Welcome to Friday, October 1. Today, the leader of a prominent program at Yale resigns her post. Guilford College temporarily moves classes online because of Covid-19. And an update on the University of Northern Iowa professor who required masks in his classes.

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

Echoes of a donor-intent dispute at Yale.

Yale U. hopes that a $50-million investment over five years will help diversify its faculty. “We want to expose more scholars to the Yale experience,” a campus official says.
Yale University

A dispute over a prestigious academic program at Yale has sparked faculty accusations that the university is allowing donors to unduly influence both the program’s curriculum and who will teach in it. Is this a replay of what happened 26 years ago, when Yale returned a $20-million gift over the donor’s demand to approve the faculty members his generosity had financed?

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Beverly Gage, a tenured historian on the Yale faculty, had resigned as head of the Brady-Johnson program in grand strategy, which exposes a handful of students each year to classic literature and well-connected guest speakers. Gage, who had led the program since 2017, said the university appeared to be bowing to the wishes of the donors, a former U.S. Treasury secretary and a mutual-fund tycoon.

Gage said Yale, apparently in response to complaints from one of the donors, was creating an advisory board for the program consisting of conservative heavyweights, including Henry A. Kissinger, the 98-year-old former secretary of state, who had been picked by the donors. Yale said it needed to convene the advisory board to comply with the terms of the donors’ $17.5-million gift. The board “wouldn’t have a controlling power,” Pericles Lewis, vice president for global strategy and vice provost for academic initiatives, told the Times. Lewis denied that Yale had been influenced by donor pressure.

But Gage said she saw the new board — if assembled solely at the donors’ behest and if not diverse in generational, ideological, and other ways — as simply helping the donors exert “surveillance and control” over the program’s curriculum and faculty. “It’s very difficult to teach effectively or creatively,” she said, “in a situation where you are being second-guessed and undermined and not protected.”

The turning point, for Gage, was when she was told that the donors were prepared to sue to regain the gift funds, and that one of the donors’ separate $250-million gift might be in jeopardy too. That was enough, she said, for Yale to agree to the donors’ choice of board members. Days later, she resigned.

Yale was also in the news today for more benign reasons. An expert there says that a map the university owns, which it once touted as a medieval treasure, is fake. Scholars had for decades questioned the authenticity of the Vinland Map, which Yale unveiled in 1965 and, at the time, said was created in 1440. A new analysis of the map found found high levels of a titanium compound used in inks that were first produced in the 1920s. (The New York Times)

Quick hits.

  • Guilford College, in North Carolina, is moving classes online until at least October 6, following a spike in Covid-19 cases on campus. Guilford’s vaccination mandate has an October 15 deadline. (College website)
  • A pay-equity dispute at Rutgers University, in New Jersey, seems only to have been exacerbated by the public institution’s $1.2-million proposal to close longstanding pay gaps between female and male faculty members. Several women say the process has been neither transparent nor fair. (The Chronicle)
  • Stanford University’s Delta Delta Delta sorority chapter will boycott the fall rush period and delay recruiting new members until winter, citing concerns about equity and recruits’ mental health. (The Stanford Daily)
  • In other Stanford news, the university plans to buy the campus of Notre Dame de Namur University, a Roman Catholic institution in nearby Belmont, Calif. (Higher Ed Dive)
  • Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge is facing questions from state lawmakers about how it has responded to recommendations from an independent investigation into its sexual-harassment policies. (Louisiana Illuminator)

After imposing his own mask mandate, this professor was removed from the classroom.

This week, as we noted in this newsletter, a University of Northern Iowa biology professor required his students to wear masks, in violation of university and state Board of Regents rules that forbid such mandates. Steve L. O’Kane told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that he’d threatened to lower the laboratory grades of students who refused to mask up, and that he was willing to be fired for his decision. (“Of course, I would immediately sue the university and the Board of Regents if that were to come to pass,” O’Kane added.)

Now, Northern Iowa has weighed in, stripping Kane of his in-person teaching responsibilities for the rest of the semester, The Gazette reported on Thursday. O’Kane will continue to teach classes virtually, and must complete training that focuses on his “professional responsibilities as a faculty member.” He’ll also be saddled with a “needs improvement” performance grade for the entire academic year, meaning he won’t be eligible for merit pay.

A disciplinary letter from O’Kane’s dean reminded him to comply with the university’s policy of no mask mandates or risk disciplinary action “up to and including termination.” O’Kane told The Gazette he’d continue his mask mandate in the spring, if he teaches in person. “I told the provost … most of us somewhere in our lives have a hill they’re willing to die on,” O’Kane said. “And this is one of my hills.” Our Kate Hidalgo Bellows has more.

Weekend reads.

Here are some Chronicle staff-recommended reads for your weekend:

  • You might not expect to read about hypnotism in this essay about the language-processing algorithm GPT-3. (n+1)
  • One true test of an adult relationship is the ability to carry out a psychological principle of children’s play — also known as “ignoring each other in the same room.” (The New York Times)
  • For all the Supreme Court watchers out there, here’s an account of what it’s actually like to attend oral arguments, and why livestreamed audio of those arguments is a better alternative. (Balls and Strikes)

Comings and goings.

  • Christopher Bryan, vice president for finance and chief financial officer at City University of Seattle, has been named interim president. He succeeds Randy C. Frisch, who was named interim president of National University.
  • Tanya Acevedo, chief technology officer for the Houston airport system, has been named chief information officer at Miami Dade College.
  • Marlene Sandstrom, dean of the college at Williams College, plans to step down and and rejoin the faculty in June 2022.


Does scholarly regard for psychoanalytic theory rise and fall alongside Sigmund Freud’s own problematic reputation and personal history? That, says one critic of a new biography on the founder of psychoanalysis, is “a very reductionist way of thinking.”
Sigmund Freud

Talk about having the perfect name for your job: A Chronicle editor was reading a recent article about animal-assisted therapy in The New York Times when one of the experts the Times quoted caught his eye, an assistant professor of human-animal interaction at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. That expert’s name? Marguerite E. O’Haire. (Insert rim shot here.)

O’Haire isn’t the only aptly named academic out there. In years past, we’ve written about a dean with the last name of, well, Dean and a Professor Darwin (no distant relation of the 19th-century naturalist) who taughta course called “Darwin and Darwinism.”

We’re not the only ones to note the phenomenon of nominative determinism: It’s been the subject of countless listicles and punch lines, and Jimmy Kimmel featured a segment this year on “perfectly named people.” But this Briefing writer didn’t know the origins of the concept, which go back at least to Carl Jung, who suggested a synchronicity between the meaning of Sigmund Freud’s surname (“joy”) and the fact that he studied pleasure.

Do you know any scholars whose names are similarly fitting? Share them with me, and they may be featured in a future Footnote.