********************  POSTING RULES & NOTES  ********************
#1 YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
#2 This mail-list, like most, is publicly & permanently archived.
#3 Subscribe and post under an alias if #2 is a concern.

Chronicle of Higher Ed
‘Way Too Fast’: As Purdue Pushed to Reopen, Parents and Alumni Urged Caution
By Lindsay Ellis JUNE 19, 2020  PREMIUM

Mitch Daniels, Purdue’s president and a former governor of Indiana, has been one of the loudest and earliest voices in favor of reopening campuses in the fall. He wrote in April that the university was “determined not to surrender helplessly” to the virus. Such a stance has received a big megaphone. Daniels was invited to the White House with roughly a dozen other presidents to talk about reopening, and he spoke at a Senate committee hearing about Purdue’s plans.

“All of our students have attended class or exams sick with a fever or other symptoms because they can't afford to miss. This mentality just spreads the virus.” But as Purdue publicized its ambitious plans, the administration was receiving skeptical feedback from parents and alumni — much of it mirroring the anxiety that the faculty and others nationwide feel about returning to their campuses. Purdue opened an online portal to share suggestions, and The Chronicle obtained submitted comments through an Indiana Access to Public Records Act request. Here are three takeaways from the responses:

1. Some viewed the university’s commitment to reopening as morally wrong — and reminded Purdue that lives are on the line.

Parents wondered why the university didn’t spend more time making a decision. With time, they wrote, Covid-19 would be better understood and under control.

“This is moving way too fast to ensure the safety of the students and staff,” one wrote. “It can’t always be about the money … it’s not worth the life of someone they love.” That parent said they might pull their son out of Purdue.

Another parent said remaining virtual is an “obvious solution” that the university ignores at its “peril.” “Imagine trying to convince juries hearing the cases of grief-stricken families that the university had no other options,” that person wrote. “The facts overwhelmingly establish that the university was able to, and did, use technology to keep students, faculty, and staff safe during the spring and summer semesters.”

Daniels has stressed that young people’s risks to Covid-19 are lower than older populations, and the university said it will offer accommodations, possibly including remote work, to employees. But one parent of a student with an underlying health condition urged the university to be safe rather than sorry. An alumna also expressed concern.

“This is a frankly incendiary, irresponsible, and irrelevant statement from Daniels that makes me ashamed to be associated with the school,” the graduate wrote.

A spokesman for the university, Tim Doty, previously told The Chronicle that Purdue issued its plans in April because people were asking. The campus, he had said, wanted to “provide clarity” and begin planning.

Daniels wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that students “overwhelmingly” want to resume classes in person and on campus. The university has said it will offer some online classes for students who can’t come back in the fall, or choose not to. A “subset” of courses chosen based on past enrollment will be offered virtually, and most will be hybrid in case an instructor needs to quarantine, Purdue has said.

2. Parents want answers to logistical questions.

Can lectures be held remotely, with recitations in person? How are you changing dining-hall operations? Where will sick students quarantine? Will dorms be cleaned professionally?

“DON'T rely on the students to clean the rooms — they don't have the time or interest,” one parent wrote.

The university has since outlined responses to some of these questions. Most classrooms will have 50-percent capacity, with a maximum occupancy of 150 people, and courses are anticipating some hybrid instruction. Dining will offer carry-out food only, with one-way traffic. The university designated 400 beds for isolation. And a universal pledge stressing personal responsibility will require everyone to keep living, studying, and working spaces clean.

In the portal, some people wondered how out-of-state and international students could safely return to campus, with the risks of flight travel and airport-shuttle rides. (Like many public research universities, a smaller percentage of Purdue’s students have come from the state since the 2008-9 recession.) The university has not issued guidance on this question, Doty said.

A major concern from parents was the reliability of the Purdue University Student Health center, known as PUSH. “It takes days to be seen if you can even get an appointment,” one parent wrote. The center needs to “step up” by expanding hours, another wrote. “Let’s face it, all of our students have attended class or exams sick with a fever or other symptoms because they can’t afford to miss. This mentality just spreads the virus.”

Before Covid-19, another wrote, “PUSH could not see my student for a week after she called in to see a doctor about her sickness. With a student who’s from out of state and has no transportation, I’m concerned about PUSH’s ability to handle Covid patients on campus.”

Purdue is creating a separate health center, the Protect Purdue Health Center, to provide case management, testing, contact tracing, and tele-health services in connection to the coronavirus. PUSH, Doty said, will offer clinical care, in addition to noncoronavirus-related services.

3. Many people want to make money off of an in-person fall semester.

Submissions to the portal included business pitches. One person, who works with medical devices offered information on viral and antibody testing. A representative for a company said masks, latex-free gloves, isolation gowns, and “protective face shields” could be ready to ship in just a few days. Someone pitched a risk-monitoring app and asked Daniels or a task-force member to take 30 minutes to review it. An employee of a chemical company manufacturing sanitizers and disinfectants wanted to “help provide solutions.”

Doty, the Purdue spokesman, did not respond to a question about whether any of these submissions resulted in a contract with the university.

Daniels has indicated that Purdue will need to spend a lot of money to prepare for fall semester. The university has already collected more than $130,000 for preparation. A fund-raising campaign advertises that $62.50 will pay for five students’ thermometers, face masks, and sanitizing supplies, and $135 will cover a “plexiglass shield” for the classroom or another campus space. Daniels told a Senate committee that Purdue has purchased more than one mile of plexiglass already.

Full posting guidelines at: http://www.marxmail.org/sub.htm
Set your options at: 

Reply via email to