Colleges have come rushing forth to announce that they will be inviting students back to campus this fall. But as I’ve spoken to college officials over the past few weeks — usually not for quotation — I’ve been struck by the difference between their public optimism and their private uncertainty.
Many university leaders aren’t sure how well on-campus living and in-person classes will work during this pandemic. Some acknowledge it may not work at all.
It will require radical changes to the normal campus experience, like canceling many activities, rotating which students can return (to keep dorms from being too full) and continuing to hold classes online (to protect professors).
This approach is likely to frustrate students — and it still might not prevent new coronavirus outbreaks. Nearly all distinctive parts of a campus experience, including parties, meals and extracurriculars, revolve around close social contact, often indoors.
So what explains the surge of “We’re open!” announcements? Competitive pressure, in part. Many colleges will face serious financial problems if they lose a year of tuition and other revenue.
Now professors and administrators have begun publicly criticizing reopening plans:
Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, noted that the new class of Army recruits at Fort Benning recently suffered a major outbreak, despite universal testing there.
“Colleges are deluding themselves,” Michael J. Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, wrote in The Atlantic. Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychologist, wrote a Times Op-Ed arguing that the reopening plans were “so unrealistically optimistic that they border on delusional.”
There are no easy answers. Telling students to stay home in the fall also has big downsides. And it’s possible that students will do a better job wearing masks and remaining socially distant than skeptics like Steinberg expect.
But the path that colleges are choosing comes with big risks. American higher education is about to embark on a highly uncertain experiment.
Geez, they even cribbed their final sentence “experiment” language from my blog post header:
Maybe the Giant Cheeto in D.C. is telling the truth for the first time ever… the Times must be “failing” if they are getting story ideas from this blog. Sad!
Looks like it’s time to sic my law firm on the Old Gray Lady…
And we’re adding a tagline to the Dubbatrubba masthead: All the news you’ll find elsewhere a week later.
(To be fair, while all the other articles and tweets linked in the NYT briefing were published after my post, the Atlantic piece, by Michael J. Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, was published in mid-May. So he really scooped the rest of us.)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the hard-hitting, insightful, industry-leading journalism for which this blog is now known.
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
“The more that we allow our hearts to expand to love, deeply appreciate, and feel inextricably tied to the places, things and people of this world, the more we are likely to take a stand on behalf of what we value.”
Religion and politics… two topics one should never discuss in polite company. And I consider you, dear reader, to be quite polite company. But I’m gonna break the rule today. I can’t hold my tongue any longer (it’s part of the “don’t touch your face” rule). Feel free to bail out now if you’d like. I’ll be back to my usual Chuckles the Clown routine on this blog in 24 hours.
If you’re still with me, please spend 82 seconds watching this lil’ video:
Let’s review, shall we? It’s no longer one person, or 15. It didn’t “disappear, like a miracle” in April. it isn’t “totally under control.” We don’t have a vaccine.
As of this morning, there are 713,503 confirmed cases, with 59,672 deaths. Think about that!
I could go on citing chapter and verse about the many ways our country’s president has failed the American people in a time of crisis. We needed a leader. We’re stuck with a liar.
Trump was warned about the looming pandemic in mid-January, if not sooner. On January 31st, he imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals who had been in China, because that move was right in his xenophobic wheelhouse. Then, for six crucial weeks, he did nothing other than to parrot lies.
The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump’s fault. The loss of stockpiled respirators to breakage because the federal government let maintenance contracts lapse in 2018 is Trump’s fault. The failure to store sufficient protective medical gear in the national arsenal is Trump’s fault. That states are bidding against other states for equipment, paying many multiples of the precrisis price for ventilators, is Trump’s fault. Air travelers summoned home and forced to stand for hours in dense airport crowds alongside infected people? That was Trump’s fault too. Ten weeks of insisting that the coronavirus is a harmless flu that would miraculously go away on its own? Trump’s fault again. The refusal of red-state governors to act promptly, the failure to close Florida and Gulf Coast beaches until late March? That fault is more widely shared, but again, responsibility rests with Trump: He could have stopped it, and he did not.
The lying about the coronavirus by hosts on Fox News and conservative talk radio is Trump’s fault: They did it to protect him. The false hope of instant cures and nonexistent vaccines is Trump’s fault, because he told those lies to cover up his failure to act in time. The severity of the economic crisis is Trump’s fault; things would have been less bad if he had acted faster instead of sending out his chief economic adviser and his son Eric to assure Americans that the first stock-market dips were buying opportunities. The firing of a Navy captain for speaking truthfully about the virus’s threat to his crew? Trump’s fault. The fact that so many key government jobs were either empty or filled by mediocrities? Trump’s fault. The insertion of Trump’s arrogant and incompetent son-in-law as commander in chief of the national medical supply chain? Trump’s fault.
For three years, Trump has blathered and bluffed and bullied his way through an office for which he is utterly inadequate. But sooner or later, every president must face a supreme test, a test that cannot be evaded by blather and bluff and bullying. That test has overwhelmed Trump. Trump failed. He is failing. He will continue to fail. And Americans are paying for his failures.
Last night, best-selling author Ann Patchett spoke at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati, in front of a packed house of book nerds. She was engaging, charming, downright funny at times, and her talk was a great peek behind the curtain at a word wizard.
A couple of things stood out to me:
She referenced several other authors and novels, often showing a slide of a book cover on a screen near her, and every time she did, there was an audible gasp of appreciation from those in the audience who had read the book. “Yes!”… “so good!” It’s great to know that there are folks who still savor the written word in the Instagram/TikTok era.
Through her novels, and her independent bookstore in Nashville, and her interviews with other authors, she’s done more to promote reading than anyone else I know. She’s like a Levar Burton for grown-ups.
During the Q&A, a young woman in attendance asked “What’s your advice for young writers?” Ann’s reply was that any and all advice she had to offer on that topic was contained in her essay “The Getaway Car” from her book This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. (She wrote the essay because she gets that “what’s your advice for aspiring writers” question a lot… one time a woman even followed her into a public restroom and asked Ann that question while she was in a stall!)
But Ann did offer a few words of advice, and there’s no secret code to be cracked. The formula she mentioned is simple, really:
If you want to be a writer, read a lot, write a lot, don’t spend too much time trying to perfect a particular project, and don’t go into the process thinking about how to sell your work.
Read a lot, and write a lot, for the pure joy of it. Sounds like a winning plan to me!
Ann Patchett’s latest novel, The Dutch House, has spent 20 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Seth Godin just plain gets it. First of all, the dude writes a blog post every day. Yes, that’s right. Every. Single. Day. Neither rain, nor snow, nor authoring books nor hosting workshops nor speaking at conferences, will keep Mr. Godin from his appointed rounds — sharing pearls of wisdom with folks like you… and fanboys like me.