interviews, and campus tours, to name just a few.

Comings and goings.

  • Paul B. Shepson, a professor of chemistry and of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences at Purdue University, and division director of atmospheric and geospace sciences at the National Science Foundation, will become dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, of the State University of New York, on July 2.
  • Barry Gerhart, acting dean and senior associate dean for faculty and research at the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was named interim dean of the school. A search for a new permanent dean is expected to begin in September.
  • Carl J. Strikwerda, president of Elizabethtown College since 2011, says he will retire on June 30, 2019.
  • Juliette B. Bell, president of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore since 2012, says she will resign on June 30.


Monday’s Footnote, on academic offices from hell, drew a remarkable response from Julie A. Mayrose, student-services grants coordinator at Moraine Park Technical College, in Wisconsin. “When I was a graduate assistant in the School of Education,” she wrote, diplomatically not naming the university, “I shared a tiny office with a middle-aged, unmarried grad assistant who was intent on finding a girlfriend. He would change the message on our shared phone to personalized messages for the woman of the moment. Folks would call for me, including my supervisor, and hear messages such as ‘Hey, babe. I’m in a meeting, but I’ll call you back in an hour’ or ‘Dinner tonight?’

“Eventually he left, and I had the office to myself,” she continued. “A professor came back from sabbatical, and my boss told me I had to move to another space: a storage closet under the stairs. I had a desk, a phone, and access to all the AV equipment that I could ever want. The professor back from sabbatical did not like my old/his new office. I looked up one day, and he was looking into my closet-office. He said, ‘Yes. This will work.’ He did not acknowledge me in any way. You know you are at a career low when you are kicked out of a closet-office.”

But this tale has a happy ending. In her current position, she wrote, “I have a great office — with a window!”

—Andy and Adam

Andy Thomason is The Chronicle's breaking-news editor, and Adam Harris is a breaking-news reporter. Reach them at and

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