I’m a College Professor. Here is What I Think about College Preparations for the Coronavirus this Fall.Roundup
tags: public health, colleges and universities, COVID-19
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a regular contributor to PostEverything.
There needs to be a word for when organizations announce plans that seem to be in complete contradiction with the reality of the coronavirus. Oh, wait, there are already several words for that. Academics might use terms like “cognitive dissonance.” Other, more direct people might just say “denial.”
I bring this up because over the weekend, the New York Times’s Anemona Hartocollis reported on how many universities — close to three-quarters of them — plan to reopen college campuses this fall: “University officials say they are taking all the right precautions, and that the bottom line is that face-to-face classes are what students and their families — and even most faculty members — want.”
They are running into some resistance, however. There is the small matter of the virus itself, which appears to be raging out of control everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line and a lot of places north of it. It has already forced the University of Southern California to switch back to online-only courses this fall.
There is the other matter of professors not keen on doing any face-to-face teaching in the middle of a pandemic without therapeutics or vaccines. As Hartocollis explains, the demographics of college faculty do not mesh well with in-person classes right now:
Driving some of the concern is the fact that tenure-track professors skew significantly older than the wider U.S. labor force — 37 percent are 55 or older, compared with 23 percent of workers in general — and they are more than twice as likely as other workers to stay on the job past 65, when they would be at increased risk of adverse health effects from the virus.
Many younger professors have concerns as well, including about underlying health conditions, taking care of children who might not be in school full-time this fall, and not wanting to become a danger to their older relatives. Some are angry that their schools are making a return to classrooms the default option. And those who are not tenured said they felt especially vulnerable if they asked for accommodations.
This is normally the moment in Spoiler Alerts where I pivot to my own highly original, counterintuitive and Pulitzer-worthy take on what to do. This is not a normal moment, however. Readers should understand that my primary job is not writing this column; it is teaching at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. I have way too much skin in this particular game to demonstrate any kind of objectivity about this situation.
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