By choosing to reopen for in-person or even hybrid models of teaching, as so many schools have done, college presidents and administrators willingly joined our broader culture’s dangerous charade of normalcy. While some schools — including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and Princeton — decided to continue online-only for the foreseeable future, countless campuses across the country invited students back, in some cases while peddling campus-themed personal-protective gear to cover the stench of the crisis with a Febreze-spritz of school spirit. The president of Notre Dame defended his decision as “very much worth the… risk.” The provost of the University of Kansas quoted Marie Curie in her enthusiastic announcement about the resumption of in-person learning: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
The results of these decisions were predictably disastrous. Campus-based outbreaks have been reported in at least 19 states. Some campuses have reversed their decision to pursue in-person learning, and, in some cases, have sent students back home to put their families and home communities at risk (which the NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci has strongly discouraged). At the University of Michigan, my alma mater, graduate students went on strike to protest the school’s tepid COVID response. Other campuses, like Providence College, have locked down and transformed into miniature police states, with “paid details from the Providence police to help enforce the stay-at-home order, along with campus police and local landlords, who have their own security,” according to the Providence Journal. It’s a mess — and a deadly one.