Saturday, August 1, 2020 | Category: Blog
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This archive reproduces our email updates in reverse-chronological order for the month of August 2020.
TGIF! To try to foster a good mood for the weekend, I thought I would try NOT to think about the campus chaos in the US, or the latest political outrages on Twitter. Instead, let’s step back – waaaaay back – and take the long view.
Today, let’s look at global demographic trends to the year 2100. Although certainly there’s bad news in there for Millennials. And Boomers, Australians, Indian females, Republicans, and Europeans. Oh, and potentially community college enrolments.
In fact, I hadn’t considered that high school drop-out rates would likely increase as a result of the COVID19 disruption, so add that to declining demographics, economic weakness, and uncertainty about campus delivery… and things could look pretty bleak for a few years, especially for less selective institutions.
Sigh. So it’s hard not to fall back into pessimist territory – but at least there’s research to suggest that pessimism gives you a survival advantage!
It looks as though the spread in the world’s second-largest COVID19 hotspot, Brazil, may be about to slow – but they are still reporting more than 49,000 new cases a day. India, the #3 country, hit a record high of 69,000 new cases yesterday, and France and Spain also hit 4-month highs this week – prompting the WHO to warn that Europe may see a resurgence now that PHO restrictions are easing. As they said back on Tuesday, we are clearly “nowhere close” to herd immunity.
A Generational Catastrophe
The UN warns that more than 1 billion students worldwide face a “generational catastrophe” because of pandemic disruptions to education – disproportionately affecting those with disabilities, from low-income, remote or racialized communities, and exacerbating pre-existing inequality. CTV
Underpopulated Down Under
As a result of the pandemic, Australia’s population in 2030 could be 1 million fewer than previously projected, resulting in an aging workforce and a $117B annual cost to the economy. Like Canada, Australia has relied on immigration for much of its growth, but they project an 85% decline in 2021. Even if a vaccine is found within 12 months, KPMG estimates the shortfall in population would be about 420,000. They recommend the aggressive recruitment of international students, with streamlined pathways to residency. ABC
Projecting the Year 2100
uWashington research suggests that population declines in India and China could be more rapid than previously thought, thanks to more accessible education and contraception. As a result, the global population will peak just after mid-century (see graph above). African population will triple by 2100, and Nigeria is expected to be the second-largest nation on Earth, ahead of China, by 2094. Net migration is expected to keep the populations of Canada, Australia and the US fairly stable, despite low fertility levels. WEF
Gender Imbalance in India
Between 2017 and 2030, almost 7 million fewer female births could occur in India because of sex-selective abortions. This could have a significant impact on the global sex ratio in the coming decade, when India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country. New Scientist
Demographic Cliff x3
US colleges have known for a decade that a steep decline in traditional-aged students was coming in 2025. (They were all born by 2008 after all.) But last year’s enrolments were already softening, and now COVID19 has not only made it more difficult to recruit college students, but the shift to remote instruction may well drive a surge in high school drop-outs too. In some cases, half of K-12 students are skipping their Zoom classes. Those at-risk students might well have headed to rural institutions, community colleges or universities with an access mandate. Add to that the economic pressures of the recession and “decreased consumer confidence,” and EAB projects US first-time enrolments could drop by almost a third by 2025 (see graph below). EAB
Gen Y & Z Take Over
US Census data reveals that Generations Y and Z, the 166 million racially diverse people born since 1981, are now the majority in America, and poised to take over influential roles in business and government. Just 162 million Americans are aged 40+, members of the Gen X, Baby Boomer and older cohorts. The young majority are bearing the brunt of the recession, job losses, evictions and systemic racism (this is “the second stage of a double economic whammy” for older millennials) – but they also make up 62% of eligible voters in the US… NY Daily News
Boomers are Losing It
The average cognition scores of adults aged 50+ increased between 1890 and 1947 – but began to decline with early Baby Boomers (born 1948-53) and declined even further for the later Boomers (1954-59). The “shocking” decline is seen across genders, ethnicities, education and economic levels, says an Ohio State U sociologist – although it tends to be associated with loneliness, depression, inactivity and obesity. (The test used sounds much like the infamous “person, woman, man, camera, TV” test Donald Trump has bragged about.) Science Daily
The Upside of Feeling Down
(With apologies to Thomas Homer-Dixon’s excellent book.) A Stanford biological anthropologist argues that undervaluing optimistic long-shots and overestimating the likelihood of bad outcomes may have given pessimism an evolutionary advantage. (Assuming, of course, that it didn’t stop pessimists from having children at all.) Economists often argue that the poorest people “have nothing to lose,” but in fact they can be “especially risk-averse,” contradicting the theory of expected utility. “Any time where you have to avoid zero, pessimism will pay off, because you’d rather leave money on the table than run the risk of going extinct.” Futurity
Universities sound fairly bullish about enrolments this Fall, although things won’t be entirely clear until after the course withdrawal dates…
Overall, Ontario universities report a 2.26% increase in confirmed first-year students this fall (107,001 this year, 104,635 last fall). This does not reflect upper-year or graduate enrolments, and of course it is not spread evenly across the province. Global
Laurier reports “very strong” interest in its 2020/21 programs, and an increase in the number of incoming students who considered WLU their first choice. Enrolment is “in line with our expectations,” although students are “now in the process of making their final decisions in unusual and challenging circumstances.” Global
uLaval reports preliminary data that shows a 4% increase in CEGEP graduates enrolling, although the data won’t be confirmed until Sep 30. Courses will be delivered in 6 modes, with the majority hybrid or co-modal. Laval
uWaterloo reports that “fall enrolment appears to be up,” although they won’t have official numbers until Nov 1. Global
With far more hands-on, trades and technical programs, many Ontario colleges are more anxious about enrolment declines this fall. (In the past few months we’ve heard some brutal scenarios being considered at Sheridan and Conestoga, for example.) It has always been true that universities can lower their admission cut-offs and scoop students out of the college pool, whereas colleges have no such option.
Face mask policies are being intensified on campuses in BC, QC and PEI, while remote working is being extended to the end of 2020…
uAlberta’s new president, Bill Flanagan, advised the community that “most of us who are currently working remotely will continue to do so until at least Dec 31,” and that a decision about the Winter term will be made by November. uAlberta
BCIT is now “strongly recommending” masks in all indoor common areas. BCIT
uCalgary reports an employee in “Science B” tested positive for COVID19 4-7 days ago, but they “were not on campus when they were infectious.” uCalgary
Holland College (PEI) launched Phase 3 of its Ease-Back Plan on Thursday. Face masks are now “strongly recommended” and a daily self-assessment is mandatory. More than half their full-time programs will be blended. Holland
Montréal’s 12 CEGEPs plan a “variable” approach to resuming classes this fall, with some students in class regularly, others purely online, and others taking hybrid courses (particularly at Dawson College). On campus precautions will include physical distancing, face masks, and even goggles “where necessary.” Some institutions are aiming for 30% of students back on campus, while others “want a maximum presence.” (Thatsounds worrying…) Montreal Gazette
Selkirk College (BC) announced yesterday that face masks will be mandatory on all its campuses in all indoor common areas and “where physical distancing is difficult to maintain.” The College ordered 6,000 masks from a local quilting shop for staff. Selkirk
Several provinces have imposed new testing requirements on students in quarantine. In Ontario, students who have been outside Canada need to quarantine and test negative once. In Nova Scotia, students from outside the “Atlantic Bubble” have to quarantine and get THREE tests…
Acadia U announced yesterday that the provincial government now requires all students arriving in Nova Scotia from outside the “Atlantic Canada bubble” complete an online check-in, self-isolate for 14 days, and get 3 COVID19 tests during that time. There will be a testing facility on campus. Acadia
Dalhousie U announced the same requirements yesterday, although the testing will be scheduled by Nova Scotia Health, and may be off-campus. Dal
Queen’s U provost Mark Green emphasized yesterday the important role of students in containing the pandemic, and their responsibility to test negative before leaving home to move to Kingston. Quarantine is “strongly recommended” for Canadian students upon arrival, and mandatory for international students. (Ontario is requiring students arriving from outside Canada be tested at least once during the quarantine as well.) Queen’s Gazette
If you’ve read this far, you’re obviously one of those people who prefers the burden of knowledge to the bliss of ignorance… Thanks for reading, and have a safe and restful weekend!
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…
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.
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 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
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
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
Today let’s explore the economic and cultural shifts the pandemic is driving, with respect to automobiles and public transit. Generations Y and Z seem finally to be embracing the car as a form of PPE. Transit systems are losing millions as student bus passes have been cancelled. We’re heading back to the 50s as drive-in everything becomes the order of the day. These shifts will have some lasting impacts.
Sadly, we also have to cast a glance at the slow-motion car crash that is the return to campus south of the border, where the pandemic continues to gain momentum. Yesterday, dozens of colleges announced COVID19 outbreaks, even as others were publishing some lovingly crafted video messages to welcome students back to campus. Props to the videographers, whether or not they knew they were orchestrating the soundtrack for what will likely be a tragic story…
Yesterday, even more outbreaks on US campuses were throwing fall semester plans into turmoil. Here are just the 2 most prominent examples…
Michigan State last night called off in-person classes for the fall, just 10 days before students were due to arrive back on campus. MSU
Notre Dame announced yesterday afternoon that in-person classes for undergrads, which began on Aug 10, are suspended for 2 weeks while it reassesses its plans. (Their online dashboard indicates 147 confirmed cases this month.) If the outbreak is not controlled within 2 weeks, they will send students home for the term. ND
By comparison, the incidents and announcements in Canada were minor…
Briercrest College (SK) announced yesterday that they will delay the start of their fall semester to Sep 7, to align with the province’s change to the K-12 schedule. (Briercrest also operates a Christian high school.) Briercrest
St Clair College reported on Monday that a student has tested positive for COVID19. “Several hundred” stranded students have been back on campus since early July. The risk of spread on campus is “low,” although classmates have been asked to self-isolate. Windsor Star
Ontario Police College, in Aylmer, reports that 4 recruits (1% of the class) tested positive for COVID19, and their contacts are self-isolating. Classes have resumed. Global
Let’s take a look at the impacts COVID19 is having on the automotive industry, with repercussions for student life, campus parking, bus passes, and academic programs …
Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile
For almost a century, cars were an aspirational purchase, a sign of independence or a signal of life achievement for many. But Gen Y and Z have shown a real preference for the affordable convenience of car-sharing and ride-sharing services like Zipcar, Uber, and Lyft (perhaps supplemented with free rides from the parental units), to the point that the auto industry has been concerned for years: not only have younger generations been less likely to buy a car, but even to pursue a drivers’ license. (Cue the inevitable discussion of self-driving automobiles, which we don’t have time for today.) Some analysts suspected it was an environmental impulse, or smartphone addiction, but ultimately it looks like the major factor was financial.
The Industry Sputters
Likewise, the COVID19 dep/recession has affected automotive sales this year: between May and June, Honda lost $765M when its sales dropped 47%, GM lost $806M, and Nissan a whopping $2.7B. BMW lost $800M as quarterly sales fell 25%, although their recovery has already started. (Oddly Tesla profits rose, even though deliveries fell 5%.) Many believe new car sales are the “canary in the coal mine,” as 67% of consumers say they are being more cautious about spending in the face of income uncertainty. (My own car has spent most of the past 6 months sitting in the garage, still on the same tank of gas.)
Newly Popular as PPE
But a recent survey found stable demand for new cars among Canadians, particularly males under age 38 and households with kids under age 6. Even though car sales dropped this spring, sales to 18-to-35-year-oldsincreased. Thanks to concerns about viral transmission on public transit and in shared vehicles, young people are buying cars as “the ultimate form of PPE.” In Windsor, a stone’s throw from Detroit, first-time buyers are fuelling 24% greater demand, and driving the prices for used vehicles up 15%.
Missing the Bus
Thanks to the pandemic, a global survey of 11,000 people in 11 countries found that half planned to use transit less and a car more in the future, and 75% had hygiene concerns about transit. A separate survey of 1,000 Canadians this spring found that 70% would not use ride sharing again, and 40% would not use public transit. As college and university campuses across the country have moved to primarily online delivery, contracts with local transit authorities for student bus passes have been scaled back or suspended, costing cities millions of dollars. The City of Guelph, ON has reduced bus routes and will be laying off drivers this fall, in response to 60% fewer passengers and the cancellation of routes serving the university.
Mel’s Drive-In, Redux
America’s love affair with the automobile seems to be experiencing a renaissance of sorts, under the COVID19 social distancing regime. While restaurants and theatres have closed, drive-thrus and drive-ins are back in business. Grocery stores and big box retailers – not to mention campus libraries – are offering curbside pickup, right to your car’s trunk. A German nightclub even held a drive-in rave. This weekend, the Barrie Ribfest will be a drive-thru festival. Colleges have mounted drive-in convocations, and “car tours” of campus (with the guide on Zoom audio).
Back to the Future
No question, level 5 autonomous vehicles will be a godsend for young and old alike, but until they roll off the assembly lines in quantity, what will really drive the automotive sector is the desire to maintain social distancing during a pandemic. Engineers may be in demand to optimize cabin air filtration, and mechanics should have some job security if people are keeping their cars on the road longer, or buying the used vehicle they can afford rather than risking more debt. Cities and campuses alike will have to deal with conflicting demands for increased parking spaces and for bike lanes or pedestrian districts. Unless everyone is driving electric vehicles, these trends will have environmental and public health impacts, too.
Cape Breton U has published a colourful 18-page handbook for students, Thrive at CBU, to serve as “a starting point and checklist” as they begin an online year. (Ironically, it looks as though it’s intended to be a print piece.) CBU
uWaterloo has launched a very visual Welcome Back Waterloo guide for employees on the web, and a matching 2-min video about COVID19 precautions for students, complete with slick infographics. YouTube
As we watch US campuses confronted by the harsh reality of this pandemic, evacuating students within days of welcoming them aboard, I feel like a helpless observer as the RMS Titanic steams toward the iceberg. There’s something bittersweet, almost painful, about watching institutional videos designed to welcome students back to campus, and urging them to act responsibly and put the good of the community ahead of their own convenience. “Do your part.” “We’re all in this together.” “Together, we will get through this.”
Alas, we know how this will turn out (cue Celine Dion background music here), but nonetheless, the videographers deserve some encouraging applause, like the orchestra playing on deck as the Titanic sinks…
Baylor U (TX) is clearly very excited to be welcoming students back to campus. (Somehow the woman shouting into the camera at the beginning is more alarming than the full-sized bear at the end.) “We care about each other… We are going to get through this together.” YouTube
In a gentle, sensitive 40-sec vid, Whitworth U (WA) says “we are a tight-knit crew… we live and learn in community,” which is why social distancing is so difficult. “Each mask worn, each span of 6 feet observed… is an act of love… Protect the crew.” YouTube
uCentral Florida administrators are so earnest in this 2-min video that I really have to hope they beat the odds. There are beautiful shots of all the effort they have put into preparation, from HVAC systems, electrostatic sprayers and testing stations, to vending machines filled with masks. “UCF is more than a place… it’s a mindset of unlimited potential.” YouTube
Vassar College president Elizabeth Bradley isn’t particularly convincing at delivering humorous dialogue, but she tells a memorable story about increasing hospital hand hygiene by flattening the hierarchy: when even the janitor could remind the chief surgeon to wash his hands, months later compliance was at 95%. (If only campuses had months to get this right, and undergrads were as responsible as surgeons…) YouTube
Many CdnPSEs have started registering students for fall courses, promoting online fitness classes, wellness resources, or even welcoming students back to campus to start their 14 days of self-isolation. Plenty are issuing updates about campus parking, fee payments, orientation programs and swag bags.
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to tire of repetitive stories as we watch the inevitable unfold. So, I’m just going to spell out the safe assumptions below, and in future I’ll just bring any notable exceptions to your attention.
Hopefully, that will allow us time to look at more signals for the future as they appear around us. Watch for a series of “>FFWD” sections in the days ahead – starting with “junk food for thought” today.
Today we hear that Dalhousie expects the Winter 2021 term to be more of the same, Yale has come up with a quick and easy saliva COVID19 test, Canada scored in the top tier of countries for our handling of the pandemic, and more…
I predicted it would take at least two weeks, but this happened fast…
UNC Chapel Hill Surrenders
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced yesterday that, just days into the fall term, they are reversing their commitment to on-campus instruction (which itself was in blatant defiance of PHO guidance) and are moving all undergraduate instruction online effective tomorrow. You may recall that I highlighted the student/faculty “die-in” there, and that 3 outbreaks occurred in dorms last week. The system president says, “As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, we believe the current data presents an untenable situation.” UNC
Students Tired of “Gaslighting”
The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper, doesn’t pull any punches: “We all saw this coming,” says the online headline. After 4 COVID19 “clusters” surfaced on campus, “UNC has a clusterf*ck on its hands,” says the print version (modesty mine, thanks to Bryan Alexander for the source). As the students conclude, “We’re angry — and we’re scared. We’re tired of the gaslighting, tired of the secrecy, tired of being treated like cash cows by a University with such blatant disregard for our lives.” Daily Tar Heel
Call me a pessimist (or “the prophet of doom” – I answer to that, too). Based on the patterns we’ve seen unfold around the world over the past 6 months, it’s pretty safe to assume we will see the following in the months ahead too: Campuses will gradually reopen in phased manner, slightly behind the regional PHO guidance, with extensive attempts to maintain dynamic social distancing. All campuses will require masksin public indoor areas, at least part of the fall. (As a last nod, I will mention that uRegina has now announced mandatory masks effective Sept 1 – joining the 64% of institutions who have already made it policy.)
Many institutions will likely encourage use of the national COVID19 contact tracing app, and all will ask staff and students to screen for symptoms on a daily basis (although 40% of those infected experience no symptoms). Some may publish their results to dashboards, like uCalgary or UT Austin – who with 450 cases on campus is currently the national leader. To minimize campus density, large classes will remain onlineand many staff will continue to WFH. When they open at all, student residences will operate at half capacity, dining halls will provide prepackaged meals for take-out, and fitness centres will require booked appointments, spaced equipment, and showering at home.
Youth infection rates will continue to rise, as they have been doing in BC, Alberta and Manitoba in recent days, and some percentage of students will arrive on campus asymptomatic but infected. Parties on- and off-campus will meet with public outcry, administrators and student leaders will try to rein in student behaviour, but the inevitable outbreaks will result in extensive quarantines and potentially campus closures. (You would think it would take 14 days for symptoms to show, but UNC proved if you do COVID testing you can be overwhelmed even sooner than that.)
I suspect almost all CdnPSEs will hold firm on their tuition fees, although most are discounting part of the ancillary fees that relate to campus-only services. (I haven’t been reporting those because I’ve been assuming it will be pretty consistent.)
Plans for Winter 2021 Term
Although it’s starting to look inevitable too, I will keep an eye on early announcements for the winter 2021term, at least for a while yet. Some outliers like Cambridge, NSCC, OntarioTech, Queen’s and York made the declaration early, but most CdnPSEs are still actively considering it. Dalhousie U’s acting Provost announced yesterday that the winter term (Jan-Apr 2021) will see “a mix of online and in-person instruction… provided this can be done safely.” He observes, “we can say with confidence there will still be significant public health measures required in January to limit the spread of COVID19 — particularly given the possibility of a second wave of the virus and the absence of widely accessible treatments or a vaccine.” Final decisions on specific courses will be made by mid-September. Dal
A Mouth-Watering Game Changer
Yale’s School of Public Health has developed a new saliva test for COVID19, which is easier and cheaper than the nasopharyngeal swab test in use to date. The US FDA issued “emergency use authorization” on Saturday for the “SalivaDirect” test, which uses materials costing under $5 per test, and can rapidly be scaled up nationally. It also will allow healthcare workers to keep their distance from patients, and of course will be farless uncomfortable. Yale
Canada is #12 for Safety
When it comes to economic, social and health stability during the pandemic, Canada has been ranked as a Tier 1 country, the #12 safest out of 200 in the world, behind the top 5 Switzerland, Germany, Israel, Singapore and Japan. Australia and New Zealand came in at #8 and #9, while the US sadly came in at #58 in Tier 3, well behind Mexico (#50), Italy (#53), and India (#56), and just ahead of the Slovak Republic (#59). Deep Knowledge Group used AI analysis of 11,400 data points on mortality, infection rates, emergency preparedness, government responses and more. Deep Knowledge Group
uCalgary’s summer Vet Camp for kids went virtual this year, with interactive video content on the anatomy of cows, horses, cats, dogs and birds, and a range of veterinary skills like bandaging, wildlife rehabilitation, disease monitoring and biosecurity. The students running the program created hours of video content, and hosted Zoom calls with the campers from all across the country – who got swag bags, scrubs, and a stethoscope. uCalgary
King’s UC at Western has launched a “virtual Student Life Centre” to allow the campus community to take part in online gatherings, virtual O-week, lectures and research seminars. It includes an event calendar, wellness resources, gift shop, information about student clubs, and a new online meeting room. King’s
In “>FFWD,” I’ll take a look at some obscure and unexpected consequences of the pandemic, often with repercussions for student life, academic programs, and the business of higher education. Today’s theme came to me in 30 minutes or less…
Takeout Pizza is Booming
With restaurants closed or operating below capacity, and some shelter-in-place orders still in effect, more people are ordering delivery, and pizza is the go-to. Last quarter, Domino’s reported a 16% increase in same-store sales, and a 30% spike in profits – leading it to hire 20,000 more people to handle the volume. On the other hand Pizza Hut, with 6,700 restaurants across the US, hit 8-year highs for carryout and delivery sales in May, but is closing 300 of its poorest-performing locations that focus on dine-in service. 680News
Hold the Pepperoni
With the surging demand for pizza, and disruptions in the meat processing supply chain, there’s now a pepperoni shortage, resulting in price increases of up to 50% for local pizza shops. Larger chains have long-term pepperoni contracts. (Will pepperoni stay “America’s favourite sliced topping,” or will they have to start ordering my favourite, Hawaiian?) Newsweek
Notable vids on YouTube this week…
Mount Royal U (Calgary) has a wonderful library staffed by some talented folks – you may recall I visited them for episodes of Ten with Ken about the evolving role of libraries, and the MakerStudio in particular. This week, they’ve released an upbeat 4-min video tour of the library’s services for the fall term, from contactless pickup and digitization services to online research support. YouTube
Allen Pan, a YouTuber who apparently shares my dismay at the anti-mask tantrums and second amendment protesters who would rather shoot someone than social distance, has invented a pneumatic “mask gun” to shoot masks onto people’s faces. YouTube
I can tell from your autoresponses that many of you are enjoying some much-needed summer holidays. Be sure to get some R&R now, because while the coronavirus “doesn’t take a vacation,” we’re almost certainly going to have a tough year ahead of us.
Today I round up some helpful recent perspective on the scope and likely duration of this pandemic, the challenges of containing transmission, and the chaos already happening in American education. Many are anxious, some are resigned to catching the virus on campus, and others can look forward (?) to the option of posthumous degrees.
Meanwhile in Canada… Laurentian has suspended admissions to 17 programs (without consulting its Senate?), StFX is requiring students to sign the waiver and return to campus or be “deregistered,” and Bishop’s is hiring students as part-time “COVID Ambassadors.”
Oh, and apparently early risers are NOT welcome at St Thomas U, where food services have cancelled breakfast this year!
Canada’s PHOs anticipate a second, larger wave of the pandemic this fall, and ongoing ripples well into 2022 – and possibly forever after…
Global Cases Still Surging
Global COVID19 cases are continuing to rise rapidly, even though testing has slowed in some of the worst-hit regions. The WHO warns that there is “no indication that there is seasonality with this virus.” (Flu surges in winter because the virus prefers cold, dry conditions with low levels of UV light, people spend more time indoors, and our immune systems may be weakened by lower levels of vitamin D.) Huffington Post
Reasonable Worst-Case Scenario
On Friday, Canada’s Chief PHO, Theresa Tam, provided a “reasonable, worst-case scenario” forecasting an even larger second wave this fall, followed by “peaks and valleys continuing into 2022 that would at times exceed the public-health system’s capacity to manage.” The best-case “slow burn” scenario will see “continuous low rates of infection into 2022.” Globe & Mail
Pandemics become Endemic
When the COVID19 pandemic finally does subside, it looks increasingly likely that the virus “is never going away,” but will instead become endemic to humanity. COVID19 is particularly insidious because it is highly transmissible, can jump to animal reservoirs, and up to 40% of infected hosts are asymptomatic. The best-case scenario may be that SARS-CoV-2 becomes a fifth coronavirus, joining the 4 that cause most common colds, circulating annually and occasionally causing serious illness in the elderly. Since live hosts transmit more effectively than dead ones, many viruses evolve to be less deadly over time. Like the flu or the common cold, COVID19 may continue circulating for centuries, but without disrupting our society. The Atlantic
Of course, most people can’t take the long view right now. Just 5 months into the pandemic, people of all ages are getting so sick of self-isolating that, as economies reopen, they’re willing to risk getting sick to get back to normal…
Vigilance on Vacation
Ontario’s CMOH, David Williams, is urging continued vigilance during summer vacation and prime beach season: “COVID19 doesn’t take a vacation.” (Although the virus seems to love to travel: announcements are being issued daily of COVID19 exposures on domestic and international flights into Canada.)
Recent Sources of Infection
Originally, travellers from China and New York brought most COVID19 cases to Canada, but the viral hotspots quickly focused on the cramped working conditions in meat-packing plants and migrant worker bunkhouses, and of course the deadliest outbreaks hit seniors’ residences and long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec. Major urban centres were hit first and hardest, while rural regions experienced less spread so long as festivals and campuses were closed. In the 6 weeks since July, though, a Concordia U study has traced 505 Canadian cases to public venues including grocery stores (46), bars and restaurants (30), liquor stores (10), day camps (8), schools and daycares (7). Although they tracked only a single Canadian case transmitted at church, we can expect considerably more from one California megachurch, where 6,000 people have been gathering every Sunday.
A Global War on Fun
Many politicians and PHOs have been blaming more recent COVID19 outbreaks on reckless young people, socializing at private parties, bars and nightclubs. (Canada’s Deputy PHO points to quarantine fatigue, feelings of youthful invincibility, and the shift in social norms because of the reopening of bars and restaurants.) Across Europe, governments are re-imposing restrictions in the face of a second wave, particularly in Spain, France, Greece and Italy. Greece has imposed a curfew on bars and restaurants. UK officials are telling young people, “Don’t Kill Granny,” while police observe that “drunk people can’t socially distance.” The story is similar fromSouth Korea to Spain: shouting to be heard over loud music in crowded indoor spaces creates the perfect venue for airborne transmission. Fraternity parties have been blamed for 47 COVID19 cases at UC Berkeley in July, and many other outbreaks among college football teams across the US.
Partying in Canada
Canada is not immune to the problem. BC has been battling a second wave of COVID19, largely driven by youthaged 20-39, but starting with 2 private Canada Day parties in Kelowna. The PHO has prohibited dancing, but nonetheless mask-less young partiers at a Vancouver nightclub were crowding together last Thursday, dancing and pouring drinks into each others’ mouths. And apparently young people crowded Granville Street and a Vancouver Island neighbourhood on Friday night, shouting and dancing, many not wearing masks. In Ontario, police broke up a Brampton house party attended by 200 people, and at a Toronto strip club last week, 550 people may have been exposed to COVID19 by a single employee who tested positive.
Can Students Contain Themselves?
Faculty, staff, administrators, community members and even some college students have expressed concern or disbelief that undergraduates will respect social distancing guidelines, practice hand hygiene, or wear face masks on campus this fall. “We’re asking leopards to change their spots.” Many expect students to grow more lax about precautions as the term goes on, in off-campus social settings, and of course where alcohol is involved. Institutions are, of course, implementing communication campaigns, distributing hand sanitizer and face masks, demanding behavioural commitments and completion of online training modules. Strategies range from “social norming” in conjunction with student government and peer influencers, to hiring enforcement officers and (in some cases) imposing sanctions on students who violate safety protocols. WONKHE
Queasy and Thrilled at uKentucky
Tens of thousands of students moved back to uKentucky last week, for a term that will (hopefully) run until Nov 24. Within days, police were growing concerned about student gatherings and administrators were reiterating the code of conduct. Many students have apparently already resigned themselves to catching the virus, and expect classes to move online “in the next month or so.” In the meantime, they plan to party while they can. Chronicle
CdnPSE can be grateful that, by and large, institutions decided early to deliver the fall term primarily or entirely online. (I know of only 4 exceptions: Bishops, StFX, Redeemer, and Providence.) South of the border, where Republicans have politicized mask policies and pushed for schools to reopen, all levels of education have been playing a game of chicken with the coronavirus…
A Chaotic Start on US Campuses
the school year is beginning amidst astronomical infection rates resulting in last-minute changes of plan. (The Washington Post calls the school year, “chaos coast to coast.”) Public schools in Chicago abandoned their hybrid delivery plans to switch to online. Johns Hopkins reverted to online for the term, as did Columbia,uPenn, DePaul, and many others. Students were left holding the bag for apartment leases, and international students faced new challenges to their study visas.
Many schools that tried to reopen did no better…
Campus Contagion & Quarantine
Public schools in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Nebraska are already cancelling in-person classes within days of reopening, due to COVID19 cases among students and staff. (A single school district in Georgia reports>1,600 students and teachers in quarantine, and the state is setting new records for daily deaths.) About one-tenth of the staff and students at Northeast Mississippi CC are already in quarantine, 9 days after classes resumed. At UNC Chapel Hill (where students and faculty staged a “die-in” earlier in the month), 3 outbreaksoccurred in dorms within the first 5 days of the semester, and more than 150 students and 40 employees have tested positive. Within 2 weeks of returning students to campus, Notre Dame found their infection rate rose from less than half a percent to 8%, blamed largely on a single off-campus party.
Posthumous Degrees at Boston U
Just as students began moving back into campus residences, Boston U announced a tone-deaf new policy for the granting of posthumous degrees to students, effective this fall. Officials immediately issued an apology: “This policy is not a result of the pandemic, and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive timing of the announcement.” MassLive
Controversy at Laurentian over a threat to 17 programs, no change in the waivers at StFX, limited dining options at STU and MtA, part-time “COVID ambassadors” at Bishop’s, and reopening details at uToronto and uWindsor. Plus SaskPoly joins the mandatory masks movement…
Bishop’s U student services and the students’ council are jointly recruiting “COVID Ambassadors,” to work 2 hours per week to support “Protect BU” efforts in social media, events, outreach and community organizing. The job description says it is seeking “difference makers” who “inspire and encourage peers.” BUSRC
Laurentian U has suspended admission to 17 programs this fall because of low enrolment, including Archaeology, Anthropology, Geography, Modern Languages, and Music. The “shocked” faculty association says Senate was not consulted. The university argues that the programs have not been suspended, only admissionsto them. LUFA and CAUT are seeking a judicial review. CBC
Mount Allison U is planning “pop-up barbecues” each week, and a “golf cart food truck” which will also deliver meals to students who are in isolation or quarantine. CBC
St Francis Xavier U is unique in Atlantic Canada for requiring students to return to campus, and requiring them to sign a liability waiver. Legal experts question whether the waiver will be enforceable, because the students are in an unequal bargaining position, but StFX will not be insured against COVID19 losses past December. Residents of the 4 nursing homes in Antigonish are reportedly anxious about the potential for an explosive outbreak. “There is no duty of perfection… it’s always measured on standards of reasonableness.” Chronicle Herald
St Thomas U (NB) will require all students in residence to purchase a $3,995 meal plan this year, with fewer locations, limited hours, and fewer options. “Based on students’ sleep schedules,” STU will not offer breakfast at all this year. CBC
SaskPolytech will require face masks “at all times while on campus” starting Aug 24. Twitter
uToronto’s Athletic Centre will reopen for September with 4m distancing between gym machines, reduced pool occupancy, outdoor fitness classes, and advance bookings required. An eSports league, introduced this summer, will return for fall. Libraries will offer curbside pickup of physical materials (quarantined for 3 days), and physically distanced study areas. Dining services will offer quick service and grab-and-go meals, which can be preordered using a mobile app. Larger seating areas will be reconfigured for “physically distanced eating,” and they are exploring the use of greenspace for outdoor dining (“while the weather is good”). uToronto
uWindsor is preparing for a gradual return to campus. “Classes will be primarily online, and most of our staff and faculty will continue to work remotely — at least for now.” A COVID19 self-assessment will be added to the “SafeLancer” app, a “Zone and Flow” analysis is being done of campus, and students and staff alike will be provided with 3 reusable cloth face masks. uWindsor
As always, thanks for reading! I hope your week gets off to a great start. Stay safe and be well!
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…
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
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
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
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
Many CdnPSE institutions completed the final day of classes yesterday for their spring or summer terms. Congratulations to all!
As for the rest of the news, in a nutshell: we’re in an unprecedented recession, hundreds of US colleges are realizing they made an awful mistake, New Zealand may have lost a 100-day victory against the virus because of some frozen freight, and Canadians are cursing the year 2020 as the worst ever, while frantically buying up all the beer.
But the good news is, the more you know, the less stress you’ll feel! So keep on reading…
A collection of breaking bad news from Canada, NZ, the US and UK…
Ontario, UK Enter Recession
Ontario’s finance minister finally accepted what was pretty clear to most of us back in April – we have entered a recession. Somehow, the drop of 6.6% projected for the year is nothing compared to the UK’s unprecedented 20% crash in economic output in Q2.
COVID19 via Refrigerated Freight?
New Zealand appeared to have completely eliminated COVID19, with no local transmission whatsoever for 102 days – but then a family of 4 contracted it from an unknown source, and potentially infected dozens of their 200 contacts. Health officials are preparing to test “tens of thousands of people” as a result. Now, officials are investigating the possibility that the father contracted the virus from refrigerated freight in a cool storage facility. Now Auckland is under lockdown, the dissolution of parliament has been suspended, and the Sep 19 general election may be delayed. Sydney Morning Herald
Wave of US College Reversals
“Hundreds” of US colleges have reversed or altered their previously optimistic plans to reopen campus in the last few weeks. Driving factors include the worsening pandemic, state regulations, student and faculty concerns, and the lack of COVID19 test availability. Recent dominoes include Mount Holyoke, Berklee, Goucher, and Salem Colleges. Brown U has delayed the return to campus – particularly striking because their president was outspoken about reopening. IHE
Unis Issue Double the Bonds
Universities worldwide have turned to the bond markets in a big way this year, reports Dealogic – borrowing more than twice as much as in the whole of 2019: $11.4B to date. US universities were 24 of the deals, including uVirginia, Harvard and Stanford. Institutions from Canada, Brazil, Singapore, and Australia also sold bonds this year. Reuters
If you haven’t spotted all the memes online mocking the year 2020, then perhaps survey data will help you understand…
Canadians Hate 2020…
Half of Canadians say 2020 has been the worst year of their lives, according to a new Leger poll. Not surprisingly, Ontarians are the most pessimistic, but ironically (absurdly?), the Quebecois are most optimistic, despite the fact that their province has been hardest hit by COVID19. (I think the other half of Canadians should wait and see what the rest of the year has in store, before deciding…)
But Knowledge is Power!
But lest you think to blame newsletters like this one for that depression, a new study out of North Carolina State has found that the more people know about COVID19, the less pandemic-related stress they have, regardless of their age. “Knowledge is power… Knowledge reduces uncertainty, and uncertainty can be very stressful.” NCSU
Panic over Bicycles and Beer
Back in March, Canadians were hoarding toilet paper and bottled water like it was the zombie apocalypse, but the supply chain has caught up on those staples. Now, it would seem, we’re facing shortages of aluminum cans for a whole range of beverages, because beer drinkers can’t drink their fill on draught, and instead are buying more canned beer. (And Trump’s new tariffs on Canadian aluminium will, absurdly, only make it worse.) Retailers are also selling out of bicycles, as Canadians turn to them as an alternative to the gym or public transit. Many cities have implemented expanded bicycle lanes since the pandemic began. Apparently there has also been a run on pressure-treated wood: Canadians are fixing up their back decks to enjoy all that beer… National Post
Here’s a collection of recent items of interest to campus marketers and recruitment managers…
Email Marketing Skyrockets
Since the pandemic began, Klaviyo reports that email campaign click-through rates are up 22.5%, and email revenue is up 86%. Omnisend likewise reports a 31.54% increase in open rates on 2.5 billion emails. Effective messaging is authentic and sensitive to the current context, without resorting to platitudes about “these unprecedented times.” Email automation can prompt customers along the sales process, and will be most effective when it is segmented and customized. AdWeek
Tips to Improve Enrolment
A student-centric approach is critical this year, with plenty of personal outreach and empathy for financial and personal concerns. Many enrolment teams have focused on re-engaging returning students individually, involving parents and trying to reduce barriers caused by financial holds. Consider offering new students a free online class, early access to advising, or a virtual volunteer opportunity. Rethink orientation content to focus on parents’ financial and safety concerns. And remember to create opportunities for fun too, from Zoom lunches to dance parties. EAB
Chatbots Deployed at Laurier
Wilfrid Laurier U launched 3 new “Hawkbots,” online chatbots to assist future students (and selected current students) with academic advising questions about admissions, registration, exams and academics. AVA, RAVA, and ISAAC will provide immediate responses to students, redirect them to web resources, and reduce the number of routine inquiries coming to staff. WLU
Durham launches DC Ready microsite
Durham College has just launched a new “DC Ready” microsite, to help students get settled and guide them through changes to operations and course delivery. “Full of helpful links and resources, the site is also home to our DC Ready Guide, a valuable academic success tool preparing students for their fall semester.” Durham
Assiniboine CC was previously in my list as a “masks encouraged” campus, but now they are “Masks Expected.” ACC
Brandon U has made masks mandatory indoors effective immediately. (The city has experienced an outbreak associated with at least 22 cases at the local Maple Leaf Foods processing plant.) Brandon
Conestoga C emphasizes that “all employees (and students) must always wear college-issued face masks while inside college facilities… Some employees may choose to wear personal face masks while approaching the entrance or waiting to enter the building, but a college-issued face mask must be worn inside and while performing college work.” These measures “will be strictly enforced.” Conestoga
Kwantlen Polytechnic U president Alan Davis has launched a weekly video message in the lead-up to September. YouTube
UNB requires face masks in the presence of others in common areas and shared spaces, in addition to maintaining a 2m physical distance. UNB
Sault C has extended the withdrawal period for full-time first-year students this Fall until Oct 9, with no financial or academic penalty. “We understand the complexity of this decision particularly given the current COVID19 situation and the changes to the way we will be delivering programming in the fall semester.” (The announcement studiously avoids the word “guarantee,” but this seems very similar to those announced by other Ontario colleges in the past month.) Sault
Selkirk C studio arts students have returned to the Victoria Street campus in Nelson to complete projects from the abruptly suspended winter term. The college features a student in the Blacksmithing program, who has eagerly returned to complete a “bronze pour.” Selkirk
It’s International Youth Day, although I’m not sure the youth of the world have much to celebrate…
We’ve now surpassed 20 million confirmed cases of COVID19 worldwide, and the pandemic’s impact is doubling every six weeks. (That means we’ll be at 40 million cases by mid-September.) Florida has broken its record for daily deaths, four days in a row. The US is responsible for 5.1M cases now, with 3M in Brazil, 313K in the UK, 122K in Canada, 22K in Australia and just 1,500 in NZ. (Although sadly Auckland is back in lockdown just as I’m writing this.)
Promising vaccine news out of Russia is likely nothing more than hype. College athletes are at risk of heart damage. And an unfortunate side-effect of COVID19 often seems to be losing one’s hair.
In CdnPSE, several schools unveil virtual orientations, announce mask policies, or more flexible payment and course drop deadlines. And York U becomes another to announce that the Winter 2021 term will likely continue to be online, until Spring…
There has been some Russian sabre-rattling about discovering the vaccine that will end this pandemic, but it is likely just dangerous propaganda…
Russia Trumpets “Vaccine”
Yesterday, Russia became the first country to approve a COVID19 vaccine, after tests in just a few dozen patients. There is no proof yet of safety or effectiveness, but Vladimir Putin claims his daughter has already been inoculated, and that mass vaccinations can begin as early as October. (No Russian research has been published, but the US, UK and Canada have accused Russia of stealing their vaccine research using hackers.) Scientists worldwide – including in Russia – are alarmed that the vaccine will be rushed into production without conducting a Phase 3 clinical trial. “The collateral damage from release of any vaccine that was less than safe and effective would exacerbate our current problems insurmountably.” Global
“This is All Beyond Stupid”
Normally, vaccines are among the safest medical products in the world, because they undergo extensive testing for efficacy and safety, usually with 30,000 people of varying ages. There are currently 29 COVID19 vaccine studies underway around the world, and while they have been promising in early stage trials, many could flop before they clear Phase 3 trials. The Russian vaccine Gam-COVID-Vac Lyo underwent a combined Phase 1/2 trial on 38 volunteers in June. No further research has been made public, although a new website claims it will enter Phase 3 trials today with 2,000 people. “This is all beyond stupid,” says a virologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. “Putin doesn’t have a vaccine, he’s just making a political statement.” New York Times
The research is still uncovering the potential impacts of COVID19 on young people. NCAA football players are exhibiting some alarming symptoms. Young vapers seem particularly susceptible to the coronavirus. And while side effects are no laughing matter, they may just catch student attention (or perhaps a trivia game can help)…
Athletes with Heart Damage
Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) has been found in more than 5 NCAA athletes, and may be linked to COVID19. Left untreated, myocarditis can cause heart damage and sudden cardiac arrest – fuelling the decisions of several athletic conferences to cancel football this fall. “Uncertainty about the long-term effects of myocarditis has been discussed in meetings of presidents and chancellors, commissioners and athletic directors, and health advisory board members from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and other conferences around the country.” ESPN
COVID19 Up in Smoke
A new Stanford study has found that young adults aged 13-24 who use e-cigarette products are five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID19, and those who both vape and smoke cigarettes are seven times more likely to test positive. Scientists assumed that smoking or vaping could make the lungs more susceptible to severe symptoms, but “did not expect it to be this strong of a relationship.” Smokers might also be touching their face more often, or sharing e-cigarettes. “Look, this is a pandemic… this is the time for you to quit and not start vaping.” NeoScope
Tearing Out Your Hair
Alyssa Milano, the 48-year-old actress who starred in Who’s the Boss? (1984-92) and Charmed (1998-2006), has been sharing the symptoms of her “long-hauler” COVID19 symptoms since late March. She describes shortness of breath, confusion, fever, and headaches – despite initially testing negative. After 4 months of progressive symptoms, she actually tested positive for COVID19 antibodies. But Milano may strike a nerve for young people with the video she tweeted on Sunday, showing clumps of her hair falling out. (MADD research uncovered decades ago that the teenage sense of invincibility meant that the risk of death did not discourage drunk driving, but the idea of losing one’s license and depending on parents for rides was shocking.) Global
A Game that isn’t Trivial
A 3rd-year pre-med student at uWaterloo says she was alarmed by the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID19, so she created a game called Quarantrivia, in collaboration with the UW Faculty of Science. “The player follows Dr. Pixel through three rounds of multiple choice-questions, which must be answered correctly to destroy COVID-19 and save the Pixel World. KW Record
More and more institutions are promoting online orientation programs for incoming students, typically including videos, webinars, or self-paced online courses. Here are a few recent examples…
Cape Breton U is launching its “StartSmart!” program Aug 17, for new and returning students to learn study skills and digital tools, and connect with faculty, staff and students. A series of videos are available all summer, and some scheduled virtual events are planned starting the last week of August. CBU
uManitoba has launched summer programs to welcome its incoming class of Bisons, including UM Essentials (online orientation), and UM Commons (an online hub to connect students to resources, services, peer tutors, 7 student communities and “countless” clubs). UM is also offering a 3-week Math Boot Camp (Aug 10-28), Prep Week (Aug 31-Sep 4) and Welcome Day (Sep 8). As students complete modules and participate in discussions, they accumulate badges and entries into draws for bookstore prizes and $500 tuition vouchers. uManitoba
North Island College has launched a virtual orientation including “a full suite of online videos, webinars, tours and other resources.” Prerecorded sessions went live last week, and webinars are planned throughout August. Even prospective students can attend, and there’s a chance to win a Google Chromebook. NIC
Yukon U provided more details to students yesterday about the “primarily online” Fall semester, which will be delivered synchronously via Zoom and asynchronously via Moodle, and protocols for returning to campus. “At this time, we anticipate the Winter and Spring 2021 semesters will be the same.” A new Connect2YukonU team brings together staff from Admissions, Student Services and the Academic Support Centre to serve current and prospective students in one spot. YukonU
UBC has ordered 25,000 reusable cloth face masks and will distribute them on campus, but it is taking PHO direction and therefore not mandating masks on campus at this time. CBC
uOttawa has launched mandatory online training regarding self-assessment, hand hygiene and social distancing “for the limited few returning to campus this fall.” Masks are required in all enclosed public spaces, and a new COVID19 testing facility “may be in place during the first weeks of return to campus.” uOttawa
Queen’s U expects just 6,600 students on campus this Fall, rather than the usual 24,000, or about 27%. Residences will operate at about half capacity. Queen’s is using WFH and online delivery to decrease density on campus wherever possible. Whig-Standard
Queen’s U is making tuition and fee payments, award disbursements and course registration processes more flexible, including extended payment deadlines (Sep 30) and fall course drop dates, and waiving late fees and interest on unpaid balances. Queen’s
Simon Fraser U “requests” that all visitors to campus wear non-medical masks indoors, starting this week. SFU-branded cloth face masks will be made available soon. CBC
uVic is not requiring masks be worn on campus at this time, “unless physical distancing cannot be maintained.” Masks are “a matter of personal choice and may help to protect others.” CBC
York U’s Senate executive has extended the Fall course planning principles to include the Winter 2021 term: preparing for remote delivery by default. “We expect most employees will continue to work from home throughout the Fall and Winter terms.” YorkU
As some campuses across North America actually start welcoming students back this week for the fall semester, I am compelled to add my voice to the many who are protesting the senseless way this will fan the flames of the pandemic, and clearly prioritizes institutional finances or republic politics over human life.
Whether your surrounding community is already awash in COVID19 infections or not, bringing hundreds or thousands of asymptomatic young people together from various locations will inevitably spark more outbreaks, which will lead to permanent disabilities and death for some members of the campus community, despite everyone’s best efforts.
I share columnist Eric Stoller’s love for Star Trek metaphors: this is higher ed’s “Kobayashi Maru” test, a no-win scenario. But everyone is pretending we can “put our shields up” and somehow evade catastrophe…
Quebec “Adjusts” K-12 for Fall
Quebec’s Education and Health ministers announced yesterday that parents will in fact have the option to keep their children studying from home this fall, provided they obtain a doctor’s note. Masks will be required for students in grade 5 and up in common areas. Students within a class will be considered a “bubble” who do not need to social distance. “An absence of cases [at school] is impossible” but “depriving [students] of school has very severe effects on their future life.” Montreal Gazette
As restrictions are lifted and the public grows impatient with social distancing, jurisdictions around the world are fighting rebounding infection rates. College and professional sports teams are faced with quarantines and cancellations as they attempt to restart athletics in a “bubble.” Rumour has it that the NCAA “Big Ten” has finally pulled the plug on fall sports. Yesterday I mentioned that Princeton has joined Harvard and scores of other US colleges in reverting to online Fall terms – but many institutions are welcoming students back to campus this week.
I think we can confidently predict that most institutions will find their quarantine capacity strained within days, and I predict many, if not most, will be forced to revert to online delivery within weeks. Sadly, the whole experience will have been costly, stressful and confusing for faculty, staff and students alike…
Why Do We Bother?
Since people can be super-spreaders of COVID19 long before they show any symptoms at all, temperature checks serve little purpose and can be fooled with a Tylenol: “as a screening tool it’s not effective at all,” says a uToronto epidemiologist, and on young adults in particular they are “virtually useless.” (And as pointed out last week, all the “hygiene theatre” to combat fomite transmission is far less important than wearing masks.) Psychologically, deep cleaning just reassures us that we’re doing something. “That’s not going to have much of an impact on the spread of infection, but it can make people feel calmer.” Global
Reopened for Just 2 Days
North Paulding High School, in the suburbs of Atlanta GA, made international headlines last week when two students posted notorious photos of its crowded reopening, without masks – and particularly (per the Streisand effect) when the administration suspended those students for violating the school’s code of conduct. (Using their phones in the halls without permission, posting photos of minors without consent, etc.) Just 2 days later, the school was forced to move to online-only delivery when at least 6 students and 3 staff tested positive for COVID19. (The students were reinstated.) NY Daily News
Dear Students, Please Stay Away
30 tenured faculty members at UNC Chapel Hill can risk speaking out, but since their administration has turned a deaf ear, they wrote directly to undergraduate students with a public request to stay away from campus this fall. “We need you to stay home in order to protect yourselves and your fellow students, your teachers, the many workers who serve you on campus, the residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and your own family members and loved ones.” Charlotte Observer
What Others are Afraid to Say
Eric Stoller shares anonymous comments from campus marketers who fear for their jobs: “Delayed decisions, wishy washy leadership and a failure to be realistic made my job an absolute mess.” “I can’t ever remember a time when I’ve felt so far removed from the values I’ve always loved about working in higher ed.” Stoller sums it up: “For the collective well-being of people in this country, higher education institutions must not reopen this fall.” He advises institutions to shut down their dorms, cancel football and cut the most generous salaries. He also challenges ACPA, ACUHOI and NASPA (student affairs and housing associations) to speak out against the insanity. He likens the situation to Star Trek’s “Kobayashi Maru” test, the no-win scenario. IHE
While President Trump thinks his face should be carved into Mount Rushmore, the teachers he and some Republican governors would force back to class are contemplating more morbid monuments…
Teachers March unto Death
As the US surpasses 5 million cases of COVID19, and some school districts report hundreds of employees already testing positive, a “National Day of Resistance” is protesting in grim fashion. Hundreds of K-12 teachers in Chicago, New York, and Wisconsin have taken to the streets to protest the return to classrooms next month, carrying makeshift coffins, wearing skeleton costumes, setting up mock gravestones and writing their own obituaries. “We have districts marching teachers and students into an unsafe position in which teachers and students are likely to contract COVID.” Vice
“Die-In” at UNC Chapel Hill
Defying the advice of the local health unit, UNC Chapel Hill has refused to back down on its reopening plans, with classes set to resume on campus this week and residences to be filled to 64% capacity. The UNC dashboard currently reports 175 cases on campus, and the county reports 1,296. Last Wednesday, dozens of students and staff staged a “die-in” on the campus in protest. “Campus workers will get sick and some of them will die. Students, community members, faculty, and staff all will get sick and potentially die.” ChapelBoro
Free Wills for Ontario Teachers
In a cheap publicity stunt, estate planning company LegalWills has announced free wills and healthcare powers of attorney documents for Ontario education workers this month. (It’s never a good sign when a company feels the need to put “Legal” in its name.) The offer is open to teachers, librarians, educational assistants, principals, office administrators and custodial staff. “We wanted to do our part to support the education workers who are returning to school and risking their own health and safety during these uncertain times.” Global
Reopening is the Wrong Thing
US colleges want to reopen this fall “for good, nontrivial reasons”: students learn better in-person, the college experience is also about extracurriculars and independent life lessons, and some institutions may face financial collapse if they cannot reopen. Many have invested significantly in PPE, outdoor classrooms, shortened calendars, and plans for testing, tracing and quarantine. “But if colleges go ahead, they will endanger the lives of students, staff, faculty, and those who live in the surrounding communities.” The urge to socialize is strong among college students, and “whatever the rules may say, young people will have parties, hook up, and leave campus to have fun.” As a result, “many colleges will likely, within weeks of reopening, place a quickly expanding set of students under lockdown. And if these measures fail, the colleges will close on short notice. At that point, thousands of students—many of them infected with COVID19—will board trains and planes to go home, spreading the virus to their families.” The Atlantic
Edmonton campuses of uAlberta, NAIT and MacEwan U are preparing for a fall of primarily remote learning, and intensified campus health precautions. UofA estimates that 12% of students will require in-person classes. NAIT reports a slight drop in enrolment for credit programs. CBC
uGuelph has announced $4M in new initiatives to support international students, faced with an increase in tuition this fall. Full-time international students will automatically receive a one-time $750 credit, and those in need can apply for a bursary of up to $1,250 per semester. International entrance scholarships have been enhanced to provide a $4,000 renewal in years 2-4, and emergency bursaries were expanded earlier this year. International grad students will automatically receive a $2,500 bursary, and may deferred tuition payments. uGuelph
uToronto is advising international students to obtain documentation that attendance on campus is “non-discretionary,” and to fly directly to Toronto Pearson so that the university can provide transportation directly to quarantine. The ArriveCAN app will simplify the process of submitting a quarantine plan. UofT
Trent U has advised 38,000 alumni and donors that their data was involved in the Blackbaud ransomware hack, which also affected Western U, uManitoba, uRegina and St Lawrence C. Global
Just in case you missed them, sSome recent #CdnPSE marketing launches worthy of note…
Redeemer U has launched a really polished, brightly-coloured new brand identity, “strengthening its roots in the Reformed tradition, and that anchor and stability is pictured by the cross at the centre of a shifting shield… As a whole, the logo balances a modern, innovative future outlook, with a rich established academic and faith tradition.” Redeemer
uVic has launched its new central website, which is “clean, simple, searchable, mobile-friendly and task-driven. It also rates as one of the top websites in Canada for accessibility, usability, and search-engine optimization.” The project involved more than 20 campus leaders, hundreds of staff, and 3 years of research, UX design and usability testing. uVic
Polytechnics Canada also launched a revised website. PolyCan
McMaster U Engineering alum Hana Franklin designed some virtual Mac spirit wear for use in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, which sold 5 million games within a month of its launch in March. Twitter
I’ve got my hands full this week with a virtual keynote for the SEMM Forum tomorrow, and two days of MarCom workshops with the talented folks at Red River College, so the next few issues may be somewhat “streamlined.”
I do, however, want to dive into an important subject today: the impact of misinformation on our society, the role of higher ed to counter it, and the challenge of scholarly publishing paywalls.
But first, as I’ve been predicting for some time, the dominoes are finally beginning to fall in American higher ed. The US has exceeded 5 million confirmed COVID19 cases and 162,000 deaths. Now just 24% of US colleges plan a primarily on-campus Fall, and 15% a hybrid approach – and every day, more institutions backpedal on their previous announcements as the pandemic rages out of control across the country…
When even the most well-endowed Ivy League schools struggle to manage a safe return to campus, and face substantial deferrals by incoming students, NO college can afford to underestimate the challenges coming next month…
Princeton Abandons Campus Return
Princeton U announced Friday night that it was reversing its plan to bring undergrads back to campus next month. Because the pandemic “prevents a genuinely meaningful on-campus experience,” all undergrad classes will be remote. (Harvard previously announced a fully online fall term.) Princeton
20% of Harvard Frosh Defer
On Thursday, Harvard U admitted that 20% of incoming freshmen are opting to defer admission, validating some of the early projections I summarized in Eduvation Bulletin #1. (MIT also reports that 8% have deferred, 8 times their typical 1%.) Harvard had been planning for 40% of their undergrads opting to live on campus, but has now cut their expectation almost in half, to 25%. Forbes
2,150 Layoffs in Australian PSE
In Australia, about 3,700 FTE higher ed jobs have already been cut, according to the National Tertiary Education Union, but they anticipate as many as 30,000 positions eliminated over the coming year – notincluding casual employees. Already the U of Technology Sydney is bracing for $200M in losses and up to 500 layoffs, Melbourne U announced 450 redundancies, U New South Wales 500, Deakin U 400 and Monash 300. Sydney Morning Herald
Once upon a time, idealists (including me!) believed the internet would usher in a golden age of unlimited information and instantaneous global collaboration. Sadly, that neglected to take into account the many human vices and weaknesses that shape our economy and politics. Social media and citizen journalism has indeed turned the internet into a torrent of information – but also of MISinformation, abuse and hatred. Capitalists are trying to overturn net neutrality, as populist politicians undermine trust in science, education and intelligence itself.
The existential threat facing higher education is not the viral pandemic, but rising anti-intellectualism and ignorance in the world’s democratic states…
Conspiracy Theories and Snake Oil
In times of anxiety or uncertainty, people are attracted to the “easy answers” provided by conspiracy theories for a false sense of security. Faced with a fast-moving global pandemic, public patience wears thin with the cautious, nuanced, and sometimes contradictory findings of medical science. The certainties and cure-alls proffered by snake-oil salesmen have always been seductive, but in an age of social media and clickbait, the voices of misinformation are amplified worldwide. Western News
Misinformation as Public Health Crisis
Conspiracy theories about COVID19 are spreading dangerous misinformation downplaying the virus and discouraging masks or social distancing. Politicians, celebrities, and anti-mask movements can inflame pandemic outbreaks and make it difficult to bring the curve under control. The more people rely on social media, the more exposed they are to misinformation, and the more likely they are to disbelieve or disobey PHO guidelines. And as a Carleton study demonstrated in May, 46% of Canadians believe at least one COVID19 conspiracy theory. CBC
“Calling Bullshit” in a Pandemic
Biologist Carl Bergstrom, author of Calling Bullshit, emphasizes the importance of skepticism and data literacy in our digital world. High quality information has been vetted, triangulated, and presented in context. To avoid confirmation bias, “be just as skeptical of ideas that confirm your beliefs and desires.” Scientific research into COVID19 is evolving rapidly, so “the people you can’t trust are the ones who have not changed their views.” News media are increasingly reporting on preprint research papers, which have not yet been peer-reviewed. The real risk is that “this entire pandemic has been so politicized” that partisan media “cherry-pick” results and overinflate their importance. Scientific American
One of the great ironies and injustices in modern academia is that intellectual property rights and commercial publishers’ financial interests so often take precedence over students’ educations or the scholarly pursuit of knowledge and open collaboration. Over the years, movements towards open textbooks and open journals have made gradual progress, but one can hardly fault the public for its ignorance when lies are freely available everywhere, but the truth is buried behind atrociously expensive paywalls…
Truth is Paywalled; Lies are Free
It has been said that when the product is journalism, readers are charged for access; when the publication is available free, the reader is the product. The world’s most reputable newspapers and magazines have paywalls around most of their content, while partisan outlets like “Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire… [or]InfoWars” offer their content free to the world, for viral sharing on social media. Academic paywalls have even more exorbitant pricing: “a white supremacist on YouTube will tell you all about race and IQ but if you want to read a careful scholarly refutation, obtaining a legal PDF from the journal publisher would cost you $14.95.” Free versions of scholarly articles are often early pre-review drafts, so “the more reliable an article is, the less accessible it is.” “How much more could be accomplished if knowledge were not fragmented and in the possession of a thousand private gatekeepers?” Current Affairs
Open Access Gets Its Moment?
Faced with a global pandemic, academic publishers have begun offering open access to COVID19 content in unprecedented ways, while use of online prepublication platforms has seen “almost exponential growth.” uMontréal’s Vincent Larivière observes that publishers are effectively acknowledging that “barriers to access are an obstacle to the advancement of knowledge.” Prepublications accelerate the spread of knowledge and its refutation, and there is no evidence that peer review eliminates erroneous or fraudulent publication. University Affairs
A Renaissance beyond Paywalls
Research findings, even when publicly-funded, have been increasingly hidden behind the paywalls of commercial journal publishers. But as the planet faces an extraordinary public health threat, COVID19 research is being shared, openly and collaboratively, to accelerate the mapping of the SARS-CoV-2 genome and development of a vaccine. Janet Napolitano, president of the uCalifornia system, argues that “lifesaving research should always be available to all,” but “will require a total disruption of how universities and publishers create and share information.” UC recently struck such a deal for 2,700 Springer journals, and cut ties with Elsevier over it. “Years from now, we will look back at this pandemic… as an inflection point – the end of restricting knowledge to a privileged few and the dawn of a new era in scientific progress,” a “scientific renaissance.” IHE
Of course, I have a gnawing suspicion that, once again, idealists are underestimating the resilience and ingenuity of capitalists to maintain the status quo, whether it serves humanity’s best interests or not…
Assiniboine CC is a “mask supportive environment,” meaning that “students, staff and the public will be encouraged to consider wearing a mask on campus, but will not be required to do so.” ACC
Brock U has just launched a new graphical tool for tracking the status of more than 20 categories of campus operations across 5 stages of activity. Currently in Stage 2, Brock hopes to advance to Stage 3 from Sep 1 “until at least Jan 2021.” Brock
Georgian College has published a “What you need to know” page for stranded students returning to campus, including a video walk-through, link to COVID19 protocols, and a handy one-page poster with 10 icons for student responsibilities. Students will need to complete an online training module, download the Safe@Georgian app, complete daily screening assessments, and wear face coverings indoors. Georgian
Mount Allison U and the town of Sackville NB are working together on the “MtA Sackville Bubble,” recognizing that COVID19 needs to be managed both on and off campus this fall. The Community Commitment “calls for everyone to stay informed, remain vigilant on and off campus, and to uphold COVID-19 regulations.” (The Mayor of Sackville starred in an Allisonian Update video on Friday.) “We’re all in this together,” says the student union president. Chronicle Herald
Mount Royal U established a mask policy in July, while uCalgary and SAIT imposed them in early August, and the City of Calgary’s bylaw requires masks in indoor public spaces as of Aug 1 – likely meaning that AUArts and Bow Valley College will follow suit. Calgary Herald
Believe it or not, I’ve been writing these daily updates for 5 months now, tracking the impacts of COVID19 on higher ed – 109,000 words and counting! What has really interested me has never been so much the daily minutiae, as the subtle shifts in trajectory that provide insight into the future reality facing colleges and universities.
Earlier this week, Canada’s Chief PHO Theresa Tam warned that even once a vaccine is developed (not until 2021 in the most optimistic scenario), we can expect to practice social distancing, wear face masks, and wrestle with enhanced hygiene and disinfection for “two to three years.” While the thought is disheartening, at least the past 5 months immersing myself in COVID19 have been justified. This pandemic will have a transformative effect on our society, economy, and institutions.
In today’s issue, I want to turn our eyes towards the horizon, and consider strategic opportunities for our institutions. It’s a digest of 15 particularly meaty articles, and I hope you’ll set aside some time to chew on them…
In times of crisis, organizations look to their leaders for vision and focus. The academic instinct will lead to analysis paralysis, and certainly administrations have been consumed by damage control and firefighting. Take some time to contemplate big ideas and a longer time horizon, with a future-focused mindset…
Leadership in Uncertainty
During times of crisis and ambiguity, when our routines are disrupted, “leaders help us find meaning in the chaos, offering direction, perspective, and purpose.” But the best leaders don’t fake confidence; they are authentic and intentional. When confronted with uncertainty, “stop, challenge and choose” to get grounded. Step back from the chaos beyond your control, and focus on what you do know, and what you can do. “Focus on those areas you can influence over time.” Fast Company
Coping with Anxiety and Ambiguity
The world stands at a liminal moment, on the threshold of a “new normal,” filled with potential but also with anxiety, and our reflex is often fight or flight. The “hyper-analytic mindset” (an occupational hazard of higher ed if ever there were one) seldom helps when so much is uncertain and unknowable. Problem-solving modes of thought “make little sense in times of global turbulence, when solutions are beyond our grasp.” Fear and anxiety cause “egocentric thinking,” biasing our perspective; the antidote is community and connection with others. “Caring for others is a wise form of self-interest – especially in a crisis.” Self-awareness and self-care are crucial, as is a focus “in the moment,” to your surroundings and the people you meet. Harvard Business Review
Keeping a Future-Focused Mindset
To emerge from this pandemic stronger (as individuals, teams, and institutions), we need to reframe this “challenging time” as a “window of opportunity.” In many ways, we have less time but more flexibility than ever before. Carve out an hour of “clean slate” time each day or week, for you and your team, to think about future possibilities, perhaps by reading this newsletter, or listening to a podcast and then reflecting. “Hit the reset” and reconsider the habits and self-imposed rules that govern your life, perhaps establishing new rules. Focus on people and relationships, particularly while working remotely. And in a supposedly “learning culture,” don’t “quarantine” professional development, growth and learning. AI
A scarcity mindset creates anxiety and prevents innovative problem-solving. No institution will cut its way to greatness. Focus your attention on long-term solutions, not short-term fixes, and move from triage to transformative strategy…
A New Budget Playbook
Across-the-board cuts and salary freezes may balance budgets and preserve the status quo, but won’t address long-term systemic and structural challenges. In times of crisis, campus leaders need to “prioritize long-term solutions over short-term fixes.” A more strategic approach to institutional finances demands a shared vision for the future based on student needs, clear success metrics, data-driven decision making, and focused investments. Effective change management will also require extensive two-way communication and consultation with stakeholders. IHE
Turning from Triage to Transformation
The sudden impacts of “worldwide disease, injustice and widespread unemployment” make this a pivotal moment for higher ed, says former university president Elaine Maimon. Obviously, campus leaders must deal with the immediate crisis, but they must also “think beyond triage.” “Addressing injustice cannot wait until the budget picture improves.” Like the New Deal following the Great Depression, society’s institutions should be putting people to work, not resorting to layoffs and furloughs. They should expend reserves and even borrow to make new investments in more inclusive curricula, expanded counselling services, and top-quality remote and hybrid instruction. Our students, like ourselves, need to be taught to live with ambiguity, and address problems without clear definitions. Rather than cutting humanities courses and abandoning gen ed to contingent faculty, “making high-quality liberal education available to all students is an investment in the future.” IHE
If the disruption of campus life is going to persist, to some degree, for more than one year, it will unquestionably result in some permanent changes to student expectations and institutional operations. We may well see a decade’s worth of change packed into the next 18 months…
5 Aspects of the New Normal
Post-pandemic, many things about higher ed will revert to “business as it was,” says Derek Newton, but 5 things will outlive COVID19 and become part of the “new normal.” Every school in the world will have an “online backup plan” to ensure academic continuity, and will adopt remote test security and live proctoring solutions for academic integrity. Institutions will recognize that information technology is more crucial than the campus – that the mobile app effectively is the campus. More creative, student-to-student recruitment approaches will continue. And eventually, campus architecture may downplay physical spaces to meet and mingle. Forbes
5 Permanent Megatrends
The pandemic is a transformative crisis for higher ed, accelerating 5 pre-existing disruptive trends. “We will get a decade’s worth of change over the next 6 to 18 months.” Students and parents will challenge tuition prices, and seek more perceived value from their investment in “life launch.” Expectations will rise for flexible “education on demand,” in hybrid and blended formats, accelerated and part-time programs, and focused microcredentials. We may see even more growth of mega-universities like Arizona State and SNHU. In the wake of COVID19, location will matter more than ever, but stories of successful alumni will shape attractive institutional brands. “Students will seek out brands that speak to the journey they hope to take.” USA Today
3 Things COVID19 will End
The flip side of the 5 trends COVID19 will make permanent in higher ed, are 3 things that the pandemic will end. 1) Email will cease to be a primary communication tool to students, replaced by text and push notifications from dedicated apps. 2) Campus testing centres will seem unnecessary once large-scale use of online testing becomes commonplace. 3) Full tuition for online programs may be a tough sell, now that some schools have started to reduce the price for remote learning. “Taking classes online isn’t quite the same as being on campus.” Forbes
It’s all well and good to talk about investing in opportunities, but what might they look like? Consider new programs, delivery models, credentials, partnerships, networks, mergers and acquisitions…
Opportunities Amidst Chaos
Higher ed leaders don’t have the luxury of “waiting to see what everyone else does”; they must take decisive action in a chaotic situation, at the confluence of 3 crises: the pandemic, the recession, and protests over racial inequality. A return to normal is not an option; institutions must “evolve or sink.” Visionary institutions have been anticipating a PSE disruption for years, preparing like SNHU has for online, competency-based, half-priced programs. Because of COVID19, program demand will rise in health care, medicine, nursing, epidemiology and immunology fields – and the pandemic is accelerating growth in alternative energy, AI and robotics. There will be opportunity in affordable, short-term, even non-credit courses and programs to reskill displaced workers. AI
Now, We’re ALL Outside the Box
Some so-called decisive actions by college leaders are actually doing damage to institutional missions, cutting key programs at the expense of pet projects. Many small colleges have already cut expenses to the bone, and now can only wait for inevitable closure. The COVID19 crisis has thrust higher ed completely “outside the box,” and now is the time to integrate distance learning into everyday delivery, pursue mergers or acquisitions, partner to reduce costs, share curricula or even senior leadership. AI
Innovating for Student Success
The pandemic, budget pressures and demographic shifts mean that PSE can’t afford to go back to “normal” – and COVID19 “has exposed the flaws in our ability to deliver remote education in a manner that is equitable, inclusive – and innovative.” For the longer term, institutions need to redesign their programs and retrain their faculty to incorporate AI, VR, microcredentials, creative teaching and assessment strategies, and online or hybrid delivery. “Our institutions must commit to innovating beyond theory.” EdSurge
No question, it’s an inconvenient time to revisit the institutional strategic plan, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis and economic recession, with our faculty, staff and students scattered across the globe and working from home. Something more nimble than the traditional 18-month planning cycle is required, to help your institution pivot to be ready for new opportunities…
Scenario Planning in Uncertainty
In a year of epidemiological and economic uncertainty, higher ed leaders must nonetheless consider medium and long-term implications for teaching, infrastructure, services and staffing. Back in April, McKinsey suggested 3 COVID19 scenarios (which could be pushed 6 months later to align with our current reality), and recommended designing financial plans for each. “Crises can create paralysis and fear. Rigorous scenario planning can help leaders map the potential damage and devise ways to deal with it. Universities need to look beyond the immediate crisis to create effective long-term strategies both to get through the present and to safeguard their futures in the new normal that will follow.” McKinsey
Think Like a Designer During Crisis
In the past 20 years, many organizations have moved away from the traditional, ponderous approach to strategic planning that is still practiced on most higher ed campuses. In unpredictable times, when “fully rational planning” is increasingly pointless, “design thinking” may be a better model for institutional strategy. Our “focus on activities” (in syllabi, strat plans and job descriptions) needs to shift to a “focus on results” – particularly during remote work. Designers start by asking “what problems do we need to solve?” – and they don’t focus on “gravity problems” like demographics, which are simply givens, but on “wicked” problems with complex solutions. Instead of “blue sky thinking,” designers find that constraints can be catalysts for creativity. Instead of focusing on institutional self-preservation, focus on the needs of students. “Once you design something, it changes the future that is possible.” IHE
If this pandemic is to have an upside, it will be to the degree that it reinvigorates our society and its institutions, increases social justice and equity, and prepares our colleges and universities to navigate continuous turbulence with optimism…
Reinventing the American University
COVID19 will have a greater impact on US colleges because of their remarkably broad quality stratification, increasingly corporate structures, and the high cost of tuition. Rather than “an instrument of social equity and justice,” the American higher ed system is polarized between elite colleges and the community colleges and online institutions that enrol most students. “Pandemic-driven reform may have an upside,” if it brings about “a more accessible and affordable education model,” even if students miss out on “some of the atmospheric trappings.” Massification along the lines of large Italian universities can still produce “strong minds that are internationally competitive.” Quillette
Thriving after Turbulence
In the wake of the pandemic, no company (or campus) can afford a return to the pre-COVID status quo. Research shows that “the biggest shifts in company fortunes, for good or for ill, happen coming out of downturns.” (There are 47% more “rising stars” during turbulence than calm – but also 89% more “sinking ships.”) Recovery will be asymmetric and iterative, but “leaders in the next wave will use each advance to move toward a new future, not back to an old and outdated idea of ‘normal.’” Emergency measures to bypass needless bureaucracy or automate processes need to become permanent improvements. Efficiencies need to be balanced with resilience, possibly through networks and collaborations. For agility that lasts, simplicity needs to replace complexity. Short bursts of activity will be more energizing than “monolithic moon shots,” and will help build an institution that can thrive in the face of continuous turbulence. Bain & Co
I’m sure, if you took some time to chew on all that, you found more than enough food for thought for a weekend! Please keep me in mind if you want your team to engage in future-focused thinking or scenario planning. I can develop a custom (virtual) presentation or workshop to shift mindsets away from triage and towards opportunities!
The COVID19 pandemic is becoming increasingly deadly, surpassing 700,000 deaths worldwide and still accelerating, killing one person every 15 seconds for the past 2 weeks. (“It is what it is,” says US president Donald Trump, in a refreshing admission that objective facts still exist.)
The global human cost is staggering, but the financial impacts on higher ed institutions are also unprecedented. Today, a focus on finances, expenses and revenues – as well as student pressure to bring back pass/fail grading, more money-back guarantees in Ontario, and of course an assortment of CdnPSE updates…
If misery loves company, perhaps it is reassuring to know that institutions from Austria and Australia to Arizona and Alberta are struggling with massive budget shortfalls…
uMelbourne Cuts for $1 B Shortfall
Australia’s top-ranked university, uMelbourne, has announced that it will terminate 450 permanent staff and faculty FTEs, and even more casual and fixed-term employees, by the end of the year. The university projects a $1 billion shortfall in its revenues over the next 3 years, primarily due to border closures and declining international enrolment. The administration refused a jobs protection framework proposed by the National Tertiary Education Union earlier this year. THE
Massive Shake-up in Scotland
The Scottish Funding Council has launched a consultation to cope with a projected $700M deficit facing its universities in the wake of COVID19 and Brexit. “We will be considering the overarching framework that can further develop a connected, collaborative ecosystem for learning and teaching and research; reflects government and tertiary education objectives; and secures accountability for public funding.” Academics fear that their institutions may lose autonomy on fundamentals like program offerings, or may even face involuntary mergers. The Scottish government has made it clear that it is opting out of the UK’s “restructuring regime.” Glasgow Times
500 US Colleges Fail the Stress Test
For months now, analysts have been predicting that the pandemic will drive hundreds of US colleges into bankruptcy. (More than 50 have closed since 2015.) Now, a “Financial Fitness Tracker” identifies the ones at greatest risk, based on enrolment, tuition revenue, endowment and state appropriations data as of this spring – not even accounting for COVID19’s effects. Of 2,600 colleges, more than 500 show signs of strain in 2 or more categories, and they seem disproportionately to be in Ohio and Illinois. Hechinger
Bad Choices Left Colleges Vulnerable
When the COVID19 crisis struck this spring, one-quarter of US institutions had no financial contingency plan in place, and they had already accumulated substantial debt. Nationwide, enrolment declined 12% since the 2008 recession, while colleges increased full-time faculty by 7% and administrative/support staff by 16%. While the stock market achieved 11.2% gains, higher ed endowment funds realized just 6.8%. And despite enrolment declines, US colleges have spent $11B a year adding 70 million sq ft of facilities. Administrative management and financial accountability should have been subject to greater scrutiny before the pandemic. Higher ed’s financial challenges have been exacerbated by decentralized budgets, excessive spending on athletics and legal settlements, and institutional rankings that reward spending per student. Hechinger
Campus Saint-Jean Threatened?
uAlberta is reportedly studying 9 restructuring scenarios to reduce its campus footprint and achieve more efficiencies – and 6 of those scenarios could lead to the closure of Campus Saint-Jean, UofA’s francophone satellite. Plans already call for 77 of CSJ’s 410 courses to be discontinued. Supporters of CSJ fear assimilation into UofA would amount to “cultural and linguistic genocide.” They may have a legal avenue, based on a 1976 agreement. CBC
When times get tough, the first reflex is always to start cutting expenses – but the varying perspectives of presidents, CFOs and faculty point to very different targets…
Anxious Financial Officers
A survey of 273 US higher ed financial officers (Jun 3-16) found that half feel little confidence in their institution’s financial stability, particularly in the short-term, and the mood has dropped most sharply at community colleges and private nonprofit universities. Most incurred <$2 M in unanticipated COVID19 expenses, but have already invested “significantly” in infrastructure to support virtual learning. More than a third expect to eliminate administrative and adjunct faculty positions, and underperforming academic programs, by year-end, while slightly fewer anticipate employee furloughs. 26% hope to return to normal operations within 18 months. IHE
Presidents Expect Layoffs & Furloughs
A survey of 119 “cautiously optimistic” US university presidents (Jun 25 – Jul 12) finds that 85% expect to maintain tuition fees, and to convene classes in person at some point this fall. Only 10% expect revenue losses to exceed 15%, although 88% plan to lay off staff, 60% furloughs, and 64% across-the-board budget cuts. 59% say they will decrease pay for senior staff, 42% that they will cut benefits, and yet 55% say they will make nocuts to academic programs or faculty positions. AAC&U
Faculty Suggest Cutting the Frills
Emeritus professor of economics Richard Vedder writes in Forbes that 500-1000 US colleges will be pushed into bankruptcy or mergers, as enrolment declines at some institutions hit 25% this year and next. In his rather cranky rant, he recommends furloughing faculty one day a week, reducing research expectations and increasing teaching loads; dismissing staff who are just “administrative bloat”; cutting pay perhaps 20%; selling off conference centres, dorms, athletics facilities and perhaps even hospitals; downsizing college athletics; and instituting a moratorium on new buildings. “This crisis is an opportunity to do the previously politically impossible,” he concludes. Forbes
A global health crisis and economic recession may not naturally inspire entrepreneurial confidence, but there are opportunities for higher ed institutions to generate new revenue streams…
Cutting Costs, Seeking New Revenue
A survey of 97 US college presidents (June) found that 66% expect to resume in-person instruction this fall, and 59% to resume athletics too. Nonetheless, 91% are at least somewhat concerned about enrolment declines, and 88% about overall financial stability. Since earlier surveys (March and April) they are more worried about donor giving rates and demands for tuition reimbursement. About half had already implemented furloughs, layoffs, or cuts in salaries or benefits – and 25% of those expected never to reverse the cuts. 89% would likely lobby for more government support, 76% cultivate new donors, and 33% draw from the endowment. 55% said they would likely reduce the academic portfolio, and 12% reconsider tenure policies. IHE
Entrepreneurial Revenue Options
My pre-COVID article on alt revenue, “Supporting the Academic Enterprise: Entrepreneurial New Revenue Streams for Your College,” has been published this week in the League for Innovation in the Community College’s journal, Leadership Abstracts. (Available without membership for the next 2 months.) I sum up dozens of entrepreneurial options, from monetizing affinity and leveraging your campus, to commercializing academic activity and pursuing new markets. Leadership Abstracts
Although surveys find that at least three-quarters of students believe they should pay less for a “primarily online” academic semester, in Canada at least their protests have not had much impact. (Yes, some ancillary fees have been reduced or eliminated, but tuition fees have stayed stable or even increased.) In the past few days, students have been coming forward with a new demand…
uSherbrooke Summer Students seek Pass/Fail
Students at uSherbrooke are apparently lobbying for a return to the pass/fail grading option for summer courses this year. More than 2,000 Sherbrooke students have signed a petition – nearly half the students registered for the summer session. CBC
SFU Students seek Pass/Fail for Fall
More than 3,000 SFU students have signed a petition asking the university to offer a pass/fail grading option again this fall, arguing that “the quality of education… has decreased but expectations have stayed the same.” Global
Both UdeS and SFU have responded that the pass/fail grading this spring was offered because the delivery mode changed abruptly and without warning. The same is not true, they argue, for the summer and fall terms. Clearly students have a very different sense of the rationale to justify a change in academic assessment.
To reassure anxious students facing an online Fall term (and discourage them from deferring enrolment), several Ontario institutions have offered guarantees…
In late May, Ontario Tech announced a money-back “Student Experience Guarantee,” allowing students to withdraw by Oct 9 for a full tuition refund. Ontario Tech
Shortly thereafter, Sheridan announced a “Fall Experience Guarantee” with very similar terms. Sheridan
At the beginning of July, Fanshawe launched a 4-part “Experience Guarantee,” which allows students to defer tuition and fees, but not recoup them. Fanshawe
Now, Confederation College has unveiled a “Commitment” to first-year, first-semester students this fall. Those students can withdraw by Oct 7 and receive a full tuition refund. “These unprecedented times call for an unprecedented approach.” Confederation
Algonquin College has “renewed and broadened” its partnership with Orient Education Services, which delivers 6 Algonquin diploma programs in Kuwait under the AC-Kuwait brand. The new agreement, which runs until August 2025, will see the branch campus operate under a new name: “The Canadian College of Kuwait – Algonquin.” Algonquin
U Canada West announced yesterday a blended delivery approach to Fall courses, which will see them reopen their West Pender and new Vancouver House campuses for “limited on-campus learning.” Masks will be mandatory, and “Student Health Ambassadors” will help ensure students maintain physical distancing. UCW will provide $455,000 in financial relief to international students required to self-isolate for their first 14 days. uCanWest
Laurentian U will begin Phase 2 of its Return to Campus plan on Aug 12, bringing more researchers to campus, opening more student services, and preparing to welcome nearly 500 students to residence. Laurentian
uRegina and St Lawrence College alumni and donor data was also involved in the Blackbaud breach in May. uRegina | SLC
SaskPolytech plans a “two-pronged” approach to delivery in the Fall, with “some limited in person learning opportunities,” particularly for apprenticeships, nursing and health sciences programs. The institution was in the late stages of finalizing a new strategic plan when the pandemic hit. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Yesterday I summarized some recent findings that COVID19 may be transmitted more by aerosols, and less by fomites than previously suspected. The science jury is still out, but meanwhile PSE campuses are preparing for reopening in a few weeks, and most CdnPSEs are erring on the side of caution…
I’ve shared many campus reopening plans in the past few months, but here are some released in the past few days…
Mount Allison U has just released a comprehensive 26-page COVID19 response plan, Back on Track, as a resource for students while the campus reopens. It emphasizes the commitment to protect a “MtA Sackville Bubble,” and includes information about self-isolation, updates to the student code of conduct, and changes to residence and dining. MTA
Red River College in Winnipeg is already in phase 2 of its reopening, with some student supports resuming on campus, and is planning to commence Phase 3 on Aug 31, “to safely bring back as many employees and students to campus as public health guidelines allow.” There will be a “staged and deliberate shift from remote to on-campus work.” RRC
Trent U will begin a phased approach to reopening its Athletics Centre, starting Sep 1, including its pool. Staff, faculty, and others will be welcomed back in phase 2, possibly in October. Trent
COVID19 has turned us all into that germophobe Adrian Monk, famous for his incessant refrain, “Wipe!” Apparently there has been a sixfold increase in demand, so we can expect a worldwide shortage of Clorox Wipes until 2021. Although skeptics are increasingly critical of “hygiene theatre” (see yesterday’s Insider), institutions have been significantly ramping up disinfection protocols on campus, from touch-free hand sanitizer stations to electrostatic spray guns. And they are releasing videos and documents to reassure parents, students, faculty and staff. Again, here are some new examples…
Ontario Tech has published a new page of “What to Expect on Campus,” from enhanced cleaning protocols (at least 2-3x daily) to mandatory masks. All staff are responsible to disinfect their own computers and desk items, and shared equipment. Areas that have been left unoccupied for 7+ days do not require enhanced cleaning. OntarioTech
uToronto reports that it is inspecting and upgrading ventilation equipment in its academic and administrative buildings, to “meet or exceed industry and public health standards.” UofT is now using higher-rated MERV-13 filters, and ventilation will run for an extended period before and after building occupancy. uToronto
Trinity Western U has developed building safety plans, revised classroom capacities, planned new outdoor gathering spaces, and implemented new protocols for “daily deep cleaning” and regular sanitization of high-touch surfaces. Profs and TAs will clean classrooms between each use. The campus bookstore will sell facemasks at cost. Touchless sliding doors have been ordered for the main student building. TWU
As I outlined yesterday, the potential for aerosol transmission means that face masks are much more important than surface disinfections. Despite the innumerable, incredibly heated confrontations between violent anti-maskers and the poor retail clerks, waitresses or even police officers who confront them, more and more jurisdictions in North America are announcing mandatory mask policies to stem the tide of COVID19. Alberta announced last night that students in grade 4 and above will be required to wear face masks when they return to school next month, joining Ontario. (Quebec and Saskatchewan, on the other hand, are hold-outs.) The federal government will be issuing guidelines later this week, recommending face coverings for all children aged 10+, which should have implications for K-12 schools across the country.
As I pointed out several weeks ago, mandatory mask policies are proliferating on CdnPSE campuses, often reflecting local or provincial PHO orders. We’re now at 45% of my sample, and another 9% who recommend masks, including these new ones:
uLethbridge is making masks mandatory on campus beginning Aug 10, in “hallways, washrooms, elevators, and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.” Masks have been ordered but will not arrive until late August. uLeth
NAIT now expects everyone coming to campus to wear a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces, including classrooms, labs, study spaces, public meeting rooms, washrooms and underground parking areas. Exceptions will be made for staff working in private offices, for those eating or drinking in designated areas, or engaging in athletic activities. NAIT
Trent U will be releasing a policy this week regarding the use of face coverings while on campus. All staff and students will be issued a reusable mask. Trent
uWaterloo has extended its mandatory face covering policy to include classrooms and teaching labs, not just common areas. uWaterloo
Most institutions have announced protocols that will require staff and students to self-screen each day before coming to campus, typically by answering a checklist of symptoms in the campus safety app, or perhaps taking their own temperature. (Some orientation packages include an inexpensive thermometer.) This summer, some colleges have instituted screening stations for those entering campus:
Centennial College will reportedly be pilot-testing temperature screening upon entry to its Morningside campus, this week.
Fanshawe College welcomed 1,000 “stranded” students from 34 programs back to campus last week, as a “soft launch” for health and safety protocols to be implemented in September, when 8,200 students will be studying in a hybrid format. This month, everyone entering campus must stop at one of 4 screening stations to answer questions and receive a colour-coded wristband. In September that will likely be replaced by an online screening tool. Interrobang
Temperature screening can be done via thermal imaging cameras, or by wearable devices…
Realtime Wearable Monitors
Oakland U in Michigan will require faculty, staff and students on campus to wear a BioIntelliSense “BioButton,” a coin-sized wearable that monitors temperature and heart rate in real time. It connects to a mobile device, and its charge lasts up to 90 days. Of course, >2,000 students have already signed a petition opposed to the idea. Click On Detroit
Yet more and more epidemiological models demonstrate that what is really required is frequent COVID19 nasal swab tests, and US colleges are determined to make it work…
$3 Million for Twice-Weekly Tests
Brandeis U, near Boston, plans to provide a residential campus experience for 2,000 undergrads, beginning mid-August, and will be testing them twice per week for COVID19. Brandeis will also be testing about 1,500 grad students, faculty and staff once per week. At $30 each, such “aggressive… universal testing” will be a $3M expense. Like other Massachusetts colleges, Brandeis has contracted Harvard/MIT’s Broad Institute to process the tests within 24 hours. WGBH
Mandatory Testing Across Alabama
College and university students in Alabama must complete a mandatory COVID19 screening test before they head to campus. The state is opening 14 new testing sites to test 200,000 PSE students, and sending home testing kits to out-of-state students. Students must use a daily mobile app to self-assess for symptoms, and may participate in voluntary testing during the academic year. The program is funded by $30 M in federal assistance. US News
Testing Required Every 2 Days
A new study from Harvard and Yale researchers has concluded that bringing students back to campus safely would require testing them for COVID19 every 2 days, coupled with strict behavioural strategies like hand hygiene, masks, and social distancing. “This sets a very high bar — logistically, financially, and behaviorally — that may be beyond the reach of many university administrators and the students in their care.” Testing kits can cost between $10 and $50 each, and false positives would create considerable demand for quarantine facilities. There were no circumstances in which symptom-based screening alone would be sufficient to contain an outbreak. JAMA
“Testing and Tracing” is the PHO refrain, so that once a new COVID19 case is identified, everyone who came into close contact with them can also be put into self-isolation. The process demands a sharp memory from the patient, and hours of time for trained health professionals to make the calls, but some technologies may accelerate the process…
Canada’s Contact Tracing App
The Canadian government released its COVID Alert app for iOS and Android last Friday, and within 3 days more than 1.1 million had downloaded it (including me). The app does not track location or personally identifying information, but keeps a log of Bluetooth “handshakes” with other devices also running the app. (You need to spend 15 minutes within 2 metres to be considered a “handshake.”) If one of those people tells the app they have tested positive for COVID19, your app will notify you of potential exposure. Initially pilot testing in Ontario, the app will roll out to Atlantic Canada next. (Obviously, to be truly effective everyone would need to have a capable smartphone, install the app, and carry it on their person.) iPhoneinCanada
Video surveillance cameras, coupled with AI-driven video content analytics software like BriefCam, can assess behaviours, movement, interactions and dwell times. Besides campus security, they can be useful for maintenance, planning, and retail operations – but now they can also be repurposed to monitor compliance with social distancing and mask policies, and can even assist with contact tracing. Dashboards can identify non-compliance hotspots and pedestrian bottlenecks, and even send real-time alerts. University Business
The ultimate form of social distancing is of course studying online and working from home, but on-campus learning is essential to a broad range of technical and medical programs. As a result, campuses are being plastered with social distancing signage, furniture is being removed or taped off, and codes of conduct are being revised…
Dining Apps, Delivery & Robots
Campus dining halls are being reconfigured to eliminate all-you-can-eat buffets, self-service options, and seating areas and shifting to reservations, takeout and delivery orders, via kiosks or sometimes using apps like OpenTable or Grubhub. Students will need to get used to prepackaged meal options, waiting lists and social distancing. Delivery robots, like the fleet of Starship robots operated by Sodexo at George Mason U, can deliver food orders to students with zero contact. Some institutions, like MIT and uChicago, will be deploying robots to work in their kitchens too. Business Insider
Students Promise to Behave
A survey of 800 US college students (Jul 13-14) found that 79% claimed they would not attend parties the way they did pre-COVID, and 71% said they would not attend games even if athletics resumed. But students themselves are skeptical: “I don’t think a lot of students will stick to their word and stay away from parties or social events, including me… I think the temptation will be too much for a lot of students.” MarketWatch
The real wild card for campuses this fall will be to what extent students can strictly adhere to social distancing, screening, contact tracing and disinfecting protocols. (There has been widespread skepticism, which I share.) Even enforcing curfews and isolation orders on mature adults can be remarkably challenging…
$20,000 Fines in Australia
In Australia, the state of Victoria has implemented curfews and a strict lockdown, and instituted fines from $5,000 up to $20,000 for anyone breaking COVID19 isolation orders, and is deploying 2,000 military personnel to assist police with quarantine enforcement. Reuters
Ultimately, no matter how thorough the precautions on campus, the risk of COVID19 infection, and potentially serious disability or even death, can never be brought down to zero. Risk management types, and lawyers on governing boards, know that means institutions either need indemnity from government, liability waivers from staff and students, or insurance.
I mentioned last week that StFX is persisting with its student liability waiver as a “necessity” for the return to campus next month. While they are unique in CdnPSE, some US colleges are following suit…
More Daunting Liability Waivers
Although students are opposed, some US colleges are demanding students sign liability waivers before they can return to class. uNew Hampshire has a 4-page “Informed Consent” agreement. Bates College (Maine) has a 1,400-word Public Health Agreement and Acknowledgement of Shared Responsibility and Risk document, which students are required to sign. As one student put it, “On the one hand, I guess they’re not sugar-coating it. But on the other hand, if you’re signing that to go back, it’s not safe.” Student organizations and legal experts are advising students not to sign the waivers. IHE
Most insurance companies are protecting themselves from further exposure to the pandemic, but 3 years ago it was still possible to purchase protection…
Shaw Festival was Prescient
As performing arts organizations around the world struggle with layoffs and insolvency, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival looks downright prescient for taking out “pandemic insurance” more than 3 years ago. As a result, the Festival has been able to keep more than 500 full-time employees on the payroll, while the theatres are dark. It even hired contractors as employees, to leverage the CEWS wage subsidy. National Post
Phew! My apologies for the length of this issue – I hope you found some of it useful!
As the pandemic drags into month six, people are getting restless and longing for the return of summer festivals and beach excursions. Business owners and politicians are anxious to stop the economic damage and reopen society. (More on the economy later this week.)
But political urgency and public impatience means that immunologists and epidemiologists are being rushed, the science barely has time for peer review, and we’re still uncovering more about the SARS-CoV-2 virus every day.
With just a few weeks left before the start of a new academic year, we owe it to ourselves to review the latest developments about the novel Coronavirus…
Cabin fever, quarantine fatigue, and anti-mask protests are ironically occurring just as the global pandemic is accelerating: the world just surpassed 18 million cases, of which 8 million were added in July alone. The WHO reports that worldwide cases of COVID19 are now doubling every 6 weeks. In an interconnected world, it is far too early to claim success at flattening the curve – anywhere!
“State of Disaster” in Australia
The state of Victoria declared a “state of disaster” on Sunday, introducing a nightly curfew, stricter lockdown measures, and banning virtually all trips outdoors. “Where you slept last night is where you’ll need to stay for the next six weeks.” Only 1 person per household can leave home once per day for essential trips, within 5 km. Schools have been closed again, along with bars and restaurants. Police patrols are enforcing the precautions. CTV
Cruise Ship Back in Quarantine
One of the first cruise ships to resume service, the MS Roald Amundsen, is now back in quarantine in Norway. A guest from a previous cruise tested positive for COVID19 after returning home, then 4 crew members tested positive after a second cruise, and now 160 crew members are quarantined aboard the ship, while 177 passengers (who had already disembarked) have been told to self-isolate at home. Even operating at reduced capacity, cruise ships remain the perfect environment to cultivate a viral infection. (And their challenges foreshadow the challenges campus residence halls will face next month.) CTV
In Canada, 51% of the COVID19 cases this year occurred in the province of Quebec, as did 64% of the fatalities: 59,722 Quebecers fell ill, and 5,683 died. Studies suggest that this public health disaster was driven by March Break travellers returning to Quebec just as travel advisories were starting to be issued. Now, as the province reopens, 3 compounding risks may spark a second wave by September…
1) Quebec Quintuples Group Limit
The province of Quebec reported 123 new COVID19 cases and 2 new deaths yesterday, but at the same time raised the limit on indoor and outdoor gatherings to 250 people, from 50, specifically for theatres, cinemas, concert halls, houses of worship and amateur sporting events. Masks are still required across the province, and distancing of 1.5 metres is to be maintained “whenever possible.” A group of Quebec doctors is “horrified” and protesting the decision. Global
I think Quebec is alone among North American jurisdictions in defining the acceptable distance as LESS than 2 metres. Raising the threshold to 250 will please Cineplex and other businesses who have been lobbying to reopen, but will have an impact on infection rates in about 14 days. Add to that…
2) Collective Summer Vacation
It may seem a little alien outside La Belle Province, but since 1970, Quebec has observed 2-week “construction holidays” in late July and late December, which have become the de facto most popular time for everyone to take vacations in the province. This year, the summer holidays ran Jul 19 – Aug 1. Montréal Gazette
This means that tens of thousands of construction workers, and potentially hundreds of thousands of others, returned from cottages, vacations and family visits just a day or two ago. Again, 2 weeks from now this could well have a significant impact on the COVID19 spread, just as March Break did this spring. And if that weren’t enough…
3) Mandatory Elementary School
Quebec’s education ministry insists that students will return to K-9 classrooms in September, as announced in June, with the pre-pandemic student:teacher ratios. “The physical presence of students at school is compulsory for the start of the school year next September.” Unlike neighbouring Ontario, face masks will not be mandatory for students in any grade, although teachers and staff will be required to wear them in certain close contact situations. The teachers’ union hopes the plan will change. CBC
So put these 3 decisions together, and the government of Quebec is rolling the dice at the coronavirus craps table THREE times over the next 4 weeks. It seems to me that there is a VERY real risk of widespread COVID19 outbreaks in Quebec in late August or mid-September, even before the traditional flu season begins. This may disrupt any plans that Quebec PSEs have to return students to campus.
Now yes, I reported last week that studies suggest children under age 10 are less likely to spread COVID19. But this pandemic is unfolding in realtime, and scientific studies are barely able to keep pace. There are definite cases of COVID19 transmission by children in summer camp situations, and increasingly scientists believe the virus is being spread by aerosols, not just respiratory droplets. That could have significant implications for campus precautions this fall…
Outbreaks at Summer Camps
After spending a week together at an overnight camp in Georgia, 260 campers and staff came down with COVID19. Last month, similar outbreaks shut down camps in Missouri, Texas and Arkansas. These outbreaks seem to contradict claims that children do not play a significant role in transmission, since a higher proportion of the youngest campers tested positive. “Daily vigorous singing and cheering” is suspected as driving aerosol spread of the virus, before anyone was showing symptoms. Buzzfeed
COVID19 poses a greater risk to healthy middle-aged adults than previously thought, according to a new global study. While those aged 80+ are most at risk, with a 24% fatality rate, and those in their 70s have a 4% fatality rate, healthy adults in their 60s face a 1% fatality rate, and in their 50s a 0.3% fatality rate. “A healthy 55-year-old person is 50 times more likely to die from a COVID19 infection than a car accident.” National Post
COVID is in the Air
A review of the latest research suggests that aerosol transmission of COVID19 may be much more significant than previously believed. Several scientific studies published since May, and hundreds of scientists, emphasize the risk of transmission simply by exhaling in an enclosed space. “Aerosols can float around for many hours,” and they can contain just as many viral particles as larger respiratory droplets. If true, this magnifies the importance of face masks, ventilation, airflow, and open windows – and the duration people spend in the same space, even with 2-metre distancing. HVAC systems should get upgraded filters, if not ultraviolet germicidal retrofits. NYT
On the other hand, a uToronto associate professor of infectious diseases recently summed up the research, and observed that aerosol transmission does not appear to be widespread. She also observes, however, that surface transmission “is not as critical as we initially thought.”
Hygiene Theatre is Overdone
Deep-cleaning of classrooms and high-touch surfaces with electrostatic disinfectant sprays may just be “hygiene theatre” and an immense waste of time and resources. “Surface transmission of COVID19 is not justified at all by the science.” Deep cleans are justified in hospitals, and we should all keep washing our hands, but ultimately wearing masks is more important. Too many venues are “boasting about their cleaning practices while inviting strangers into unventilated indoor spaces to share one another’s microbial exhalations.” The Atlantic
YorkU microbiology associate prof Dasantila Golemi-Kotra reiterated this perspective in a segment for Global News (at the 26 min mark). “The risk is low but it is not zero,” so disinfection is important, but it shouldn’t be overdone.
Our understanding of the virus and the effectiveness of precautions is still developing, but there is a growing consensus that this is a transformative year for our society…
Effects for Decades to Come
Six months into the global pandemic, the World Health Organization’s emergency committee warned on Saturday that the pandemic will be “lengthy.” (Their next meeting won’t even take place until November.) “The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come.” CTV
There May Never Be a “Silver Bullet”
On Monday, as the WHO and China agreed on terms of reference for an investigation into the animal origins of COVID19 in Wuhan, chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged world governments to focus on physical distancing, masks, testing and contact tracing to contain the virus. “We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection… However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment – and there might never be.” CTV
Political leaders are of course impatient for a resolution. The Trump Administration has already committed billions to pre-order vaccines that aren’t even developed yet: more than 300 million doses from AstraZeneca and 100 million from Pfizer. China is no different…
Gambling on a Vaccine
Although 3 Chinese pharmaceutical companies are currently conducting phase 3 clinical trials of COVID19 vaccines, the results will not be known for 3-6 months yet. But that didn’t stop SinoPharm executives from taking the vaccine themselves, or telling other state-owned companies that the vaccines are safe and ready for their employees to use now, on an “emergency basis.” Quartz
Tomorrow, we’ll turn to face mask policies, deep cleaning protocols, and campus reopening plans, and dozens of campus updates!
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