Home / General / College re-openings have mostly been a disaster

College re-openings have mostly been a disaster

President Bush talks as FEMA director Mike Brown, right, looks on, during a briefing on damage from Hurricane Katrina in Mobile, Ala., Friday, Sept. 2, 2005. Brown, the principal target of harsh criticism of the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, was relieved of his onsite relief command Friday, Sept. 9, 2005. He will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief, recovery and rescue efforts, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Amazingly, opening in conditions to similar to conditions that caused many universities to go remote in March and April has generally gone very badly:

Going into the new school year, colleges and universities knew the risks.After all, in March, most had pivoted to virtual learning — either temporarily or permanently — in hopes of curbing the spread of the virus. But by fall, school officials had to make a decision yet again: Do they reopen in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic? And if they do, can it be done safely?In some cases, local health departments warned schools against welcoming students back. In others, it was the faculty and staff who spoke out against reopening. Administration officials nationwide struggled to balance conflicting guidance from politicians and public health experts, while also navigating pressure from students, parents and athletic programs.

Many schools ultimately decided to welcome students back, informing their communities that new safety precautions are in place, and Covid tests remain at the ready. But the safety measures weren’t enough — there are now more than 40,000 cases of Covid-19 among students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities nationwide, according to a CNN tally from earlier this month.

But at least extremely well-compensated administrators are taking responsibility for bad decisions, right?

Back in July, Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Harvard Medical School, rightfully predicted that colleges were going to blame students’ behavior for any Covid-19 outbreaks. But the real problem, she said, is poor planning.”Any public health plan that requires radical changes in behavior and perfect compliance is doomed to fail,” Marcus told CNN in a recent interview. “And that’s exactly what’s happening.”


“If school administrators could put themselves back in their 18-year-old selves for just a minute, it would become clear to them that what they’re asking from a college student is unrealistic,” she said. “But I think there’s been a lack of empathy in what’s happening on campuses.”Instead, at some schools, students are being punished for socializing. At Purdue University, three dozen students were suspended for attending an off-campus party and violating the school’s social-distancing rules.

Well, I’m sure the weather getting colder will make things better. Great work all around.

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