Eduvation Blog

Back-to-School Jitters, Waivers, Football and Death Tolls

Good morning!  TGIF, and happy belated International Left Handers’ Day! (Somehow I missed that yesterday.)

Pitched political battles are raging, not just between Yves-François Blanchet and Justin Trudeau, or between Donald Trump and Kamala Harris, but between the World Health Organization and the American Dental Association, and between North and South collegiate football leagues. (Atlanta is burning up with COVID fever, but some football coaches might as well say they “don’t give a damn.”)

The contrast with Canadian campuses is remarkable. Here, most announcements this week have been about extending WFH, remote delivery and virtual convocations well into 2021.

And keep reading, because as usual I wind up this Friday edition with a few unusual higher ed videos, just #ICYMI…

Back-to-School Anxiety

The back-to-school jitters are affecting governments, school boards, higher ed leadership and athletics conferences this year, as anxieties and tempers flare over COVID19 and the prospect of a safe return to American campuses. There’s a sharp division between North and South in football, Republican and Democrat in state governors, and even amongst students, most of whom don’t trust their alma maters to keep them safe…

The South Wants to Secede Again

American campuses have been reliving much of the trauma of the Civil War all over again, as outspoken protests have raged against racist statues and building names, confederate flags and system racism. Now it would seem a new national facture is opening up in collegiate athletics. The vast majority of NCAA football leagues have cancelled play this fall, as COVID19 cases surge and testing is difficult to secure. Out of 13 leagues in the Championship Series division, 10 have announced they will not play. Three southern conferences insist the show must go on: Atlantic Coast, Big 12, and Southeastern – not coincidentally home to 14 of the last 15 national championships, and powerhouse teams at Alabama, Clemson, Louisiana State and Oklahoma. With millions of dollars in revenue at stake, they regard the scientific evidence and the moves of other leagues as “informative, not determinative.” Their decision will be regarded as either “a masterstroke that propped up the remnants of the college football season, or a stopgap that merely postponed its collapse.” New York Times

Students Don’t Trust Campus

A recent pulse survey of 1,500 US undergrads found that just 34% would feel comfortable living in a campus dorm this fall (41% of males and 30% of females). What’s worse, 52% say they “do not trust their university to protect students and faculty from the coronavirus if campus reopens in the fall.” (13% said “not at all.”) Most students are willing to get COVID19 tests frequently in order to return to campus, but that willingness divides along party lines: 69% of Democrats are willing, compared to just 47% of Republicans. 61% of students believe that profs should be able to decide whether or not to hold classes in person. CollegePulse

Getting a Second Opinion

A second, similar survey of 1,050 US students found that 31% of students fear they “won’t feel safe at all” and 82% will feel at least “somewhat unsafe” on campus. About 34% distrust other students to follow social distancing guidelines, and 27% are uncomfortable about sharing a dorm or apartment with a roommate. 78% have “some level of distrust” with campus healthcare facilities to treat sick students. They are uncertain about health insurance coverages, costs of care, and 11% report a previous misdiagnosis from campus medical services. Male students were twice as likely to feel “very safe,” and to trust their fellow students with distancing precautions. UB

Potential Death Toll at Georgia Tech

In mid-July, the Academic Restart Committee at Georgia Tech received a projection that, should classes resume on campus at full capacity without any mitigation strategies in place, the campus could expect about 75 COVID19 fatalities – an estimated 10 students, 30 staff, 25 faculty and 10 affiliates. (Not to mention deaths in the off-campus community, which were not calculated in the model.) The stark numbers underscore just how much is at stake this fall, should students, faculty and staff fail to observe strict social distancing, hand hygiene, and face mask requirements. The author of the report, and founding director of GT’s quantitative biosciences doctoral program, has been a vocal opponent of bringing 330,000 students back to Georgia campuses while the pandemic continues to surge. “We’re not going to get out of this via magical thinking.” IHE

Waivers at Penn State

Before they could even log into the university website, students at Pennsylvania State U had to accept a “COVID19 Compact” “acknowledging the risk of returning to campus amid the coronavirus pandemic” and “absolving the school of responsibility for personal injury, illness, permanent disability, or death.” Community members in the town of State College are concerned that its small hospital and limited infrastructure may be unable to handle the “inevitable” surge of COVID19 cases, and that bringing students back in any capacity is “incredibly irresponsible.” For its part, the university’s compact goes on to say, “we must acknowledge the responsibility we all share…  Our return is tenuous and could be brief. Its success depends on each of us doing our part.” Newsweek

Staying Virtual

uAlberta has advised most faculty and staff that they will continue to work remotely until “at least” Dec 31. uAlberta

Ryerson, Seneca, uToronto and York U have all decided not to hold in-person fall convocation ceremonies this year. Global

uToronto Mississauga students have painstakingly built a virtual replica of Deerfield Hall, the main home of UTM computer science students, in Minecraft. The recreation used publicly-available floorplans and photos to recreate the building room-by-room. An impressive 5-min walkthrough video appears on the UTM Youtube channel. UTM

Mandatory Masks

My list of 92 CdnPSEs now has 51 at which masks are mandatory, and 10 where they are recommended or optional. So we’re at 66% and rising! Here are two new additions…

Lethbridge College will require face masks in on-campus indoor public spaces, effective Aug 17. Lethbridge News Now

MacEwan U now requires masks or face coverings be worn in all public spaces on campus where it is not possible to be distanced by at least 2m. MacEwan

Other Updates

uCanada West is offering international students a “Refund Guarantee”: if their study permit is denied, they will receive “a full refund, except for administration fees.” Twitter

Georgian College reported Wednesday that a member of its Barrie campus community has tested positive for COVID19. The College’s COVID19 protocols activated additional safety measures including entry screenings, mandatory masks and enhanced cleaning. Georgian


I’ve watched thousands of higher ed videos in the past few weeks, from around the world, tackling various aspects of social distancing and hygiene precautions, academic delivery and supports, and residence life and move-ins. But I haven’t seen anything on YouTube to rival this…

Whitworth U, in Spokane WA, definitely takes some kind of cake for turning a student residence packing list into a trashy 1970s game show, “Can I Bring That?” I’m not suggesting you watch all 8 minutes of it, but it has to be seen to be believed!  YouTube


Students at Colorado College (none of whom majored in film) produced a really effective 80-sec spot, by getting up at 5am for months to film each other mountain climbing. “Come Curious” encourages students to “climb higher, dig deeper… take passion to new altitudes.” Learning “above 6,035 ft” looks pretty impressive! (There’s even a behind-the-scenes vid.)  YouTube


Phew!  That’s another week done!  Have a great weekend, stay safe and be well!

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