- - Tuesday, July 7, 2020

As of this writing, daily coronavirus case counts are over 30,000, a country-wide level we haven’t seen since April. This past Thursday, we set a single-day record of nearly 60,000 new cases. Hospitals in many parts of the United States are exceeding capacity. Many states have hit “pause” on their re-opening plans. Some are re-closing. So, whether we like it or not, it’s time to accept that infections are surging. Lord knows what the landscape will look like after the July 4th weekend.

And so, amazingly, in spite of the present suffering — to say nothing of dire future projections — the majority of our colleges and universities are planning on re-opening this fall. At the moment, school administrators are busy dressing up their plans with prophylactic rhetoric of “no football games” and “temperature checks” and “socially distanced living quarters.” Don’t fall for it. Don’t for a second think that once, say, 5,000 to 20,000 college co-eds descend onto campus across the land any of these so-called preventative measures will keep coronavirus from spreading in an environment that by design forces human beings to socialize.

And if, by some miracle protective force, you could ensure health protocols are followed on campus, what about off-campus? Even someone with the intelligence of Bluto understands asking undergraduates to curb their Animal House inclinations is wishful thinking. As reports about super-spreader events — usually parties or a social environment of 20 or more people — indicate, all it takes is one COVID-19 infected student to infect the college-wide bloodstream overnight.

Of course, if it was only a matter of college campuses getting sick, that would be lamentable (think of older faculty, students with underlying conditions, etc.), but one might callously remark, “well, you knew the risk.” But COVID-19 does not respect campus borders. And the incredibly stupid idea many administrators have to send students back home after Thanksgiving means that all of America can look forward to a surge in the fall.

Oh, and here is a perennial reminder: We don’t yet have a cure for COVID-19. We hear there are cures on the way, but we don’t have a cure. The end of the year is a long way away. So is next year. So why are we risking the well-being of our loved-ones by in-person college classes? We are disallowing major sports events and concerts. A college campus is one big concert, day and night. What’s the deal here?

The deal is colleges and universities are broke, broke, broke. Thanks in large part to the explosion of administrative positions on campus, the margins in higher education are razor thin. This means that every year counts, and every butt in a seat and head on a dorm-room pillow is necessary. It means, in case you’ve missed some of the headlines, that if under-enrollment thanks to COVID-19 comes to pass, this will cause some colleges and universities to permanently close. (We are already witnessing this at the private high school level.)

Our intent is not to intentionally crater higher education. But at the same time, what COVID-19 is laying bare is a bloated, incompetent administrative apparatus that is the cause of its own ruination. That needs to be exposed.

The decision to widely open up our classrooms this fall will have grave consequences. Not only does it carry the potential to immediately harm students and faculty, but over time may damage the health of the surrounding town, and later, travel throughout the general body politic. This does not need to happen, but it is happening thanks to the administrative greed and waste that has come to define the modern era of higher education.

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