Welcome to Friday, May 7. Today, all candidates for one college’s presidency unexpectedly drop out. A university is forced to rescind its vaccine mandate. And Northwestern University’s pick for athletics director draws criticism.

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

Tough crowd at Evergreen State College.

All three finalists for the presidency of Evergreen State College, in Washington, surprised the Board of Trustees on Wednesday by withdrawing their names from consideration. The board chairwoman, Karen Fraser, announced the news after a three-hour board meeting, saying the candidates — Michael Dumont, a former Navy vice admiral; Catherine Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty at Lawrence University, in Wisconsin; and Lee Lambert, chancellor of the Pima Community College system, in Tucson — had pulled out after interviews with students, staff, faculty, and alumni. “We’re still in a state of surprise and disappointment,” Fraser told The Olympian, which did not attend all of the interviews but did witness one with alumni that “appeared to be a cordial exchange.”

The college, conceived in the 1960s to embrace social activism, has long avoided traditional academic hierarchies, including faculty ranks, academic departments, majors, and grades. The leadership search is attempting to replace George Bridges, the college’s president since 2015, who announced more than a year ago that he wanted to return to teaching, in June. Read The Chronicle’s profile of Bridges, and more about Evergreen, here.

“We have some learning to do as a community as to why they withdrew,” Ed Zuckerman, a trustee, said. The board hasn’t announced its next steps but appointed itself in charge of senior-level appointments until a new president can be found.

Quick hits.

  • Judson College, an Alabama institution that’s the fifth-oldest women’s college in the United States, will close. Trustees voted to dissolve Judson through bankruptcy, and it will cease academic operations after July 31. (The Alabama Baptist)
  • Graduate students at the University of Hawaii-Manoa have sued it for the right to unionize. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
  • David Swensen, the former endowment chief at Yale University who created a new investment model widely imitated in higher education, has died at 67. (The Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal)

Controversies.

  • Parker Executive Search, the firm charged with finding a new chancellor for Georgia’s higher-education system, has bowed out amid controversy over whether former Gov. Sonny Perdue would fill the post. A comparable situation unfolded at Florida State University in 2014, when a consultant resigned over a lawmaker’s interest in the presidency. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Chronicle)
  • Faculty members, campus leaders, and alumni at Northwestern University are protesting the appointment of a new athletics director, Mike Polisky, a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a Northwestern cheerleader who said she and others had been sexually exploited and harassed. The student accused Polisky, as deputy athletics director for external affairs, of dismissing her complaints and saying she had fabricated evidence. On Wednesday six female Northwestern faculty members sent an open letter to the provost criticizing Polisky’s hiring; they plan a protest this afternoon. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Protesters at North Idaho College are contesting the dismissal of an assistant professor of language. North Idaho is not renewing the contract of Jacalyn Marosi, the college’s only teacher of American Sign Language; advocates for Marosi blame her dismissal on complaints from the abusive mother of a student Marosi was trying to help. The mother denies the accusations. (Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press)
  • Five more women have filed federal complaints saying they faced sexual harassment at Louisiana State University’s Shreveport medical school. Four women came forward last month with similar complaints, leading to the suspension of the school’s chancellor. (The Advocate)

On Covid-19.

  • Researchers running the PreventCovidU clinical trial, which seeks to enroll 12,000 college students, have had trouble finding enough participants, partly because vaccines have become widely available to young people in recent weeks. Some study participants won’t receive their Moderna vaccines until July. (U.S. News & World Report)
  • Nova Southeastern University rescinded its Covid-19 vaccine mandate for students, faculty, and staff members after Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a law banning the use of vaccine passports in the state. (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Rowan University, in New Jersey, will give full-time students who show proof of vaccination before August 7 a $500 credit toward their course-registration fees and another $500 for their housing bill. (The Chronicle)

Weekend reads.

Here’s a selection of Chronicle staff-recommended reads for your weekend:

  • In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s the story of one woman who made a big bet to keep her child-care center open so that her charges’ mothers could work. (ProPublica)
  • The citizenry of the internet have deemed the Pfizer vaccine cooler than Moderna’s offering. (This Moderna recipient is offended.) Why? (The Atlantic)
  • Here’s what the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan looks like. (The New York Times)
  • A reporter on the Covid-19 beat explains why she had to step away. (Study Hall)

Comings and goings.

  • Richard Muma, interim president since September 2020 of Wichita State University, in Kansas, has been named to the post permanently. He succeeds Jay Golden.
  • Renée T. White, provost and a professor of sociology at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, will become provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the New School, in New York City, on August 1.
  • Maria Q. Blandizzi, dean of students at the University of California at Los Angeles, has been named vice president for student life at the University of the Pacific, in California.
  • James Davis, a professor of English and union-chapter chair of the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, has been elected president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY.

Footnote.

In 1960 a fourth-grade student in Oregon wrote a letter to her congressman, asking for the names of Russian children whom she and her classmates could write to. But the U.S. State Department, fearing the influence of Cold War-era Soviet propaganda, denied her request. The New York Times printed an article about the debacle under the headline “U.S. Bars a Girl’s Plea for Russian Pen Pals.”

In 2019 a journalism professor at the University of Oregon read the story in a Times feature that highlights articles from its archives. “Find that girl,” he told his class. Not only did the students track down Janice Hall, now 70, and use public-records requests to get the FBI case files on her letter, but they wrote a book, Classroom 15: How the Hoover F.B.I. Censored the Dreams of Innocent Oregon Fourth Graders, about her story.

One of the students met Hall in person. Another interviewed the family of Hall’s fourth-grade teacher, who has since died. And a third, improbably, headed to Russia to fulfill Hall’s wish, delivering letters from present-day Oregon fourth-graders to a Russian fourth-grade class.

“We decided that we were not going to leave this hanging,” Peter Laufer, the Oregon journalism professor, told the Times. “If they couldn’t do it in 1960, we were going to do it in 2020.”

That’s what we call chasing down the story.