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Penn State frat crackdown, recruiting Chinese students & targeting Trump's honorary degrees: 5 things to know today

Natasha Lindstrom
| Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
Law school graduates Brock Bales (R) of Dallas, Texas and Tyler Owens (L) of Fort Worth, Texas, show their 'Make America Great Again' caps prior to the commencement at Liberty University May 13, 2017 in Lynchburg, Virginia. President Donald Trump is the first sitting president to speak at Liberty's commencement since George H.W. Bush spoke in 1990.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Law school graduates Brock Bales (R) of Dallas, Texas and Tyler Owens (L) of Fort Worth, Texas, show their 'Make America Great Again' caps prior to the commencement at Liberty University May 13, 2017 in Lynchburg, Virginia. President Donald Trump is the first sitting president to speak at Liberty's commencement since George H.W. Bush spoke in 1990.

School is back in session today at many places across Western Pennsylvania, including for youngsters in the likes of South Fayette who scored an extra day of summer vacation thanks to the solar eclipse.

Too busy — or worried about protecting your retina — to participate in Monday afternoon's eclipse-watching festivities? The Trib has you covered: Check out how solar eclipse views differed around the country , and see how Western Pennsylvanians experienced the astronomical event (consider jamming out to this stellar eclipse-themed playlist as you browse). And if you haven't tossed them yet, here's how to donate your used eclipse shades to Astronomers Without Borders.

Stay tuned later this week and into next as the Trib's education team fans out and gives you glimpses into college move-in days throughout the region. Get started with freshman arrivals at Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh and Seton Hill University.

Onto your daily dose of education news from around the region, state and nation.

Here are five things to know today:

1). PENN STATE GREEK LIFE CRACKDOWN: Fraternities and sororities will continue to face extra scrutiny as Penn State implements changes and stricter oversight of Greek life following the hazing death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza.

Pledging has been reduced to a maximum of six weeks and delayed until at least spring semester, with each pledge required to maintain 14 credits and a 2.5 GPA, the Associated Press reports. An alcohol moratorium remains in place until every chapter goes through a series of risk-management programs.

Penn State also is hiring 14 people in its Office of Student Affairs, and eight of them will be charged with performing "random checks" on fraternities and sororities to ensure compliance.

2). RELIEF FOR JILTED STUDENTS: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said that about 1,200 Pennsylvania residents who attended branches of the for-profit Corinthian College could be eligible to share in $6.7 million in loan forgiveness, the Trib's Deb Erdley reports . Aequitas Capital Management, a now-defunct investment firm that held private student loans, and Corinthian "engaged in predatory practices" by circumventing federal regulations and misrepresenting job placement and graduation rates, Shapiro said.

Before filing for bankruptcy in 2015, Corinthian enrolled 72,000 students nationwide. Pennsylvania joined Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington in the proposed broader settlement of $192 million.

3). CHINESE FIFTH-GRADERS NEED HOSTS: Plum School District officials are seeking volunteers to house 40 Chinese fifth-grade students participating in the Shenzhen international exchange program for three weeks — from Sept. 30 through Oct. 22, the Trib's Michael DiVittorio reports . Further, Superintendent Timothy Glasspool plans to travel to China for a week in September to recruit 30 Chinese high school senior-level students to attend school in Plum next year. The annual tuition paid to the district per student who participates: $11,000.

4). FACULTY EVALUATES COLLEGE PRESIDENT: Point Park University's faculty and administration continue to clash over contract negotiations as the largest freshman class arrives at the Downtown Pittsburgh campus.

On Wednesday, Point Park faculty will hold a vote of confidence or no confidence in university President Paul Hennigan, the Trib's Deb Erdley reports . Among issues on the table: academic freedom, workload, salary, tenure and whether Hennigan has failed to advance diversity and adequately respond "to the needs and welfare of students."

5). TRUMP'S PA. DEGREE CHALLENGED: Richard Weisman, emeritus engineering professor, wants to see if Lehigh University in Bethlehem "has the integrity and political guts" to revoke President Donald Trump's honorary degree.

Lehigh professors have joined a petition that urges the private research college about 50 miles north of Philadelphia to revoke the honorary doctorate degree given to Trump in 1988, when he spoke at the school's commencement ceremony and reportedly gave remarks that were "surprisingly liberal." The online petition has nearly 30,000 signatures. Weisman told the Lehigh Valley Live that Trump's response to the deadly violence that broke out at a white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Va. was "an embarrassment to Lehigh University."

Trump has received five honorary doctorate degrees and been stripped of one; Robert Gordon University in Scotland revoked theirs following Trump's call for a "complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the U.S. while on the campaign trail in December 2015 .

Related: Citing public safety concerns following the tragedy in Charlottesville, Penn State rejected a speaking engagement request by white nationalist Richard Spencer — the man credited with coining the term "alt right." Meanwhile, colleges across Western Pennsylvania are issuing calls to action for incoming students to treat each other with mutual respect and be on the lookout for acts of hate .

Questions? Story ideas? Contact the TribLIVE Education team: or 724-850-2867.

Don't forget to follow the TribLIVE Education Team on Twitter:

• Emily Balser @emilybalser (Valley News Dispatch newsroom)

• Debra Erdley @deberdley_Trib (Greensburg newsroom)

• Jamie Martines @Jamie_Martines (Greensburg newsroom)

• Natasha Lindstrom @NewsNatasha (Pittsburgh newsroom)

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, or on Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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