AJC On Campus: Students return; USG sets degrees record

Clayton State University students line up to get their IDs on the first day students returned to school Monday August 10, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Clayton State University students line up to get their IDs on the first day students returned to school Monday August 10, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The fall semester began on some college campuses in Georgia this week as the nation struggles to determine safe practices to educate students amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some folks aren’t happy with the return plans and are making last-minute appeals for adjustments, or a return to online learning.

Here’s the latest about this and some additional developments in our latest edition of AJC On Campus:

University System of Georgia sets student degrees record

The University System of Georgia awarded a record 70,879 degrees during a 12-month period that ended June 30 – the most in its 89-year history, officials said Tuesday. The total was a 4.5% increase from the prior 12-month period. System leaders were particularly pleased with the numbers, considering the challenges involving the coronavirus pandemic.

They’re back

Classes began Monday at several University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia campuses. Many faculty members and students continue to raise concerns about the return plans as COVID-19 cases have increased in parts of Georgia and throughout the nation. University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley acknowledged the concerns in a presentation Tuesday to the state’s Board of Regents, saying the criticism “can be helpful, too.” Wrigley, though, stressed the importance of some in-person instruction. He said online courses can be unsatisfying for some students and noted internal research that found the system’s schools could lose at least $479 million this semester if they went solely to online learning.

Many of the system’s largest schools — such as the universities of Georgia and North Georgia, Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State — begin classes next week. The schools have enacted several measures, such as setting up early move-in dates for student housing stretched over more days, to promote social distancing.

The Corvias letter

A Georgia Tech student last week shared several documents online she received through the state’s Open Records Act. One letter, written in late May, got a lot of attention. The letter, from an official at Corvias, a company in a student housing partnership with the University System, urged officials not to set limits on how many students can live in some campus housing and points out its financial investment in the arrangement. Read more here.

Professor sues Emory University

A white Emory University law school professor last week filed a racial discrimination and libel lawsuit against the school, saying officials there wrongfully disciplined him concerning his use of a term often used to demean African Americans. The professor, Paul Zwier, said he used the term as part of a classroom discussion and did not direct it at anyone. Here’s our initial article in August 2018 about the issue. Zwier said an Emory official made false and misleading statements about the situation that lacked context and “caused permanent reputational damage.” The lawsuit complaint says other non-white faculty members have used the same term without disciplinary action. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages. Emory said in a statement it “disagrees with the characterization of what occurred and will vigorously defend itself against this lawsuit.”

UNG cadet tests positive for COVID-19

University of North Georgia officials said Wednesday they are continuing to emphasize health and safety precautions after a cadet there tested positive for COVID-19 and three others experienced disease symptoms. The positive test result came during a phased move-in process on Aug. 1 that included a health screening, a university spokeswoman said. Eleven other cadets were identified as having direct contact with these students and sent home to isolate consistent with CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health guidance. UNG is designated as one of six senior military colleges in the nation. Classes for the entire university begin Monday.

UGA council votes for more oversight of COVID-19 planning

The University of Georgia’s University Council voted Wednesday to create a committee to participate in discussions concerning COVID-19 response planning and send monthly reports about its progress. The council voted down a motion that included a provision that would not penalize instructors who want to teach remotely. The University Council consists of faculty, staff and students and serves in an advisory capacity to the president and helps shape policy for the university. Critics of UGA’s return plans said during the meeting administrators need to create more structured procedures if there’s a major COVID-19 outbreak at the university. Others said UGA has already addressed many of the concerns laid out by critics.

Company names $1 million scholarship for longtime state lawmaker

The Columbus-based financial services company, Synovus, announced last week it has created a $1 million scholarship to help students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities complete their educations. The scholarship, established at the United Negro College Fund, is being named after longtime state House of Representatives member Calvin Symre, a retired Synovus executive. Smyre serves on House of Representatives’ higher education committee and is chairman of the Fort Valley State University Foundation, his alma mater. “Our country has been bluntly reminded of the work that remains to ensure equal opportunities and to address persistent racial and educational inequalities,” said Kessel D. Stelling, Synovus chairman and CEO. “Synovus is deeply committed to taking action, and we’re proud to support UNCF and its vital work to close these gaps through education.”

Clayton State gets $5 million donation

Clayton State University announced Wednesday it has received a $5 million gift from the estate of former Jonesboro resident and longtime university supporter Lon Carnes to enhance its music education program. The gift will create the Alma Karen Cousins & Maurine Cousins Carnes Endowment for Music. Students interested in pursuing music performance and music education degrees at Clayton State are eligible for four, $24,000 scholarships, which will be divided over four years. Carnes served as a lieutenant in the United States Army and enjoyed a 27-year tenure as a professor and later chair of Georgia Southern University’s Parker College of Business. He died in September.

Georgia State gets Kandi

Credit: Moses Robinson

Credit: Moses Robinson

Georgia State University may have one of the most entertaining classes of any school this fall. Faculty member Mo Ivory is teaching a course focusing on the career of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kandi Burruss. Ivory had a similar class last year on actor-rap star Ludacris. Here’s more about the class.

The “senior senior”

That’s what one of Georgia Gwinnett College’s most recent graduates, Prescott Lawrence, is calling himself. Lawrence received his degree last week in business administration with a concentration in management information systems, at the age of 81. It’s believed he’s the college’s most senior graduate.

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