Today, our campus begins to welcome students back for the Fall semester. One week from today, classes begin, for the most part, with face-to-face instruction for the first time since mid-March. A lot of time, energy, and resources were spent over the last several months by many well-intentioned people to get to this point. Classrooms were redesigned to maximize social distancing. Policies were put in place to try to minimize the likelihood of getting sick. Even dining was reconfigured to accommodate students (Hi, CNN).
If people wash their hands, wear masks, and socially distance this may very well work. So, what is the issue?
This spring, Netflix had the “reality” show, “Too Hot to Handle.” In the vein of such dating shows as Love Island and Temptation Island (sadly, I know all these shows exist), several twenty-something, attractive single men and women were brought together in a tropical setting for the chance to find true love. They gather and mingle and sparks begin to fly. However, a virtual assistant named “Lana,” the inexplicable “host” of the show, suddenly informs them they can split a $100,000 prize (though it was unclear how it was to be split) if they make it four weeks. The catch – NO PHYSICAL CONTACT. Every intimate act that occurs reduces the overall prize pool (and they don’t know what each act “costs.)” A kiss? $3,000 deducted from the overall pot. Something more….?
With $100K on the line, how long do you think you could last? How long do you think those contestants lasted before penalties were incurred? For two of the cast members, they didn’t make it through the night before violating the rules.
For our small, liberal arts college of 2,000 or so students (though we are expecting smaller numbers given the environment), we are suddenly expecting 18-22-year-olds, many of whom who have been quarantined for 5+ months to continue to take appropriate measures to ensure that face-to-face instruction continues.
In the last week alone, there have been 28 cases of COVID-19 at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. A Oklahoma State University sorority house is now under quarantine after 23 members test positive for the coronavirus. The University of Alabama AD tweets a photo of locals gathering at bars without distancing and patrons not wearing masks. The University of North Carolina had their fourth(!) cluster of cases; the student newspaper is none too pleased. The list goes on.
So, count me as a little bit leery we make it through the fall semester without seeing a repeat of spring.