Colleges and universities pack students into dorms, classrooms, and parties. Now they have to figure out how to do that during a pandemic. The staff writer Adam Harris joins the podcast Social Distance to discuss what schools are planning for the fall.
Listen to the episode here:
What follows is an edited and condensed transcript of their conversation.
Katherine Wells: Does college exist anymore?
Adam Harris: [Laughs] Yeah, college exists, but it’s in this weird hybrid existence. What colleges are facing right now is bringing kids back into this perfect situation for transmission. Colleges are created to keep people close, and now you’re trying to introduce the idea of social distance, trying to introduce the idea of limited contact. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, and there are a lot of people who think that it’s an impossible thing to do and that [college] leaders are deluding themselves and their ability to do this at the scale that they’ll need to by August.
James Hamblin: What are some of the plans that are being laid out at colleges?
Harris: Everything is contingent. College leaders are forecasting and broadcasting this idea of certainty that we’re gonna be on campus in the fall and we’re going to start the semester earlier so that we can end the semester sooner. They’re putting plexiglass in different places. They’re talking about, Maybe we only bring our freshmen and sophomores to campus and juniors and seniors stay away for a longer period of time. The broad sweep of it is that they don’t know what the virus will actually look like by August; they don’t know what the numbers will look like; they don’t know their testing capacity. They’re planning for any possible range of outcomes from actually being on campus to a remote semester, similar to the one that we saw for the second half of this spring.