Higher Ed: Enough AlreadyJune 26, 2020
US university presidents and chancellors, enough already.
It’s time to end the consensual hallucination between university leadership, parents, and students that in-person classes will resume in the fall. The bold statements from presidents and provosts are symptomatic of the viruses that also plague American leadership and business: exceptionalism that has morphed into arrogance and an idolatry of money that supplants regard for the commonwealth.
These statements strike a similar tone to a CEO in the midst of a disastrous earnings call who demonstrates near-delusional optimism so investors don’t sell shares. The declarations could be interpreted as: “Parents, please send in your deposits. Nothing wrong here, nope, all good!” A combination of self-aggrandizement and elitism has convinced American universities that our services are worth indebting generations of young people, and now risking becoming agents of spread.
The US Covid-19 narrative is: The virus abates in the summer, comes back in the fall (apex likely not as severe) as we begin administering a recently discovered vaccine, and we’re back to our lives before year end. However, it appears Covid-19 didn’t get the memo with our proposed timeline and is indifferent to our optimism.
While universities have a nobler mission than movie theaters, professional sports, restaurants, and choir practice, the virus thrives equally in a lecture on Aristotle as in a movie theater, bar, or basketball court. The leadership and administrations of universities are talented, creative, and empathetic. But their optimism here isn’t a superpower. It’s a liability.
The Highest Denominator
While the virus continues to rage, our classrooms are only as safe as our weakest links. Every university effectively falls to the highest common denominator of infection rates. Every university catalog brags that their student body represents all 50 states and 20/30/40+ countries. This means every large university will be welcoming thousands of people from regions that have some of the greatest infection rates globally. After 12 weeks together, those students will travel back to all 50 states, and international students to the 4 corners of the earth. What. Are. We. Thinking?
See below, my home home state of Florida:
“Distancing”… Have You Met Young People?
On-campus protocols proposed by universities include testing, distancing, class shifts, regular disinfection of classrooms, reconfiguration of campus housing, and even quaranteams. Except our on-campus guidelines are only as effective as those adhered to off campus.
My 4th year at UCLA I was Interfraternity Council President (not on my LinkedIn profile). As king of the jarheads, I was privy to the tragedy that unfurled each week from the collision of youth, alcohol, and newfound freedom. In the same year, a Lambda Chi passed out from drinking on the roof of his fraternity, rolled off into the driveway, and was found the next morning in a coma. Our IFC VP (a Phi Kap) got shi**y drunk at a party in Malibu, decided to take a jetski out at 2 am, and washed up 5 days later. Our treasurer (Sigma Chi) hanged himself after his girlfriend rejected his marriage proposal. Yep, but today’s youth will definitely wear masks and keep 6 feet from each other off campus.
Gen Z is by far the age group most likely to be asymptomatic. They are also most likely to feel immortal and defy healthcare guidance. So, both physically and psychologically, young people are most inclined to be superspreaders.
Letting students congregate in rooms permanently sealed for temperature control, regardless of masks and distancing protocols, plays like the opening scene of Contagion 2. We don’t have technology yet to sanitize sealed air, or air circulated through a building. Air purifiers aren’t up to the task.
I flew up from Florida to NYC on Wednesday. That day, Governor Cuomo ordered all travellers from Florida to self-isolate, and I’m complying. If this order had been issued just 8 weeks from now, I would have to miss the first class. Twenty-two million students enroll in college in the US annually. Hundreds of thousands of faculty and administrators would be interacting with them on campus. Do the math on the complexity and the risks: travel, exposure, sealed air, close proximity.
And what about the old people — faculty. The average age of a tenured professor is 55, meaning if you meet a 40-year-old tenured prof, there is someone at 70 teaching Ellingtonia, the Study of Duke Ellington (seriously, I took this class at UCLA). What happens when an iconic professor doesn’t show up week 4 and is dead by week 7? It’s likely, with any critical mass of in-person classes, that this would happen at several, if not dozens, of campuses. Stanford alone has 22 Nobel laureates, five Pulitzer Prize winners, and 27 MacArthur fellows. These are people we need to protect.
What I Believe Will Happen
In the next six weeks, after receiving deposits/tuition, more universities will begin announcing they are moving to all online courses for Fall. The scenario planning via Zoom among administrators rivals D-Day. But likely all scenarios will lead to one realization: the protocols mandated by the surge in US infections will diminish the in-class experience to the point where the delta between in-person and Zoom will be less than the delta between the risks of each approach.
Parents and students may still decide to send their kids back to campus, and make their own decisions concerning the risks they can tolerate with a hybrid experience — online learning while living on or near campus. They should/will enjoy the lawns at UVA and Royce Quad with friends — marked for distancing. But in-person classes should not take place.
Universities will face a financial crisis as parents and students recalibrate the value of the fall semester (spoiler alert: it’s a terrible deal). In addition, our cash cows (international students) may decide xenophobia, Covid-19, and H1-B visa limits aren’t worth $79,000 (estimated one-year cost of attending NYU). This has been a long time coming and, similar to many industries, we will be forced to make hard decisions. Most universities will survive, many will not. This reckoning is overdue and a reflection of how drunk universities have become on exclusivity and the Rolex-ification of campuses, forgetting we’re public servants not luxury brands.
Universities that, after siphoning $1.5 trillion in credit from young people, cannot endure a semester on reduced budgets do not deserve to survive.
A Terrible Thing to Waste
A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and there is a huge opportunity. Once university leadership has acknowledged the obvious, they can turn their formidable human and financial capital to reducing the delta between online and offline experiences. We have, in just the last several weeks, come a long way. Leaning in to the online experience will instill universities with a multichannel competence. Post Covid this competence could result in similar levels of student satisfaction and experience, and an effective doubling of campuses if 50% of classes, those best suited for remote learning, are held online. This also has the potential to break the wheel of the emerging caste system fueled by higher ed.
By leveraging technology, universities can unlock a massive increase in the ROI of public universities, which educate two-thirds of university students. The argument that additional seats erode the brand equity of the institutions is bullsh*t. A doubling of the freshman seats at UCLA would return admission rates to what they were in the nineties — still more difficult to be admitted than when I applied.
Foster Parents and Citizens
We’d like to think every fall we, faculty and administrators, become parents (ok, maybe foster parents) to the 22 million students who return to campus each September. What parent would let their kid go to a movie theater 15 times a week? That’s what some universities are proposing with in-person classes.
Yet it’s not our parental concern that should lead to greater transparency and leadership, but our citizenship. American universities are a place where promising youth can find their greatness, and great minds find truths that make the world a better place through research. When it comes to infection rates, universities are the enemy of R0, not its agent.
We are all exhausted from this crisis, and the need for a return to normal is powerful. But we need to check our optimism, and re-embrace our other superpower: empathy. We must ensure that healthy 19-year-olds don’t pass the virus to a more vulnerable population.
There isn’t a democracy, Central Bank, heart-lung transplant team, big-tech firm, or boy band that hasn’t been led by a US university alum. US universities have survived and prospered for centuries. We must play a key role, as we always have, in arresting, not enabling, the greatest health crisis of our era.
Life is so rich,
P.S. Our July Strategy Sprint kicks off July 14th — enrollment ends Sunday 11:59 pm ET. No Mercy/No Malice will be back July 10th. Enjoy the holiday.
The message is that, we are far away from the end of the world, yet so keen to see the catastrophe of humanity. Thank you to our collective illusion about our super ability without adequate capabilities to manage the Covid-19 Pandemic. We are okay Jack, only Covid-19 has got a thick skull. Wow, the palpable human thought illogical conceptualization of a human health catastrophe. Sure, Human Brain. We are okay Super Him Jack!
Scott’s work makes so much sense.
Annual tuition at the University of Wisconsin – a high quality public institution is $10,746 and has been frozen for nine years. University GPR from the state of Wisconsin has declined significantly over the last 25 years. A starting assistant professor in the sciences earns $55,000 with a PhD and six years of post doc experience. Would love to hear this side of higher ed discussed more as opposed to high ticket institutions.
This is the most brilliant assessment of the situation I have read yet!
I wonder if the UK’s first (and well respected) part time distance learning university, the Open University, is accepting applications from US based students or indeed is marketing there? Background: Open University was set up /chartered by UK govt in 1960’s to improve access to higher learning for those who could not access university earlier in life due to war, class/financial background and other reasons. Offers access courses, first degrees (which I think typically take around 7 years part time, compared to the usual 3 years in UK), and some masters programmes including MBA. Some face to face insyruction for practical courses using facilities rented from other universities in summer months for a few weeks.
Finally! An article written that I can pass around to everyone. I feel like I’ve been in one of those bad dreams where I’ve been screaming this message from the rooftops (albeit not nearly as well articulated) and no one can hear me. THANK YOU for writing such a stellar piece. And stating out loud what in my mind should be so obvious to everyone – but actually appears to be obvious to no one. Kudos!
I’m going to tattoo this on my back and chain myself to the door of the school where my husband teaches. EXCELLENT!!!!!
My daughter is given the following option for her university: Return to campus, study like a monk, visit no one, have no visitors, and promise to never leave the boundaries of the school. OR: take classes on line. Pay everything now while you decide. What do you think she chose? Why not be honest with the students! Preach it Scott!
Oh goody! Campuses opening just in time for the seasonal flu to meet Covid! Every year 50M-plus Americans come down with the flu and corona virus will just be delighted to mix it up with all those immune-challenged flu victims…of all ages. Even the invincible ones. Now, maybe not all those flu/corona virus victims will need two weeks on a ventilator but a lot of them, college students included, will suffer a range of neurological effects: loss of smell and taste, loss of hearing, maybe blindness, maybe impaired ability to walk and throw a frisbee on the quad. All’s I can say is that if there was a Darwin Award for institutions, higher ed would be the front runner.
Having been a student off- and on-line this year, I can see a big problem to opening colleges that is never mentioned – the support staff. Students can take their chances – if they wish, given what they know about infection outcomes. Faculty can be protected, with difficulty. Heck, you can build a popemobile style perspex box in every class room and lecture hall if you want. Administrators can stay in their offices and zoom. But the support staff? The caterers, the cleaners, the librarians, the maintenance crew, the campus security – all people who must interact with students? They aren’t ever mentioned in the discussion but would seem to need a plan. Not sure what it would look like.
A big disadvantage to online classes is that it’s too easy to cheat. Proctoring software can often be bypassed, and besides that it’s basically immoral spyware — God knows who proctoring companies share your data with. You could even hire a Pakistani to take a boring class for you; give him a VPN and the school won’t know the difference. This worsens the grade inflation problem. People aren’t going to college to learn so much as because it will improve their career prospects. Therefore cheating should be expected and offline testing should be mandatory. The de facto permissibility of cheating renders grades meaningless and defeats the purpose of college– differentiating people based on what they know or can achieve.
“… even hire a Pakistani to take a boring class for you…” I don’t understand this statement. Couldn’t I hire anyone to take a boring class for me? Or just suffer through it, like I originally had to? I don’t recall any of my Pakistani friends mentioning that they have an ability to fight boredom (and bad teachers) that is considered their super power; with my friends, it’s lame jokes and really great food that are their super powers (among many others). I guess I’m trying to understand why you’ve singled out this particular group of folks? Not trying to start an argument or get dog piled. Seriously. Maybe you’re Pakistani? Anyway, in my opinion, opening any educational institution will be the kiss of death for us and tip us over the edge into a very bad place. My high school senior will not be attending school physically, only virtually, and I alerted administration to this week’s ago. You see, I have stage IV Emphysema and COPD; back-to-school during a normal year is a horrible and scary time for me. Especially with elementary age kids. Those little monsters are just germ machines! Cold and flu season? Nope. Thanks. I’ll just stay in until the end of April, maybe even until the beginning of May. Your cold that you bring to me (or one of your sick, elementary school age kids brings to me because you only think of yourself and not what affect your actions have on others. Me.me.me. Is the new name of the game, I guess.) could turn into my Pneumonia, and that’s one gift that is not on my Christmas list! Wearing a mask? Honey, I’ve been wearing a mask for over two years now, long before it was cool and everyone was doing it. I’m in the worst, high risk category for Covid. The Lungers. I’m only 49, but my lungs are toast. Okay, back to your original argument regarding cheating and test taking; not everyone cheats. Most People don’t cheat. And if they do, in my experience, they usually get caught. In one way or another. It’s just like lying. Taking the final, or any test for that matter, in person, or “offline” totally defeats the purpose of not opening any schools and keeping us all away from each other. People are not taking this seriously enough! We are fighting a virus. A virus that could decimate large areas of population. World wide. I live in Alaska and we run short of stuff all the time. I grew up knowing that the trucks come on Tuesday, and stuff is on the shelves Wednesday. Well, that system is still in place, but we aren’t always able to keep up with demand. Especially now. But my little family has decided that if it can’t be delivered, shipped, or dropped off by friends or family, we don’t need it. Seriously. We aren’t going anywhere unless we have to, and even if we have to, in still trying to get out of it! Stay away from other people! And wear a mask, please! It’s for me, not you. My kid is going to be taking some tests via Proctoring, so I’m really curious about it being “immoral spyware” (sic) and would appreciate an explanation of this. I’m clueless. Totally. Any guidance is always welcome, especially with things I’m not familiar! Thanks!
Good one here Prof Galloway. Wondering when you said that universities are the enemy not agent of R0. Isn’t the R0 a measure of infectious spread, so universities would be an agent — no? Thanks.
I think what professor Galloway is saying is that, thru university research, we hope to diminish R(0). However, as you say, if we don’t check our enthusiasm, we may be installing 22 Million reasons to increase it !
You are spot on. I think universities that will bring freshman in to create a family unit with complete strangers, often using en suite bathrooms, is a recipe for disaster. The amount of students requesting changes to roommate assignments because of differing views on safety measures will be more than the administration can handle. Students will get sick, then parents will get sick. Somebody dies and the law suits fly. I would not be surprised if we see universities sending kids home after a month or so with a big mea culpa, meanwhile parents have spent a small fortune and bed bath beyond prepping them for dorm life, taken days off to move them in, and wasted plane tickets. Student morale will be even lower because of the changing landscape and the university’s inability to manage expectations.
My daughter was offered a plane on a phd in Cambridge UK but as the whole thing is being taught online now, she has turned it down. In terms of the total experience, online doesn’t cut it. But I note the fees weren’t reduced! I also highly doubt that a university that’s currently running face-to-face courses, can suddenly transition to good quality online working. It is a totally different mindset. I think she would be wise to wait a year or two until either things have returned to normal, or the online content has matured.
Brilliant. Hope is no strategy, yet I hope higher-ed leadership in this country has the courage to act our values much the same way we ask our students to do the same every day.
I’ve long advocated a mix of online learning and in person classes, and I agree that the pandemic should accelerate a movement to more screen time (with the best lecturers and, perhaps, one-on-one mentoring) and less time on campuses. But, although my first reaction to the pandemic was to think that the residential campus model would now become particularly problematic, I have come to think that the commuter college is even more so. When comparing the risks of a campus environment managed to minimize spread of infection, we need to take into account how students and other young people will live, work and interact with their elders otherwise. Some of the plans under development for Fall 2020, such as those at Purdue, may prove to be safer for students and those they interact with than other models, including urban commuter schools and community colleges.
We need to protect ALL faculty, not just those with Nobels, McCarthurs, etc. Please.
Scott – WOW – you’ve finally seen that reduced/free cost for college potentially ISN’T just a benefit for the rich, as you’ve brought up over and over again. Maybe, and I’m a little crazy, but maybe – Covid has shown us that nearly universal higher education can be done online, and will only continue to increase in efficacy as we learn more. Which means – Free college isn’t a pipe dream. As someone who hires folks – I’m not going to tell UC students that because 2020 was online, I don’t value the education they received. Just as in the future, I won’t tell someone who completed UC’s education requirements online that I don’t trust their degree. Interesting to see how COVID disrupts education (And access to healthcare as well – Hi Teledoc usage hockey stick spike!)
Hi Scott, our daughter is very interested in your work. She teaches at Strathclyde in Glasgow. Post this current CF, if you have any plans to visit the Auld Country please let us know. Regards Alistair, Stirling, Scotland
Love your writing style! Agree with some points The education system has to recreate itself Exciting times
This article really hits the nail on the head — soaring student loan debt, nonsensical tuition prices for online vs. in-person courses, an unpredictable environment for international students, and the all but certain spread of COVID-19 across campuses…these are all reasons why our university models and immigration systems seriously need some rethinking.
The institution I adjunct at just sent out their fall semester promo. The promo cost them $45000. They shoulda bought evyone masks. I already told them I will do no in classroom teaching till there is a vaccine. My data shows that remote learners in my field score better on standard tests.
I haven’t read all the comments so…it seems that the schools will need to revise how they spend and recognize that their “product” needs to have a value proposition. Value will mean that students/parents will want a good education and not just the experience. Maybe the schools will rethink paying a prof $500k for teaching just one class. Oh and don’t forget the athletic boondoggle and all those hands in the big pot. Should be interesting.
John, I think you added too many zeros on your price point. Faculty are lucky to get $5K for a class.
@Prof123 I guess I was just thinking about Senator Warren.
Agree. I’m staff, not faculty, and there are things that are not working in the WFH model–but that means we need to figure out how to make them work, not risk lives by returning to campus too soon. All the planning for a “return to campus” is not going to be useful for months. So much energy is being put into solving the wrong problem.
Finally. The voice of reason! Solving the wrong problem, indeed! Sheesh. You are absolutely correct!
I liked the general thesis of your (Prof Galloway’s) post but as a person involved in online education for decades, there is a limit to what it can do. First of all, in a live lecture, students can ask questions and the instructor can see from your expression and body language if you understand the answer. Live lectures are NOT broadcasts. Zoom can get use close but the progress is slower in a Zoom meeting as it’s hard to tell who has the floor. You can’t read body language in a 100 face Brady Bunch display. Second, online learning can convey factoids but only holistic responses apply them. Live instructors must grade them and see if his or her message is getting across and is stimulating original thought. I haven’t seen that type of assessment in an LMS (Learning Management System). Nearly annually over 8 years, I taught Piping Design in Malaysia in 5 weeks of hybrid classes. I told my sponsors half way through my course that the students had all the factoids but need the design part to apply them. I said, “all the ingredients are in the pot but it’s not soup yet.” My granddaughter is taking a bunch of high school science classes online. The classes have no live labs only simulations. I’m disappointed to hear that because students need to spend time in the lab. I didn’t like it when the schools did away with shop. Most of Engineering is scaling up results from the lab. I have a friend who is a master mirror grinder. He make his own grinding machines and makes the instruments to measure the quality of the mirrors. He lives in his shop. He could never be prepared for this work through “simulations.” Finally, online classes miss the mentoring of a live instructor and surrounding students. In a good school, with good instructors and hard working students, there’s nothing like it. Not just studying with friends: It’s knowing how they think about things. Imagine attending a four year program and not making a single new friend from it. That’s wrong. I looked to see if my granddaughter could go to a Woman’s school, like Texas Woman’s University. I wanted her to be around upward bound, professionally minded women. It looked like she could but they were planning to put everything online. What would “dorm life” be there? I was discouraged. I would suspect, Prof. Galloway, that your presence in-person and in office consultation, is a “secret sauce” that makes your classes work. I can’t believe that your future role is as a glorified grader in a online correspondence course. There has to be a blend of factoid learning, critical thinking and mentoring. To me, there is nothing more satisfying that finishing a lecture and having questions that show the students are extending the topic in their minds.
Creating an academically-rigorous online program takes a significant amount of work. In one well-known university in Maryland, it took us more than six months to create our initial courses. Higher Education is surprisingly unprepared for what’s about to happen. Online education is so much more than setting up Zoom; it’s about creating measurable outcomes, mapping those outcomes to appropriate assessment, and figuring out what technology and processes are required to be successful. Because most of the learning is asynchronous, everything must be set up far in advance. I’m sorry you’ve had such a negative experience, and while we agree that online is a different modality than on-ground, research has proven that for most qualitative and quantitative content, online can be just as (if not moreso) academically-rigorous as on-ground. We no longer require a physical classroom to learn. While I also believe that face-to-face socializing is necessary, healthy, and ideal for many audiences, there’s no longer an argument about legitimacy of the online modality for the majority of subjects, including engineering.
@Scot , Well that’s a clever bit of professorial hand-waving. But hand-waving won’t get those mirrors polished, nor will it help future mirror-grinders learn their trade online. Try again.
@Scot My son turned down Minerva @KGI for Haas at Berkeley. I love Minerva’s global immersion with their interactive LMS. Some said it was a scam, but it is the real deal. Meanwhile, Berkeley has already created a new fellowship this summer around creating “classes in the cloud”, is using AI for learning outcomes, and augmented reality for future classes possibly by next year. That being said, my rising sophomore will still live in his off campus apartment in Berkeley because he misses his community. Clubs seem to be more important to undergrad “Haasholes” than classes. He is not too upset about online classes but he is so disappointed that campus will be closed – rec center, football, club hockey games, consulting clubs. Fraternities think they will be business as usual. I wonder.
@LeClerc Sorry, my iPhone was autocorrecting in an absurd manner, so please disregard my unintended misspellings and sentence fragments.
“And what about the old people — faculty.” Don’t forget staff. We’re old too, and we deserve protection.
Yes. Having worked in higher ed, they tend to say students and faculty and forget ‘staff’
Amen to that!!
Several friends have said their kids’ colleges have been polling the students and cited their desire to return to campus as part of the reason they’re doing in-person fall. Which is ridiculous. These are 19/20/21 year olds who have been stuck in the house with their parents for going on 5 months. Remember how AWFUL it was coming home for that one month of Christmas break and your parents enforcing a curfew (which you didn’t have at school), sharing a car with a sibling, not doing what you wanted when you wanted or having to run everything by mom? These kids miss their friends, their space, autonomy, sex. And they’re tired of being stuck in the house with mom and dad. Which is why their “desire to return to campus” really shouldn’t weigh into this decision. They don’t want to return to campus so much as they want a return to normal. I don’t blame them. But sadly … we’re not there yet.
As an undergrad, I can say that you’re calibrated pretty well. My classmates (and I, to a certain extent), don’t necessarily miss in person classes as we do the feeling of freedom, drinking and sex. This desire is exactly why there will be no social distancing at all. Our leadership has faith that we’ll ‘sacrifice’ and social distance, but their take is naive and out of touch. I’ll also mention that Scott has it right when he says some students will return to campuses regardless of the status of classes. Many of my friends are ready to go back to apartments this fall no matter what.
How on Earth can these schools with a straight face plan on having sports like football play as usual in the fall?
Our rising junior is thinking that Zoom classes just don’t cut it. He’s thinking gap year. I wonder how many other students are thinking the same?
I have heard of several students thinking the same thing. Especially if the online version is going to cost roughly the same ( if the tuition is discounted they might change their minds)
Works great if you don’t have student loan payments that trigger after six months.
Three weeks ago, I read that 14% of entering freshman have elected to forego their ($300 or so) deposits and take gap years. I wonder what that number is now?
Summarizes beautifully every point I’ve been making to my friends and family.
I’ve been making these arguments to my stock market colleagues, as well. As you can see, like college administrators and many young adults, the markets haven’t been listening, either.
Hello, I found your blog via news.ycombinator.com. I am really interested in how your comment section works. What are you using for the backend? It looks very different from the traditional Disqus comment sections.
What a load of crap. The risk of CV19 to college age adults is almost zero, while the risks created by sending students into unstable and uncertain living situations are considerably higher and include violence, depression, substance abuse, sexual assault, etc. Optimizing for the safety of students should be the first priority of universities and colleges with focused actions taken to shield vulnerable and aging faculty like Galloway. I’m sure his students wouldn’t mind his leave of absence given his obvious cynicism and narcissism.
If colleges were entirely closed off eco-systems and you could magically transport students from their homes to campus, that would be one thing. In reality though, the vast majority of campuses are not entirely sealed off and teleportation is not a thing. Having millions of students across the country, and the world, get on planes and travel to different parts of the country/world (assuming that the USA borders are even open) is a massive public health risk. Additionally, especially in urban schools like NYU, there is no way to stop students, who are most likely to be asymptomatic and also the least likely to abide by social distancing guidelines, from interacting with the general NYC population. Most suburban campuses as well are in close proximity to residential areas. The number of campuses which are more or less self-contained are probably few and far between. This isn’t about the students so much as it is the public and public health. Also you state, “while the risks created by sending students into unstable and uncertain living situations are considerably higher and include violence, depression, substance abuse, sexual assault, etc”. I am assuming then that you definitely are not just generalizing based off something you read on facebook and have instead done a detailed statistical cross benefit analysis on the number of college kids that live in these types of conditions compared to the potential risk of spreading Covid-19. If you could please share your data sources and findings that would be great. Otherwise, stop throwing out buzzwords.
Rob, I agree entirely! The health risks of forcing people back into their homes, away from the lives they’ve cultivated, and into relative isolation are far greater than the health risks brought on by COVID, a disease that has infected less than 1% of the U.S. population and has an overall mortality rate of less than 1%. It is of exceedingly low risk to most college professors as well, unless they are of retirement age. And if that is the case, they should just retire instead of moralizing to the younger generation about “superspreaders.”
@Al You make all kinds of claims without so much as a single data point and then ask me for my sources? That’s rich. Clearly there could be health implications to the broader communities around campuses, but it has hardly been proven, or even looked at, whether these implications are more significant than evicting 10-15 million people from their homes and offering no viable alternative while basically putting these lives on hold. Right now, the impacts of the school shutdowns are reported mostly as anecdotes, but when data actually is collected the impacts will be profound. This isn’t buzzwords, it’s common sense. Galloway has a lot of concern for his fellow professors but very little for the students he’s paid to educate, apparently.
@Robert J Pickell “You make all kinds of claims without so much as a single data point and then ask me for my sources? ” –> Please give me a list of all the unsubstantiated claims that I make? I am sorry that I cannot corroborate the notion that having millions of people who are most likely to be asymptomatic traveling across the country en masse is a bad idea. I would have thought that that would fall under the guise of common sense but I guess not. “Right now, the impacts of the school shutdowns are reported mostly as anecdotes, but when data actually is collected”–> That’s the key, there is no data on it and you are guessing. You literally just admitted it. “This isn’t buzzwords, it’s common sense.” –> None of what you are saying is common sense. Public health comes before anything else. We know that college students are among the most likely to asymptomatic. We should not trade that off in the name of some future study that will supposedly “be profound”. What does that even mean in the first place Also your notion that Professor Galloway only cares about his colleagues b/c he cares about public health is laughable. I am a recent college grad, and I have many friends still in college and believe me, I want nothing more for them to get back to school as normal. And yes, it totally sucks for them. But no, that does not outweigh the public health risks especially as we are currently seeing spikes in well over 20 states. I agree that for kids who do not have ideal living conditions, colleges should make accommodations for them (perhaps bring them back to a mostly empty campus where they can distance) but otherwise, everyone else needs to stay home. We should not be risking public health in the name of supposed psychological affects that will supposedly be proven in a future study. The last time a generation had their college experiences interrupted was WWII, and you know what ended up happening? They came to be known as the greatest generation.
……They came to be known as the greatest generation. Current college students will be fine. I just graduated from college and was “evicted” as you say in March and missed out the last few months of school and graduation. I am fine. I speak regularly to friends still in college, they are fine to and will be fine no matter what.
@Robert J Pickell “has a lot of concern for his fellow professors but very little for the students he’s paid to educate, apparently.” –> This doesn’t even make sense. How would Galloway or any of his fellow professors at all benefit from a semester over zoom?
Don’t want to be a buzzkill but regardless of the stats that person gives anyone the sheer fact of the matter is that CV19 has no empirical data, scientists, staticians, analysts, etc… are making hypothetical guess tires on everyone’s future. Even the great Fauci has changed his analysis of the super pandemic a few times a month. End of the day the only person who knows what’s gonna happen is God.
@Chris That’s definitely true. But right now all we can do is go off of the best data we have available. While there is a lot we don’t, there are definitely steps we can take to prevent the spread. So just because there is a lot we don’t doesn’t mean we should just go off. At the end of the day, if we only believed things that we had conclusive proof for, then we would have to throw out most of our knowledge of things space/astrophysics, and, of course, stop believing in G-d whom you say is the only being who knows what will happen. Given that there is so much we don’t know, we need to more careful not less.
That plot titled “miami-dade covid-19 cases” might be the greatest plot ever created in the history of academics.
Unfortunately…so True North
In the mid-90’s I was an agronomy grad student at Texas A&M University, with its then 55,000 plus students at this flagship campus. I studied under Dr. Norman Borlaug, the only person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in Agriculture who was a rock star in our ag department then in his 80’s. Every prominent university has those exceptional academics in within their ranks, and for the most part, they’re the older faculty members. If the classroom is going to be opened up, even within limits and safeguards, it will be at the risk of those very special elder faculty members that said university benefits from by having those exceptional faculty members present in their classrooms. I foresee a LOT of missteps ahead.
Very well written article.
I still have zero patience for people like Galloway. He teaches marketing to already deep-in-debt 22yo NYU MBA students willing to pay $75k a year for JUST tuition. He can’t write an op-ed talking about how “American universities believe our services are worth indebting generations of young people” as if he’s some outsider watching from a hill! Galloway has sat by, year after year for nearly 20 years, being part of the “problem” of “self-aggrandizement and elitism,” fully aware of how higher education institutions have successfully marketed even the most useless, made-up degrees as critical for success in America. He hasn’t been volunteering at Stern all this time. So now, he has decided that he’s the (only) voice of wisdom in the midst of covid-19, Cassandra in her ivory tower, chiding the rest of us who teach primarily undergraduate populations and are paid primarily by undergraduate tuition, room, and board dollars. Our customers–particularly those at residential and nearly-residential campuses–have been quite clear: they WILL NOT COME BACK TO SCHOOLS THAT ARE FULLY ONLINE. A third of incoming freshmen–nevermind the advanced-career students–have said they’re not wasting money on all-online colleges. I don’t blame them. In a recent poll, it was revealed that less than 20 percent of faculty received any meaningful training in FACE-TO-FACE teaching during graduate school. We barely know how to teach and assess learning in face-to-face situations. And now students are supposed to shell out the SAME amount of money for some cobbled-together online classes from people learning how to “teach remotely” watching Youtube videos? Again, smarty-pants professors, if you’re going to argue that the RIGHT thing to do to save us all is end the “consensual hallucination between university leadership, parents, and students [notice he leaves faculty out of that list entirely] that in-person classes will resume in the fall”, I need you to be courageous and argue for the furloughing of faculty. A return to online-learning WILL radically reduce income to our schools . . . period! As we are seeing this summer, if the students aren’t back on campus or in the dorms, it is the janitorial and food service staff, the staff who support the student affairs apparatus, etc. who are being furloughed and laid off. These are the people LEAST capable of weathering a “shut-it-all-down” answer to this pandemic. I get it. We don’t want to want to sound like the troglodytes who are clamoring to re-open movie theaters, bars, and football stadiums. But if you’re going to be honest and principled, it’s high time you back your courageous op-eds with the more courageous offer to cut OUR workforce — let’s start with MBA faculty — at the same rates the working-class people working in those movie theaters, bars, and stadiums have been.
Very insightful retort. Thanks.
You may want to find an outlet to post op-eds, this is a comment section, brevity is appreciated.
You may want to find an outlet to post op-eds, this is a comment section, brevity is appreciated.
I have zero patience for people who can’t engage in a civil discussion about important issues without name-calling. There are sound points to be made about eliminating multiple tiers of high-paid administrators, outrageous tuitions charged students at public universities and faux “academic” programs. The hint of such sound arguments are lost in your invective.
Loved your response! Thanks for sharing
@ Nathan Davis. I believe the word “hypocrite” defines your post. Scott Galloway often states he’s “part of the problem.” The thing is, we all are. What you speak to is part of our culture. America is, above everything else, a capitalistic model. We can see the flaws, the problems, the issues, and the abuses. At the same time, we have to engage in it to survive and even thrive. 99.9% of us engage in something that contradicts our moral fiber because the benefit of it out weighs the harm, and because we can afford therapy. I admire that even though he is a part of the issue, Galloway speaks out about the problem. Of course, he can walk away tomorrow if NYU decides to retaliate against him. Most of us don’t have that luxury, so we walk the fine line and it is frustrating to say the least. Higher ed changed to an experiential business model years ago, branded it, packaged it, and got the American public to wait in line for the lottery ticket on the off-chance they would be selected to pay dearly for this experience. We ate it up, because every American out there wants one thing more than anything else—to be THAT individual that gets something few have, or be a part of a select tribe. We seek this uniqueness like a drug, and corporate America (including higher ed, churches, our politicians and government, any system needing money from us) markets the crap out of their product as a solution to fill this need. In higher ed, professors may be blamed for poorly run classes, but its educational leadership that has put this marketing spin into play, making promises that could not be kept because the neglected infra-structure of higher ed could not fulfill the expectations.
Well said and appreciated.
Death rates continue to fall.
For the time being…but that will change in the next coming weeks, particularly in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas, where a major uptick is happening in the number of cases. And given that those states are showing no signs of shutting down again, exponential growth will mean many more cases and deaths for them in the coming months.
You are ignoring the science. You cannot possibly believe that death rates will not begin to rise, despite that many who are contracting the disease in exponentially increasing numbers are 20-somethings who think they’re invincible and are going out unprotected. They’re also incredibly selfish, as not wearing a mask and maintaining social distance will make them our country’s army of (nearly) silent infectors in the next wave. I say “nearly” because some of them with as-yet unknown underlying conditions will unfortunately end up in ICUs and die.
All great points. What resonated with me from the start is something that seems to be at the center of many of our COVID challenges: “Covid-19 didn’t get the memo with our proposed timeline” aka – it’s a VIRUS. It doesn’t care about the economy, political agendas, school openings, etc. All it wants to do is propagate and will continue to do so until we create an effective vaccine (and even then we have to assume patient compliance). And because so many have failed to recognize/accept this, there’s a sense of arrogance that is causing many individuals in leadership positions to assume this virus will jump in line like a toddler after a time out. Sadly, as we’re seeing, it’s creating a false sense of security that not only impacts population health but also full economic recovery.
Bloated admin is largely to blame. There are too many of them, they get paid too much, and their investment is to keep their high-paying jobs, not to educate. Students are also too accustomed to 5 star luxury resort campuses. Cut the admin and their swollen salaries, get rid of the climbing walls and lazy rivers, enroll more students and hire the adjuncts as tenure track faculty.
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The averages bit “The average age of a tenured professor is 55, meaning if you meet a 40-year-old tenured prof, there is someone at 70 . . .” doesn’t follow from the math. The writer is assuming a perfect bell shaped curve.
His statement doesn’t necessarily assume a bell curve at all – just some degree of symmetry around the mean. (A uniform distribution, for example.) His point is entirely valid even if older professors happen to be dramatically overrepresented in the distribution.
Hope the U’s don’t execute the bait-and-switch. Looks like a massive consolidation coming in higher ed. No idea what it looks like on the other side, but as with so many other things, the virus is accelerating the arrival of a mostly inevitable future.
First and foremost, Prof G – you rock. Not sure if you read these but then again, I hardly ever (well – never) post a comment on anything. When I spoke to my mentor a couple months ago I asked about good books to read and he said anything by Scott Galloway. Which lead me to reading your books, subscribing to your newsletter, as well as both of your podcasts and signing up for the strategy sprint!! Woo hoo. Something to look forward to other than a quarantine. Kidding aside, I graduated from NYU in 2004 and my credit card is still accumulating interest. However, my time there, in the classroom, amongst such talented professors and students was truly invaluable – but tuition in general should be affordable. If I wanted to get my MBA now at Kellogg in Miami (where I live) it would come with a 200K price tag. I’m a Mom. I can’t do that. And I shouldn’t have to. Perhaps this pandemic is a wake up call to universities, to the Harvard’s of the world who wouldn’t dare offer their “real” programs online – to think twice. Probably not a great example because they will continue to rake in the $$$ no matter what. My son is 2 1/2 and I was forced to make a decision on keeping him in school or not by the 24 of June. I deferred. How on earth can a 2 1/2 year old be socially distant and what on earth would he be doing in class? Drawing circles on the floor by himself with kids 6 ft apart? It’s a sad time. It’s an interesting time. It’s time to disrupt the disruptors in both education & commerce. Things will never be the same. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with all of us.
I would have to second this. Prof G is my yoda. My wife & I just had a couple over (one a Stanford MBA and my wife a Kellogg MBA) and without question I (with no MBA) was the smartest person in the room. I basically just repeated everything Scott said about the changing climate of education. Unfortunately I can’t give him any credit because everyone(including my wife) now see me in a new light which is something to valuable to lose. I owe Prof G a ton and I sincerely hope he knows how many people worship his thoughts. Please ignore the trolls on your page..That is my only ask.
How many times have I and my liberal friends wondered how it was possible that Trump administration officials hadn’t resigned. How many Deans of Students have resigned in protest, knowing what they deal with on a daily basis, and how unrealistic plans for reopening actually are? Tufts University released a sixty-some page book of utterly absurd rules for returning undergraduates who will be paying full fare to take mostly online classes and live on campus. Once my rage subsides, I’m only left with massive disappointment.
I’m a little older so understand the larger issue .. For the last 2 decades private colleges were ripping off their students with tuition increases that didn’t match any normal rate inflation. They always justified it by mentioning the ‘other school’ that raised tuition so just like healthcare it spiraled out of control under the leadership of both democrats and republicans. Their college leaders we’re getting nice free housing perks (+ first class airline tickets) while associate professors who do most of the work were barely breaking even in living expenses. It additional, schools with large endowments were paying their portfolio managers like hedge fund managers and taking advantages of non for profit tax incentives while not passing those profits to students to lower their overall tuition costs. There wasn’t even any government agency to oversee these costs and study them for the sake of students . So with these unfortunate events I hope this will help put pressure finally to lower tuition prices once and for all.. As the problem to solve is pricing and not always student debt.
Excellent article. And explains the economics of how the Universities are thinking.
Couldn’t agree more with your comments on higher ed. The schools are also pitting the students (understandably desperate to get out of the house and see their friends back at school) against the parents, many of whom share your fears about schools becoming huge new vectors to spread the virus.
Yeah that’s why we go to college – to stay away from each other! thinking tommy james and the shondels here …”Children behave, that’s what they say when we’re together. And watch how you play. They don’t understand. And so we’re running just as fast as we can, holding on to one another hands. Trying to get away into the night and then you put your arms around me And we tumble to the ground and then you say…” I think i got the virus.
Sometimes truth is hard to speak …it is still truth!
Thoughtful. Agree, we need to contain our optimism and look at the facts.
I’m just excited for fees to drop so low I can justify getting an online mba. Like you said previously, the cost of university is so high that it’s already an extravagance. Most people I know, including me, defaulted to going to university and sort of treated it like a way of extending school, and without having to face the ‘reality of work’. It’s shame this campus style university doesn’t look like it will be sustainable unless we totally redesign the university business model from the ground up. In terms of hiring, I already value actual experience over credentials, I guess there may be a slight lag between people recognising online degrees over in-person one but I’m sure that won’t take long to happen. Thanks for the post 👍
I was with you right up until the last paragraph, Scott, where you blew it with nationalist bluster that proves that even smart people like you continue to believe the US is the center of the universe. If America self-destructed entirely (which it sometimes seems intent on doing with its current leadership), there are plenty of Oxford, INSEAD and other global university alum that will continue to lead global institutions and advance modern society, just as they always have.
Yup. Elitist ethnocentrism. India is the world’s largest democracy. Never led by a US university alum.
@Nitin Correct and the UK, as well as far as I am aware, has not been lead by a US alum. It’s a shame that that last paragraph boasting so much was included. Good article otherwise. Keep writing SG.
@Nitin And look at where they are. Let’s not over-analyze a morale-boosting end to a “wake-up” article beyond what it purports to do – a call to action. SG needs to keep sounding the larger message so many US universities wake up.
Well said! I’m also not convinced that upper admin is all that creative or empathetic!
@Nitin not defending the exceptionalism statements, but what makes India the largest democracy? Population? Generally, people base country value according to GDP. The US is almost 10X the GDP of India. Obviously, on a per capita, it stretches much higher.
@Nitin But India had central bank heads educated in US universities. Consider any one of the boxes the author meant.
@Jake Absolutely…just multiplied like rabbits, and lo.. world’s largest democracy!! I can’t agree more.
Thank you for your honesty and empathy. Education has to become affordable for everyone. As in sports, a team is only as good as the weakest link.
Thing is, Galloway was a party boy at school, smoking dope and not caring about academics, he tells us. Kids today take it seriously. They are paying more and the stakes are higher. Parents will still send their young non-vulnerables to be educated in classrooms, and most colleges will be open and fully capable of educating them. Vulnerable professionals over if he5 years old, or with compromised immune systems from past damages voluntarily inflicted on young bodies that have a way of catching up in old age, indeed have a decision to make: To teach next semester, or not to teach. No one will fault Galloway if he declines to go into a classroom, or a movie theater 15 times a week next semester, or trusts his mask — and the mask of the students — to protect him. But to expect that Higher Ed in America will shut down to protect professors? That’s not going to happen, which Galloway knows. He’s been beating his Higher Ed is not worth it drum for a long time, pre pandemic. And he didn’t take Higher Ed seriously when he was being educated himself. Maybe we need better professors who understand the value of in-person teaching and learning? Galloway can find other work, surely? No one will make him risk his life to teach. Others can and will step up to take his place if he fears contagion and transmission will harm his health and he cannot protect against the students.
Maybe you should write your own blog and stop hating on his. Oh yeah you don’t have the stones to do it and instead hide behind a name that is probably not yours and throw rocks at his.
Not a students are in their 20’s. There have been lots of older people going back to school. Also, it’s not just older people who are at risk. People with asthma are high risk for the virus. Not to mention all the perfectly healthy young people who have died from the virus. Covid 19 doesn’t care who you are, it’s going after everyone. Also, many instructors are young, some of them fresh out of school. Risking your life to teach a class is a big ask. Better to just find another carreer. No one wants to die because of a job. No one wants their loved ones to die because of a job. Everyone on a campus is at risk. Online classes are great and you get the same knowledge from then as you do from in person classes. I speak with my instructors on Zoom all the time. I get tutoring via Zoom as well. In fact I communicate with them more now than when I was in face to face classes before the outbreak. I’m getting just as much of an education as I was before. It was always up to me and the time I spent with the material. The only thing that’s changed is I don’t have to spend a lot of time getting ready for and commuting back and forth. I feel like I have more time now. I can also schedule my classes whenever. Before I avoided night classes, but since I’m at home, it doesn’t matter what time my classes start and end or how much time there is in between classes. I used to have long long days at school before the virus because it was difficult to to put together the perfect schedule. I’m not as tired and worn down as I got before. I’m never late to class, don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for parking, don’t have to spend money for gas and wear and tear on the car. I just roll out of bed and over to my Study book and I pretty much study all day and in between classes. I also get to take naps and do some chores. I love it!
@ Mary: So we shouldn’t protect professors just so you can have face-to-face classes amid a pandemic? You think faculty should sacrifice themselves just so you don’t have do a semester of remote learning or instruction? What kind of priorities do you think real adults with proper jobs and responsibilities have if they’ll place naive desires such as yours over their own lives? Who do you think is going to educate students post pandemic when all the unprotected professors have either quit because they were either too scared to stay in the profession (not that you judge them) or dead? Do you really think that there are that many professional scholars so desperate for a one or two semester face-to-face teaching experience that they’ll step into Scott’s place at the risk not only of their own lives but that of their students? Some of us teach at-risk populations about whom we care. You need to check your privilege before questioning the actions of people you obviously neither understand nor respect.
I’d like to know at what college you teach, because claiming that kids today take academics seriously suggests either willful ignorance or delusion. Don’t get me wrong, some students are very serious about academics, just as there always have been. In my experience (and I have been a professor for 25 years), every year, we see an increasing number of students who don’t take their studies seriously. Not only do they party in the evenings and on weekends, but also they come to class stoned most of the time . . . that is, when they come to class at all. No one is claiming that higher ed should “shut down”; rather, that universities have options that would reduce or eliminate the risks to everyone involved. When we had to suddenly transition to distance learning in March, serious students continued to do well. Online learning is not the evil stepchild that you portray it to be. For whatever reason, you appear to have vendetta against Scott and that has spilled over to include all faculty. As Scott points out, the majority of professors are older, and you can’t put all the blame (you know, the favorite past-time in this country of victim blaming) on partying when they were younger. I personally have 2 conditions, in addition to my age, that make me vulnerable — one is congenital and the other genetic. As far as risking the loss of gainful employment is concerned, you should know better. Since most of the at-risk population is comprised of older individuals, it is highly unlikely that they’ll be able to find other employment. There is also that pesky ADA, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, not mention an employer’s duty to provide a safe work environment. You represent the worst of our society, those narcissistic individuals who lack any compassion for others. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that you are one of those selfish people who refuse to wear masks in public.
This is the tiniest thing to nitpick … but weed isn’t “dope.” And now all I can think is that you’ve spent the last 40 years confusing weed with actual opioids and completely misunderstanding public health crises. Also this isn’t 1980 … please join us in the 21st century.
@LD surely you aren’t insinuating that college professors are more important than any other person in this world?? How do you feel about the doctors, nurses, emts, police officers, firemen/women, truck drivers, grocery store checkers, maintenance workers,Etc the list is massive. Those who have worked the entire time, putting their lives, their families lives on the line for their “job”. They did not have a choice nor did a lot of them ever make the kind of money or get the perks that ie…Galloway is given. They go to their jobs every day, earn their paycheck so that they can pay bills & provide for their families.
@Mila dope is often a reference to marijuana or heroin. So get of your high horse, because you are wrong, and your attitude is annoying.
I agree with many of the points. I also imagine administrator types at some schools are scared to death at the idea of being online in the Fall and what it could do to their revenue…I mean, enrollment and ability to provide education. Rest assured, though, that they will make sure their six figure salaries are safe! Also, I am not so confident in the quality of online classes from some professors. For every great professor who puts in the serious effort to make the class worthwhile, there is one who effectively does nothing. My school basically created an online wild west for classes. There were faculty trying to hold multiple class sections at once on Zoom (at more convenient times for them too), for example, and some professors who just emailed a bunch of notes out once a week with an occasional open note test. It is also difficult to engage with students when something happens at home – one of my students had a tornado strike nearby and had no electricity for four days. I cannot imagine that a full semester will be any better. Maybe worse. It will not be my problem, though, as I recently found out that my position will suddenly not be renewed due to financial issues. I am not looking forward to trying to find a new position with all of this stuff going on.
It helps if you view the college students simply as dope-smoking partiers there to gain a credential, not an education. Those who brag on their own lack of integrity in college are the ones riding their White Privilege today. The rest of the parents want their children to be educated though, not working as Prep Chefs at Denny’s right out of high school. Nttawwt, but some people’s children’s score well on those standardized tests and indeed are college material. They don’t send their kids to Marketing Class at NYU either. Marketing is seen as a “soft” major, full of BS. HTH. Universities will indeed open their doors to scholars come Fall, maybe the parents of the party boys should keep them safely at home?
@Mary Anybody can drop a shitload of content, btw. But if it’s pretty much shit, you can keep pumping it out. Quality work doesn’t get pumped out like shit. Galloway admits, he produces a shit ton of content. And makes money. But he’s still that dope-smoking ill-educated Cali boy… Can’t hide that. The boys coming up with the droopy eyes that can’t hardly keep them open, that’s the ones I worry for. Nobody needs a surrogate father figure like Galloway pushing dope on the kids. That’s so 60s white man.
@Mary even not party boys get taken in. They vant avoid party room mate they did not choose or down halll.
Scott, very strong points. My POV is that I am retiree, 65+, returning to earn another degree. I have 3 lecture classes (likely will be online), but three corresponding lab classes. No word yet on how either set of classes will be handled and it is nearly July.
As long as we’re restructuring college, why not dump all the BS distribution requirements for courses nobody needs or wants. I could easily see 3 year degrees, 2/3 for your major and 1/3 to explore subjects that actually interest you. Quicker, cheaper, and more stimulating.
Who exactly is pushing for “cheaper, quicker” educations? Who doesn’t want the in-person college experience? Not the students I know. Y’all are simply using the pandemic to push your anti-Higher Ed messages, but many students indeed benefit today from education, especially STEM and science majors. Does Marketing even need classes or professors or degrees? Can’t you read, and learn those skills on your own? You need a Galloway to teach you that? Online? Seriously? It’s not exactly science, friends. It’s fluff. Why would anybody pay to take a marketing class? Get an internship — a paid one — and learn while your earn. No degree needed in that field really. Professionals and scientists? Study hard and learn something. Those careers matter. You’re not just pushing product at a price.
@Mary are you a current student or a professor?
Prediction: untethered from pesky physical campus limitations, the university where I adjunct will double or treble the size of my sections, but my pay will not scale, as the bureaucracy seeks to preserve itself.
You’re spot on….
Scott, I appreciate how we need to get real about keeping everybody safe and innovating to deliver education and hopefully at a lower cost to them.
Excellent article — thanks especially for the optimism, although I wasn’t sure optimism was on the menu until about halfway through. As awful as this pandemic is, it is forcing all of us in higher ed to ask very good questions about the nature of universities and teaching, and what we might become in the future. Just one point of disagreement — I think you’re right that we’ll all pivot back to 100% online, but not six weeks from now (August 1-ish) but more like September 10, roughly two weeks after students appear back on campuses. The cynic in me believes that many universities wanted to be online all along, but committed to F2F experiences in the fall as a recruitment blitz and to placate parents and faculty; as soon as there’s a reasonable pretext to pivot back to online you can bet it will happen overnight.
Not at the good schools. They are planning already. See Notre Dame, leading the way. Character counts! Even at college — NeverForget!
I sent this to my son who is entering his second Dartmouth year. I hope he reads and heeds.
Appreciate your candor. Keep up the good fight. The class warfare that the branded US university ecosystem has fed over the past 20 years is entirely out of control. And I’m not so impressed with the so-called free-thinking researcher academics in this scenario either. The vast majority of them have been silent accomplices in this class war and now in the COVID-19 war while peddling the virtues for free and analytical thinking in their $4000 credit hour. Shame Shame Shame !!!!
Scott – great thought leadership on education in this new world. I underline the opportunity for leading educational institutions to think about increasing the admission rate and number of students in classes which will be great for our country. It is also an opportunity for higher education institutions to increase the number of minority and under represented students. The marginal cost to the University is extremely low to enable with enhanced opportunities for many. The higher institutions are all wondering how long will this virus last? Isn’t it premature to sell off the fixed assets such as classrooms and lecture halls? Maybe, maybe not depending upon Covid’s duration and what pandemic comes next. It seems that the low risk alternative that remotely educates students, increasing the number of students, lowers tuition, and keeps people safe provides higher education institutions with deep options, while keeping people safe.
Lots of students simply are not college material. If you weren’t into doing homework in high school, college is likely not for you. Many students are strong in bookwork, reading and applying knowledge though. They don’t need their parents to provide for them, or plan their paths or pick their lives. Some parents have harder times letting go and letting their children advance in life because they are soooo invested in living the child’s life. They are called community college kids, nttawwt. They have wealthier lifestyles living at home with the ‘rents, and have no desire to learn independently or do the work. That’s okay. Not everyone is a scholar, and community college is all these kids will need to get their entry-level jobs.
Great thoughts, as usual, Scott. As a fellow academic, I admire your willingness to bite the hand that feeds, given that it’s grossly overcharging those it’s drawing the feed from. (Students are, I guess, the field in this metaphor? Who knows.) How do you think tuition rates will respond to the Zoomification of education, in the short and/or long term? How do you think they SHOULD be adjusted? Perhaps a flattening of the delta between public and private universities?
I’m curious why Galloway continues gaming his students this way, and taking their money? Isn’t he part of the problem? Can’t he afford to give up the teaching gig and concentrate on marketing all his content efforts? How long will NYU keep him on?
Great piece Scott! Your sentence “What parent would let their kid go to a movie theater 15 times a week?” should be the headline
Couldn’t agree more!
Seriously guys? College ain’t no movie to passively watch and take in. The risks are worth it if you are truly gaining an education. America can not shut down its schools, particularly higher ed, and expect to continue competing in the fields we still dominate. Retire the old professors already, but don’t use their health as excuses to shut down schools. Sad!
Great thoughts as always Scott. While Covid and more importantly our response (or lack thereof) is a tragedy, hopefully it helps us at least reset two tragic systems that have failed us and that is our health and education (especially higher ed) systems. The need for a health system apart from employers and broad access is more transparent than ever plus as you point out the need for affordable and meaningful higher education (no matter if community, technical, bootcamps, etc. in addition to traditional 4 year plus) is something we can no longer ignore. For years we arbitraged off the world on multiple fronts post-Bretton Woods and luckily we still have the power of a strong reserve-currency dollar, strong capital markets, and willingness of people all around the world willing to borrow at low interest from us but the day of reckoning is coming for us if we don’t fix some of these other items like education and healthcare and our financial-system competitive edge disappears.
The only thing I don’t agree with on this article is that there won’t be another one till July 10th.
I learned yesterday that school boards in the OC paraded in a string of hand picked experts to tell everyone that high school age kids do not spread the virus and plan to reopen without facemasks. The virus was unavailable for comment.
Incredible that the anti-science COVID deniers reach even your blog posts, Scott. I would have thought the required reading comprehension level would have precluded them.
Frank, transparent conversation that needs to be had. Thank you. I appreciate that you point out that it should be citizenship that leads to greater concern and action and not just parental concern. Innovation, creativity and tech should emerge from higher education and pave the way for how we manage K-12 as well as other areas of business and daily living as we grapple with the greatest health crisis of our time. Another analogy that comes to mind in addition to your “CEOs hoping shareholders don’t sell” is Nero and his fiddle… let’s not watch higher ed (and all of us) burn to the ground because we can’t unite, listen to science or get beyond “but this is how we do it.”
I agree with everything. Especially this one: Universities that, after siphoning $1.5 trillion in credit from young people, cannot endure a semester on reduced budgets do not deserve to survive.
I don’t know what “deserve” means. I work for a small regional university–vital to its community–that was already cash poor, and COVID has made it worse, the but majority of the people who work and learn there had nothing to do with the bad decisions that got us there. Insofar as a university is its faculty and students, we certainly “deserve” to survive. The problem lies in both a culture that increasingly sees education as big business, and administrative trends all about flowing money upwards towards an over-paid, constantly growing, administrative hierarchy. Maybe, in such schools, certain levels of admin don’t deserve to survive (and much of it is so much detritus), but the places of learning themselves, the faculty who facilitate the learning, and the students who need it, do.
@Megan Hickerson 👍
Professor, I agree with many of your points. However, the stay-at-home approach doesn’t fit nicely for all. Obviously no one wants to spread SARS-CoV-2, but what do you say to the PhD student trying to get experiments done in the lab? Or that junior trying to develop real skills in biochemistry, who has already gone into debt to get to that point? “We don’t trust you to wear a mask and wash your hands. Buy a fume hood and get on Zoom.” I don’t think so.
Scott, you’re probably wrong about Covid hysteria (if you were a true believer, you wouldn’t have been in Florida), but you’re probably right about the dim future prospects of many colleges. Perhaps you should start beating the drum for a college closing committee, similar to the military base closing project from the 90’s. You can be the Czar, just like Steven Rattner. Better to have an orderly capacity drawdown than chaos.
Yes, he’d definitely be in NY instead of Florida, which, as we all know, was barely touched by the virus and doesn’t have 10 times the fatalities per capita as Florida. Oh, wait, it does.
Scott, As a fellow Florida resident please save that projection of future infection rates and post it again in two months with actual transposed over projected. Talk about bull***t.
Scott, As a fellow human please disregard this moron and don’t ever loose sleep on idiots like him who post on your forum. Talk about bull***t.
Bradley, are you suggesting that the projections are already obviously low? I ask because Dade county has already exceeded the (now sightly dated) Penn study projections Scott posted. There were nearly 1600 new cases today. The study projected that Dade wouldn’t hit that point until July 5.
Scott: Here is a comment on your comments on ROBINHOOD from PIVOT: There has been a lot of talk around the recent suicide of a young man who had been trading options on the Robinhood trading APP. He believed that he had accrued a massive loss based on trades he was executing that were displayed in the interface but that did not actually reflect his real losses. There are interesting UI and UX design lessons in this tragedy. As an expert in human factors science and human-computer interaction, I have helped design the lowest friction interfaces for the world’s most productive professional traders. If the Robinhood trading interface is subjected to professional human factors analysis it will be found totally inappropriate for consumer use. The Robinhood UI is a full-on low-friction trading interface with even less error detection routines than many robust professional trading interfaces. The litigation around this APP is not going to go well for anyone at Robinhood who made the decision to but an F1 race car in the hands of a teenager with a new driver’s license. It is a fact that UX optimization can go too far.
I decided in May not to return to the ranks of higher education. Many factors were at play, but my wellbeing was near the top of the list. Like it not, university presidents care far more about the bottom line than what they surely deem as acceptable losses. It’s not a matter of if professors succumb to COVID-19 and perish. It’s a matter of how many. I’ll also bet that many if not most schools will make faculty sign indemnity clauses.
Brilliant and authentic as always! Now how do universities, especially the public ones, bridge the technology gap that some consider to still be widening?
Home run phrase of the day – “the Rolex-ification of campuses.”
True, Scott. But I have thought for a long time that most college educations now are a rite of passage – an opportunity to get out from under your parent’s roof and explore the world under the protective umbrella of higher education. With a few exceptions, college educations aren’t really preparing high school students for careers, just giving them a place to grow up a little, stretch their wings, and try on different uniforms they may want to wear after they graduate. Unfortunately, online education hasn’t solved for these purposes yet.
True, college does offer unparalleled opportunities to drink, watch football, and wife-up, but that doesn’t justify its existence. There are better–and cheaper–ways to grow up.
Outstanding truth. Particularly this line: Universities that, after siphoning $1.5 trillion in credit from young people, cannot endure a semester on reduced budgets do not deserve to survive.