Slider
Slider

|

Slider

 BC’s Tales of the Pacific | Higher education and Covid

Editorials & Columns
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

THERE is a new tragedy in the making. Colleges and universities around the world have decided to bring students back to campus and so far, the results have been disastrous.

The Covid crisis may not have been by design but this catastrophe has the fingerprints of greedy and short-sighted humans all over it.

Back in the spring, most of higher education implemented modified semester arrangements in order to simply get through. Summer came and planning began immediately to determine what was to be done come autumn. Could colleges continue operating via videoconferencing? Was it safe to bring students back to campus? What about costs? Schools rely on room and board fees as much as they do on tuition, so teaching stay-at-home students in a virtual classroom would bring back only part of the money. 

Enter the bureaucrats and professional money makers. Colleges and universities are not profitable without the extra money that dorms, bookstores, cafeterias, and parking passes provide. In fact, many college campuses today are so bloated that they are little more than apartment complexes disguised as institutions of learning.

Therefore, many colleges and universities brought the students back to campus this month, all the while urging them to wear masks and social distance. “Don’t worry,” they said. “We have sanitized the whole campus. As long as you act responsibly, we can return to education as normal.” This well-meaning but naïve approach never stood a chance.

College is a time for intense social interaction, for dating, for hanging out with friends.  Bringing them to live on campus and expecting them not to engage in these activities was futile. And the results have been what anyone could have anticipated. Covid has exploded on college campuses all around the world. 

Some schools have responded by sending the students back home, most after only a couple weeks of classes.  Think of all the time, effort and money wasted by sending millions of people to another town and then sending them back home again.  Some schools, such as the University of Alabama, have stuck to their decision and are keeping the campuses open (as of this writing). Surely, they don’t suppose they can control the outbreak.

I wonder what will happen when students start dying from Covid contracted on campus. Angry parents will certainly file wrongful death lawsuits.  Universities thought they had money problems before. But there will be plenty of blame to go around. If you have a college-age son or daughter, how confident are you in sending them to live on a college campus right now? If you are a college student, is it worth the risk? 

The bottom line is, administrators can implement measures to keep classrooms clean and safe, but they can never control what students do outside the classroom. Activities in the dorms, in restaurants, and even in backseats, cannot be monitored, let alone policed and disinfected. The return to the college campus was doomed to fail. The only solution for higher education is to maintain virtual classrooms with minimal contact between students. To be sure, this will translate into lost revenue, but it is nothing compared to the revenue lost in wrongful death lawsuits, and nothing compared to the loss of human life. 

 

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He currently resides on the mainland U.S.

 

previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider

Read more articles

Visit our Facebook Page

previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider