In the absence of clear federal guidance, the fall semester’s layout varies widely from campus to campus. Some institutions, such as the California State University system and Hampton University, have made the decision to keep students online and campuses closed. Other colleges, such as Harvard, have opted for a hybrid model—holding classes online but bringing some students back to live on campus.
On Wednesday, at an Atlantic LIVE event, I spoke with Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California, and Wayne Frederick, the president of Howard University, about how their respective schools are approaching the fall semester, and how—if necessary—they might abort their plans and move back online. The conversation that follows has been condensed for length and clarity. The full interview can be viewed here.
Adam Harris: What will the fall look like?
Janet Napolitano: It turns out that reopening a campus is much more complicated than shutting it down, as we did last spring. The UC system has 10 campuses spread throughout California, and they're in different environments. We have campuses in a small rural community in Merced, and campuses in large urban areas—the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego. And so we have to evaluate circumstances of each campus differently in their context. What is the actual virus presence in that area? What is the local health guidance that the campus needs to follow? Our overall approach was to develop a common threshold of safety standards that campuses needed to meet for testing, for tracing, for quarantining, for social distancing, for masking, and then beyond that, to build for the fall. Most of our campuses will be hybrid. They will have some in-person classes and laboratories, and much instruction will remain online. We’re still grappling with things like extracurriculars and how to manage those. And these plans, once issued, are iterative: They’re going to be flexible. They’re going to need to change and evolve with the changing circumstances, and we’re going to need to be very agile and nimble in dealing with those circumstances.