Welcome to Wednesday, January 12. Today, faculty members at the University of Louisville push back against a directive to teach in person. A proposed reorganization at Texas A&M’s Qatar campus holds lessons in the complexities of foreign education. And we break down trends in research spending with new data from the National Science Foundation.

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

At one campus, faculty members must teach in person or face discipline.

At the University of Louisville, faculty members face discipline if they don’t teach face to face this spring. “Because the science shows that classroom learning is safe and more effective, we feel it is vital to provide the best educational experience possible for our students,” a university spokesman said, according to the Louisville Courier Journal; the institution’s president has said there is “no wiggle room” on that policy, the paper reported.

Staff, students, and faculty members have taken issue with that directive, pointing to fears about Covid-19 and signing a petition urging Louisville to reverse its policy. But even if that doesn’t happen, one department chair told the Courier Journal, he will not force his faculty members to teach in person, even if it means losing his position as chair.

The situation at Louisville echoes conversations that were happening ahead of the fall-2020 semester. (Remember that?) Our Emma Pettit wrote back then about how faculty input into whether to teach face to face was — or wasn’t — being taken into consideration at various institutions, and about how requesting individual exemptions to in-person teaching requirements put some faculty members between a rock and a hard place.

Are you experiencing something like this? Tell us about it by sending an email to our reporters Sahalie Donaldson and Chelsea Long.

Quick hits.

  • The University of Oregon’s graduate-employee union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the institution, saying Oregon’s Covid-19 policies violate its contract with the union. Teaching amid the pandemic constitutes a change in working conditions, the union contends, which must be negotiated through bargaining. (OPB)
  • The University of Pittsburgh has disenrolled students and blocked employees from campus buildings for not complying with its Covid-19 vaccination mandate. The number of students and employees affected wasn’t disclosed. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • The State of Iowa will pay a University of Iowa employee $325,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing the institution and state Board of Regents of age and gender discrimination and civil-rights violations. The plaintiff, Pam Ries, is the former director of a program that helps students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities transition to college, and remains a faculty member at Iowa. (The Gazette)
  • Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, a historically Black institution in Los Angeles, on Tuesday was the latest HBCU to receive a bomb threat. No explosives were found. At least eight other HBCUs received such threats last week. (Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle)
  • Iowa’s Board of Regents meets today to vote on a proposal to permanently drop the requirement that applicants to Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa — the three institutions the board oversees — submit ACT or SAT scores. The proposal is considered likely to pass. (The Gazette)

A campus reorganization gone wrong — in Qatar.

Just before Thanksgiving, professors at Texas A&M University’s campus in Qatar got an email that was both unexpected and alarming: The campus’ liberal-arts and sciences programs would be combined into a single unit focused on teaching the core curriculum. Contracts for professors in these fields would be replaced with nine-month instruction- and service-focused appointments, and only professors in engineering, plus a handful in the sciences, would conduct research.

The proposal, which was set to take effect on January 1, was greeted with dismay and confusion in Qatar and on Texas A&M’s home campus, in College Station. The swiftness and seeming finality of the plan’s implementation and abrogation of contracts appeared to run roughshod over shared governance. Although the branch campus was set up nearly 20 years ago to offer engineering degrees, it has long had a strong and distinctive foundation in liberal-arts education, and critics feared the quality of the degree — one that bears the Texas A&M name — would be eroded.

Faculty members sounded the alarm, and Texas A&M is appointing a committee to review potential changes to the proposal and solicit faculty feedback. Still, the episode serves as a reminder of the complex relationship among American universities, their overseas outposts, and the foreign countries that host and almost always underwrite them. Our Karin Fischer explains.

Stat of the day.

$86.4 billion.

That’s how much was spent on research and development at all U.S. higher-ed institutions in the 2020 fiscal year. That marked a 3.3 percent increase from the prior fiscal year. Our Audrey Williams June has a detailed breakdown of R&D spending.

Comings and goings.

  • Beronda L. Montgomery, assistant vice president for research and innovation at Michigan State University, has been named vice president for academic affairs and dean of Grinnell College.
  • Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for human resources at Princeton University, plans to step down at the end of this academic year.
  • Jonathan Sands Wise, associate provost and dean of graduate and new programs and interim vice president of enrollment management at Georgetown College, in Kentucky, has been named provost and executive vice president. He succeeds Rosemary Allen, who became the college’s first female president.


Yesterday, we asked some of our colleagues what the best book they read in 2021 was. Today, it’s your turn. Here are some Briefing readers’ favorite reads of 2021.

  • Bryan J. Zygmont, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Louisiana Tech University: “In November of 2020 I found the syllabus for the world literature course I took in my sophomore year at the University of Arizona. Because I am a book buyer and not a book seller, I still have all those books, and I reread them all last year. This was an amazing course; the one thing I can point to that made me love literature (although I had also loved reading). And I must say that Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera had as powerful of an effect on my 45-year-old self as it did on me when 19.”
  • Antoinette M. Burton, a professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: “Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman, an amazing fictional account of Indigenous struggles against ‘termination’ that’s rooted in her family history. And how great that Erdrich, whose novels manage to tell difficult histories with grace and wit and complex, lovable female characters, should win the Pulitzer Prize for this one.”
  • Sarah G. Soule, a postsecondary planning coordinator at Middlebury Union High School, in Vermont: “I just reread, for the first time since high school, To Kill a Mockingbird. The book resonated with me then, but even more so with me now. It’s a book that I encourage others to reread as there is so much to be garnered from the impactful characters. Scout, Jem, Atticus, Calpurnia, Tom, Heck, Boo, and even Dill are individuals with a story to tell. Harper Lee was way ahead of her time in writing this book in 1960.”
  • Maria C. Garriga, a professor of Spanish at Thomas More University: “Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, originally published in 1946. One of the ‘super classic’ books on spirituality, my enjoyment of the book was heightened by its reading by Ben Kingsley. The language use is impeccable and the content such language delivers is fascinating.”

Happy reading!