by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Megan Zogby writes for the Martin Center about the University of North Carolina’s missteps during the reopening of campuses for the fall semester.
Though college leaders had the summer to plan for students to return to campus, the fall 2020 semester has arrived as a bust. After just two weeks, four University of North Carolina schools have sent students home.
UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, East Carolina University, and UNC-Charlotte have all gone online.
The incompetence of decisionmakers and their inability to create constructive return plans has hurt the reputation of colleges. Many students wonder if reopening was a ploy to boost enrollment and tuition revenues.
The major flaw in campus reopening plans was that leaders focused on socially distanced classrooms without considering campus social life. Universities failed to consider that students who were separated for six months would ignore social distancing in favor of parties and socializing.
And the only way students could do that was by returning to campus in the first place. At NC State, leaders simply did not prepare for how students and professors behave on campus and hoped COVID-19 clusters would not break out. Even after COVID-19 clusters appeared among students, university leaders preferred to act as if they wouldn’t grow out of control.
The lack of preparation wasn’t only at UNC schools, either. The abortive campus reopenings were predictable nationwide. …
… Yet, at least one state university has prepared for how students behave on campus beyond the classroom.
The University of Illinois recognized that bringing students back would cause an initial rise in cases. Martin Burke, a chemistry professor spearheading the testing program, told the Chicago Sun-Times that “There is going to be a bump, we are going to get an increased number of cases if people move back into our Champaign-Urbana community, but we are ready for it.” …
… Comparing the University of Illinois with NC State, it is disappointing to see the lack of effort in North Carolina.