La Salle institutes new masking policy


Kylie McGovern, Editor

Header Image: La Salle

On March 2, Interim President Tim O’Shaughnessy responded to the recently revised city mask guidelines explaining that, although the Philadelphia Department of Public Health issued an adjustment to its indoor masking policy, La Salle’s COVID-19 response team reviewed these revised public health guidelines and waited to update the campus community regarding any potential policy changes. Until that new update, the current indoor masking policy remained in effect. O’Shaughnessy continued to encourage COVID-19 boosters and vaccines because they remain the greatest tools for reducing severe illness in our community and returning to a more active campus life.

On March 4, just days after  the original update, O’Shaughnessy wrote to the La Salle community again to announce that “beginning Monday, March 7, La Salle University will transition to recommending, but not requiring, that masks be worn indoors. Everyone must continue to carry an appropriate mask with them at all times.” This changing mask policy follows the guidance of federal and local health agencies and was decided with the counsel of La Salle’s COVID-19 response team. 

There are still circumstances where masks will be required like on the University shuttle, in clinical healthcare settings and in the COVID-19 testing center. In addition, masks are required to be held in the event that an individual asks others to be masked in their presence. If asked to mask up, it is recommended students follow the request.

During the upcoming spring break (March 12–20), La Salle will likely see a significant portion of our community travel away from campus. Therefore, masks will be required for the five-day period immediately following the University’s spring break, the week of March 21–25, as a preventative strategy. O’Shaughnessy does, however, explain that “masks have helped limit the spread of COVID-19. If necessary, we will not hesitate to reinstitute a mask mandate in the event that we experience significantly increased case counts on campus or in the region.” 

As for other universities in the area and their mask mandates, many of these schools are on spring break. But, Temple University’s Senior Director of Health Services, Mark Denys, explained that “out of an abundance of caution, the university will still require the use of masks inside buildings when we return to campus next week.” Furthermore, Saint Joseph’s University’s president Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., explained on March 2 that “Given declining numbers regionally and nationally, our very high community vaccination rate and updated guidance from the CDC, City of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, the University will no longer require masks be worn indoors in all shared or common spaces at all times. Beginning tomorrow, March 3, masks will be optional on campus.” Drexel University decided that “despite loosened local mask ordinances, Drexel’s indoor mask requirement will continue at least through the end of winter term (through March 19, 2022) while we assess community needs moving forward. Masks are also still required on public transit throughout Philadelphia.” 

In speaking to a few students about the new mask guidelines, the Collegian’s Managing Editor David O’Brien kept his response simple, saying, “I’m glad we don’t have to wear them anymore,” but junior biology student Luke Szyszkiewicz explained that he “doesn’t like how confusing the different rules are between different professors and the university.”The Collegian’s Editor-in-Chief Jake Eiseman says, “I think dropping the mask guidelines on campus is a positive move. It’s in accordance with the CDC’s and the city’s recommendations and cases have been low on campus for months now. Giving people the option to take the mask off should be seen as a good thing overall, but there are bound to be a few bad apples. Many people will continue to wear the mask regardless, and some will remove them when they feel it is safe, but some will never wear a mask again even when expressing symptoms, and that is my main concern.” 

Editor’s Note: Although I am personally excited that we no longer have to wear masks because our cases are quite low, I think that these conditions should only prevail with high vaccination rates and requirements. I think that taking away the masks is a good decision for now and likely the remainder of the semester, but I hope the university continues to closely moderate cases and surges so that the campus’s health remains a top priority.

St Joseph’s University new residence hall for students with autism


Kylie McGovern, Editor

On Feb. 25, fellow Philadelphia university and basketball rival, St. Joseph’s University, announced that it will be opening a residence hall for students with autism. St. Joseph’s, has the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support and plans to open its first residence hall specifically for students on the spectrum. This new residency will have a capacity of up to 17 student residents and a student adviser. This hall is called Saint Albert’s Hall and it will undergo $250,000 in renovations this summer. Most recently, Saint Albert’s Hall was used for COVID-19 housing. The new residence hall is meant to be for the first year or two, after which students will transition to other housing. The Kinney Center’s director Angus Murray explains that, “We came to the realization that the residence hall was a spot where a lot of our folks were struggling. Academically, they’re usually able to make the cut and succeed, but because of their social skills, they struggle in the residence halls. So we thought it might be helpful to have what we’re referring to as a longer runway as they transition from high school to college.” St. Joe’s is one of the first Philadelphia colleges to create a living option like this, but other colleges in the area like Drexel, Eastern, Rutgers and West Chester.The annual cost to live there is $12,000, but Angus Murray said St. Joe’s is seeking scholarship funding.

41 students are enrolled in Kinney’s ASPIRE (Autism Support Promoting Inclusive and Responsive Education) program and get help through the center. That number is growing and expected to reach 50 next year on the campus of nearly 6,800 undergraduate and graduate students and next year, enrollment will grow to more than 9,100 when St. Joe’s merges with the University of the Sciences.

The Kinney Center opened in 2009 when Paul Hondros, a St. Joe’s alumnus, was frustrated with the lack of services for his son and he became lead donor. Kinney employs 16 full-time staff members, nine graduate assistants and 125 part-time undergraduate students who provide services to children and adults of all ages. Students in the program are paired with peer mentors for the first two years and then eventually encouraged to become a mentor. Staff help them improve social skills, organize and manage time and prepare for careers. The center also has social events. ASPIRE students, who pay $8,000 for the services; take a full course load; participate in clubs, sports and activities and are in a variety of majors. They maintain an 84 percent six-year graduation rate, similar to St. Joe’s overall average. 

To design the new residence hall, St. Joseph’s is partnering with Thomas Jefferson University design students. Eighteen students and two professors from Jefferson’s College of Architecture and the Built Environment went inside the residence hall at St. Joe’s to take pictures and measurements, and to meet with Kinney staff.

Editor’s Note: Regardless of athletics riverlaries, I am happy to see different schools in Philadelphia working together to make living on campus and attending college a more accessible experience.  

Dr. Henry A. Reichman presents discussion on the future of academic freedom


Elizabeth McLaughlin, Editor

Mike Ferguson, AAUP

Dr. Henry Reichman conducted a virtual discussion on academic freedom in connection with the American Association of University Professors on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021.

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Dr. Henry Reichman presented a Zoom discussion on academic freedom, a topic vital to the integrity of any institution of higher education. Dr. Reichman is the former American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Vice President and president of the AAUP Foundation, as well as the chair of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure from 2012-2015. The event, organized by Dr. Barbara Allen and Dr. Joel Garver, garnered widespread attendance from students, staff and faculty members across all disciplines and from other universities.

In 2019, Dr. Reichman published his book “The Future of Academic Freedom,” which served as the backdrop for this conversation. He explained the terms of academic freedom, making sure to clarify common misconceptions, and offered his perspective on the current biggest threats to academic freedom.

Academic freedom is a concept belonging to the academic profession as a whole that protects the pursuit of inquiry. It guarantees to both faculty members and students the right to engage in debate without fear of censorship. In Dr. Reichman’s words, it “functions ultimately as the collective freedom of the scholarly community to govern itself in the interest of serving the common good in a democratic society.”

It is not, however, a civil liberty akin to freedom of speech; it cannot be classified as simply an employment benefit. Rather, it refers to the collective freedom of the faculty to govern itself as it sees fit, thereby promoting an environment in which academic inquiry is protected. It doesn’t allow a professor to do or say whatever they want without limit or accountability.

It does, however, protect a professor’s comments as a citizen even on topics that have nothing to do with their discipline. Such protection is essential to a healthy institution of higher education. Take, for example, the case of Dr. Arthur Butz, an electrical engineering professor at Northwestern University. In 1975, Dr. Butz published “The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry.” Dr. Butz’s Holocaust denial was met with harsh criticism from both his fellow faculty and the public at large. 

Many called for his resignation as a professor, decrying his blatantly anti-Semitic beliefs. Academic freedom, however, protects Dr. Butz’s right to publish this Holocaust denial book insofar as it does not affect his fitness to do research in and teach electrical engineering. Had Dr. Butz been a professor of 19th- and 20th-century history, for example, as Dr. Reichman was, then there would certainly be an argument that his beliefs about the Holocaust could affect his ability to do his job, and therefore academic freedom would not protect him. However, given his stature as a professor in engineering, Dr. Butz was allowed to publish such a book and keep his job.

The example of Dr. Butz is extreme, but nonetheless, academic freedom provides for an open environment for discussion within academic institutions. However, one of the most troubling trends in higher education, according to Dr. Reichman, is the tendency to misunderstand the concept of academic freedom; such a misunderstanding could prove to be dangerous to the liberties that such a concept seeks to protect. As with any debate on freedom, the question of responsibility arises: with great freedom comes great responsibility. Dr. Reichman argues that the responsibility refers not to using academic freedom with trepidation out of concern of backlash or censorship. Rather, there is a responsibility to protect this freedom, lest the integrity and functionality of academic institutions be jeopardized — “in academia, we have a collective responsibility to each other, our students, and the diverse common good in a democratic society.”

Toward the end of Dr. Reichman’s explanation of academic freedom, the floor was opened up to questions from audience members. One faculty member asked a question regarding intellectual property with respect to professor-created content: who owns the content we create for teaching? Dr. Reichman replied by saying that it belongs to the professor. The professor may retain their right to sign the rights of that intellectual property over to a publisher, for example, but since the faculty member is the one who created the material, it ultimately belongs to them. 

In the age of Zoom University, this question has become more relevant than ever; professors were required to move their entire courses online, demanding them to record lectures and develop virtual manipulatives, among other adjustments. The answer to the question of to whom do these materials belong remains unclear, but the AAUP states that they should belong to the faculty member who created them.

There was another question about the rights of the administration of a university to choose and have access to learning management systems (LMS), such as Canvas or Blackboard. According to Dr. Reichman, faculty members should be consulted in all decisions related to the university, especially those which directly impact teaching and learning. Therefore, the faculty should have a say in which LMS are used as well as the terms of access by the administration. Ultimately, faculty members should have the right to actively debate and vote on decisions made by their university that will affect their abilities to carry out their jobs. After all, “where academic freedom is not protected, shared governance will be a scam,” according to Dr. Reichman.

Bill Ackman: famed hedge fund founder and investor, now a SPAC behemoth


Bill O’Brien, Editor


Ackman was ridiculed for turning a $27 million hedge position against markets into $2.6 billion. Just a week before, he had been interviewing on media outlets warning that “Hell is coming” amid COVID-19 concerns.

Few figures have stirred as much buzz in the financial services industry as Bill Ackman. The self-proclaimed activist investor, or contrarian investor as known by others, has been a leader in financial services since 1992 when he founded the hedge fund, Gotham Partners. It was the same year he received his MBA from Harvard Business School. Although Gotham Partners did not pan out as Ackman had probably hoped, his career in asset management would continue to flourish with Pershing Square Holdings, the hedge fund he founded in 2003 and currently manages.

Ackman is currently the CEO and founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, a New York-based hedge fund which, according to SEC filings, boasts private funds with minimum subscriptions between $1 million and $5 million. He’s had a lot of success in the hedge fund industry with a highly profitable and publicized market exit from Wendy’s that netted his investors billions in returns. More recently, Ackman opened hedge positions against financial markets leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ackman closed out the hedge positions for over $2 billion on March 23rd, 2020 following steep market downturns.  The position originally cost a little less than $30 million to take on.

The success of the hedge fund manager has come with a lot of notoriety. Ackman was heavily criticized for a failed short position and a negative media campaign that landed him in hot water with regulators. Pershing Square Holdings also garnered huge losses over a 6-year period until he finally closed out the position in 2018 following an unbridled rise in Herbalife shares. The failed short resulted in losses for investors, but was heavily scrutinized for the negative media campaign Ackman waged against Herbalife that many saw as a means to manipulate the share price of the stock, an issue that has recently been at the forefront of Wall Street criticisms today.

In spite of great shortcomings and even greater successes, Ackman is as active as ever in financial markets and has recently decided to try his hand with SPACs or “Special Purpose Acquisition Companies.” The Collegian covered the upward trend in SPACs in its Sep 23 issue, and they have continued to be on the rise since. SPACs are somewhat known as “blank check companies” because they raise funds on the public markets without having any operational costs and expenses to start with. Their value is derived from investors anticipating the SPAC to merge with or acquire a privately-held company (target company) using the capital it raised from public markets, inherently bringing the target company to public markets in the process. 

Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Tontine Holdings (NYSE: PSTH) has had the most valuable SPAC initial public offering to date, raising $4 billion from public markets and an additional $1 billion from Ackman’s Pershing Square funds. That $5 billion in available capital to make acquisitions can potentially mean approximately $25 billion in acquisition capital for the SPAC depending on how aggressive a leveraged buyout strategy Ackman chooses to employ.

Pershing  Square Tontine Holdings identifies its target company parameters on their website, “We will prefer targets that have low sensitivity to macroeconomic factors, with minimal commodity exposure and/or cyclical risk. We are willing to accept a high degree of situational, legal, and/or capital structure complexity in a business combination if we believe that the potential for reward justifies this additional complexity, particularly if these issues can be resolved in connection with and as a result of a combination with us.” Also notable, among other parameters, in their acquisition criteria for a target company is “formidable barriers to entry” or “‘wide moats” around their business and “low risks of disruption due to competition, innovation or new entrants.”

The goals of Ackman’s SPAC are nothing short of ambitious, but investors continue to put their faith in Ackman. After pricing at $20 per share during its IPO, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, still without a business combination, is trading at $29.91 in secondary markets, yielding investors 49.55% since IPO. The premium can be partially accredited to recent buzz surrounding the SPAC potentially finding a target company, market speculation that has not been confirmed yet. Ackman has defended PSTH trading at a premium in Pershing Square’s 2020 semiannual report to shareholders “PSTH trades at a premium to its cash NAV because the market believes that it is probable that we will find an attractive merger candidate and complete a transaction that creates significant shareholder value.”

All of this may be true, but one can be certain PSTH will not be able to retain its value without an acquisition target. Speculation around an impending deal has risen significantly, and some are expecting an announcement when PSTH’s parent company, Pershing Square Holdings, holds its annual investors presentation on Feb 18 at 9:00AM. Market watchers will certainly be keeping their ear to the ground for the next eight days to see what direction Ackman takes his SPAC, if any.

Cathie Wood and ARK Innovation: the Newest Tech Bulls


Michael D’Angelo, Staff


Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer of ARK Invest, Cathie Wood (pictured above), is known on the street as a star stock-picker.

Chances are if you are a retail or an institutional investor you probably hold long positions in exchange traded funds (ETFs) or equities relating to the technology industry. Many investors want to chase the next hot technology company that is going to change the world while, preferably, garnering high returns. Some retail investors do not have the time, knowledge, energy and/or skill to pick their own individual stocks. Instead of picking stocks by themselves, investors turn to institutional fund managers to pick heavy stocks for them. Investors will purchase ETFs and mutual funds which track tech companies’ performance.

Many institutional fund managers create ETFs dedicated to following tech companies. A major ETF which tracks the tech heavy NASDAQ composite, QQQ is managed by Invesco. Vanguard manages VGT which focuses on information technology and State Street manages multiple funds dedicated to tracking various tech stocks’ market performance. 

The newest fund manager from the street to popularize tech fund management is Cathie Wood at Ark Investment Management, LLC. Wood is the real deal with managing portfolios. She holds the title of CEO and CIO of Ark Investment Management LLC. In the past, Wood worked as an assistant economist with the Capital Group in the late 70s, then as a managing director for Jennison Associates LLC and then as a limited partner for Tupelo Capital Services. Later she worked as a Chief Investment Officer at Alliance Bernstein. Wood joined ARK investment Management in 2014 and, as mentioned above, she holds the title of CEO and CIO. Wood certainly has plenty of experience in the industry and her fund returns are impressive. 

Wood managed the largest actively managed ETF in 2020 which is the Ark Innovation ETF. The ticker symbol of the ETF is ARKK. ARKK’s objective is to seek an increase in long-term capital growth by investing at least 65% of the company’s assets in American and foreign tech equities that will change the world around us. Ark calls world-changing equities, a “disruptive innovation.” 

Wood has been crushing the game since 2016 with the Ark Innovation ETF. A quick look at the prospectus for ARKK reveals the ETF returned at market value 66.47% for the year ended on July 31st, 2020. In 2019, the total market return was 12.27%, 52.38% in 2018, 43.72% in 2017, 4.9% in 2016 and from October 31st, 2014 to August 31st, 2015, the return was 0.50%.  As of December 31st, 2020, ARKK’s top 10 holdings were Tesla (10.8%), Roku (6.9%), CRISPR Therapeutics (5.5%), Square (5.3%), Teladoc Health (4.4%), Invitae Corp (4.1%), Zillow (3.1%), Pure Storage (2.8%), Proto Labs (2.8%) and Spotify (2.7%). ARKK closed January 26th at $141.38.

Ark maintains other actively managed ETFs like Ark Next Generation Internet ETF (ARKW), ARK Fintech Innovation ETF (ARKF), ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG), ARK Autonomous Technology and Robotics ETF (ARKQ), the 3D Printing ETF (PRNT) and ARK Israel Innovative Tech ETF (IZRL). All of these ETFs are dedicated to finding innovative companies with the objective of changing their respective industry and the world. 

Wood still has time to prove her stock picking skills and to return more money to her shareholders. Wood has expressed interest in creating a bitcoin ETF after bitcoin hits a $2 trillion market capitalization, and she has further expressed intent on creating an ETF dedicated to following space companies. The future is looking bright for both ARK and Wood. Time will only be able to tell the success of these companies and the bullish tech attitude of their founder.

Special Purpose Acquisition Corporations: Innovation in IPO Markets

Business, Uncategorized

Bill O’Brien, Editor


Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) have been fueling IPO markets in recent months, generating buzz around the investment vehicles that have been around since the 1980’s.

There are sharks in the water in today’s markets, and no, I don’t mean that there are savvy investors with gills making trades from coves below sea level. In recent years, SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies have taken on a much larger role in market participation and the initial public offering (IPO) scene than they have in previous years. SPACs themselves are actually quite an intriguing investment vehicle. Special purpose acquisition companies, essentially, pool money from investors, whether it’s from institutions or the general public, and use that pooled capital to acquire a stake within a company and bring it to the public market through a merger. SPACs provide companies with an alternate and “fast-tracked” means of gaining access to public funds.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs has had a lot to say about SPACs in recent months. Olympia McNerney, a member of Goldman’s equity capital Markets and alternative capital markets group in New York, spoke on the bank’s podcast, “Exchanges at Goldman Sachs” to talk about the trend. “Right now there are about 100-plus SPACs that are on the hunt for acquisition and to frame that in terms of dollars, that’s about $30 billion dollars of capital on the hunt to bring companies to bring companies into the public market.” That figure is further amplified by SPACs proclivity to make leveraged acquisitions so, in Olympia’s words, “that $30 billion, think of it as probably $150 of market cap that SPACs are on the hunt for, so a very very large number.” In discussing what is driving SPAC popularity with investors, Olympia discusses a number of reasons.

Evolution in the “profile” of the investment vehicle over “not just the last 2 to 3 years” but even over the last “6 to 12 months,” growing comfortability among institutional investors in understanding the economics of SPACs and SPAC economics becoming “more friendly” for the market makers invested in them and the companies looking to merge with them are just a few. Also discussed in Goldman’s podcast were the unique pros to working with a SPAC instead of having an IPO for a company. A potentially faster path to public markets, potentially more certain valuations around the company, and potentially more proceeds than an IPO could deliver, especially in today’s climate are pros Olympia cited as well

To Olympia’s point, SPACs are gaining traction in the world of high finance. Bill Ackman, founder of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management and notorious Valeant Pharmaceuticals investor, founded his own SPAC this year, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings. It is currently the largest SPAC ever founded at $4 billion. The popularity is not surprising, as the IPO market experienced a lull due to pandemic-related market volatility, and we are not out of COVID-19 waters yet. SPACs are inherently more resilient to broad market sentiment considering the investors they attract, so they can create great opportunities for corporations looking to go public during an economic downturn.

Special purpose acquisition companies are becoming more popular in the investment community and are innovative instruments in the IPO market. What were once transactions that were exclusive to private equity funds are now open to the general public, along with the prospect of the lucrative returns they can bring. In a world with increasingly suppressed yield fixed income markets and high price-to-earnings equity markets, these kinds of instruments will likely become more popular to both the institutional investor and retail investor alike.