Newsletter for July 12

A new trustee; Law School alum to lead regulatory reform; and UChicago Med’s asthma initiative

By Adam Thorp, Pete Grieve, and Euirim Choi

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Good morning. It’s one month into summer break.
Mansueto new trustee: Rika Mansueto (A.B. ’91), the head of the Mansueto Foundation, took a seat on the University’s Board of Trustees at the board’s meeting in May, the University announced yesterday. Rika and her husband Joe Mansueto have made several significant donations, including a gift in support of the Mansueto library building.
Coffee provider sues Crain’s for allegedly writing a “hit piece” that lost him a deal with the U of C: The owner of Bow Truss Coffee has filed a defamation suit seeking $38 million from Crain’s, a media outlet, over a piecepublished last year about him titled “One of Chicago's most connected entrepreneurs has made more than a few enemies.” The suit (which was self-filed last Friday) alleges that the Crain’s story caused Bow Truss to lose coffee contracts with Hilton Hotels, Merchandise Mart, Whole Foods, and the University of Chicago.

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Exhibit [A]rts, Summer Edition: The Maroon’s arts editors have put together a smorgasbord of artistic opportunities for people in Hyde Park or Chicago this summer.

A prof’s open letter on grad unionization: letter in support of unionization from statistics professor Yali Amit to Dean of the Social Sciences Division David Nirenberg was published this weekend. The letter ends on the prospect that University opposition could delay a vote by grad students till action by the Trump administration preempts unionization entirely:

  • “How ironic if your wish to ‘preserve our best values’ will be granted by a government that is systematically doing everything it can to destroy those values. In contrast, by openly recognizing the graduate student union as a positive step for students taking an active and engaged role in civic life, the university could play a much more positive role, supporting collaboration, research, and free thought by all participants in the university community, effecting a culture change within its walls and beyond.” 

Survey—Increasing # of Republicans say colleges are bad for the country: Fifty-eight percent of people who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning say that “colleges and universities have a negative effecton the way things are going in the country,” according to a newly released annual survey by Pew, and only 36 percent think colleges have a positive effect on the country. The Republican outlook is trending more negative—in 2015, 54 percent held the positive view.
New asthma care initiative: University of Chicago Medicine recentlyannounced a new initiative aimed at improving asthma care access for children on the South Side. The initiative was motivated by the fact that as many as 30 percent of South Side children are affected by the disease. University of Chicago Medicine stated that the initiative will involve opening a call center to connect asthma patients to doctors. It will also involve doubling the number of community health workers focused on asthma.
Activists begin writing Obama library CBA: Perceiving that their concerns are increasingly being ignored, five South Side community groups have begun drafting a wishlist for a possible community benefits agreement involving the Obama Presidential Center, according to the Chicago Tribune. The activists from these groups and beyond hope that a community benefits agreement (CBA), due to its legally binding nature, would ensure that the proposed Obama Presidential Center does not displace existing residents and provides neighboring communities with good jobs, better schools, and improved infrastructure. The Obama Foundation has argued that a CBA is unnecessary, as it is already receptive to South Siders’ concerns.
Law School alum to lead regulatory reform: On Monday, the Senateconfirmed Neomi Rao (J.D. ’99), an associate law professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. As the Office’s director, Ms. Rao is expected to have a significant role in helping the Trump administration try to fulfill its promise to dramatically curtail regulations, many of which were written by the Obama administration. After graduating from Yale University, Ms. Rao attended the University of Chicago Law School and was elected as a member of the Order of the Coif. She will be at least the third Law School alum to head a federal government organization under the Trump administration, after Ajit Pai (J.D. ’97) and the now-dismissed James Comey (J.D ’85).
More on gerrymandering: Law School professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos writes about his work to challenge partisan gerrymandering in Vox. We spoke to Stephanopoulos, whose work plays a central role in an eminent Supreme Court case, late last month.
In and around Hyde Park this week: Many of Alderman Leslie Hairston’s constituents had to be turned away from a meeting on the Obama library’s impact on the surrounding neighborhoods at the end of last month when the volume of would-be attendees overwhelmed the venue. Another meeting, at the South Shore Cultural Center this Thursday, 6–8 p.m., has been set up to allow people who were not able to attend last time. See more upcoming events in the area.
Betsy DeVos & Title IX: It appears that the Department of Education is deliberating action to change its Title IX guidance for universities—specifically, whether to continue to mandate that colleges use a low standard of proof in their handling of campus sexual assault cases. Politico’s education team has the “scoop” that DeVos is meeting with “advocates for survivors of campus sexual assault, as well as with groups representing students who say they were wrongfully accused and college attorneys.”

  • Politico writes, “It could be a sign that she will soon make changes to controversial 2011 guidance on campus sexual assault issued by the Obama administration, which required colleges to take certain steps to crack down on sexual violence on campus.”
  • Last month, two Trump administration officials gave an important presentation on higher education regulation (including issues pertaining to Title IX) in Chicago to 1,700 attorneys at the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, of which the University of Chicago’s attorneys are members. Inside Higher Ed reportsthat one of the officials commented on the question of whether the Trump admin will switch to only mandating a higher standard of proof (“clear and convincing” as opposed to “preponderance of evidence”): “‘It is unavoidable that OCR [Office for Civil Rights] will take a position,’ she said, and ‘whether or not the end result will be that the federal government mandates that particular standard of proof is actively under consideration.’”

**Related: The Maroon asked President Robert J. Zimmer and Dean of Students in the University Michele Rasmussen in April if the University of Chicago will continue to use the low standard of proof if the DOE were to stop mandating that it be used. Zimmer hadn’t thought about it, but Rasmussen said, “It’s the standard we’ve been using now for several years. I don’t really see any compelling reason to not use it.”
Is the travel ban depressing international enrollment at Universities? The Chronicle of Higher Education looked at three different reports released this month on this issue. But the studies don’t provide a consensus answer:

  • “One report on international-student trends concludes that American colleges have been ‘hard hit’ by declining interest from the Middle East, while another expresses ‘cautious optimism’ that the number of overseas students accepting offers of admission to American institutions could be above projections. A third shares the concerns of graduate-school deans, half of whom say they are seeing ‘substantial’ falloffs in foreign enrollments.”
  • The Chronicle reports that master’s degree programs could be particularly hard hit because some prospective applicants may choose to delay their education as long as there is uncertainty about the ban’s prospects. 
  • If you haven’t been following: The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the travel ban in October. In the meantime, the Court has allowed a limited version of the ban to go into effect. People from the six affected countries who are affiliated with American universities will be able to travel in the interim.

A state budget, finally: The Illinois House of Representatives voted to override Governor Rauner’s veto on the most recent iteration of the state budget last Thursday, ending a more than two-year-long stalemate that plunged public services into uncertainty and threatened to downgrade the state’s credit rating to “junk” status. The approved state budget, which includes a broad tax increase, will bring stability to Chicago Public Schools finances and ensure that the University’s charter schools, which are publicly funded, are fully financed.

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