Despite the continued spread of the coronavirus, many colleges around the country plan to welcome students back to campus over the coming weeks.
Colleges want to reopen for good, nontrivial reasons. Administrators believe that most students learn better when they are physically assembled in the same place. And they know that the American college experience, at any rate, has long been about more than the classroom. It allows students to cut the umbilical cord, make friends with like-minded people, and pursue extracurricular activities—all of which are much harder to do if your freshman year consists of joining Zoom sessions from your parents’ basement. Many universities also face serious financial problems. If they are unable to reopen this fall, some may collapse.
But if colleges go ahead, they will endanger the lives of students, staff, faculty, and those who live in the surrounding communities. Reopening colleges is the wrong thing to do.
Many colleges have come up with imaginative ways to reopen while striving to contain the virus.
Most plans involve a constellation of the same core elements: lecture classes in big outside tents, or no lectures at all, a two-week quarantine for students upon their arrival on campus, a testing regime to identify cases of COVID-19 as early as possible, distancing guidelines that severely restrict social events, and a shortened term that ends at Thanksgiving to avert the risk posed by students who return to campus after spending a few days with their families all across the country.