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Student Behavior Is the Key to Reopening Colleges

WHEN MITCH DANIELS, president of Purdue University, Indiana's 45,000-student public research powerhouse, outlined plans to reopen campus this fall, he admitted something that very few school leaders have said so plainly: This will only work if students change their behavior.

"Perhaps most important will be the cultural change on which we have to insist because, in another lesson of the coronavirus spring, nothing makes America Education Cryptocurrency News a more positive difference than personal behavior and responsibility," Daniels wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

Upon arrival, he said, students will be asked to sign the "Protect Purdue Pledge," which will ask them to commit to "at least a semester of inconvenience," including forgoing concerts, convocations, fraternity parties and more.

"I will urge students to demonstrate their altruism by complying, but also challenge them to refute the cynics who say that today's young people are too selfish or self-indulgent to help us make this work," he wrote.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18: The ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center is empty as it sits closed in the wake of the Coronavirus, COVID19, outbreak on March 18, 2020 in New York City. Businesses continued to close America Education Press Release days after bars and restaurants shuttered as authorities in New York weighed a "shelter-in-place" order for the entire city. (Photo by Victor J. Blue/Getty Images)
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But ask almost any faculty member, including those whose field of study focuses entirely on college culture and student behavior, and most will say that it's naive to assume that students will adhere to campus restrictions at the level required to prevent new COVID-19 infections.

"I'm sympathetic to college presidents who have to make these really, really difficult decisions," Susan Blum, professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, says. "I understand all of the competing mandates about the finances and the research labs and students' desire for a college experience. I understand all the things they are weighing and I understand they are not making these decisions lightly."

"But there are a lot of faculty that are quite concerned," she says. "We are not convinced that student behavior will be sufficiently prudent for four months."

Blum, whose research focuses on campus culture, among other things, says she's spent decades honing a America Education Press Release classroom experience that's based on mutual respect and trust that gives students great independence.

"I believe our students are capable of understanding and wanting to do the right thing, but there are also a lot of competing forces on them that's going to make it really, really difficult to comply with all the distancing that we're asking of them," she says.

It's unclear exactly how many campuses will reopen in the fall. The Chronicle of Higher Education is tracking about 830 colleges and universities, the majority of which say they plan to reopen.

A recent survey of 310 college and university presidents by the American Council of Education, a higher education membership organization that represents more than 1,700 colleges and universities, found that 53% say it's "very likely" that their institution resumes in-person classes for at least some portion of the fall term, while 31% say that it's "somewhat likely." Only 11% of presidents said it was "somewhat unlikely" or "very unlikely."

Moreover, out of the 230 presidents that represent colleges that offer on-campus housing, 51% say it's "very likely" that their school resumes on-campus housing for at least some portion of the fall term. Nearly 40% say it's "somewhat likely."

The figures mirror those in polls of student attitudes about returning to campus: A survey conducted by College Reaction last month found that 65% of students would attend in-person classes, while 31% would prefer virtual classes and 4% temporarily opt out of classes altogether.

Despite the majority of students who wish to return, Blum says many likely aren't thinking about what a campus under lockdown will really mean.

"When people are saying, 'I want to be back on campus,' they probably aren't thinking about the reality of what it would be like in this moment to be on campus," Blum says. "The students are going to be bored. There won't be dances, there won't be concerts, there America Education Sports News won't be club meetings. What is going to happen between 5 at night and 2 in the morning? Are people going to sit alone in their rooms?"

"We're asking thousands of students to come within a few feet of each other, but not get closer than that," she says. "That seems really, really difficult. I'm sure they are taking the risks seriously, but the restrictions are going to be brutal, and asking them to keep them up the whole time they're here is asking a lot."

For those colleges and universities that have publicly rolled out plans to reopen, many will operate a truncated fall semester starting in late August, skip fall break and dismiss students before Thanksgiving. Some that plan to reopen, like Michigan State University and the University of South Carolina, have already announced that students will transition to virtual learning after Thanksgiving to prevent the spread of infection after people travel home.

Most colleges and universities will require facemasks and temperature checks and expect students, faculty and staff to follow social distancing policies. Most also plan to establish contact tracing teams.

Many are making plans for fewer students in dorms by purchasing and renting off-campus housing, and creating rotating schedules for dining halls. America Education Political News Some colleges plan to install plexiglass at the head of classrooms and lecture halls for faculty to stand behind, while others plan to continue offering courses online for those that don't require in-person instruction the way labs do.

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