Welcome to Wednesday, April 28. Today, student-visa holders get more good news. The United Negro College Fund and Alaska Airlines team up on an unusual project. And Boston University offers a guide to supporting students who take leaves of absence.

Today’s Briefing was written by Megan Zahneis, with contributions from Sarah Brown, Julia Piper, and Andy Thomason. Write us: megan.zahneis@chronicle.com.

Students from four countries will be excluded from Covid-19 travel bans.

The U.S. Department of State announced that student-visa holders from Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa will be exempt from Covid-related bans on travelers from those countries to the United States, lifting a significant obstacle to the return of international students this fall.

The inclusion of China in the so-called national-interest exemption, which applies to programs of study that begin after August 1, is significant — China accounts for one in every three international students pursuing higher ed in the United States. Some academics and researchers from those countries will also be able to travel here.

It’s the second piece of good international-enrollment news this week: On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it would extend pandemic guidance to give international students flexibility to study online for the 2021-22 academic year. Before Covid-19, foreign students were required to take almost all their classes in person.

Read more about the State Department’s announcement, and the hurdles that remain for international students, from Karin Fischer.

Quick hits.

  • More than 100 colleges are now requiring students or employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 this fall. (The Chronicle)
  • The University of Pennsylvania has apologized for its “insensitive, unprofessional and unacceptable” handling of the remains of two young people killed in the 1985 bombing by the Philadelphia police of MOVE, a pro-revolutionary group in the city. (KYW)
  • Faculty members at Corning Community College, part of the State University of New York, have voted no confidence in the college’s president, Bill Mullaney. (WSKG)
  • The president of Siena College, in New York, is questioning the state’s capacity limits for in-person commencements, since more people are allowed to attend sports events held in the same venues.(Times Union)

An unusual way of spreading awareness about racial equity in education.

The United Negro College Fund has unveiled a new partnership with Alaska Airlines, in the shape of a Boeing 737-900 ER aircraft. UNCF and the airline, which have collaborated for more than 15 years, teamed up on a custom-painted plane that they hope serves as a “flying reminder” of the importance of racial equity in education. The vessel, named Our Commitment, will fly throughout Alaska Airlines’ network, and features illustrated silhouettes of 14 students who are children, grandchildren, or mentees of airline employees, alongside quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela.

The idea came from Alaska Airlines employees and the company’s Black Employee Business Resource Group. Passengers on the plane will be able to learn more about UNCF and the students featured through a custom seatback card and digital resources. Alaska Airlines is also donating one million miles each year to fly students to college tours at historically Black institutions and to other UNCF events. The plane took its inaugural flight on Monday and flew from Washington state to Washington, D.C., yesterday.

Better leave-of-absence policies for students.

Colleges have long struggled with how to handle leaves of absence for students who are dealing with their mental health. Students have accused administrators of forcing them to involuntarily take a semester or year off after they sought mental-health treatment, and of failing to give them a clear path for returning to campus. As many students continue to struggle with their mental health amid the pandemic, the issue is particularly urgent.

Boston University is trying to ease the anxieties in what’s often a fraught process. The university on Wednesday released an in-depth resource guide — the first of its kind, according to the university — designed to help students decide whether they want to take a leave of absence, and to understand what their legal rights are under the Americans With Disabilities Act. A companion guide aims to help college leaders and faculty and staff members craft better leave-of-absence policies, and offers tips and resources to support students who might be grappling with such a decision.

The guides were produced with support from the Ruderman Family Foundation, which in 2018 published a study of how Ivy League institutions mishandle student leaves of absence. “While a leave of absence is potentially useful to both the student and the school,” the paper said, “many schools also use the leave of absence as a tool for discrimination, pushing students out of school who are entitled by law to receive accommodations and support which would enable them to stay.“

Comings and goings.

  • Krista L. Newkirk, president of Converse College, in South Carolina, has been named president of the University of Redlands. She succeeds Ralph W. Kuncl, who will retire on June 30.
  • Emily Roxworthy, associate dean of the Graduate Division at the University of California at San Diego, has been named dean of the School of Dramatic Arts at the University of Southern California.
  • Kerry Pannell, vice president for academic programs at the Council of Independent Colleges, has been named provost and vice president for academic affairs at Presbyterian College, in South Carolina.
  • Antonio D. Tillis, interim president of the University of Houston–Downtown, will become chancellor of Rutgers University at Camden on July 1.

Footnote.

In an interview published by Vox on Tuesday, the famed Democratic Party strategist James Carville used the phrase “‘faculty lounge’ politics” to describe what he sees as a worrying trend of political correctness in party circles.

“You ever get the sense that people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges use a different language than ordinary people?” Carville said. “They come up with a word like ‘Latinx’ that no one else uses. Or they use a phrase like ‘communities of color.’ I don’t know anyone who speaks like that.”

Assessing Carville’s argument about the political cost of “wokeness” is a job for another publication. Instead let’s consider his choice of other words. Readers, do faculty lounges still exist? Does your department or school have one? If so, do faculty members actually hang out there (in nonpandemic times)? Send us an email and let us know. If you’re able to snap a picture of your faculty lounge, all the better.