Do Universities Really Expect to Treat their Students as "Pod" People?

Attempts to force college students into strict protocols are unlikely to succeed


The New York Times provides an in-depth look into the University of Kentucky's re-opening deliberations. The University President, a former professor of public health, described the process as a "moonshot." He is right. One plan would treat students as "pod" people:

 Team Wildcat suggested turning residence halls into protective cocoons for living and learning. "We have students functioning in pods, almost like family units," Dr. Cardarelli told her colleagues, describing the idea. "They're spending most of their time in residence halls together with the same students." Professors would come to the dorms to teach, she said, or do it via videoconference. This would reduce circulation and transmission of the virus, and make it easier to do contact tracing, her group theorized. The student pods would take turns going to the dining halls. And, Dr. Cardarelli added, "no more buffet."

I am very, very skeptical this sort of central planning can work. Will students actually spend all their time with people selected by the University? Are students barred from eating at off-campus establishments? What sorts of enforcement mechanisms exist to make sure students do not fraternize outside of their "pod"? Will the University really take disciplinary action if a student goes to a restaurant?

The University is also looking to an App to help with contact tracing:

To reduce the need for widespread tests during the semester, he envisioned using a cellphone app to keep sick students away from classes: If they answered "no" to every symptom — cough, fever, potentially loss of smell and taste — they would receive a "day pass" to flash at building entrance checkpoints.

May I provide an anecdote? I use an app called iClicker for attendance. Every class, students are required to "check in." I always remind the class, and indeed show the check-in list on the screen. Yet, every class, several students fail to check in. Some cite technical difficulties (the app didn't work). Others are candid, and say they forgot. And, from time to time, students check in when they are not physically present–that is, they check in from the library, on the bus, or from home. The app does include a geolocation function, but I disabled it–the feature sometimes prevents students from checking if privacy settings blocks GPS. As a result, invariably, I have to manually verify attendance after class–marking some people as present, and some people as absent. The app is far more efficient than using paper sign-in sheets. But human error, and indeed human failings, render it unreliable.

Does anyone think these sorts of contact tracing apps will be effective for college students? (See my prior post.) First, students will forget to use the app. No amount of notifications will work. Swipe left. Second, will administration officials really deny students entry to class if they do not have a "day pass"? Really? Hell, students who want to skip class will deliberately refuse to check in their symptoms. Students routinely feign sickness to get out of class. <<Cough Cough>> Third, students will not accurately assess their health. Some will simply lie because they do not care and want to go out. Others will minimize any possible symptoms, because young people think they are invincible.

And what about the faculty, who are neither young nor invincible? The Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Kentucky was "surprised to hear from many professors who were reluctant to return." Surprised?

They were worried, she said, because they or someone close to them had underlying health conditions, or because they were fearful of bringing the virus home to their spouses and children.

The wary faculty might have a point, replied Capt. Rob Turner of the campus police department. The university did not operate in a vacuum, he argued.

One professor I know described the situation this way: "I love my students but I am not willing to die for them." These planners are divorced from reality.

Let's be frank. Universities need students back on campus for monetary reasons. And to achieve that end, they are willing to make campus life intolerable for students, faculty, and staff. Instruction, under these conditions will be extremely difficult. Moreover, all of these plans will swiftly be abandoned once an outbreak emerges on campus.

Administrations should be candid: they really have no idea how to safely bring students back to campus, and they shouldn't try. All of these efforts would be better spent at improving the quality of online education. Students may actually learn better in a safe environment at home, then by being secluded in "pods." At this difficult time, students need certainty, not more chaos.

NEXT: What is and Should Be the Role of Administrative Agencies in Developing Constitutional Rules and Norms?

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  1. I’ve long considered academics, or rather their administrative representatives, to be divorced from reality — the bloated budgets of supernumeraries, excessive vice presidents in charge of one nonsense after another — and here is just confirmation of how padded their bureaucracies are. Kind of funny to see it laid out so openly, as if they have been isolated in their ivory towers so long they don’t even realize how isolated they are.

    1. I’m reminded of the Emperor Caligula….

        1. When Caligula put his horse into the Senate, at least he gave them both the back *and* front ends of the horse.

        2. His biographer Suetonius quotes his oft-repeated phrase, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.”

          “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” — empowered with near absolute power over the lives of students, universities have become absolutely corrupt. Much like Caligula, and other than the blood sports (and ready access to horses), the lechery and treachery isn’t all that much less…

          1. His biographer Suetonius quotes his oft-repeated phrase, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.”

            Reminds me of Trump.

            1. For all that is said about Trump, can you name a President who had a better opportunity to seize dictatorial powers than he has had this spring — and who hasn’t?

  2. The correct fix is to discontinue student loans.
    Deny certification to any organization that admits students needing “remedial” classes.
    Deny certification to any organization that has administrators not directly related to teaching.
    Deny certification to any organization that has more than 10% administrators.
    Then, perhaps, they would get students actually prepared to make decision on their own, no app required.

    1. And only Hillsdale and Grove City Colleges would remain…..

      Are you familiar with ISI’s series of “what college *graduates* don’t know?

    2. So.

      No maintenance of buildings and grounds.
      No housing office.
      No IT.
      No accounting office.
      No admissions office.
      No financial aid office.


      You know, universities are complex institutions with big budgets. They actually need people to manage them.

      1. They do, but administrative bloat is a real problem for colleges.

        To put this in context, from 2000 to 2015, the University of California saw its enrollment go up by 38%. With that, the number of faculty went up from about 7,000 to about 9,000. However, the number managers/administrators went up from about 4,000 to about 10,000.

        1. administrative bloat is a real problem for colleges.

          It may be, but Longtobefree’s comment is still ridiculous.

        2. 2000 to 2015, the University of California saw its enrollment go up by 38%. With that, the number of faculty went up from about 7,000 to about 9,000. However, the number managers/administrators went up from about 4,000 to about 10,000.

          EXACTLY, although I am not willing to let the faculty off the hook. They were teaching 8 classes a year and now teach 1 or 2, do the math…

          1. “hey were teaching 8 classes a year and now teach 1 or 2, do the math…”

            1)The enrollment went up 38%
            2)The number of faculty went from 7k to 9k (28%)
            3)8 classes to a max of 2 per faculty; a reduction to 1/4 the number of classes per prof

            So class size varied as (1.38/1.28)*4 = 4.3 times as large as originally? That’s a pretty big change. I had some big classes in college – one was 700 students as I recall, in one big auditorium. Another (not one of mine) was 3000 odd students, in remote classrooms via CCTV (and quite popular, the prof was a Nobel laureate). But most of the classrooms wouldn’t have physically accommodated 4x the number of students. Did the U of CA pipe the classes around? Is this a distance learning thing? Knock down walls?

            And I’m not sure that profs teaching fewer, bigger classes is a scandal. For example, the class of 700 was the only class that prof taught, and it was obvious that he spent time rehearsing and so on; he was a magnificent lecturer.

            (and I agree admin bloat is a huge thing; I spent a career at a state U and the bloat was mind boggling)

            1. I’m using 1960 as a baseline.

              1. And also making facts up.

                1. No. Professors taught 4 & 4.
                  And those long Tue/Thur classes also met on Saturday.
                  It was a 17 week semester with finals *after* Christmas — 17 weeks of classes. And no snow days…

  3. in loco parentis gone loco
    will there be rules regarding inter-pod dating?

    1. God meant to keep the pods separate.

      1. God hates mixed pods.

    2. …and when students hear there is a wild kegger going on in another pod, I’m sure they will think ‘no, it wouldn’t be covid-safe, I’ll stay home’.

  4. I found myself nodding in agreement all the way to the final paragraph. Universities will not be able to make unsafe conditions safe, and they shouldn’t even try. But they can certainly start thinking about what conditions in the surrounding community are safe enough for students to return. How low would the rate of new infections have to be to enable normal campus life to resume?

    1. That’s my thought. We know that it is not a very dangerous disease at that age range. Plus, research shows that given the number of asymptomatic cases, we probably have a substantial fraction of the student body have already had it. It would probably be best to just open it up.

      1. And hope you don’t have any professors over the age of 50?

  5. Yes, “Universities need students back on campus for monetary reasons [… and …] all of these plans will swiftly be abandoned once an outbreak emerges on campus.”

    Speaking of abandoned plans, whatever happened to all of the continuity-of-government, pandemic-response, and bioterrorism-response plans? In Virginia, where expenditures are relatively easy to review (via ), last year’s “Pan Flu” preparedness program [and it was indeed called “Pan Flu,” in response to a marketing study] involved distribution of tee shirts with cookies and bottled water (“Pan Flu Kits”) and committee meetings at restaurants.

    1. While there was grumbling and now a few class action lawsuits, when colleges shut down last spring, they already had their students’ money.

      Without some guarantee that the same thing won’t happen again this fall, I’m wondering how many parents will write a check this fall. The HE lit is full of reports of incoming freshmen taking a “gap year” and when they realize that they can earn as much money as many college grads without the college debt (and have more “fun”) — I’m wondering how many will decide not to go at all…

      1. How many use that “gap year” to work as opposed to just having fun on the parent’s dime?

        1. My point is that if the parents don’t write the check this fall, it will be a very different group of young adults — many of whom have already seen their part-time job in the grocery store expand into a full-time gig and are enjoying the benefits of full-time pay.

          Otherwise known as fun on their own dime.

          And what no one realizes (yet) is that if they work full time this fall rather than go to college, their Financial Aid for Fall 2021 will be based on their 2020 earnings. In other words, they’ll be expected to also be earning the same amount in 2021 — and to pay that much themselves. In addition to the amount that their parents are supposed to pay — and it will make it virtually impossible for them to go to college.

  6. “What sorts of enforcement mechanisms exist to make sure students do not fraternize outside of their “pod”? Will the University really take disciplinary action if a student goes to a restaurant?”

    Yes, university administrators truly are that fascist, and are already doing stuff like this. They have cameras everywhere and what they do is use facial recognition software and the database of photos from student IDs. (This apparently is legal, while using the drivers license photos is not.)

    UMass Amherst has been doing this for more than a decade now, and expelling students for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or appearing to, as I’ve heard quietly from some administrators that they honestly doubted that the person shown on video was the accused student, who denied being there.

    They’ll gain compliance from students afraid of getting into trouble and the town/gown consortium will gain compliance from restaurants afraid of trouble with the municipal authorities.

    It is truly jaw-dropping how openly fascist the universities of the 21st Century have become, and what Professor Blackman fails to realize is how many of his colleagues take a “sucks to be you” attitude toward their students. Fail to successfully jump through all the hoops to gain access to the classroom and you will fail the course — students are, after all, a fungible resource to be exploited for the good of the university.

    “Universities need students back on campus for monetary reasons. And to achieve that end, they are willing to make campus life intolerable for students, faculty, and staff.”

    Well, faculty and staff have union representation and an ability to address grievances that students lack. There are state & federal laws protecting sick faculty & staff while there are none protecting sick students — while a sick secretary or professor can’t (legally) be demoted or fired, a sick student can be and will. (It’s also an interesting question if Worker’s Comp statutes apply….)

    In an earlier era, students were viewed as the alumni donors of tomorrow. In an earlier era, professors spent their entire careers at one institution and the administrators not only came from that institution’s faculty but expected to return to it afterwards. Hence administrators viewed students (collectively) as their retirement program.

    Today, most of the money comes up-front via the Federal government and students have become both fungible and disposable. So disposable that so few recent alumni were joining the UMass Alumni Association that they had to make membership mandatory. And UMass isn’t the only place like this…,

    “Instruction, under these conditions will be extremely difficult.”

    And that will be the students’ fault — and the students’ problem.
    Not to worry, there’ll be another student more willing to prostitute himself or herself for the GPA and the good job after graduation.

    This really isn’t about learning anymore — it really isn’t.

    1. Oh, good. I’ve got my daily dose of made up anecdote.

    2. Wow. You really are full of shit.

    3. “an ability to address grievances that students lack”

      Went to college 1966 thru 1970. We had a grievance procedure then that students still have today. They just lack the balls to use it.

      1. There was Before Virginia Tech and After Virginia Tech.

        I will tell you what I’ve told quite a few parents — it ain’t like when we were there. The people who were running things back then have died and it is a completely different group of people now — it’s not what the rulebook says but what those interpreting it want it to mean.

        And once you can dismiss any student with a grievance as a potential mass murderer, the whole system has changed….

  7. What kind of law school professor takes attendance?

    Good lord, if I needed yet more evidence of the kind of institution South Texas College of Law Houston was, this would be definitive. It’s like a community college of a law school, huh? You can’t expect your students to act like adults on their own, and your ego can’t handle the possibility that they might do well on your final without your teaching?

    1. All of them. The ABA essentially requires it.

      1. Law schools have to (at least before the pestilence) meet lots of requirements based on the needs of a pre-Internet brick-and-mortar school. That probably won’t change unless the top law schools start asking for some accommodations.

      2. Not a single one of my law school professors took attendance – not in any patent way, at any rate – and I skipped substantial portions of several classes with nary a comment. So, I am skeptical that the “ABA essentially requires it.”

      3. David,
        Really? Is this a new thing. In my 3 years at UCLA Law, I did not see any professor take roll. The only thing I saw professors track was in the case where the professor called on specific students each class, and so he naturally kept track of students who were called on but were absent that day.

        On the first day of each class, the professor would announce how much classroom participation would (or would not) affect one’s final grade, and their personal policy re attendance.

        It’s of course possible that law schools now do keep attendance, and even that this is due to some ABA requirements. But if so, it’s news to me.

        1. The ABA has a standard (Standard 311) that states: “At least 64 of [the 83 credit hours required for graduation] shall be in courses that require attendance in regularly scheduled classroom sessions or direct faculty instruction.” This, and the predecessor version of this rule, appear to be behind law schools’ attendance policies, which in fact vary quite a bit.

          It seems that many law schools have an “80%” rule – you have to attend 80% of the classes to be “attending regularly scheduled classroom sessions.” But all that the Standard itself actually seems to require is some kind of attendance policy. It appears that higher-ranked schools are less likely to be very strict about it.

          1. It appears that higher-ranked schools are less likely to be very strict about it.

            Politically well connected schools are less likely to be punished for violating the ABA rules.

            1. Go back to bed, jubulent; the adults are talking.

        2. The bloggers here can probably all tell you firsthand, but it is not a new thing. The ABA does not prescribe any particular method of monitoring attendance, but for accreditation, it does require that schools in fact have policies in place to ensure regular class attendance. This has been the case for decades.

          In googling to find out the exact citation for you I happened to run across this article from 2015:

          The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs objected to one change that it contended made attendance-taking in class, which had been mandatory, discretionary.

          John Kudel, a delegate from Maryland who serves on the policy committee of the commission, said failing to come to class is one of the early warning signs of someone with a substance abuse problem.

          “We think mandatory attendance-taking is essential,” he said.

          And John Schulte of Montana, the commission’s liaison to the ABA Board of Governors, said the revised language only requires law schools to have sound academic standards, including those for “regular” class attendance.

          “Regular does not mean required,” he said.

          But Utah Supreme Court Justice Christine M. Durham, one of the section’s two delegates to the House, said the change in language “does not change anything” in terms of attendance requirements.

          “We understand there is some concern that we’ve turned a mandatory requirement into a non-mandatory one,” she said. “That indeed is not the case.”

          My understanding is that higher ranked schools take a looser approach to enforcing this requirement, but it is definitely an ABA requirement.

          1. You’re such a snake, David. You must have concluded that the actual standards didn’t prove the point you wanted to prove, so you excerpted some gloss you found in a news piece, instead.

            Unfortunately for you, the ABA’s prior standards are archived online and easy to track down. The “change” your excerpt seems to be describing relates to the following standard (removed from the ABA standards beginning in 2015): “A law school shall require regular and punctual class attendance.”

            So, no, the rules didn’t “require” attendance-taking prior to that change, nor do they require doing so now. They require polices as to attendance, and prior to 2015 they required “regular and punctual class attendance,” but “attendance-taking,” no – unless that happened to be the policy adopted by the law schools.

            1. And how exactly is a law school supposed to enforce “regular and punctual class attendance” without taking attendance in classes?

              1. Who said anything about “enforcement?” The ABA doesn’t require “enforcement.”

                It seems that law schools approach the standard differently. Good law schools treat their students like adults, inform them of the standards, and expect students to make their own decisions about the merits of going to class. Bad law schools treat their students like children and require explicit attendance-taking, since apparently their caliber of students can’t be expected to make mature decisions about class attendance.

            2. You’re such a snake, David.

              Wow, that escalated quickly.

              You must have concluded that the actual standards didn’t prove the point you wanted to prove, so you excerpted some gloss you found in a news piece, instead.

              It’s the ABA’s publication! Which I found with ten seconds of googling, and figured it was enough because, you know, who really cares?

              And I don’t even understand your substantive point, because the rules require student attendance, and require that schools have policies to ensure student attendance. Which essentially requires attendance taking, but not any specific form of it. Which is what I said.

              (Do you think that a school policy that says “Students must attend at least 80% of classes,¹ but we will not check whether they do” would satisfy the ABA’s requirement that the school have an attendance policy?)

              ¹The standard virtually every law school has adopted to satisfy the regular attendance requirement.

    2. I’m not law school faculty, but I am faculty … attendance taking is now a thing at any institution that wants to accept federally backed financial aid. google “federal university attendance requirements”. Very few faculty that I know take attendance of their own volition …

      1. The suggested google term was not helpful for demonstrating your point, and I frankly don’t have the patience or energy to unwind the assertion to its legal underpinnings.

        (When it comes to the regulation of higher education, the statutes, rules, and guidance involved are enormously complex and tricky to speak precisely about. Accordingly, I have learned to be skeptical of commonplace ways of referring to these federal requirements – as you do, here – as tracking actual rules. You could be mis-characterizing a general rule that eligible recipients of federal financial aid be attending an institution of higher education; or paraphrasing a reporting safe harbor that schools rely on in order to demonstrate that they’re a legitimate school; or something else entirely.)

        1. 34 CFR 668.21, and 34 CFR 668.22 contain requirements on documentation of attendance related to disbursement and return of federal Title IV grant and loan assistance. Now, OK, technically there’s no “legal requirement” in there that _all_ institutions take attendance at _all_ classes, but if the institution can not document attendance at at least one course meeting (34 CFR 668.21 (c)), or cannot definitively document the last date of attendance for a student that withdraws from a course (34 CFR 668.22 (c)(3) and (l)(7) ), then the institution is on the hook for the disbursed aid, can face fines and penalties, etc. Most institutions wisely interpret this to require attendance keeping, lest the institution not be able to prove attendance to the satisfaction of auditors.

          1. The federal “one day, last day” rule has had some unintended consequences. There’s now a population of “students” who check in on the first day, skip all the rest of the semester, show up at the final, write their name on it, and leave. In a class of 30 I’ll typically have one or two of them.

            Their parents insisted they sign up for college and apply for financial aid, so they do. The Pell Grant covers all the tuition and fees, and they aren’t going to buy books or spend money on commuting, so it’s a cheap way to keep mama happy.

      2. Some of this is coming out of Homeland Security — International students who were admitted into the country but never showed up at the IHE they were admitted to attend. This includes the terrorist pilot of the plane that went into the Pentagon, he arrived on a student visa in 2000 but never showed up at the IHE.

  8. The pods strategy resembles the way prisons are doing it.

    I have been following the stats for Florida state prisons. It covers 59 prisons and 100,000 inmates.

    So far, the stats for both cases and deaths make it safer to be in prison than out of prision. 10 deaths so far, compared to 27.3 deaths per 100,000 the average for the US public.

    One thing different is that the prison also delivers meals to the cells, rather than taking turns in the dining hall.

    Mental heath is a separate question not reported in the stats. The inmates must be going nuts, shut in their cells 24×7 for months at a time.

    1. You can’t throw out stats like that without age-adjusting the death rates.

      Given the fact that the deaths are overwhelmingly in older (>65 years old) people, and the relative proportion of the general population versus the prison population for this age group is quite different, it’s going to skew the analysis horribly.

      1. A.L. — if you are going to do that, you need to adjust the other way for the prison population — both in terms of underlying conditions and the shortened (expected) lifespan of anyone doing hard time.

        Addressing the latter first, people age quickly in prison — see, for example, — arguably you need to shift your >65 down ten years or more.

        And then there was whatever they were doing before they went inside — drugs aren’t good for you and can lead to a whole bunch of the comorbidities that increase risk.

        I don’t know how much of a variance you are going to get, but it is a medically different population.

        1. Without overthinking things too much, a few key stats stand out.

          1. 2.2% of the Prison population is over 65 (2013 numbers)
          2. 15.2% of the US General population is over 65 (2016).
          3. ~80% of Coronavirus deaths are those over 65.

          So, when someone argues the coronavirus death rate in prisons is roughly 1/3 that of the US General Population, and argues that it’s because of the “pods strategy”…but doesn’t account for the clear age differences….It’s erroneous.

          1. I’m going with A.L. here.

          2. AL, I agree. We cannot say that the pod system works from the raw numbers. However,

            There is substantial literature that shows shortened life expectancy in prison even after removing deaths due to violence. On the other hand, black men have an increased longevity, which is attributable to routine healthcare.

            Given the conflicting influences, I do not think we can make a judgement call on what is causing comparative infection rates or deaths.

    2. So far, the stats for both cases and deaths make it safer to be in prison than out of prision

      …if you’re a believer in the Donald Trump “If you don’t test for coronavirus, then you can’t get sick from coronavirus” model.

    3. “The inmates must be going nuts, shut in their cells 24×7 for months at a time.”

      To be totally fair, some of the inmates didn’t have far to go to begin with.

  9. The communists truly have taken over academia. /SMH

    1. Don’t believe everything you read, XY, especially this.

      1. bernard11….you sure about that? 🙂

      1. …You think that’s proof that each of those institutes are now communist?

  10. Sheer lunacy. None of this will be tenable in a couple of years and people wont give a shit anymore.

  11. This is a grossly unfair characterization of what is going on in universities and colleges around the country, and a wildly inaccurate summary of the NYT article. The University of Kentucky, like other schools, is struggling with how to deal with the situation. To pick out one suggestion, mock it, and then act as if administrators everywhere are going to adopt that plan is ridiculous.

    Predictably, it produces a lot of ill-informed, ignorant, university bashing.

    To begin with, there is no need for Blackman’s smug, “Let’s be frank. Universities need students back on campus for monetary reasons.”

    Nobody, least of all the universities, including UK, denies that they are having financial problems and that loss of tuition in the fall will make that worse. That “they are willing to make campus life intolerable for students, faculty, and staff” is an unfounded personal opinion, a slander of a lot of people who are trying to figure out how to manage their large institutions in the midst of a crisis. The sneers are unjustified.

    1. I don’t know why you have such a halcyon view of higher education, and perhaps it was once like you believe — but it ain’t that way now!

      I’ve been on both sides of the table — attended two and worked at five — and probably ought to write a book as I know how much doesn’t make it into the media (media which lives or dies on access to the university’s sports teams).

      Students are considered an inexhaustible fungible resource that exists for universities to exploit. Now as to the extent to which they are “inexhaustible”, some may find this to be not quite so true anymore…

      1. I don’t have a “halcyon view.”

        I just think Blackman’s post is, first, a wildly distorted stpry about what’s in the NYT article. Read the article yourself and tell me how much of it is about putting students in pods.

        Second, it is insulting. Balckman says,

        Administrations should be candid: they really have no idea how to safely bring students back to campus, and they shouldn’t try.

        Are they not being candid? They are trying to solve the problem, which is pretty much an admission that they don’t know, now, what the best thing to do is. Why shouldn’t they try?

        I’ve been on both sides of the table — attended two and worked at five — and probably ought to write a book as I know how much doesn’t make it into the media

        Sure you have. No doubt you know all about it, like those UMAss expulsions. I don’t believe a word you say, Ed.

        1. Sure you have. No doubt you know all about it, like those UMAss expulsions. I don’t believe a word you say, Ed.

          I am sure that, if “Dr. Ed” had worked at five institutions of “higher education” in the capacity of professor, he would have so stated. Absent this, it’s entirely possible he just mopped the floors in dorms.

          1. Two faculty, three admin — although I have no doubt if I saw a wet floor that someone could have gotten hurt on, I probably mopped it if I could have found a mop bucket somewhere. I got union grievances for far less….

          2. “it’s entirely possible he just mopped the floors in dorms.”

            It’s possible, the last dorm I lived in had ugly near-fluorescent green indoor/outdoor carpeting in the halls and lounges, and “Dr. Ed” strikes me as the type of person who’d try to mop them.

    2. “Predictably, it produces a lot of ill-informed, ignorant, university bashing.”

      This is a popular exercise among people who are jealous of the people who got into better schools than they did.

  12. Let the kids go back to college.

    In-person learning (as a comprehensive experience) is better than online learning, for multiple reasons. Drop essential protections in place for vunerable populations, but as for the college kids…let them be college kids. Learn in groups. Make connections. Live life.

    The curve will have been flattened. We’re past the point of trying to quarantine away any the new cases.

    1. We’re past the point of trying to quarantine away any the new cases.

      The schools seem to disagree with you, despite the noted financial and pedagogical incentives to do go along with your analysis. Why do you think that is?

      1. Ask Notre Dame, who appears to agree with me.

        1. Unlike you, I think reasonable minds can differ on the issue.

    2. “Drop essential protections in place for vunerable populations, but as for the college kids…let them be college kids.”

      Keep in mind that a substantial number of the college kids aren’t in any way “kids”? Especially considering how many people are newly unemployed by the pandemic and therefore seeking new skills to pursue new opportunities.

  13. Lots of natural experiments going on with various approaches to higher ed on-campus plans.
    That Harvard medical students will spend their first semester in correspondence education is of no surprise; because with the Harvard name, it is widely known that knowledge acquisition is no required to get one onto a fine career later. That future physicians cannot be trusted to wash their hands and wear a mask in pursuit of a medical education is damning indeed.

    1. What percentage of the class are Americans?

      I’m wondering if the real issue is the ability to get Visas and the related paperwork to get into the country. As best I can tell, the State Department is no longer issuing Visas. See:

      On-line can go overseas….

    2. Gasman, for decades, I have had my medical care from Harvard Medical School faculty. Many faculty—apparently most of them—divide time between clinical attendance, teaching, and either medical research, research on healthcare provision, or programs bringing medical service to the poor, worldwide.

      The faculty I have met are a breed apart. They are the most conscientious, accomplished, knowledgeable class of people I have ever met. And by far the hardest working. As far as I can tell, 80-hour weeks must be the norm.

      Also, these physicians typically add at least one other specialty advanced degree to the MD. MD/PhDs are commonplace. MD/MBAs are on the increase. When I go for appointments, I may be getting care from a national leader in healthcare policy, who is also a brilliant diagnostician and clinician. But to discover that, I have to Google them.

      Except among the surgeons, I have never felt rushed during an appointment. Surgeons are always rushed. My clinical outcomes, and those of family members, have seemed, at times, nothing short of miraculous—maybe the surgical outcomes most of all.

      How do I get access to such accomplished physicians? By being an ordinary Medicare patient in the Boston area, and choosing to use hospitals which have Harvard Medical School affiliations. Anyone can do it.

      I typically share waiting room space with other patients who seem indistinguishable demographically from the crowd you see at the Vince Lombardi rest stop, on the New Jersey Turnpike. Rich and poor alike get the same standard of care.

      During the pandemic, all my physicians have been risking their lives, working in hospitals which feature some of the heaviest loads of virus-afflicted patients in the nation. At MGH, especially, many deaths per day have become the grinding daily norm, but not for want of heroic efforts to save everyone.

      More than 150 medical staff in the Harvard system have become infected. All the medical staff are exhausted now. The nurses are openly frightened, but apparently resolute. The physicians, like officers on a battlefield, mostly keep their emotions out of sight. The day-to-day chances my doctors take scare me.

      This nation is beyond fortunate to have such a cadre of medical excellence at its service. These are leaders who prize substance, suppress vanity, cherish patients, and always march toward the demands of responsibility and service.

      To sneer at that, you have to be stupid indeed.

  14. Maybe let’s stop treating universities as anything other than state actors and recognize that students actually have rights.

    Once a few universities are forced to pay out a few million to settle 1983 suits the rest will fall in line.

    1. Yes, yes, yes…… PLAEASE!!!!

    2. “Maybe let’s stop treating universities as anything other than state actors”

      Private organizations are state actors. Got it. Odd that this oh-so obvious conclusion wasn’t taught in my law school. Instead, they suggested that “state actors” had to be operated by the state. Hint: The fact that some universities have the word “state” in their names doesn’t imply that all universities are operated by states.

      1. 1: The majority of *students* attend public institutions.

        2: Private prisons have 1983 liability. See:

        3: The overwhelming majority of private IHE’s funding is public money.

        While I read jubulent’s comment as applying to public universities, I’m not so sure your beliefs will continue to be true.

  15. This conjures up images of egghead administrators, completely divorced from reality, pretending because of their lofty position they will be able to dictate “administrator knows best” to students and those students will be enthralled by the charisma of knobby kneed admin.

    1. This conjures up images of egghead administrators

      Yes it does.

      The question is whether those images are remotely correct. Here’s a hint: they are not.

    2. “This conjures up images of egghead administrators…”

      And people wonder why I think of Caligula……

      1. I think the idea that everybody MUST go to college, especially a 4 year residential college is one of the biggest scams ever and I have made clear to my 10 year old son that he does not have to go to college if he would rather do something else or doesn’t feel ready. Hopefully the silver lining of COVID-19 will be that we realize we don’t need college as it existed before, and kids can take classes online to learn new skills, or Shakespeare if they like, while they work, without being crushed under a mountain of debt.

        1. And then there is this:

          Bowdoin has a $1.74 Billion endowment so it can survive a $20M hit but I was surprised to see this. They do have 10% International students, that would be 45 International freshmen and there is no way they are charging $444K per semester — so it’s more than that and I can’t quite figure out what.

          But if they have a $20M deficit, other less endowed places likely do as well and will be going under. Pine Manor College just merged with Boston College.

    3. “This conjures up images of egghead administrators, completely divorced from reality”

      I’m sure it conjures up all sorts of images, among the people who have no idea of how things actually work. Fortunately, the people who do have an understanding of how thing work are not obligated to take the fanciful imaginings of the uninformed into account.

  16. “Administrations should be candid: they really have no idea how to safely bring students back to campus, and they shouldn’t try.”

    Businesses should be candid: they really have no idea how to safely bring shoppers back to stores, and they shouldn’t try.

    What’s the difference?

    1. “What’s the difference?”

      Stores don’t operate in loco parentis.

      1. And IHEs shouldn’t!

        While fascist administrators brought back in loco parentis as a grant of authority, I have always held that it actually is the assumption of a duty, that of a parent, and that raises two interesting questions.

        First, is it even legal to assume parental authority over an emancipated adult? Remember that it existed when the age of majority was 21 and hence the institution was supervising unemancipated minors. (The same situation arises today with 17-year-old freshmen and it can cause some real problems.)

        With all the rights that SCOTUS has found and/or created, how can a state entity (i.e. public university) de-emancipate otherwise legal adults as a condition of receipt of a public benefit? (And if they can, can they do likewise to those receiving public assistance?)

        Above and beyond that, if you assume a duty, do you not become liable for misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance? If you assume the authority of the parent, do you not become liable to the parent if you do so negligently?

        In other words, instead of giving you authority to kick Joe Sixpack out for hosting a “raging kegger”, why wouldn’t in loco parentis make you liable for having failed to protect him from that harm?

        And the larger question here is what happens at UK if any student contracts the Wuhan Virus? If they have assumed the responsibility of protecting students from it (i.e. the Kabuki Theater exercises), then why aren’t they negligent if any do catch it?

  17. “I am very, very skeptical this sort of central planning can work. Will students actually spend all their time with people selected by the University?”

    I went to a law school that grouped 1Ls into “pods” based on where in the city they lived. All the 1L classes were combinations of pods except for the legal research and writing classes which had individual pods in them. The working theory was that people were most likely to form workgroups within the classes they were in, and those workgroups were more likely to be productive if the students in them lived in proximity. Seemed to work out OK.

  18. You also weren’t 18 years old and looking to “hook up” with assorted members of the opposite sex.

    College has changed — the norm today is to have sex with a random stranger and then try to build a dating relationship out of that encounter. And the girls are doing this every bit as much as the boys…

    Every parent ought to read this book:

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