Rhody McCoy, Key Figure in New York’s Ocean Hill Brownsville Dispute, Dies at 97

Rhody McCoy, Key Figure in New York's School Wars, Dies at 97 ...


Rhody McCoy

Dear Commons Community,

Rhody McCoy, the school administrator who led the Ocean Hill-Brownsville community school district experiment in 1968, has died at the age of 97.  Many educators  liken the experiment as the one of the most contentious events  in the history of the New York City public schools.  Given a certain degree of independence and parental control, Mr. McCoy led the district in the transfer of teachers without due process that led to a citywide teachers’ strikes and a bitter racially charged dispute that pitted the union against the district and community.  Anyone who lived in New York at the time will likely remember vividly the confrontations between white teachers and black and Latino parents.  McCoy’s obituary below by Sam Roberts accurately recaps his life and especially the Ocean Hill-Brownsville period.

May he rest in peace!



New York Times

Rhody McCoy, Key Figure in New York’s Ocean Hill Brownsville Dispute, Dies at 97

By Sam Roberts

May 24, 2020

Rhody McCoy, a veteran black educator whose peremptory transfer of white teachers from his Brooklyn school district in 1968 touched off a citywide strike that closed schools for weeks and exposed a seismic rift among American liberals over race, education and trade unionism, died on April 18 at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 97.

His death was announced this month by his daughter Carmen McCoy-Bell.

What became known as the 1968 school wars in New York City was the culmination of efforts by reformers to grant local communities greater control over curriculum and hiring, in response to parents’ complaints that their children were failing academically.

By the late 1960s, most students in the city’s public schools were black or Hispanic; a vast majority of teachers and supervisors were white. An experiment in community control in three districts, including Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn, where Dr. McCoy was the local administrator, became a crucible for racial conflict in a city undergoing demographic upheaval.

Dr. McCoy’s pipe-puffing persona belied his militant commitment both to black nationalism and to the decentralization of school governance, which political and academic progressives were preaching as one way to improve education and restore confidence in the school system.

Dr. McCoy, holding sign at left, and the Rev. C.B. Marshall at a demonstration outside Dr. McCoy’s office during the 1968 teachers’ strike.Credit…Patrick A. Burns/The New York Times

The reformers viewed decentralization as an experiment that would unshackle the underperforming Ocean Hill-Brownsville district from the Board of Education’s hidebound central bureaucracy. But Dr. McCoy preferred to see it as veritable community control, which would empower a locally elected board of parents and other district residents to choose their children’s teachers and their supervisors.

The Brooklyn community board’s decision in 1968 to transfer 19 teachers and supervisors it deemed second-rate — ordinarily a routine procedure — enraged the United Federation of Teachers. That all 19 were white gave the conflict a racial cast.

The union insisted that the personnel shifts fundamentally threatened the job security it had won from the Board of Education less than a decade earlier in its first collective bargaining agreement.

An administrative stalemate — a hearing officer ruled that the teachers should be reinstated, but the local board ignored the order — touched off a series of strikes that shut schools for a million students during 36 of the first 38 days of the fall 1968 term. It led to vituperative and even violent confrontations at local schools and an enduring estrangement between black residents, who made up most of the neighborhood, and Jews, who accounted for many members of the teachers’ union.

Months of chaos ensued as city officials sought to reconcile the educational theory behind school decentralization with the city’s ethnic and racial political realities. If Dr. McCoy had largely faded since then as a forgotten footnote, Albert Shanker, the teachers’ union president and a lifelong liberal, would be immortalized as a choleric rabble-rouser — notably by Woody Allen in the 1973 film “Sleeper,” in which the protagonist awakens after two centuries in suspended animation to learn that the United States has been destroyed because “a man named Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear warhead.”

Adding fuel to an already combustible caldron was a supporting cast that included Herman Ferguson, who was nominated as a principal by the district’s governing board while under indictment for conspiring to murder moderate civil rights leaders; Leslie Campbell, a black teacher who during a radio interview read a poem by a student that included the lines “You pale-faced Jew boy — I wish you were dead”; and John O’Neill, a teachers’ union vice president, who became alarmed by the rising racial tension and publicly broke with Mr. Shanker.

In her book “The Great School Wars: A History of the New York City Public Schools” (1974), Diane Ravitch described Dr. McCoy as among the militants who were “not interested in testing community control, but in having community control.”

“He was a veteran educator surrounded by angry activists,” Dr. Ravitch said in an email. “He gave legitimacy to their cause. He was not caught in the middle. He enjoyed being the public face of the community control movement, and he must have enjoyed the discomfort he caused the establishment.”

But despite the good intentions of Mayor John V. Lindsay, who supported decentralization to improve failing schools, and McGeorge Bundy, president of the Ford Foundation, which had initiated the experiment, some supporters said it was doomed from the start.

All of the original three demonstration districts were established in minority neighborhoods, inevitably casting the conflict through a racial prism. Control was never clearly defined, nor was the local district given the support it needed to redeem what it considered its mandate — whether because of bungling by the Board of Education’s grinding bureaucracy or deliberate sabotage.

A New York Civil Liberties Union analysis of the decentralization experiment later concluded: “Once the Board of Education understood that what Ocean Hill-Brownsville really wanted was an experiment in genuine community control, it backed off even before it had begun.”

Dr. McCoy later lamented that such an experiment was even attempted.

“It is absurd to try to deceive people by giving them programs, uttering promises and painting them pictures of future success while at the same time denying them the tools, techniques and the power to accomplish all these,” he wrote in a letter to The New York Times in 1969.

Charles S. Isaacs, who taught at Junior High School 271 in the district and later wrote “Inside Ocean Hill-Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education, 1968-69” (2014), said in an interview, “Rhody came with a vision of bringing black nationalism into the classroom, and he stuck with it as long as it was possible.”

The three demonstration districts were scrapped by the State Legislature and replaced in 1969 with a citywide hybrid version of decentralization, which left most of the control with the central board.

Dr. McCoy in 1967. “Rhody came with a vision of bringing black nationalism into the classroom,” a colleague said, “and he stuck with it as long as it was possible.”Credit…Robert Walker/The New York Times

Rhody Arnold McCoy Jr. was born on Jan. 16, 1923, in Washington to Rhody McCoy Sr., a letter carrier, and Theresa (Gant) McCoy.

He originally wanted to be a doctor, he said, but he was inspired by his teachers in Washington’s segregated school system to pursue a career in education.

After graduating from Dunbar High School and serving in the Army in the Pacific during World War II, he earned a bachelor of science degree from Howard University in 1947, followed by a master’s from New York University and a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Carole Richmond-McCoy; seven children from his first marriage, to Edith Bowman-McCoy, which ended with her death: Marshena McCoy-Williams, Pamela McCoy, Carmen McCoy-Bell, Dr. Renée McCoy-Collins, Sharon McCoy, Yvette McCoy-Johnson and Rhody A. McCoy III; three children from his second marriage, Jennifer Richmond, Cynthia Richmond-Farr and Matthew Richmond; 18 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-granddaughter.

He joined the New York City school system in 1949 and was an assistant principal at a school for emotionally disturbed boys in Manhattan when he was recruited by the Ocean Hill-Brownsville district shortly after it was established in 1967 — initially as a principal and then as one of two finalists, along with a white local principal, for unit administrator.

Dr. McCoy lived in Roosevelt, N.Y., and was an acolyte of Malcolm X when he was hired by the Brooklyn district, which had about 9,000 students and about 550 teachers. After the protests subsided in November 1968, he told New York magazine that of 250 teachers he hired, many to replace strikers, more than 70 percent were white and more than 50 percent were Jewish.

“We have changed a few things” in his relatively brief tenure, he told the magazine. “We’re trying to get teachers to teach, get involved with the kids in a one-to-one relationship, not simply stand up in front of a class and dispense facts.”

But he was hamstrung, and he left in 1970 because, as he wrote in The Times, the central issue in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville upheaval was “power and its redistribution.”

“Developments revealed,” he wrote, “that no real redistribution of power can take place peaceably in our society. It is clear that these issues are political. This alarms only those clinging to the myth that politics and education are separate.” (He acknowledged that the various factions might have found a way to compromise. “One,” he said years later, “would be to get rid of me.”)

After the experimental districts were abolished in the 1970s, Dr. McCoy, whose close-cropped hair had by then evolved into a short Afro, became an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, where he directed the Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students.

He was later director of teacher education at the University of San Francisco; an academic officer at Metropolitan State College in Denver; and dean of the School of Continuing Education at Federal City College in Washington, now part of the University of the District of Columbia.

In 1981, when Dr. McCoy was enlisted by the District of Columbia’s school system to expand community involvement, the district’s acting school superintendent, James T. Guines, characterized his new hire to The Washington Post as “a militant” and “aggressive.”

But he added: “He is not the same Rhody McCoy we read about in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, taking on Mayor Lindsay, on Albert Shanker. He still has the same philosophy and the same convictions. But I don’t think he has the same energy level. You can’t keep that up.”


Stop Asking About the Future: No One Knows What’s Going to Happen!

Crystal ball | Sorceress, Art

Dear Commons Community,

Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, has an op-ed ( see below)  in today’s New York Times entitled, “No One Knows What’s Going to Happen”.  He pleads for all of us to stop asking pundits to predict the future after the coronavirus.  They don’t know.   He gives examples from history and religion to make his case.  His conclusion:

“A dose of humility would do us good in the present moment. It might also help reconcile us to the radical uncertainty in which we are always living. Let us retire our prophets and augurs. And let us stop asking health specialists and public officials for confident projections they are in no position to make — and stop being disappointed when the ones we force out of them turn out to be wrong.”



New York Times

No One Knows What’s Going to Happen

Mark Lilla

May 24, 2020

The best prophet, Thomas Hobbes once wrote, is the best guesser. That would seem to be the last word on our capacity to predict the future: We can’t.

But it is a truth humans have never been able to accept. People facing immediate danger want to hear an authoritative voice they can draw assurance from; they want to be told what will occur, how they should prepare, and that all will be well. We are not well designed, it seems, to live in uncertainty. Rousseau exaggerated only slightly when he said that when things are truly important, we prefer to be wrong than to believe nothing at all.

The history of humanity is the history of impatience. Not only do we want knowledge of the future, we want it when we want it. The Book of Job condemns as prideful this desire for immediate attention. Speaking out of the whirlwind, God makes it clear that he is not a vending machine. He shows his face and reveals his plans when the time is ripe, not when the mood strikes us. We must learn to wait upon the Lord, the Bible tells us. Good luck with that, Job no doubt grumbled.

When the gods are silent, human beings take things into their own hands. In religions where the divine was thought to inscribe its messages in the natural world, specialists were taught to take auspices from the disposition of stars in the sky, from decks of cards, dice, a pile of sticks, a candle flame, a bowl of oily water, or the liver of some poor sheep. With these materials, battles could be planned, plagues predicted and bad marriages avoided.

In those places where the gods were thought to communicate verbally with humans, oracles and prophets were designated to provide answers on demand. The most highly revered oracles in the ancient Greek world were the high priestesses at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. When it came time to respond to a petitioner who had placed a question before her, the priestess would enter the inner sanctum and seat herself on a tripod erected over a crevice in the ground, out of which inebriating gases were thought to rise.

These fumes paralyzed her rational faculties and put her in a trance of receptivity that allowed the god Apollo to speak through her in cryptic remarks and riddles. These would be interpreted by a second figure, the prophet, who answered the grateful petitioner in poetry or prose. It was a very successful start-up and made Delphi a wealthy town.

Prophets today are less flamboyant. Former prime ministers do not, as a rule, sniff drugs before appearing on CNN. They sit meekly in the green room sipping mineral water before being called on to announce our fate. Augurs have given up on sheep livers and replaced them with big data and statistical modeling. The wonder is that we still cry out for their help, given that the future is full of surprises.

Professional forecasters know this about the future, which is why in the small print of their reports they lay out all the assumptions that went into the forecast and the degree of statistical confidence one might have in particular estimates, given the data and research methods used. But harried journalists and public officials don’t read or comprehend the footnotes, and with the public baying for information, they understandably pass on the most striking estimates just to get through the day.

Ancient augurs and prophets were in high-risk professions. When their predictions failed to materialize, many were executed by sovereigns or pulled apart by mobs. We see a bloodless version of this reaction today in the public’s declining confidence in both the news media and the government.

Take a banal example: snowstorms and school closings. A half century ago, when meteorological forecasting was less sophisticated, parents and children would not learn that classes were canceled until the storm began and it was announced on radio and television that very morning. We lived in harmless uncertainty, which for kids was thrilling. When snowflakes fell they even looked like manna from heaven.

Today, mayors and school superintendents, putting their faith in the meteorologists, routinely announce closings a day or more in advance. If the storm fails to arrive, though, they are sharply criticized by parents who lost a day of work or had to find day care. And if an unforeseen storm paralyzes the city, leaving streets unsalted and children stranded at school, the reaction is far worse. More than one mayor has lost a re-election bid because of failed prophecies, victim of our collective overconfidence in human foresight.

Our addiction to economic forecasting is far more consequential. Here the footnotes really do matter but politicians and the press encourage magical thinking.

The candidate declares, My plan will create 205,000 new jobs, raise the Dow 317 points and lower the price of gasoline 15 cents. Two years later, the gloating headline reads: The President’s Unkept Promises. Stagnant growth, a bear market and war in the Middle East make re-election unlikely.

Never mind that declining global demand slowed growth, that Wall Street is a drama queen and that a freakish tanker collision set off the war. A failed presidency is declared. And so the press and the public turn to fresher faces — who of course offer the same absurdly precise predictions. Not for nothing did Gore Vidal call us the United States of Amnesia.

The public square is thick today with augurs and prophets claiming to foresee the post-Covid world to come. I, myself, who find sundown something of a surprise every evening, have been pursued by foreign journalists asking what the pandemic will mean for the American presidential election, populism, the prospects of socialism, race relations, economic growth, higher education, New York City politics and more. And they seem awfully put out when I say I have no idea. You know your lines, just say them.

I understand their position. With daily life frozen, there are fewer newsworthy events to be reported on and debated. Yet columns must be written, and the 24/7 cable news machine must be fed. Only so much time can be spent on the day’s (hair-raising) news conferences or laying blame for decisions made in the past or sentimental stories on how people are coping. So journalists’ attention turns toward the future.

But the post-Covid future doesn’t exist. It will exist only after we have made it. Religious prophecy is rational, on the assumption that the future is in the gods’ hands, not ours. Believers can be confident that what the gods say through the oracles’ mouth or inscribe in offal will come to pass, independent of our actions. But if we don’t believe in such deities, we have no reason to ask what will happen to us. We should ask only what we want to happen, and how to make it happen, given the constraints of the moment.

Apart from the actual biology of the coronavirus — which we are only beginning to understand — nothing is predestined. How many people fall ill with it depends on how they behave, how we test them, how we treat them and how lucky we are in developing a vaccine.

The result of those decisions will then limit the choices about reopening that employers, mayors, university presidents and sports club owners are facing. Their decisions will then feed back into our own decisions, including whom we choose for president this November. And the results of that election will have the largest impact on what the next four years will hold.

The pandemic has brought home just how great a responsibility we bear toward the future, and also how inadequate our knowledge is for making wise decisions and anticipating consequences. Perhaps that is why our prophets and augurs can’t keep up with the demand for foresight.

At some level, people must be thinking that the more they learn about what is predetermined, the more control they will have. This is an illusion. Human beings want to feel that they are on a power walk into the future, when in fact we are always just tapping our canes on the pavement in the fog.

A dose of humility would do us good in the present moment. It might also help reconcile us to the radical uncertainty in which we are always living. Let us retire our prophets and augurs. And let us stop asking health specialists and public officials for confident projections they are in no position to make — and stop being disappointed when the ones we force out of them turn out to be wrong. (A shift from daily to weekly news conferences and reports would be a small step toward sobriety.)

It is bad enough living with a president who refuses to recognize reality. We worsen the situation by focusing our attention on litigating the past and demanding certainty about the future. We must accept what we are, in any case, condemned to do in life: tap and step, tap and step, tap and step ….


Trump Whines Again and Attacks Fox News for ‘doing nothing to help Republicans, and me,’ Get Reelected!

Donald Trump cries like a baby after realizing Nancy Pelosi still ...

Dear Commons Community,

President Donald Trump launched a Twitter tirade against Fox News on Thursday — the second one this week — accusing the network of “doing nothing to help Republicans” and himself get reelected in November.  Trump has become the whiniest president ever and continues to play the victim when anybody criticizes him.   As reported by Politico.

“The president has been quick to attack the network, especially after host Neil Cavuto criticized the president on Monday for saying he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, despite health experts’ warnings. Trump on Thursday listed Cavuto along with other hosts and contributors he is disgruntled with, calling them “garbage” and adding that Fox News used to be “great.”

“Many will disagree, but @FoxNews is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd,” the president tweeted. “Sure, there are some truly GREAT people on Fox, but you also have some real ‘garbage’ littered all over the network, people like Dummy Juan Williams, Schumerite Chris…Hahn, Richard Goodstein, Donna Brazile, Niel Cavuto, and many others.”

He continued: “They repeat the worst of the Democrat speaking points, and lies. All of the good is totally nullified, and more. Net Result = BAD! CNN & MSDNC are all in for the Do Nothing Democrats! Fox WAS Great!”

Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s remarks.

In a Fox News poll released on Thursday evening, 48 percent of voters said they would vote for former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, if the election were held now, while 40 percent of voters said they would vote for Trump. Biden and Trump were tied at 42 percent in last month‘s Fox News poll.

Trump’s relationship with the conservative network, which has generally covered him favorably, has been rocky in recent months. The president, who frequently criticizes the media, attacked Fox News last month and said it was being fed “Democrat talking points.”

“The people who are watching @FoxNews, in record numbers (thank you President Trump), are angry. They want an alternative now. So do I!” Trump tweeted on April 26.

After lashing out at Cavuto earlier this week, calling him an “idiot,” “foolish,” “gullible” and “an asshole,” the president swung at the network, saying in a tweet that Fox News is “no longer the same.”

“We miss the great Roger Ailes,” the president wrote of the onetime head of the network who resigned in 2016 after multiple accusations of sexual assault. Ailes, who died in 2017, had advised Trump on debate preparation during the 2016 election.

“You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before,” the tweet said. “Looking for a new outlet!”

Trump’s whining shows our president and the leader of the free world as one big cry baby with the everybody out to get him.  Lead and stop crying, Mr. President!


Associated Press Poll:  Americans Wary of Reopening!



Dear Commons Community,

Much of the country remains unlikely to venture out to bars, restaurants, theaters or gyms anytime soon, despite state and local officials across the country increasingly allowing businesses to reopen, according to a new survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

That hesitancy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak could muffle any recovery from what has been the sharpest and swiftest economic downturn in U.S. history. Just 42% of those who went to concerts, movies, theaters or sporting events at least monthly before the outbreak say they’d do so in the next few weeks if they could. Only about half of those who regularly went to restaurants, exercised at the gym or traveled would feel comfortable doing so again.

About a quarter of Americans say someone in their household has lost a job amid that downturn, and about half have lost household income, including layoffs, pay cuts, cut hours or unpaid time off. The majority of those whose household suffered a layoff still believe they will return to their previous employer, but the share expecting their job will not return has risen slightly over the past month, to 30% from 20%.   As reported by the Associated Press.

Amber Van Den Berge, a teacher in Indiana, held off on immediately returning to her second job as a fitness instructor. She would need to pass a test for COVID-19, get her temperature checked each morning and lead class while wearing a protective mask.

“Wear a mask to teach a fitness class? I’m not ready for that,” said Van Den Berge, 39.

The speed and strength of any economic rebound could be thwarted because many fear the risk of new infections. Consumers make up roughly 70% of U.S. economic activity, so anything less than a total recovery in spending would force many companies to permanently close and deepen the financial pain for 39 million people who have lost jobs in roughly the past two months.

Forty-nine percent of Americans approve of how President Donald Trump is handling the economy, the poll shows. That has slipped over the last two months, from 56% in March. Still, the issue remains a relative positive for Trump, whose overall approval rating stands at 41%.

Trump has at times downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and the benefits of testing and has criticized the leadership of Democratic governors. Meanwhile, many Democratic lawmakers have insisted on the importance of containing the disease and sustaining the economy with federal aid.

… it also shows how an atmosphere of political polarization may be feeding both an eagerness by some to return and a reluctance by others to resume their previous lifestyles.

Among those who did so at least monthly before the outbreak, Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say they’d go to restaurants (69% to 37%), movies, concerts or theaters (68% to 28%), travel (65% to 38%) and go to a gym or fitness studio (61% to 44%).

Sixty-nine percent of those who regularly shopped in person for nonessential items before the outbreak, including majorities among both parties, say they’d be likely to wander malls and stores again. But Republicans are more likely to say so than Democrats, 82% to 61%.

…Still, there’s an exception to the partisan divide, with 76% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats who get haircuts on at least a monthly basis saying they’d do that in the next few weeks if they could.

The poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans, 70%, describe the economy as poor, but their outlook for the future is highly partisan. Sixty-two percent of Republicans expect improvement in the coming year, while 56% of Democrats say it will worsen.

At the same time, two-thirds of Americans say their personal finances are good, which has remained steady since before the outbreak began.

Many families have been able to survive the downturn because of aid such as direct payments to taxpayers and expanded unemployment benefits that will expire in July.

Mitchell Durst, 74, has watched the job losses from the sidelines as a retired mathematician in Keyser, West Virginia.

He was already cautious about going out because of a compromised immune system from cancer treatments. The disease stopped his weekly poker game. He lived through the polio crisis, dealt with gas rationing during the 1970s and worked in Nigeria during the Ebola scare.

He calculates the United States will need to be patient about an economic comeback.

“Until we have a vaccine, particularly for those folks at risk, it’s going to be awhile,” Durst said. “If we get something in two years, if we’re so fortunate to be able to do that, I think that would be fantastic.”

I too believe that a vaccine is absolutely necessary for the country to begin a road to normalcy.


The AP-NORC poll of 1,056 adults was conducted May 14-18 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Unemployment Rate Reaches 38.6 Million: As Many as 42 Percent of Jobs May Never Come Back!

Another 2.4 million workers joined the nation’s unemployment rolls last week, and there is growing concern among economists that many of the lost jobs are gone for good. With over 38 million U.S. unemployment claims in nine weeks, one economist says the situation is “grimmer than we thought.”  The Labor Department’s report of new jobless claims, released yesterday, brought the total to 38.6 million since mid-March, when the coronavirus outbreak forced widespread shutdowns.   As reported by The New York Times

“While workers and their employers have expressed optimism that most of the joblessness will be temporary, many who are studying the pandemic’s impact are increasingly worried about the employment situation. ‘I hate to say it, but this is going to take longer and look grimmer than we thought.’  Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University, said of the path to recovery.

Mr. Bloom is a co-author of an analysis that estimates 42 percent of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss.

“Firms intend to hire these people back,” he said, referring to a recent survey of businesses by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. “But we know from the past that these aspirations often don’t turn out to be true.”

The precariousness of the path ahead was underscored Thursday by the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell. “We are now experiencing a whole new level of uncertainty, as questions only the virus can answer complicate the outlook,” he said in remarks for delivery at an online forum.

The economy that does come back is likely to look quite different from the one that closed. If social distancing rules become the new normal, causing thinner crowds in restaurants, theaters and stores, at sports arenas, and on airplanes, then fewer workers will be required.

Large companies already expect more of their workers to continue to work remotely and say they plan to reduce their real estate footprint, which will reduce the foot traffic that feeds nearby restaurants, shops, nail salons and other businesses.

Concerns about working in close quarters and too much social interaction could also accelerate the trend toward automation, some economists say.

New jobs are being created, mostly at low wages — for delivery drivers, warehouse workers and cleaners. But many more jobs will vanish.

“I think we’re in for a very long haul,” Mr. Bloom at Stanford said.

Torsten Slok, chief economist for Deutsche Bank Securities, agreed that the government’s latest report pointed to lasting job losses. Even with states reopening, “the hemorrhaging has continued,” he said.

“I fear that maybe there is something more fundamental going on,” particularly in occupations most affected by social distancing rules, Mr. Slok added. He expects the official jobless rate for May to approach 20 percent, up from the 14.7 percent reported by the Labor Department for April.”

A horrible situation for our country and its workers!


The University of California to Drop the SAT and ACT Tests as Admission Requirements!

SAT/PSAT/ACT Test Prep - Stepping Stones

Dear Commons Community,

In a landmark decision, the University of California announced yesterday that it will drop the SAT and ACT tests as admission requirements by 2024.  The UC’s governing body, the Board of Regents, voted 23-0  to approve a proposal by UC President Janet Napolitano that phases the tests out over five years, at which point the UC aims to have developed its own test or it will eliminate an admissions test altogether. As reported by the Associated Press.

“The regents met in a teleconference that lasted several hours Thursday, with expert presentations and lengthy debates that echoed a national conversation about whether the tests discriminate against disadvantaged students or help admissions offices find the most qualified applicants.

“I think this is an incredible step in the right direction,” Regents Chairman John Perez said.

Critics of the tests have long argued they put minority and low-income students at a disadvantage because the test questions often contain inherent bias that more privileged children are better equipped to answer. Wealthier students also tend to take expensive prep courses that help boost their scores, which many students can’t afford, critics say.

With California high school campuses closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UC had already made the tests optional for students who want to attend the fall 2021 session

Under the plan approved Thursday, SAT and ACT tests will be optional for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years for all applicants.

Starting in 2023 and continuing the following year, the admissions process will be “test blind” for California residents, meaning SAT and ACT scores won’t be used in admissions decisions but could still be considered for purposes such as course placement and scholarships. Napolitano asked the school’s academic senate to work with the administration on a plan for out-of-state and international students applying as of fall 2023.

In 2025, the 290,000-student UC system will either replace the SAT and ACT with its own admissions test, or if it’s unable to create its own exam, will eliminate its standardized testing requirement altogether.

Napolitano’s office said in a statement that assessing nonresident students “presents challenges in terms of fairness and practicality,” but the options include extending the new tests for California students to out-of-state applicants or using some other standardized tests.

The decision by the massive UC system could be influential as other colleges nationwide eye similar decisions. UC officials said they would begin working on the new test this summer.”

I believe that the SAT or ACT have outlived their usefulness for admissions to college.  They were developed during an era when going to college was limited to a small percentage of the country’s population.  This is no longer the case.  A college education should be available to anyone. Furthermore, as the AP article indicates, these tests have put minority and low-income students at a disadvantage.

Good move by the UC Board of Regents!


Jane Roe of “Roe v. Wade” said she was paid by anti-abortion rights groups to support their movement!

Norma McCorvey
Dear Commons Community,
Norma McCorvey — otherwise known as “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States — said before her death that she was paid by anti-abortion rights groups to later oppose abortion. McCorvey made the stunning revelation in the forthcoming documentary “AKA Jane Roe,” set to premiere Friday on FX.  In an excerpt of the documentary reviewed by CBS News, McCorvey told director Nick Sweeney: “I was the big fish.”
“I think it was a mutual thing,” she added. “I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say.Sweeney then asked, “It was all an act?” To which McCorvey replied: “Yeah, I did it well too. I am a good actress — of course I’m not acting now.”McCorvey, the face of the abortion-rights movement at the time, came out against abortion in 1995 after purportedly finding religion at the hands of an evangelical minister. She went on to publicly participate in anti-abortion rights protests for the next two decades, and even published a memoir in 1998 explaining her decision to change sides. “I’m on what I call the right side of the movement now, because I’m fighting for life, instead of death,” she once told an interviewer, according to “CBS Sunday Morning.” When asked if she thought Roe v. Wade would be overturned, she replied, “Yes, I hope so.”Her decision was national news at the time, and marked a major victory for the anti-abortion rights movement. Now, what she called her “deathbed confession” — McCorvey died soon after her conversations with Sweeney — has upended the narrative once again. 

Access to abortion is still a heated issue nearly 50 years after it became law. At least eight states have restricted abortion as part of directives banning “non-essential” medical procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. In Texas, where Roe v. Wade began, all of the state’s abortion providers were forced to stop offering services for more than four weeks. It marked the first time a state has banned legal abortion since Roe v. Wade.

In a series of interviews with McCorvey and those who shaped her life, the documentary paints a complicated life story marked by abuse and manipulation. In the official trailer for the documentary, McCorvey recalled an impoverished and rough childhood, in which she was told her homosexuality was “dirty.” McCorvey married at 16, but said she was abused by her husband after telling him she was pregnant.

“It was 1969, I was pregnant and I was scared. These two attorneys were looking for a plaintiff to help overturn the Texas abortion laws,” she said, explaining how she became involved in what would eventually become Roe v. Wade. Ironically, she herself never had an abortion, and instead gave up her children for adoption. 

As part of her interview with Sweeney, McCorvey set the record straight about her opinion of abortion: “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, fine. You know, that’s no skin off my a**. You know that’s why they call it choice, it’s your choice.”

A two-minute video trailer  of the documentary is available.


New Study: Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives!

Dear Commons Community,

A new model coming out of Columbia University indicates that if the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak.  If the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided. Under that scenario, about 54,000 fewer people would have died by early May. According to the researchers, the model indicates that even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had subsumed New York City, New Orleans, Seattle and other major cities. As reported by The New York Times.

The findings are based on infectious disease modeling that gauges how reduced contact between people starting in mid-March slowed transmission of the virus. Dr. Shaman’s team modeled what would have happened if those same changes had taken place one or two weeks earlier and estimated the spread of infections and deaths until May 3.

The results show that as states reopen, outbreaks can easily get out of control unless officials closely monitor infections and immediately clamp down on new flare-ups. And they show that each day that officials waited to impose restrictions in early March came at a great cost.

After Italy and South Korea had started aggressively responding to the virus, President Trump resisted canceling campaign rallies or telling people to stay home or avoid crowds. The risk of the virus to most Americans was very low, he said.

“Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” Mr. Trump tweeted on March 9, suggesting that the flu was worse than the coronavirus. “At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

In fact, tens of thousands of people had already been infected by that point, researchers later estimated. But a lack of widespread testing allowed those infections to go undetected, hiding the urgency of an outbreak that most Americans still identified as a foreign threat.

In a statement released late Wednesday night in response to the new estimates, the White House reiterated Mr. Trump’s assertion that restrictions on travel from China in January and Europe in mid-March slowed the spread of the virus.

On March 16, Mr. Trump urged Americans to limit travel, avoid groups and stay home from school. Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, closed the city’s schools on March 15, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a stay-at-home order that took effect on March 22. Changes to personal behavior across the country in mid-March slowed the epidemic, a number of disease researchers have found.

But in cities where the virus arrived early and spread quickly, those actions were too late to avoid a calamity.

In the New York metro area alone, 21,800 people had died by May 3. Fewer than 4,300 would have died by then if control measures had been put in place and adopted nationwide just a week earlier, on March 8, the researchers estimated.

All models are only estimates, and it is impossible to know for certain the exact number of people who would have died. But Lauren Ancel Meyers, a University of Texas at Austin epidemiologist who was not involved in the research, said that it “makes a compelling case that even slightly earlier action in New York could have been game changing.”

“This implies that if interventions had occurred two weeks earlier, many Covid-19 deaths and cases would have been prevented by early May, not just in New York City but throughout the U.S.,” Dr. Meyers said.

The fates of specific people cannot be captured by a computer model. But there is a name, a story and a town for every person who was infected and later showed symptoms and died in March and early April.”

Yes!  Those who died were not just numbers on a page or chart but real people whose families and friends were devastated.


Mariel Sander: Spent Her Last Month of College Lifting Bodies in a Morgue!

She Spent Her Last Month of College Lifting Bodies in a Morgue ...

Mariel Sander

Dear Commons Community,

Mariel Sander thought she would spend her final month at Columbia University going to parties, taking a modern dance class and road-tripping over spring break to five national parks.  Instead, she carried dead bodies off hospital beds and refrigerated trailers.

The coronavirus has killed more than 20,000 people in New York City, straining hospital morgues and funeral homes like never before. To manage the onslaught, hospitals brought on more than 100 temporary morgue workers, according to the city’s Department of Health.  As reported by The New York Times.

Ms. Sander was one of them. She had been sitting at home in Oldwick, N.J., restless after her Manhattan campus closed and eager to help in the pandemic. She emailed city hospitals until she ended up in the $25-per-hour job.

Ms. Sander, 21, spoke with The New York Times throughout her month working at a hospital morgue in Brooklyn, providing a rare glimpse inside an operation that is hidden from public view.

She encountered nightmarish moments — ripped body bags, amputated limbs, mysterious liquids pooled on bedsheets.

But she said she also developed a newfound respect for the rituals of death. The morgue team taught her to treat each body with care, a way to respect the family members who could not be inside the hospital to say goodbye to their loved ones.

The experience depleted her physically and emotionally. When carrying bodies, she sometimes glanced at their birth years, written on the body bags, to see how close in age they were to her parents.

“This experience taught me more about empathy than anything else,” she said.

Ms. Sander, who was not authorized to speak with the media about her job, shared her experiences on the condition that the hospital’s name not be published. Many details were corroborated by another employee who was also not authorized to speak with the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.  Here is one of her experiences.

“Ms. Sander has not been sleeping well. She thinks about the silhouette of a stomach under the body bag, the jiggling of skin on a dead body.

Her lower back aches. Lifting a body from the lowest shelf in the trailer is grueling. When she pushes a stretcher through winding hallways and on steep ramps, she often bumps into the wall, causing a twinge in her back.

She carries a thin, older woman whose body is still warm. The feeling reminds her of hugging her grandmother, who died earlier this year.

It is now common for bodies to sit at the morgue for three to four weeks, compared with an average of two to three days before the pandemic. Funeral homes are so backed up that they are turning families away who need burial services.

In addition to refrigeration, the hospital tries to slow decomposition by placing balled bedsheets underneath the bodies’ heads. Keeping the head elevated prevents redness in the face, making it more recognizable to families.”

Ms. Sander, a neuroscience and English major, now feels sure that she wants to go to medical school and better understand how the human body works.

Best of luck to her!


Johns Hopkins is Looking at $375-Million Budget Shortfall Due to Coronavirus!

Dear Commons Community,

It is May and generally it is the month when colleges look at the preceding academic year and start planning for the new one.  This year has been unlike any other as the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on our entire way of life. The human and social upheaval has been and continues to be unprecedented in the United States which has recorded more 1.5 million coronavirus cases and almost 100,000 deaths.  Our social institutions have all had to make incredible adjustments to deal with the crisis.  In addition to the human tragedy, the virus has  devasted the financial stability of these institutions.  Colleges and university administrators  are now in deep discussions on how to recover their fiscal health as they move to the 2020-2021 academic year.  While it is likely that tuition-drive private colleges may have to make the most draconian decisions to survive, even those with substantial endowments and a stronger financial base will not be spared. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article this morning providing insights on how Johns Hopkins University will be dealing with a $375 million shortfall.  Essentially things are bad and likely to get worse next year. As reported:

The Johns Hopkins University forecast net losses for the next fiscal year to be as much as $375 million. The president, Ronald J. Daniels, also provided an unusually detailed picture of the scope of the challenges that the coronavirus has presented to his institution’s finances.

“The magnitude of the challenges we face is unlike any we have experienced in recent memory,” Daniels recently said in a statement. The university, he said, was experiencing “a dramatic and unprecedented contraction.”

Daniels also outlined a three-phase plan to mitigate losses, which includes cutting the salaries of top leaders, restricting new hires, and suspending contributions to employees’ retirement accounts. Here’s a closer look at phase one of his financial plan.

Suspension of retirement contributions

In fiscal 2021, the university will enact a one-year suspension of employer contributions to 403(b) and 457(f) retirement accounts—a step we take with great reluctance and appreciation for the sacrifice of our employees, but one that avoids across-the-board salary reductions and will help us to maintain employment for as much of our workforce as possible ahead. Note that university contributions to its defined-benefit pension plan will continue, and employees may make elective contributions to their own 403(b) and 457(b) accounts, subject to IRS maximums. The savings generated by this action will be reflected in a lower fringe benefit rate, which accrues to all divisions of the university, as well as sponsored research grants. This action is projected to save $100 million in FY 2021.

Salary reductions for university leaders

In recognition of the sacrifices that will be required across the university, Provost Kumar and I will reduce our salaries by 20% in the next fiscal year, and our deans and university officers will reduce their salaries by 10%.

Salary holds for faculty and staff

The university instituted a general prohibition and review of base salary increases effective April, and we will continue this hold for the next fiscal year (ending in June 2021). Again, this was a difficult but critical decision. This means that base salaries for FY21 will be the same as for FY20, with no annual merit increases. Any exceptions will require the written approval of the dean. Staff promotions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require the written approval of the dean or division director. Any exceptions, such as a reclassification, equity adjustment, or supplemental bonus, will also require the written approval of the dean. This action is projected to save approximately $20 million in FY 2021.

Restrictions on hiring

For staff positions—the university is restricting hiring through fiscal 2021. Employment offer letters issued through April 7 will be honored, but any new offers will require written approval of the dean or division director. We will allow flexibility for hiring to meet urgent or strategic needs, particularly roles essential to program or clinical activity related to the COVID pandemic.

For academic positions—the deans will review all approved or planned faculty searches with the provost (including those with donor support) to jointly determine which should continue and which should be paused. Hiring of postdoctoral trainees and part-time or casual faculty will also be restricted to those that are essential to instruction, research, and/or clinical operations. Hiring for those roles will require the approval of the dean. This action is projected to save $40 million in FY21.

Furloughs and layoffs

Furloughs and layoffs are regrettably expected to be necessary within some units of the university as an unavoidable consequence of the losses we are experiencing. Decisions regarding furloughs and layoffs will be made at the divisional and departmental level, including within university administration. Every effort will be made to provide transition assistance for affected employees during this extraordinarily difficult time.

Suspension of capital projects

The university has halted new capital projects over $100,000 through FY21, including information technology and equipment purchases, with exceptions granted for projects that address critical life safety or systems issues or meet an urgent strategic need. All active studies, design and construction projects are also subject to review. To-date, the divisions have reviewed their planned capital projects under $5 million in size and have decided to put 78 projects valued at $29 million on hold. Divisions are being asked similarly to review all ongoing and new projects under $100,000 to assess their operational necessity and to consider deferring or suspending them as appropriate. Recognizing both our commitments to funders and the importance of construction projects on the local economy, we also will continue with some capital projects that are largely supported by donor and/or sponsored funds.

Non-personnel expense reductions

The university procurement, technology, facilities and real estate teams will work with the divisions to revisit contracts for goods and services as well as construction and lease commitments to leverage the university’s purchasing power and long-standing relationships with vendors and set savings targets.  Due in part to the response to COVID-19, recent reductions in non-personnel expenses are expected to continue into the next fiscal year.  For example, the university is projecting to save nearly $10 million in non-sponsored research funded travel for the last three months of the current fiscal year.  Given likely continued limitations on travel through the fall, further savings are expected.   In undertaking these actions, it is important that we remain steadfast in our efforts to improve the university’s inclusionary and local building and buying efforts as committed through HopkinsLocal.

This fiscal scenario will be repeating itself throughout higher education in the coming months.