Eduvation Blog

Bringing Condoms to the Baby Shower

Good morning!

Try as I might, I just can’t ignore developments south of the border today. (And no, I don’t mean the Democratic National Convention, QAnon, the assault on the USPS, or even the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian collusion.)

The best-laid schemes for a return to US college campuses have also been “gang a-gley” (to put it mildly). Several more high-profile institutions have surrendered to the virus, and there are signs of imminent disaster elsewhere too.

The ambitious plans to return students to campus were in many ways idealistic, but also as one prof puts it, would turn student life into “a combination of a monastery and a minimum-security prison.” Notably, Yale is among those still fully committed to in-person instruction, even though one administrator wrote that the community should “be emotionally prepared… [for] deaths.” As one columnist puts it, we’re seeing what happens when the survival of the institution is elevated above the survival of the people it serves.

Coincidentally, several Canadian universities with ambitious reopening plans are also in the news today. (Hopefully they will benefit from Canada’s comparative public health successes thus far.) Several news reports have looked at the campus housing situation for fall, another institution has announced that online/hybrid delivery will continue through the Winter 2021 term, and Ryerson’s senate has introduced some new academic policies designed to be flexible and compassionate.

But if you’re looking for something upbeat and uplifting, check out the rap music video that 2 Georgia teachers made for their students, #ICYMI…

Fall Term Falling Apart

Campus leaders in regions currently experiencing upswings in COVID19 cases, like Edmonton or even Vancouver, are no doubt looking on anxiously as the fall term falls apart in the US. On Monday Michigan Statecalled off the return to campus, and Notre Dame suspended classes for (at least) 2 weeks. On Tuesday, uPittsburgh delayed the start of term and Drexel aborted their plans for in-person instruction.

There are plenty of worrisome signs that other campuses will follow, soon: in Iowa, Drake U ejected 14 students from campus for violating COVID guidelines; uConn evicted several students from its dorms for holding a crowded weekend party; Oklahoma State has quarantined an entire sorority, Auburn an entire fraternity, and North Carolina State reports 8 cases in 6 frats.

Besides the challenge of controlling adolescent social and sexual behaviour, risk-taking and recklessness, the biggest problem is that COVID19 outbreaks cannot be contained through self-screening or symptom-based testing only: asymptomatic students also must be tested, and very frequently. But tests are expensive, and particularly unreliable for asymptomatic patients.

Nonetheless, about 20% of US colleges are still planning in-person instruction, including most notably Yale, which expects 1,900 undergrads in residence and 1,600 off-campus starting Aug 31. The NY Daily Newssummed it up in a bleak headline, “Yale to students: We’re reopening, prepare for deaths.”

Aside from misplaced confidence in the power of a code of conduct, and desperation to secure revenues from housing and dining services, politics plays a major role in the US as well. Yesterday President Trump “blasted” colleges for closing over a mere “flu,” and insisted that closing campuses was what “could cost lives.” He has also threatened to cut funding or revoke tax exempt status from colleges that defy his wishes and stay online this fall.

Bon Mots

Anxiety, anger and frustration over the unfolding disaster in the US has inspired some eloquent outbursts on both sides…

“A few mistakes by some are having large impacts on many.” Samuel Stanley, President, Michigan State U

“We all should be emotionally prepared for widespread infections — and possibly deaths — in our community… Your residential college life will look more like a hospital unit than a residential college.” Laurie Santos, Head of Silliman College, Yale U

“I’m increasingly thinking campus life will be a combination of a monastery and a minimum-security prison.” Robert Kelchen, Assoc Prof of Higher Education, Seton Hall U

“The only way to arrive at this state of affairs is to believe that the institution itself is more important than the people it serves. If an institution is actively harming those it is meant to serve, perhaps the institution is already dead and we need to replace it with something that is consistent with the values the institution claims to live by.” John Warner, in IHE

“[Testing only symptomatic students is] like bringing a condom to a baby shower.” David Paltiel, Public Health professor, Yale U

In-Person in Canada

In addition to StFX, Providence and Bishop’s, CdnPSEs Acadia, CMU and Redeemer have ambitious plans to deliver much of the traditional campus experience next month…

Acadia U has almost 25% of its staff back on campus now, and will be “returning to full operations” on Sept 21. Chronicle Herald

Canadian Mennonite U in Winnipeg has released a detailed 30-page framework for 2020-21 education and operations. Courses will be delivered in-person, virtually, and hybrid – although should the PHO return Manitoba to Phase 0 or 1, CMU would likely close dorms, move all classes online, and request students return home. CMU

Redeemer U expects 85% of its 850 students back on campus this fall, but has invested $800,000 in technology to move classes online if necessary. University Affairs

Reductions in Residence

Probably influenced by US coverage, this week Canadian news reporters have been covering plans for campus and residence…

uGuelph expects 500 students in campus housing this fall, rather than 4,000+, so it will be operating at about 12% capacity. Only in “special circumstances” will students be accepted to residence. CBC

Laurier has halved its residence capacity this fall to just 1,800 instead of 3,700, but expects to admit even fewer students than that. Record

uWaterloo expects 2,000 students in its dorms this fall, rather than 5,750, so it will be operating at about 35% capacity. Move-in will take place over 2 weeks instead of 2 days. Record

CdnPSE Updates

In other news, an animated reopening video, an extension of the Fall status quo through the Winter term, and new policies for academic compassion…

uAlberta will be largely online this fall, but this professionally animated 2-min video is for those who might need to visit campus, albeit briefly. There’s something calmly reassuring about the style. YouTube

Okanagan College has just announced that courses in the Winter 2021 term will continue the Fall approach: “a blend of online and hybrid courses.” Okanagan

Ryerson’s senate has approved new policies for the fall term, allowing students one undocumented request for academic consideration per term, and streamlining processes for appeals. Ryerson


A rap video about COVID19 and virtual learning made by 2 Georgia high school teachers and the cheerleaders they coach is going viral online, with about 250,000 views on Instagram so far. It’s a remix of Jack Harlow’s “What’s Poppin,” uploaded to raise students’ spirits the day before online classes began. NPR


Thanks for reading!  Stay safe and be well…

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