Update: Since the publication of this article, Missouri chancellor Mun Y. Choi announced his plan to open Mizzou for the fall. “While remote classes will continue through the summer, we expect to return to in-person operations and classes this fall. In consultation with public health officials and Mizzou’s own health care experts, we are developing plans for our return to campus within a ‘new normal’ that we expect will be necessary,” he said in a statement. “Of course, the situation demands continued flexibility based on the evolving public health situation and in the best interests of our students, faculty and staff, but we are looking forward to the fall semester.”
As governors across this great land begin rolling out plans to reopen their economies, one Power 5 president has done the same.
On Tuesday, Purdue president Mitchell Daniels published a letter indicating its plans for the fall semester. “Purdue University, for its part, intends to accept students on campus in typical numbers this fall, sober about the certain problems that the COVID-19 virus represents, but determined not to surrender helplessly to those difficulties but to tackle and manage them aggressively and creatively,” Daniels wrote, with the caveat that such plans are dependent upon governmental permission.
Daniels then noted that, while Purdue amounts to a densely-packed city of 50,000 people, most of them are 35 and under, “[a]ll data to date tell us that the COVID-19 virus, while it transmits rapidly in this age group, poses close to zero lethal threat to them.”
Given that, Daniels outlined a preliminary list of precautions that Purdue might take. Note that these are not a hard-and-fast list of precautions Purdue will take, but merely of a list of examples of what Purdue could do to reopen for the fall semester:
— Spreading out classes, literally and figuratively, by reducing class size, extending the regular class week schedule and encouraging online instruction and lab work whenever possible.
— Allowing or requiring vulnerable persons to work or study remotely.
— Pre-testing students and staff, both for the coronavirus and COVID-19 antibodies, upon arrival to campus, continuing its testing regimen throughout the fall, utilizing Purdue’s own labs to process testing, and setting aside space to quarantine individuals exhibiting symptoms.
— Contact tracing for all individuals who test positive. “Those in the young, least vulnerable group will be tested, quarantined if positive, or checked regularly for symptoms if negative for both antibodies and the virus,” Daniels wrote.
Daniels defended closing Purdue’s campus as “a correct and necessary step,” but then outlined the same argument we’ve all been making in our heads for the past six weeks. “But like any action so drastic, it has come at extraordinary costs, as much human as economic, and at some point, clearly before next fall, those will begin to vastly outweigh the benefits of its continuance,” he wrote.
Note that this is not an announcement that Purdue will reopen in August, and it’s even further from a confirmation that the Boilermakers will be back in front of a sold-out Ross Ade Stadium crowd for their Sept. 12 home opener against Memphis.
But here’s something else it’s not: Daniels’ letter is not a major university president telling his constituents he’ll see them again in 2021, and that’s cause for a restrained, well-earned fist pump.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.