The Atlantic Daily: Should Colleges Reopen This Fall?

We look at the charged debate around whether universities should hold in-person instruction.

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It’s Kamala. Joe Biden’s vice-presidential pick is one you might’ve guessed from the start. Read Edward-Isaac Dovere on what Harris’s selection reveals about Biden—and the future of the Democratic Party.

Next, we look at the charged debate around whether colleges should reopen this fall.


The fall semester is no longer a far-off proposition. And yet, just weeks out from traditional start dates, a debate is still raging about whether colleges should be holding in-person instruction at all.

Here are a few arguments worth considering in this very tough back-to-school season:

Just cancel college.  

Yascha Mounk, a contributing writer and college professor, argues that reopening will “endanger the lives of students, staff, faculty, and those who live in the surrounding communities.”

Reopening plans largely overlook staff.

“Low-paid housekeepers and maintenance employees who can’t work remotely are already on campus getting it ready for the fall amid fresh outbreaks among athletes and partying students,” the writer and author Jeffrey Selingo reports.

And when inevitable outbreaks do occur, schools may try to blame students.

But they won’t be the main ones at fault, argue Julia Marcus and Jessica Gold, professors who teach epidemiology and psychiatry, respectively. “Students are not solely—or even primarily—responsible for keeping campuses safe.”

College kids are part of Generation C.

That’s C as in coronavirus—the 2020 outbreak of which may derail their careers and financial futures, Amanda Mull warned back in April.

Further reading: Does a college degree lead to greater life satisfaction? Not necessarily, Arthur C. Brooks writes in his “How to Build a Life” column.

Brendan McDermid / Reuters / The Atlantic

One question, answered: What’s with all the preprint studies showing up in news reports? Is the pandemic changing science?

James Hamblin and Katherine Wells discussed the potential shift on our Social Distance podcast:

Katherine Wells: Am I right that there’s been much more news about preprint, non-peer-reviewed studies? It feels like there’s been much more news. Like, I’d never heard the word preprint before. Are we getting a lot more news about more tenuous studies right now? Or am I just paying attention more?

James Hamblin: Yes, by its nature, news wants to focus on the hot new thing, and people are not waiting to report on early reports of findings. It’s becoming more like “These scientists are saying …” and not always waiting to go through the peer-review process. It’s not just you. That is something new, and I think science is potentially changing forever by accommodating that. Journalists used to never report on preprints. We waited until something was published.

For their reflection on what that means, listen to the full installment, aptly titled “This Episode Has Not Been Peer-Reviewed.”

What to read if … you just want practical tips:

What to read if ... you’d like to read about something—anything—other than the coronavirus:

In a cruel twist, forest fires now threaten the ruins at Chernobyl. Or, as Jane Braxton Little puts it, “the devastation left by the world’s worst nuclear disaster is colliding with the disaster of climate change.”

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