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Harvard Returns $8.6M in Relief Funds After Backlash

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  • After receiving backlash, Harvard said it will return $8.6 million that it was given in federal aid through an education relief fund created by the stimulus package.
  • President Trump accused Harvard of taking emergency funding earmarked for small businesses and said he would request they give the money back.
  • In a statement, Harvard clarified that it had not taken money set aside for small businesses. Instead, it received money set aside for colleges and universities.
  • The money Harvard received was similar to the amounts of other schools with large endowments, like Stanford and Princeton, which have said they will not accept the funding.

Harvard Reverses Funding Decision

Harvard has said it will not accept the $8.6 million it received in emergency federal funding, a reversal prompted by widespread criticism that the richest school in America should not get government money.

Harvard had initially said it would keep the money after President Donald Trump said the school should give it back, though he appeared to confuse the source of funding.

During a press conference Tuesday, Trump accused Harvard of taking stimulus money set aside for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

“Harvard is going to pay back the money. And they shouldn’t be taking it. So, Harvard is going to,” Trump said during a press conference Tuesday.

“You have a number of them. I’m not going to mention any other names. But when I saw Harvard, they have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world, I guess. And they’re going to pay back that money.” 

Shortly after Trump’s remarks, Harvard responded in a statement on Twitter. 

“Harvard did not apply for, nor has it received any funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses. Reports saying otherwise are inaccurate,” the school wrote. 

“President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses,” the statement continued. 

Like most colleges and universities, Harvard has been allocated funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.”

Harvard also said that that it will direct all of the funds to the students, on top of additional financial assistance it has already given to students for things like travel, living expenses, and the transition to online classes.

But the next day, the university appeared to change it’s mind.

Harvard will not accept funds from the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund,” Harvard wrote in a series of tweets.

“We are concerned that intense focus by politicians & others on Harvard in connection with the program may undermine participation in a relief effort,” it continued, adding that as a result, “Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute.”

Harvard’s change of heart came hours after Princeton announced that it would not be accepting the funding and Stanford said on Twitter that it had withdrawn its application for the money on Monday.

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

Like the PPP, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund was approved by both Congress and Trump as part of the $2 trillion stimulus package. The fund specifically designates $14 billion to help higher education.

The Education Department has said that thousands of colleges and universities will get money through the fund. The recipients include both public and private institutions, and range from Ivy Leagues to beauty schools.

Per the directions of the department, about half of the money the schools get is supposed to go the students, while the other half goes to making up lost revenue and other costs related to the pandemic.

While Harvard is the richest university in the U.S. with an endowment of around $40 billion, the money they received from the fund was in line with other comparable schools— including those that also have sizeable endowments.

Yale, which has a $30 billion endowment, was also given $6.8 million. Standford also has an endowment of just under $30 billion, and it had received $7.3 million before deciding to pull its application.

Other Ivy Leagues including Columbia and Cornell got even more from the fund— about $12.8 million each. While both schools have slightly smaller endowments, they are still quite large when compared to other universities. 

Funding Allocation

Notably, the money is not given out based on how much money a school does or does not have. Instead, the funds are allocated based on a formula that takes into account the overall student enrollment and income level of the student body.

That is measured by how many students at each school are receiving federal financial aid through federal Pell Grants. 

According to Harvard, 16% of their 6,600 undergraduates are Pell Grant recipients, and in the 2018-19 academic year, the school gave $200 million in scholarships to undergraduates alone.

That mechanism for measurement is also why many schools with less money got much bigger amounts of funding. The biggest sum went to Arizona State University, which received $63.5 million because it has 83,000 students and about half of them are considered low income.

But still, Harvard got a lot of backlash from plenty of people, not just President Trump. Republican Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) all took to Twitter to voice their disapproval of the move.

That sentiment was even echoed by Department of Education.

“Sending millions to schools with significant endowments is a poor use of taxpayer money,” a department spokesperson said Tuesday, adding that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had sent a letter to college and university presidents asking them to send the money back if they do not need it.

Other Problems With Funding

However, DeVos herself has recently received significant backlash for her handling of funding from the stimulus bill.

DeVos is in charge of distributing an additional $6 billion that is separate from the relief fund and earmarked specifically to help college students pay for food, childcare, and housing. 

On April 9, DeVos said that the $6 billion would be “immediately distributed” to the students. But according to a Politico report published Monday, only $6 million of that has been given out— less than a fraction of a percent.

That has already prompted widespread criticism from leaders in higher education, many of whom have said that they have struggled with bureaucracy and lack of guidance.

That is also not where their problems stop. Others have said there were glitches with the process of applying for the aid early on. According to reports, the website where schools submit documents would go down for hours at a time, and some schools that had not used the portal before had trouble registering.

But in a statement last week, a department spokesperson blamed the schools themselves.

“It’s tragic that at a time when students are struggling to make ends meet, too many highly capable and intelligent leaders of higher-ed institutions are dragging their feet and claiming it’s because there’s some lack of clarity in the law,” the spokesperson said.

Separately, DeVos issued a new guidance on Tuesday that prohibits undocumented students from receiving any of the $6 billion.

While the stimulus package does not have any language regarding undocumented student’s DeVos’ guidance mandates that the aid can only be given to students who qualify for federal financial aid.

Under current law, only U.S. citizens and some legal permanent residents are eligible for federal aid.

As a result, the policy explicitly excludes hundreds of thousands of students who are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Newsweek) (Politico)

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Manhattan City Council Candidate Says He’s “Not Ashamed” After BDSM Video Leaks Online

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While many applauded the candidate’s response, others suspect the entire ordeal may have been manufactured for publicity.


BDSM Video Leaks

Zack Weiner, a 26-year-old candidate for Manhattan’s City Council, has caught a flood of attention in recent days after responding to a BDSM video of himself that leaked online.

According to the New York Post, which first reported on the leak Saturday, the video was published by an anonymous Twitter account earlier this month.

“My magnificent domme friend played with Upper West Side city council candidate Zack Weiner and I’m the only one who has the footage,” the tweet reportedly read.

The video was flagged to the Post by Weiner’s campaign manager, Joe Gallagher, the news outlet said. The tabloid also claimed it showed Weiner gagged while “subjecting himself to various abuses by a leather-bound woman who pours wax on him and clips his nipples with clothespins.”

The footage was filmed at Parthenon studio in Midtown, which the Post described as known for its high-quality BDSM dungeons, and Weiner actually confirmed the video’s authenticity to the outlet, saying it was filmed at that location in 2019 with a former girlfriend that he met during a Halloween party.

Weiner Says He’s “Not Ashamed”

Weiner took to Twitter on Saturday to address the private video head on.

“Whoops. I didn’t want anyone to see that, but here we are,” he wrote.

“I am not ashamed of the private video circulating of me on Twitter. This was a recreational activity that I did with my friend at the time, for fun. Like many young people, I have grown into a world where some of our most private moments have been documented online.”

“While a few loud voices on Twitter might chastise me for the video, most people see the video for what it is: a distraction. I trust that voters will choose a city council representative based on their policies and their ability to best serve the community,” he continued.

In his comments to the Post, he added, “I am a proud BDSMer. I like BDSM activity.” He also said he had no idea how the footage surfaced, saying “It’s definitely a violation of trust.”

Praise and Suspicions

Many people online have applauded Weiner for refusing to apologize for private consensual acts. One, for example, tweeted, “Yeah – as long as this was between 2 (or more) consenting adults – I don’t care one bit. If this info ALONE would cause you to vote for somebody else, then I am FAR MORE worried about YOUR participation in Government than his!”

In fact, many have said they would vote for him after learning of the video and slammed critics, as well as the tabloid, for “kink-shaming.”

It’s worth noting that the Post’s article described Weiner as someone who “has mostly been a nonentity in the race for the Upper West Side’s 6th District.” It pointed to the fact that he has no endorsements and that his campaign barely raised $10,000 — most of which allegedly came from himself and his campaign manager.

Because of this, along with Gallagher’s contact with the Post, some have speculated that the entire ordeal may have been some kind of stunt manufactured for publicity.

See what others are saying: (New York Post) (Insider) (HITC)

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Supreme Court Rejects Third Challenge to Affordable Care Act

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In the 7-2 decision, the justices argued the Republican-led states that brought the challenge forth failed to show how the law caused injury and thus had no legal standing.


SCOTUS Issues Opinion on Individual Mandate

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the third Republican-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act to ever reach the high court.

The issue at hand was the provision of the law, commonly known as Obamacare, that requires people to either purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty: the so-called individual mandate. 

The individual mandate has been one of the most controversial parts of Obamacare and it has already been before SCOTUS, which upheld the provision in 2012 on the grounds that it amounted to a tax and thus fell under Congress’ taxing power.

However, as part of the sweeping 2017 tax bill, the Republican-held Congress set the penalty for not having health care to $0. As a result, a group of Republican-led states headed by Texas sued, arguing that because their GOP colleagues made the mandate zero dollars, it no longer raised revenues and could not be considered a tax, thus making it unconstitutional.

The states also argued that the individual mandate is such a key part of Obamacare that it could not be separated without getting rid of the entire law.

The Supreme Court, however, rejected that argument in a 7-2 decision, with Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting.

Majority Opinion Finds No Injury

In the majority decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Republican states had no grounds to sue because they could not show how they were harmed by their own colleagues zeroing out the penalty.

“There is no possible government action that is causally connected to the plaintiffs’ injury — the costs of purchasing health insurance,” he wrote, adding that the states “have not demonstrated that an unenforceable mandate will cause their residents to enroll in valuable benefits programs that they would otherwise forgo.”

Breyer also argued that because of this, the court did not need to decide on the broader issue of whether the 2017 tax bill rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional and if that provision could be separated from the ACA.

The highly anticipated decision will officially keep Obamacare as the law of the land, ensuring that the roughly 20 million people enrolled still have health insurance. While there may be other challenges to the law hard-fought by conservatives, this latest ruling sends a key signal about the limits of the Republican efforts to achieve their agenda through the high court, even with the strong conservative majority.

While the court has now struck down challenges to Obamacare three times, Thursday’s decision marked the largest margin of victory of all three challenges to the ACA.

For now, the ACA appears to be fairly insulated from legal challenges, though it will still likely face more. In a tweet following the SCOTUS decision, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) vowed to keep fighting Obamacare, adding that the individual mandate “was unconstitutional when it was enacted and it is still unconstitutional.”

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press

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Utah Student With Down Syndrome Left Out of Cheer Squad’s Yearbook Photo

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The move marks the second time in three years that Morgyn Arnold has been left out of the school’s yearbook. Two years ago, it failed to include her in the class list.


Two Photos Take, One Without Morgyn Arnold

A Utah school has apologized after a student with Down syndrome at Shoreline Junior High was excluded from her cheerleading squad’s yearbook photo.

The squad took two official team portraits this year. The first included 14-year-old Morgyn Arnold, who had been working as the team manager but attended practices and cheered alongside her other teammates at every home game. The second imsgr did not include her and ended up being the photo the school used across social media and in its yearbook.

Arnold was heartbroken by the decision and her family believed it was made because of her disability.

In social media posts about the move, Arnold’s sister, Jordyn Poll, noted that Arnold “spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends but was left out.”

“I hope that no one ever has to experience the heartbreak that comes when the person they love comes home from school devastated and shows them that they’re not in the picture with their team,” she continued.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Poll also said this marked the second time in three years that her sister has been left out of the yearbook. Two years ago, the school failed to include her in the class list.

School Apologizes After Backlash

After Poll’s public call out picked up attention, the school said it was “deeply saddened by the mistake.”

Apologies have been made to the family, and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error,” it added. “We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice.”

The district issued a similar statement, claiming it was looking into why this occurred to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

But Poll said this isn’t the same response her family received when they initially contacted school administrators. Instead, Poll told the Tribune that an employee at the school “blatantly said they didn’t know what we were expecting of them and there was nothing they could do.”

The school has since contacted them again “to make the situation right.”

Meanwhile, Poll stressed that her sister’s teammates had nothing to do with the decision, defending the girls as amazing friends who have done everything to make Arnold feel included.

In fact, they too were disappointed to see that she was not featured in the image or even named as a member of the team in the yearbook.

Arnold’s family decided to speak up about the issue so that this school and others can improve the ways they interact with and include students with disabilities. Different forms of exclusion happen at schools across the country, and this story has prompted other parents of kids with disabilities to share similar experiences.

A staff attorney at the Disability Law Center of Utah told the Tribune that it receives about 4,000 complaints each year. Some complaints stemmed from students with disabilities being separated into other classrooms without their peers. Others include name-calling or not allowing students on a team or in a club.

Thankfully, Arnold has not let this situation bring her down. According to her family, she has already forgiven everyone involved and plans to continue cheering alongside her friends.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Salt Lake Tribune) (NBC News)

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