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Experts say pandemic aid fell $100 billion short

The most recent COVID-19 relief bill will give higher education institutions nearly $23 billion, but the funding falls almost $100 billion shy of what some policy experts say those institutions need to recover. Thomas Harnisch, vice president of government relations for the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, told EdScoop the funding will do little to ensure the long-term welfare of higher education. “The overall funding levels to institutions and states to deal with the pandemic were insufficient,” he said. “It’s really unprecedented, the financial stress that institutions are under with losses in auxiliary revenues, increased student need, unanticipated expenses and state budget cuts. And while it’s important that this bill passed, it doesn’t go far enough.” Betsy Foresman reports.

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Universities seem OK after SolarWinds attack

The compromise of SolarWinds software used by government agencies and technology companies has also affected several U.S. colleges and universities, though the leaders of those institutions have not reported any major fallout from the incident. Reports that hackers of suspected Russian origin had inserted malicious code into software provided by the Austin, Texas-based technology company SolarWinds first emerged earlier this month. And though the company said the incident may have affected as many as 18,000 customers using a network management product called Orion, several universities said they seem to be OK, but are double-checking their networks just to be on the safe side. Betsy has more.

Boston U. selected to research state's contact tracing app

Boston University was recently selected by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to assist in research and development of a new digital contact-tracing initiative. The university will join the Bedford-based nonprofit Mitre to test a COVID-19 contact-tracing application on its campus of 35,000 students and 10,000 employees. According to state procurement documents, the university and its partner are tasked with studying how the technology works, whether it effectively complements the state’s existing contact-tracing efforts, whether residents will be receptive to the app and whether it would reduce spread of the disease.   Colin Wood has the details.


How universities can fast-track contact tracing programs

Contact tracing is essential to protecting students, faculty and staff from COVID-19 outbreaks. Splunk’s Stephen Savas shares how campuses can use data from technologies they have in place — such as student- and faculty-facing mobile apps — to develop these programs. Listen to the full discussion.

Professor creates video library for anatomy course

Knowing that the fall semester at University of Wisconsin, Madison would be unpredictable and unusual as the institution continued to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, comparative anatomy professor Scott Hartman made sure he was prepared for any teaching scenario by creating video lessons for his students, the university announced this month. Comparative Anatomy of the Vertebrates, the class that Hartman taught this past semester, relies on hands-on learning, with students handling the skeletons of cats and foxes, exploring the muscles of pigeons and dissecting the brains of sharks to learn about anatomy. “Anatomy is not a subject that is fully conveyed by static 2D images,” Hartman said in the press release. “We needed to make sure the students had as many avenues to see the real thing as we possibly could.” Read the full story.

Alabama State to disinfect stadiums with drones

As part of its efforts to prevent attendees of sporting events from contracting COVID-19, Alabama State University claimed last month it will become the first university to use drones to disinfect its stadiums and arenas. The drones, made by Draganfly, will spray down seats and other surfaces in ASU’s football stadium with a non-toxic, organic sanitizer from Varigard. According to Varigard, its formula lasts for more than two hours and can “trap and kill” pathogens, including coronaviruses. The university demonstrated the technology at its stadium following a news conference on Dec. 16, where ASU President Quinton Ross, Jr. said drones are an important part of the university’s strategy to limit the virus’ spread. See how it works.

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