Top Ten Must Reads from June

Here is a list of my ten favorite articles and Op Ed pieces from June that are about COVID-19 and campus reopening plans for the coming academic year. I have restricted this list to pieces that are not specifically about any particular college or state, and had to discard some good candidates just to minimize repetition. The list is in reverse chronological order.

  1. There is No Safe Way to Reopen Colleges this Fall, Washington Post, June 30: Written by three educators who are also public health researchers, the title says it all.
  2. Colleges Say Campuses can Reopen Safely. Students and Faculty Aren’t Convinced, Vox, June 26: Let’s get real.
  3. College Leaders Must Explain Why — Not Just How — to Return to Campus, EdSurge, June 25: As we said in our Open Letter, universities must be upfront about their rationales for reopening campuses. This is an excellent article that makes many important points about lack of honesty on the part of university administrations, and their failure to address the interests of the public at large.
  4. Your College May Ask You to Sign a Waiver for Harm Inflicted by COVID-19. Don’t do it, Los Angeles Times, June 25: I wish it were as simple as “Don’t do it,” but the article is surely right that people should think very carefully about what they are signing away (much depends on what the consequences of not signing forms will be).
  5. Who Gets to Teach Remotely? The Decisions are Getting Personal, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22: Many universities are aiming to minimize the number of individual exemptions that they provide to faculty, and some of the examples provided here are simply outrageous.
  6. The Great Reopening Debate, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 18: The title is a misnomer, as the contributors do not debate each other, and there is obviously much to disagree with here no matter what your views are, but it was a good idea to have a range of views published in one place.
  7. Expecting Students to Play it Safe if Colleges Reopen is a Fantasy, New York Times, June 15: A good piece by a psychologist, confirming commonsense.
  8. The Question of Living Spaces, Inside Higher Education, June 12: An architecture expert who publishes on residence halls and a bioethicist from the NIH with expertise regarding infectious diseases explore changes that might be made to living spaces on campus, and caution they will not be enough to prevent infections.
  9. What Will College Be Like in the Fall? New York Times, June 3: As with one of the articles from the Chronicle mentioned above, a number of outlooks are represented here, some of them very pessimistic.
  10. In the Rush to Bring Students to Campus, Professors Ask: What about Us? Washington Post, June 2: As university employees quickly noticed, many university administrations have been very slow to address the interests of employees, instead focusing in their rhetoric on their particular understanding of student preferences. This continues today.

Special Mentions
There are several other good reads that are particularly worth mentioning. First and foremost, I recommend following @MikeOtsuka on Twitter: earlier in the month, I linked to his thread on the evidence that teaching in small classrooms is particularly risky; a more recent thread of his deals with the significant number of students we can estimate will arrive with COVID-19 on university campuses (the thread is about the UK; it would be good to see estimates of the relevant numbers for universities in the US). Second, there is a lot to like about Scott Galloway’s much shared blog post, Higher Ed: Enough Already, which calls on universities to stop with all the other- and self-deception, despite the obnoxious nationalist hyperbole in the last paragraph. Third, there were also important pieces published in May. Stan Yoshinobu’s The Case Against Reopening has been particularly influential. Also notable in May were a blog post reflecting on the purpose of higher education, The Existential Threat to Higher Education is Not What You Think, and my department colleague Russell Powell’s opinion piece (coauthored with Irina Mikhalevich), The Misguided Rush to Reopen Universities. Finally, we shouldn’t forget humorous takes on university plans for the Fall, the best of which (so far as I know) was McSweeney’s A Message from Your University’s Vice President for Magical Thinking — wishful thinking is what it’s all about in the US at this time, and our universities are no exception.