Dear Commons Community,
The Chronicle of Higher Education asked twenty-three members of the higher education community about whether their colleges should open or not in Fall 2020. Entitled, The Great Reopening Debate, the responses from professors, administrators, students, and staff give insights on what is the most consequential question facing the sector in decades. It is clear that it is not a simple question nor is there consensus on what should be done.
“Colleges and universities are up to the challenge,” wrote Christina Paxson, Brown University’s president. Purdue’s Mitch Daniels Jr. agrees, arguing that “even a phenomenon as menacing as Covid-19 is one of the inevitable risks of life.” Among college leaders, their view seems widely held. Of the more than 600 colleges whose fall plans The Chronicle is tracking, the vast majority plan to open in person.
Yet vociferous resistance has emerged. Robert Kelchen, a professor at Seton Hall University, has argued that college leaders are guilty of political posturing and unrealistic optimism. Stan Yoshinobu, a mathematician at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, wrote: “I have a hard time imagining a more efficient way to ruin a community than by forcing it to reopen in the middle of a global pandemic.”
As someone who lives in New York, the hottest of coronavirus spots in the United States and with a governor who has taken a very cautious and prudent approach, I favor being safe rather than risk being sorry.