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This pandemic is a reminder that, despite all the American cultural lore around them, colleges are most fundamentally physical spaces, where people gather to learn and, sometimes, live. That makes them a challenge to operate amid a deadly outbreak.
Or as Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University, told Adam Harris back in April: “If you were to design a place to make sure that everyone gets the virus, it would look like a nursing home or a campus.”
My colleague Adam, whose education coverage is always must-read, has been reporting on the nightmare universities face this fall.
Here are three questions university presidents are thinking about in advance of the coming semester:
1. How will schools keep on-campus residences and facilities safe?
If campus officials bring students back and then have to send them home again in the event of an outbreak, will students be willing to pay for this on-again, off-again college experience? If not, how will colleges cover the cost for all the things they have to do to keep students safe?
2. How do you regularly test a 20,000-student campus?
Institutions are planning to test students and staff regularly—but the nation has been remarkably slow to increase its testing capacity.
3. What happens to NCAA sports?
If college campuses aren’t safe enough for most students to return in June but college-football players come back, should they receive hazard pay?
Our advice for the class of 2020