College and Covid

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62 Responses

  1. You may wish to revise this OP, because it’s very unclear what you’re arguing.Report

  2. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    The tag used for bolding text is <strong>, not <bold>. <b> is an older version still supported in most browsers, but IIRC the commenting system here filters out <b> tags here.

    Test: <b> vs. <strong>

    Technically, <strong> directs the browser to display text with the logical “strong” style, which is bold by convention but need not be, while <b> directs the browser to display bold text. Though with modern HTML and CSS, pretty much any tag can be redefined to mean anything else. If you want the browser to display <b>-tagged text as red and upside-down, you can do that.Report

  3. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    The bad news is colleges, being places for the young foolish and immortal, will likely become vectors of covid.

    The good news mostly they’ll be fine, although I expect we’ll see the occasional young and healthy student die from covid and end up in the news.

    …when I think about it, some/all of their teachers are more vulnerable so that will also end up in the news.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Dark Matter says:

      I don’t want to live in a world where college students die of acute respiratory infections instead of acute alcohol toxicity the way God intended.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I don’t want to live in a world where college students die of acute respiratory infections…

        “Want” isn’t the word. Our actual choices are… what?

        My wife teaches college, her problem with this whole “teach on line” thing was she couldn’t detect or deal with cheating, and the test scores were higher than they should have been.

        My general impression is the whole situation is sub-standard by the old standards.

        Give everyone a mask, tell everyone to social distance as much as they can and hide out when they’re sick.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    What they’ll do: Take away half of the chairs in the cafeteria

    What they imagine: Students leaving the spaces between the chairs and that’s how they get Social Distancing

    What’ll probably happen: Students will push all the chairs togetherReport

  5. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    Chronicles of Higher Education is tracking college plans, as of right now 67% of colleges are planning for in person instruction in the fall and 6% planning for online. The rest are going with a hybrid model (6%); considering a range of scenarios (11%); or waiting to decide (10%). By far the most online schools are in California.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to PD Shaw says:

      This almost certainly reflects the schools’ (likely correct) perception of what students think the “college experience” they are paying for includes. I’m on the students’ side of that debate.

      Granted, most of my memories of college are from upper-class undergraduate and two graduate degrees, but one of the things I thought I was buying was five minutes of the prof’s time at the end of class if necessary with a real whiteboard/blackboard to question some part of the math. I haven’t had a chance to try any of the newer combination graphics tablets and displays (priced at $300 and up) with appropriate software to see if the experience might be reproducible, but my initial guess is that it’s not.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Even ignoring the end of the social aspects of college due to online learning, online learning can’t replicate the entirety of the academic experience either. You don’t have access to the entirety of the university library for research if you are taking a hard course, there can be no lab experience or art studio experience for the science and the fine/performing arts, and even asking a professor a question in person after class or in their office would be hard. Email isn’t an exact replica.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq says:

          The university where I got my most recent graduate degree already denied students access to the full-range of library services. The stacks were moved off-campus and only library staff have access. If you need something, you file an online request and you can pick it up at the front desk three working days later. The space formerly used for the stacks has been repurposed.

          I have taken to using Library Genesis for everything (ie, I steal copies). I justify it in my head as “I’m a poor retiree and the household research budget is minuscule; exactly the sort of person Library Genesis was set up to help.”Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I don’t think colleges can get away with charging 30-60K in tuition without dorm rooms what my alma mater seems to be doing though is turning the residency aspect into a bummer. Are they going to ground the students to keep socializing at a minimum?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to PD Shaw says:

      The California State University System announced it was going to be largely online except for things that absolutely needed to be done in person. The interesting thing about Cal State is that a lot of campuses are commuter schools already and others are more known for being party schools like Chico State.Report

    • Avatar bevedog in reply to PD Shaw says:

      Take that with a grain of salt. Most colleges want to sound very optimistic about in-person classes in the fall for fear of students withdrawing.

      The college where I work is listed as “planning for in person” in that Chron survey, but it’s very much up in the air.Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to bevedog says:

        Yeah, and there are links to the source. My daughter’s college was marked as “planning in person” and the link was to a news article that was far from definite. After comparing links to some of her friends’ colleges, which were much more boosterish, I thought her college was misclassified and at some point it was reclassified to “considering a range of options.”Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What is the point of college?

    I imagine we could make a game out of this.

    Pick one from each category:

    Category A:
    Student
    Professor
    Administrator

    Category B:
    Community College
    State School without a big sports program
    State School with a big sports program
    Small Liberal Arts College/Ivy League

    And then answer the question:
    What is the point of college for (Category A) who goes to/works at (Category B)?

    If you swap around the answers for Category A and keep the answers for Category B, are there patterns that emerge?
    How’s about if you swap around the answers for Category B and keep the answers for Category A? Any patterns there?Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

      RE: Student

      Grow up.
      Get laid.
      Virtue signal by getting your degree.
      Create social networks.
      Learn.

      The 3rd and 5th of those can work well with learn-from-home, the others not so much.Report

      • Avatar J_A in reply to Dark Matter says:

        As someone who didn’t go to college in the USA, or the Anglosphere, can I say that there’s nothing that requires you to go out of town to go to college, and even. to meet @Dark Matter’s five point list.

        I made invaluable friendships in college, several of which continue after 40 years (I spent Christmas with my college’s best friend and his family, for instance). Friendships that also helped me professionally as my career was taking off. And yes, there was sex going on, we were adults.

        And I lived 15 miles away from home. I went back to my parents every evening. We all did.

        The concept of going away for college at the other end of the country is very weird for me, for Southern Europeans and Latin Americans generally. The few people at my university that came from out of town had a very miserable existence away from their families. Several gave up and transferred out to a less elite institution, but located in their town.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to J_A says:

          I lived 15 miles away from home. I went back to my parents every evening. We all did.

          If my kids are at home then my wife sees that “they’re not doing anything” and tries to involve them in non-stop family work/activities.

          She knows they both have scary course loads but intuitively feels otherwise.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to J_A says:

          I don’t think what you’re describing is unusual in the US either. It’s just that the popular portrayal of college tends to focus on the most elite experience. The vast majority of students are in a public program of some kind in their home state.Report

  7. Avatar superdestroyer says:

    The real question for the universities is what happens is the campus becomes a Covi19 hot spot. Will the university be willing to send the students home if the campus or the surrounding community becomes a hot spot? Will the university try to isolate infected students even if they live off campus? What happens at all of the commuter universities where most students do not live on campus and a hot spot could be off campus but has students bring the disease unto campus. The university has little control over nontraditional commuter students.

    Also, what happens is a hot spot breaks out among the housekeeping/facility/security/support staff. Will a university go two weeks without janitorial services or maintenance activities or will the university be willing to close down.

    And last, for those sports mad universities, how are going to work athletics into the situation where coaches have talked about playing no matter what?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to superdestroyer says:

      I think Notre Dame’s plan is to get everyone back early and then home by Thanksgiving to avoid the second wave. I don’t know about my alma mater.

      Sports are interesting. I went to a DIII school but football and basketball are big revenue makers for D1.Report

  8. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    I teach at a smallish regional public school. It has a sports program, perhaps disproportionate to its size, but generally not a “famous” one.

    We are, at this point, planning on opening in-person in the fall. I am apprehensive. I am a 50-ish professor, and while I am a woman and in generally good cardiovascular shape (I work out regularly and have decent lung strength and capacity despite low level asthma), I also have lowgrade hypertension and fall in the “just above ideal” range of BMI.

    There are some things that concern me, some general ones, some specific to my campus, for the safety of professors and staff:

    – Labs, tutorials, things like individual music lessons: you cannot do a 6′ distance at all times. I have to point things out in lab to people – lots of my students who’ve never used a microscope struggle with focusing it at first, or need more guidance. And for that matter, groupwork in the labs, people have to bunch up to collect data. If we can’t do it that way we might as well be online*

    – Many, many of our students are commuters, some from areas with higher rates of infection than here. We cannot require those students to live on campus; many have work or family obligations and that’s why they commute. Also some of our students are caretakers for older or unwell relatives when they are not in class. A lot of our students work at the local casino – which is reopening in about 10 days and I worry will become a hotspot.

    – The ventilation in my building is pure crap and most of the classrooms don’t have windows you can open to get a cross-current. So we’ll be in stagnant air in many rooms, or have weird airflow patterns like that Hong Kong restaurant. Also the HVAC just regularly fails – will I be permitted to nope out of a class (cancelling it) if I walk into a classroom and find it full of stagnant chilly air (it’s thought one reason for the spread in meat-packing plants is the cooler temperatures). The recommendation of closing toilet lids when you flush (because it can be carried in stool) is impossible in our restrooms – there ARE no lids, just seats.

    – I sure hope the “attendance reporting requirement” is loosened; in the past I had students so worried about the “attendance points” in gen-ed classes they would show up with stomach bugs and bad colds. Earlier this semester I just went rogue and told my students I wasn’t going to count missed classes against them if they e-mailed me they were sick. Maybe someone played me with that, maybe not, whatever. If there were early cases here I didn’t want them coming to school.

    – What is the legal obligation we have? I joked about “just wait, the ‘did you or someone you love die of COVID-19 after returning to a college campus?’ class-action suit lawyer ads,” but I could see that being a thing.

    I honestly thing starting back up online and THEN moving to face-to-face if things seem to cool down is smarter than starting out face-to-face and having to pull and “OH SH*T ABANDON CAMPUS” if there’s an outbreak in the region. We did half a semester online and while it was less than ideal – we did it. (My campus was even “recognized” by some official body for how well we did it).

    I don’t LIKE teaching online, it is lots less reward for equal or more work (reward in the sense of the pleasant small interactions with students and the fun of doing things like field labs), but I would rather teach online than see students or colleagues get sick, or God forbid, I get sick.

    I had a student with an autoimmune disorder (she just disclosed she had one, not which one) last spring who came and asked me some really worried questions about how much risk she was at. I had to tell her I didn’t know, I wasn’t that kind of biologist, and she needed to take it up with whatever doctor she was seeing for the disorder. I feel bad to think maybe that student (or others) are going to go “Gee, maybe I better withdraw/sit out for a semester or two” because they’re afraid in-person might be risky.

    I could be being very much a pessimist here; hard for me to judge.. But this is one of those things where we could wind up being absolutely fine…..or it could be very, very bad. Apparently some university somewhere sent around an e-mail telling faculty to appoint an “understudy” in the case that they sicken and/or die, so there’s an instructor of record for the class, and I admit, that would…..be quite a thing to have to contemplate. Either BEING an understudy and maybe learning “surprise, you now have twice the workload” while also mourning a colleague (many of my colleagues are friends) or trying to figure out someone less likely to have a bad COVID outcome than you and approaching them with the request….

    (*we have had some subtle hints from CIDT – our instructional tech group – that contra what the admins are saying, we should have a plan in place for teaching online in the fall. Yes, that would kind of suck, but it would suck less than having a big outbreak among students, faculty, and staff. I am one of the younger/healthier ones in my department and if COVID spread we’d probably lose at least one person. I am in the process of developing a series of “virtual” labs I could do in my lab class this fall. If nothing else, they could be used when the weather’s too bad for field labs….)Report

  9. Another necessary step: lecturers have be tested and maybe have plastic screens set up in front of them. What we know about COVID is that prolonged exposure and talking loudly spread it. One prof lecturing could infect a hundred students.Report

    • Or have a “first five rows of the lecture hall is the splash zone” like they used to warn at Sea World and just not let people sit there.

      If I have to teach behind a plexiglas I am teaching myself to write backwards and use it as a sort of chalkboard. Dry erase pens work on plexiglas, right?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      Do we *know *that*?Report

      • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Speaking as someone who has no formal scientific training, who hasn’t read any of the medical journals, and who has read only a smattering of items on Covid19 written for public consumption–I’ll say yes.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to gabriel conroy says:

          I should clarify what I was referring to: Do we know that 1 professor could infect 100 students? Or, more specifically, is the risk of 1 professor infecting 100 students such a real possibility that we need to take large steps to avoid it? Do we have any documented cases of 1 professor infecting 100 students? 50? 10?Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

            Not professors specifically, that I know of, but there was a case of one patient infecting 53 others at a choir rehearsal (87% of those in attendance).

            This is somewhat different, because a) the choir members were presumably standing fairly close together, and b) singing probably pumps out a bigger dose of the virus than lecturing, especially if the lecturer is using a microphone. But it has been established that one person can spread it to dozens of other people, and in this case spreading seems to have been limited primarily by the number of people in attendance; if there had been 150 people in the choir, it’s likely that more than 100 would have been infected.Report

          • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

            I actually realized what you were saying. My comment was just a (very poor) attempt at humor.

            I am familiar with an argument about the way that covid-19 transmission happens. And as I read it, that argument is consistent with the “one professor infects 100 students” scenario. Whether and how much that argument is correct–and whether it correctly does apply to the one-professor-infects-100 people hypothtical–I don’t really know.

            ETA: fixed a tag.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to gabriel conroy says:

              I’m not criticizing you for offering it, but that link is maddening.
              The article: “We know that at least 44% of all infections–and the majority of community-acquired transmissions–occur from people without any symptoms (asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people).”
              From the link the article provides to back that up: “We estimated that 44% (95% confidence interval, 25–69%) of secondary cases were infected during the index cases’ presymptomatic stage, in settings with substantial household clustering, active case finding and quarantine outside the home.”

              A 44% estimate with a 95% confidence interval regarding presymptomatic transmission became at least 44% asymptomatic transmission.

              That’s just wrong. Plain and simple.

              There is more that we don’t know than that we do know. I am increasingly suspect of people asserting what we know, what we are certain of, what is obvious.

              Again, is it possible that 1 professor could infect 100 students in a lecture hall? Yea… I guess… maybe? But should we treat this as what we know will happen if we return to in-person instruction? No. Because there is no data that suggests it to be a realistic possibility. And if anyone has that data, I’m all up to look at it. But I’d bet dollars to donuts it doesn’t exist.Report

              • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

                You may very well be right. You certainly interrogated the piece more closely than I did.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                I have no idea if I’m right. And I know you well enough to know you weren’t trying to pull a fast one or anything. I dunno, maybe I’m just grumpy with all this but I’ve really reached my limit for people (not you, the author of that piece) passing off BS and speaking with a level of authority that combined is downright dangerous.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      I went to an SLAC where there were some lecture classes for intro/really popular classes but most classes were 20-35 students in a class room with the proof. Seminars were smaller numbers of people of course around a table.Report

  10. Better to miss a day of classes because you drank too much than to miss a day of an apprenticeship or job and get fired.

    Another way to state this is that affluent people have more chances to make mistakes than less affluent people. (I’d also add that it’s better to get fired at the age of 18 than at the age of 22 (or 30, if you’re on the MFA/JD plan) . Remember: some people who go to college, and even some that live in dorms, have jobs they depend on.)

    The dorms are big money makers and it is hard to justify huge tuition bucks for zoom lectures even for elite universities.

    I’m not so sure they are big money makers. I mean, if we assume the dorms are there, then they need to be paid for (a lot of costs go into maintaining the buildings if they are empty). I suspect the dorms are kind of a loss leader. People pay (with loans, or trust funds, or the “half-tuition scholarships” that still mean a lot of debt for students of modest means).

    I benefited (in a way) from being able to live in the dorms. It wasn’t a great experience, but I guess I’m glad I had it, and I was able to be self-sufficient in a way I had never been before. Such would have been very hard if covid19 had happened when I was an undergrad. Even so, I have a hard time escaping the sense that we’re dealing with people with whom it’s very hard for most to identify with.

    Again (per my comment above), I don’t even know what the argument is in this OP, other than, perhaps, that things are bad for small liberal arts colleges. But then, I suspect that most/many/some of them actually can eat an pay rent.Report

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