Welcome to Monday, June 8. Today, professors challenge free-speech principles as they speak out against police-brutality protests, a Chronicle survey shows how academic officials are preparing for the fall, and plans take shape for on-campus Covid-19 testing and contact tracing.

Today’s Briefing was written by Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz, with contributions by David Wescott, Megan Zahneis and Julia Piper. Write us: fernanda@chronicle.com.

Colleges take action against professors who speak out against protesters.

In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the protests that have swept the nation, some college administrators are acting quickly when it comes to professors’ provocative or offensive posts on social media. In some cases, however, administrators’ hands are tied. Here are three examples of how institutions handled professors’ speech last week.

  • Last week Scott Senjo, a professor of criminal justice at Weber State University, posted three threatening tweets about people protesting against police brutality. The institution quickly started an investigation; Senjo said on Wednesday that he had agreed to its request that he step down, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
  • At the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, two petitions are calling for the removal of Mike Adams, a professor of sociology and criminology, over statements he made about the protests, WECT 6 News reports. Adams already had had rocky history with the university. In 2006 he won a lawsuit against the the institution after it tried to deny him tenure.
  • At Miami University, in Ohio, Douglas Brooks, a retired professor teaching a summer course, was accused of making offensive comments to protesters. In a letter from the provost to faculty members, the university condemned his views but said his speech is protected by the First Amendment. Still, Miami is giving students the option to finish the course with a different professor, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

For fall reopening, ‘contingency planning has become the norm.’

As colleges begin to announce detailed plans for fall instruction, a survey of more than 350 college presidents and provosts conducted by The Chronicle revealed that a plurality are opting for face-to-face instruction, though many are also pursuing hybrid in-person/online models in practice, and preparing to again pivot online if they must. While leaders are hoping for the best, they’re making plans for difficult days ahead. The watchword seems to be flexibility. Our Lee Gardner has the story.

Quick hits.

  • The California Institute of Technology said on Sunday that it would stop considering applicants’ ACT and SAT scores during the next two admissions cycles, making it the most selective campus yet to adopt a test-blind policy. (The Chronicle)
  • Wichita State University and WSU Tech canceled a virtual commencement speech by Ivanka Trump amid criticism of the Trump administration’s response to George Floyd’s killing. In a tweet, she responded, “Cancel culture and viewpoint discrimination are antithetical to academia.” (The New York Times)
  • The University of Alaska system will eliminate 39 academic departments, including degree programs in sociology, creative writing, environmental studies, geography, and theater. (The Chronicle)
  • The University of Kentucky said it would remove a controversial fresco depicting slaves working in fields. (The Kentucky Kernel)
  • As student-athletes begin returning to campus for voluntary workouts, Iowa State University, Oklahoma State University, Marshall University, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Alabama all announced multiple positive cases of Covid-19 among their players and athletic personnel. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A Texas police chief was arrested on the basis of allegations that, while serving in that role at Texas A&M University-Central Texas, he violated Title IX mandatory-reporting laws by not reporting sexual-assault and harassment claims made by a student. (KWTX)
  • A petition has gathered more than 139,000 signatures supporting its call for Pennsylvania State University to take disciplinary action against a student shown in a Twitter photo with a swastika drawn on her shoulder. (Change.org)
  • Stanford University students circulated a petition urging the institution to provide greater support, including housing and funding, for its Martin Luther King Jr., Research and Education Institute. (The Stanford Daily)
  • The incoming dean of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication reportedly has a history of making racist and homophobic remarks to students. (The State Press)
  • Elmira College, in New York, said it would cut six academic programs and three sports teams as a result of financial strains magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic. (Elmira Star-Gazette)

Covid-19 testing and contact tracing come to campus.

Undergirding the confidence of many residential colleges in being able to resume at least some in-person operations this fall is a belief in two established methods of curbing infectious disease: widespread testing and contact tracing. Those methods have worked to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in Iceland, for instance, where few businesses were closed while the number of coronavirus cases stayed near zero. Could colleges and universities become their own little Icelands? Some are determined to try. Our Nell Gluckman has the details.

What factors affect decisions about reopening?

According to The Chronicle‘s reopening tracker, most colleges are planning to reopen their campuses in person this fall, and only 7 percent are planning to open primarily online. But that nationwide snapshot obscures some important trends within the data. Selectivity, population density of the local community, college size, and endowment all strongly correlate with certain patterns of decision-making. Surprisingly to us, so does politics. Eighty percent of colleges in states won by Donald Trump in 2016 are planning to reopen in person this fall. For colleges in states won by Hillary Clinton, only 45 percent of colleges are planning to do so. Dig deeper into the numbers here.

Comings and goings.

  • Karen M. Whitney, president emerita of Clarion University in Pennsylvania and a former interim chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, has been named interim chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield.
  • John Blackshear, associate vice provost for undergraduate education at Duke University, has been named dean of students and associate vice president for student affairs.
  • Laurie Maffly-Kipp, a professor in the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis, will become interim dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education on July 1.


Still looking for creative ways to celebrate the Class of 2020? You can take a cue from YouTube Originals’ “Dear Class of 2020" livestream, which aired on Sunday with luminaries including Barack and Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, Condoleezza Rice, Jimmy Kimmel, Justin Timberlake ,and Malala Yousafzai. Not to mention a commencement speech from Beyoncé.