But if you’re running a university, the science is telling you something diametrically different. Our campus, including its surrounding community, has a median age of 20.5. More than 80 percent of the total campus population is 35 and under. We may have the population density of New York City, but we have the age distribution of Uganda. The challenge for Purdue is to devise maximum protection for the unusually small minority who could be at genuinely serious risk in order to serve the young people who are our reason for existing at all.
Here’s something else we’ve learned. Our students (and, one suspects, their trapped-at-home parents) overwhelmingly are eager to continue their educations, in person and on campus. We know it is not the case everywhere, but at Purdue, tuition deposits by incoming freshmen have shattered last year’s record, and re-enrollments of upper-class students are at normal levels.
Forty-five thousand young people — the biggest student population we’ve ever had — are telling us they want to be here this fall. To tell them, “Sorry, we are too incompetent or too fearful to figure out how to protect your elders, so you have to disrupt your education,” would be a gross disservice to them and a default of our responsibility.