Welcome to Monday, May 10. Today, Northwestern University faculty members call for an investigation into accusations against the newly appointed athletic director. Wake Forest University renames a building that honored a president who promoted slavery. And one expert offers advice on how to help international students cope with mental-health struggles brought on by the pandemic.

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

Northwestern faculty march to protest a high-profile athletics hire.

For years, cheerleaders at Northwestern University have complained that they’ve been paraded as sex objects to entertain wealthy donors and forced to suppress their racial identities to fit a certain mold. On Friday, a crowd of their faculty and student supporters marched to the home of President Morton O. Schapiro to protest the decision to promote an athletics official whom they say minimized those complaints and supported sexist and racist treatment of cheerleaders.

Mike Polisky, the university’s new athletic director, is among four Northwestern employees who were sued in January, along with the university, by Hayden Richardson, a senior and member of the cheer team. The federal lawsuit accuses the university of failure to respond adequately after Richardson complained to her coach, Pamela Bonnevier, about being groped by drunken fans and alumni. Read more from our Katie Mangan.

Quick hits.

  • The U.S. birth rate fell 4 percent in 2020, marking more bad news for college officials already bracing for an enrollment crash that’s expected to hit in 2025. (The Chronicle)
  • Dartmouth College has accused 17 medical students of cheating during remote exams, prompting an on-campus protest and objections from faculty members and the student government. An independent review says the college may have overstepped in the way it used online data to pinpoint cheating, leading to flawed accusations. (The New York Times)
  • The parents of three students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst are speaking out after their children were suspended when a photo circulated of them not wearing masks outdoors. (WBZ)
  • An administrator at the University of Minnesota at Duluth castigated the student newspaper in an email obtained by the newspaper through a public-records request. In an exchange about an office-space dispute, Jessi Eaton, assistant director of the Kirby Student Center, called the newspaper “the Ministry of Propaganda” and “fake news.” (Star Tribune)
  • A bipartisan group of Oregon lawmakers proposed the creation of an oversight committee to hold universities accountable for their handling of sexual- or racial-harassment complaints. (The Oregonian)
  • The State of Alabama will roll out public-service announcements in which Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide football coach, urges residents to get vaccinated. (The Wall Street Journal)

Wake Forest, admitting ties to slavery, renames a building.

Wake Forest University has renamed “Wingate Hall,” an academic building whose eponym, Washington Manly Wingate, was a former president and proponent of slavery. The new name, “May 7, 1860 Hall,” acknowledges the day that 16 people, bequeathed to the institution by a slave-owning benefactor, were sold at auction by the college.

At first blush, this may seem like an odd decision. Places named for dates usually commemorate positive events, especially in Europe, where they keep alive in memory victories and revolutions. All over Italy, streets named “Via XX Settembre” recall the capture of Rome in 1870, the last event in the country’s long unification. Paris has date-honoring plazas, like “Place du 18 Juin 1940,” for the day a speech by De Gaulle is said to have launched the French Resistance. Place names that remind us of the unpleasant or the evil are rarer. “Place du 8 Février 1962,” also in Paris, marks a massacre by the police, in which nine citizens were killed. And while New York of course has its 9/11 Memorial & Museum, places named for other horrific dates seem harder to find, at least in the United States.

At Wake Forest, President Nathan O. Hatch wrote in a message to the campus: “By renaming this building, we acknowledge the University’s participation in slavery, recognize this aspect of our history, and remember those who labored at the institution against their will.”

So on second thought, maybe this date-naming marks a concept whose time has come in the U.S. Holocaust memorials or museums have been erected in more than half of the states, reminding us of an evil the likes of which humanity hopes never to repeat. Places named for the dates of slave auctions might one day stand as similar cues. May 7, 1860 Hall could be among the first of many such sites, as America reckons more honestly with its history of human enslavement.

Helping international students with the mental-health strain of the pandemic.

International students are a resilient group, choosing to leave their homes and families to study abroad, weathering the trials of doing so. But the pandemic, which has separated many students from their families for more than a year, and the increase in anti-Asian racism in the United States, have been difficult, particularly for the more than 70 percent of international students who come from Asian countries.

Katie Koo understands that. An assistant professor of higher education at Texas A&M University at Commerce, Koo is a South Korea native who came to the United States for graduate study. Now she wants to demystify the mental-health struggles international students face. She spoke with Karin Fischer about faculty and staff members’ misperceptions of international students, the “minority stress” many overseas students of color experience, and how colleges can design more culturally responsive mental-health services. Read their conversation here.

Comings and goings.

  • William F. Tate IV, provost of the University of South Carolina, has been named president of Louisiana State University. He will replace Thomas C. Galligan Jr., who has been interim president since F. King Alexander resigned last year.
  • Mary K. Grant, senior administrative fellow for civics and social justice, and co-chair of the president’s task force on racial justice at Bridgewater State University, has been named president of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
  • Darnell T. Parker, senior associate vice president for equity at Case Western Reserve University, will become vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Wheaton College, in Massachusetts, on July 1.

Footnote.

In the status-conscious world of higher ed, rankings — however methodologically flawed — exercise a profound and dubious influence on campus and off. Who’s in, and who’s out? Who’s up, and who’s down? So it was not surprising recently to see a question on Quora about where Emory University stands in the academic pecking order. Is it “on the same level as UChicago, UPenn, Cornell, Columbia, and Northeastern, or is it on the same level as UC Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, CMU, and USC?”

Several dreary replies indulged the questioner’s horse-race view of higher ed. Then Jeff Erickson, a computer-science professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, weighed in. Emory, he wrote, topped Chicago but was below Cornell — in terms of their elevation above mean sea level. He then provided a topographical ranking of all those universities, led by Carnegie Mellon, at 971 feet. At the bottom was Northeastern, at just 13 feet. Erickson’s refreshing view of what really counts in academic stature prompted us to apply it more widely. For example, under his vision, the University of Colorado at Boulder, at over a mile high, might well be the acme of American higher ed, towering over that puny college in Cambridge, Mass., a mere 10 feet above sea level.

Reader, what about your campus’s elevation? Check it out on a topographical website (such as here or here), and let us know your stature. Top-ranked replies might show up in a future Briefing.

Clarification: On Friday we reported that Evergreen State College’s board had appointed itself in charge of hiring, as it tries to find a new leader after candidates for its presidency dropped out. We should have said higher-level hiring, of vice presidents and similar; we didn’t mean to imply the board would oversee all hiring at the college.