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Not If But When

Scott Galloway@profgalloway

Published on September 11, 2020

1-min read

Spent much of the week thinking and writing about Palantir. But my thoughts kept turning to higher ed and teaching. Next Tuesday, 9/22, my Brand Strategy course at NYU Stern (280 students) kicks off. This Tuesday, 9/15, our Section4 Brand Sprint (500 participants) also begins. Both courses will be all remote. A cast of dozens — tech, course design, creative — are working not just to replace, but to best the traditional higher ed experience.

I believe when we look back on this crisis, the decision to reopen campuses, instead of conducting all classes remotely, will reflect poorly on university leadership. Dr. Fauci said this week that superspreaders aren’t individuals (singers), but environments (choir). I believe universities that reopened their campuses are the superspreaders of this phase of the pandemic. They need to close — it’s not if but when.

I had difficulty capturing the right tone in writing — judgmental, profane (i.e., me), so grabbed my iPhone.

Life is so rich,

P.S. If you liked Winners & Losers, I’m back on YouTube. This week on the pod, spoke to Julián Castro (impressed by his thoughtfulness). Want to study with us? We’re adding more sprints this year. Take this brief survey to let us know which courses and topics you’re interested in. If it’s brand strategy, sign up for the next Brand Sprint.



  1. KD10250 says:

    Reasonable thoughts if it was just about education (sadly it’s not)

  2. ADOS HITLER says:


  3. Chickens Have Come Home to Roost says:

    Professor Galloway: You have mentioned several times, lately, that hundreds of colleges and universities are broke. And, that many will find themselves, in the next five years or so, out of business. ———————————————————————————————- Professor, I will provide you with (2) concrete examples of educational dysfunction, incompetence and failure. Example #1: Student enrollments at Central Michigan University (CMU) have dropped for 12 years in row! This year – the decline was 11%..!!… CMU, twice in the last decade, academically, has been ranked dead-last as a university in the state of Michigan, by nationally known education analyst Lynn O’Shaughnessy. As a consequence, over the past decade, hundreds of its best professors and administrators are long gone!….. Only the ‘leftovers’ remain….. It’s an ugly situation – getting uglier. Example #2: Mid-Michigan Community College (MMCC) now has fewer full-time students than the local high school. Incredulously, MMCC only graduates 2% of those in its Liberal Arts program. NOTE: Only MMCC’s health care programs possess any credibility with students. Why? Its Liberal Arts faculty is primarily made up of individuals who have never taught full-time at any level of education before working at MMCC. Hence, the faculty is essentially made up of unemployed locals needing a job. Almost none of them are qualified to teach..!!. As expected, in quick order, students found the faculty laughable. (Plus, MMCC is dealing with a very nasty professional misconduct scandal.) This week, for budgetary reasons (read: a huge drop in student enrollments), it was announced that (9) upper-level administrators were dismissed. These dismissals saved the school approximately $1 million dollars. The school still has a $1 million dollar deficit to fix. Thus, sadly, many more jobs will be terminated. MMCC, over the past eight years, due to mediocre teachers and various scandals, has witnessed a serious erosion in its school enrollments. As a result, MMCC has lost its most talented faculty members and administrators. All that remains is a skeletal operation of mediocrity. It’s an ugly situation – getting uglier. ———————————————————————————————- Unsurprisingly, BOTH schools are in deep financial trouble. And, the best professors at BOTH schools are long gone! Professor Galloway, put BOTH these schools on your list!!

  4. a says:


  5. Doug Williams says:

    Poor decision making by admins for sure, but forced in an attempt to ensure survival of the bloated, top heavy organizations they represent. ~DW

  6. Rich says:

    School opening may be a bit more nuanced than your view. Scott, you have a great advantage in being an experienced and competent remote- based teacher, and you can profit from this format. You may be talking your book, though probably not with malice. A college student friend sent this note below, where it seems that reopening is being done correctly in a rural setting – School opened last week and all the students, staff and faculty are getting tested every month. They have conducted 3,187 tests so far and 9 have been tested positive. I did the first test at the end of August and I have the next one coming up in a few weeks. They are quarantining all the positive tests and we are not allowed to have any guests on campus. We are also not allowed to go further than the great Cleveland area for the whole semester. So I’m now officially stuck here till Thanksgiving. All the orchestras only have 20 people maximum and we are seating 6 feet away for the strings and 12 feet away for the winds. Winds also use a glass in front of them, just to be safe! Not to even mention that we have to wear mask everywhere. All the orchestra and chamber concerts are being live-streamed and only the teacher and a few close friends can attend the student recitals. We are using disinfectant wipes to clean the chairs and stands before and after use and there are hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes everywhere. They have already sent 16 students home, who violated the social distancing rules. Everyone in the dorm has single room and they practice in their rooms and they have assigned practice rooms in the conservatory for pianists and instruments that are hard to move and also for off campus students who can’t practice in their house for whatever reason. I am sharing a practice room with someone else and we have to wait one hour after each person leaves before the next person can go to the room, for the air to refresh. For orchestra rehearsals we are also changing rooms after one hour for the fresh air. I actually think it’s crazy here! I would be very surprised if we had a break out!

  7. Mary E says:

    College professor here! Teaching face-to-face classes since August 17. Just started a document/table to keep track of my students who are quarantined, because there are too many to remember. 25% are positive for Covid-19.

    • Victoria says:

      This isn’t a bad thing. When all of these students come back in a couple of weeks, they will have immunity at least for the rest of the semester — a few less people to worry about catching (or giving you) the virus.

  8. Ann Williams says:

    So far our small University is doing fine, 1 COVID case in the first 2 weeks and a blend of in person and online classes. The students are so happy and excited to be on campus together. Although I’m at greater risk due to age and health, I’m willing to take the chance in order to give them some great learning and social experiences. The University has added some Teams equipment to classrooms so both in-person and at-home students can participate together. Faculty are learning so much about technology and teaching. The University is working on resurfacing campus roads, upgrading infrastructure (IT, water, electricity) and improving the athletic facilities. So we are doing our best to turn lemons into lemonade here.

  9. Rohit Mehrotra says:

    This was one of the main reasons I didn’t agree to go to the Ivy League college that I got through. Your prediction about the future manpower having ‘Got admitted to Harvard but didn’t attend’ in their CV seems to be coming true in one case at least. I am disappointed because I really wanted to be there (and of course try my best, plead and beg to meet you!). U.S. just doesn’t seem welcoming any more. I am having second thoughts Scott and this virus is not making it easier to decide!! Thanks a lot for this post and for all that you do Scott. Big fan. Love from India

  10. Gabriella says:

    Brilliant video.

  11. Bill says:

    Incredibly disappointed at the way you have swallowed this hysterical “killer virus” nonsense. Covid is real and it’s something we have to manage but data from around the world conclusively proves that the only people at risk are the over 60s and people with significant health issues. So much for the fearless and iconoclastic “Prof G”. I thought you prided yourself on making rational, evidence based decisions. Look at the facts. Its harmless for 99.99% of people under 40. Is anything under 100% not good enough for you? Enough of the drivel about superspreaders and let students get on with their lives.

  12. Tara says:

    Another great post, totally worth a watch. Started the landslide into Prof’s next video, and the next, which I’ve already shared twice (Algebra of Happiness talk, ~45 min). And I realized: of course I need to add this subscription to my YouTube rotation. Can always use more breaths of fresh air and unpopular (but accurate) opinions. Keep up the great work, Scott. You always inspire me to become better.

  13. This Ain’t Gonna End Well says:

    Slightly off topic, but pertinent … Many instructors at many universities are adjunct professors. From what I’ve read, their workloads / work environments / $ earned / opportunities for advancement were generally pretty grim even before the Covid Times arrived. How is the Fall 2020 Higher Education Covid Excellent Adventure working out for their personal and professional wellbeing so far? And what will be the consequences to the colleges that do not commit resources towards getting adjuncts up to speed to conduct decent (ok, decent enough) classes online?

  14. Larry Goldberg says:

    Scott, are all your online courses closed captioned? Accessible for your fans with disabilities?

  15. Owen says:

    University = bad environment, superspreading. Mass Protests = good environment, virus-exempt. Did I get that right?

    • Martin says:

      perfectly put. This guy clearly has TDS and it’s spread to all his vitals.

  16. rick fluegel says:

    I t will be interesting to see how things go at the Naval Academy with everyone on campus.

  17. Barry E Breaux,Sr says:

    Also, as for paying full tuition on “online” classes. Outrageous and not nearly “full value”. 55K for online courses at Tufts or Reed College ? Help ! Kids should drop the year ASAP and/or protest in mass. And, all you students here know that as soon as you hit campus, it’s unpack, register for courses, and “where the party at and order 6 kegs” !

  18. Barry E Breaux,Sr says:

    Come on Scott, if universities closed now, they would face thousands of demands for tuition refunds, lawsuits, and other major revenue problems. And isn’t that money used to pay your salary (and the thousands of UC and other professors on “sabatical” ? It’s all about the money, and you know this.

  19. Gooch says:

    What’s remarkable and also tragic in equal measure, this is not critical thinking or genius insight, it’s common sense.

  20. NYU MBA '92 says:

    This is your opinion based on your context and I appreciate and accept that. The community I live in, with a university in session, has a far different C-19 experience than NYC. This community, if scaled up to NYC population would have 614 deaths attributed to C-19. Based on the site there have been 19,116 deaths attributed to C-19 or 31 times what is the per capita experience of the community I live in. Again, you have a different context. I understand that.

    • Banzaifly says:

      Really good points, and important to point out. It’s also relatively low in my area. But we have already had cases at our university, even though that’s largely a commuter school. I don’t think there’s one easy answer that applies to all situations. But the larger point (that many institutions are accepting no responsibility while demanding enormous payments, only to perpetuate the myth of the “value” of their product) should be a guidepost in assessing how to move forward. I also think private universities and public institutions have different constraints to consider. And finally, it does a bit rub me the wrong way that my best friend’s son, who attends probably the most “prestigious” K-12 academy In the nation, started school today, whereas yesterday she was informed that she wouldn’t be able to see any of kids she provides therapy for, in person, for the entire upcoming school year. They are all “at risk” kids coming from very disadvantaged backgrounds who were exhibiting problematic behaviors, even before this hit. Now they’re staring down an entire year of no hands-on support whatsoever; he, on the other hand, only has to test COVID-negative before he gets to march on, receiving the best education that ~$100,000 a year can buy. But the state’s overall infection numbers will stay low, right? That’s the most important metric? Bars should be closed if schools are closed. We need to prioritize families and young people in our response to all this. They’re already inheriting a shattered economy and endless other perpetual issues. They are getting exactly zero legs up in this world.

  21. Gregory Stecher says:

    That’s cool Scott. I dig both judgemental and profane.. Everyone is the former, even if they don’t speak it. Everyone wants to be the latter, but may offend someone. Both reasons are cowardly. Keep dishing it and rock on.

  22. Paul says:

    I really feel for the youth this year. I think this pandemic is exposing the need for so many teachers. Do we need thousands of teachers teaching algebra (or whatever class) when we could have hundreds teaching it online going forward (even when kids attend class in person)?

  23. Nancy Bekavac says:

    As a former college president who lived on a residential campus for 17 years, I agree completely. The point of residential colleges is close social interaction. In late adolescence, self control and good risk assessment are rare. Ergo, don’t open in a pandemic.

  24. Kstebbins says:

    I believe that this is an insane grand experience on the youth of our country and that all of the so called adults who preach that they want to keep students safe are completely derelict in their responsibility to keep students safe. All classes – everywhere – should be online until further notice. It is not the best option for education – but it is the best option for long term health of the youth of our country.

    • Banzaifly says:

      This seems like a slightly myopic and somewhat irrational response, to me. There are a boatload of factors to consider.

  25. HCSolo says:

    Every learning institution has already been derelict and acted as a super-spreader last March by shutting down and sending their infected stock into the hinterlands. To cite a bombastic blogger, it is a lethal combination of ignorance and arrogance to think your “team” will be able to cobble together a better “learning experience” than live teaching. Just like watching a NBA playoff game in the bubble with piped in crowd noise might be construed as “better” than attending a live game. Your filmed histrionics once again reveal that your main issue with the decisions made are self-serving and dripping in your political bias, as expected. Tigers don’t change their stripes.

  26. Jerry says:

    You know you’ve made it when you talk sh*t about an industry you’re in. Millions of people work in U’s, kids prefer classrooms. How about we accept that folks are doing the best they can to survive? Kids should own up and not be at bars etc, that will help.

  27. michael maser says:

    Spot-on. The pandemic keeps on giving, keeps on exploiting human stupidity. It actually isn’t rocket science. I have renewed respect for the post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, where I live (and am a student), which have chosen – in concert with provincial health authorities – to remain shuttered to in-person learning for this new school year. Whew …

    • Phoebe says:

      Thousands of cases based on a flawed application of PCR, and 0 deaths and hospitalizations. BC is an example of how not to deal with a pandemic.

  28. Mike says:

    Prof G always enjoy your thoughts. I could not disagree more on closing universities. Kids all ages need to be in classrooms and interacting with friends. The list of reasons why is very long IMO.

    • Lynn says:

      Agree. I think families and students should have a choice but my two college students have chosen to attend school – and interact with peers in what I hope is a safe way. I support their decision.

  29. zack porter says:

    Kudos to Prof G for the Quote of the Week: “Bipartisan head-up-your-ass efforts.”

  30. Lee says:

    The same leadership must now deal with the ethics of how responsible it would be to return the contained group of spreaders back into the greater population. Will higher education rise above the cost/benefit analysis? We shall see.

  31. Michael Dawson says:

    Any suggestions for places to collect ideas on remotely besting the traditional experience? Most of the advice out there is trite, to put it kindly.

  32. Coach Chris says:

    I can’t help but think that the University Presidents are in sync with the Mayors, rather than at odds of these college towns and their common goal is to try and prop up the local economies as much as possible without redlining the hospitals for full time residents.

  33. Davd says:

    I challenge any woman or man to find a better human than Scott. Truly. So appreciative of your honesty. You are the Charles Barkley of the non-sports world.

    • Phoebe says:

      Challenge accepted. Found many. What now? This post is about as misguided as any from Prof Galloway on this subject. Love his other stuff, which is what he should stick to.

    • Jeff W says:

      My father, my grandfathers, my uncles, my brother. Scott seems like a pretty good guy too but let’s not pretend we really know him

  34. Scott K says:

    I think you’re spot on here, except you make a bit of a false equivalency between the “left” and “right.” In regard to the right, you’re certainly correct – Trump’s “lieutenants” are the Republican governors who are acting recklessly and irresponsibly in dereliction of their duty to protect the welfare and safety of those within their states. However, to blanketly frame the “left” as the chancellors and presidents of universities seems to be a bit of a broad generalization. First, some of these colleges are openly conservative institutions – take, Liberty University for example, who’s corona response has been pathetic. Further, some of the public universities are located in red states controlled by Republican governors, so shouldn’t we associate the heads of these officials with the right, rather than the left? Most importantly, a lot of the colleges are private, so they aren’t really affiliated with one party or the other. To equate the horrific actions of Republican governors with the horrific actions of private universities kind of misses a key distinction between them: the Republican governors are elected officials responsible for protecting their citizens, whereas private universities are for-profit institutions. Sure, NYU should be behaving way more responsibly, but is anyone surprised that they are behaving this way when the profit motive runs so strong. Of course, if the Republican Senate/ Trump actually believed in empiricism and reason, maybe they would have passed a Second Cares Act giving relief to colleges who faced enrollment declines, which would have encouraged more colleges to opt for a remote start. Again, our colleges, like NYU, should certainly be chastised here, but I think it’s important to remember that the Republican Party turning into a death-cult is the main culprit in this Corona Virus disaster.

    • Paul says:

      College shouldn’t be affiliated with any party. Most schools aren’t discounting the tuition so they aren’t encouraging people to pay for online learning. So the Government shouldn’t bail out overpriced Universities (with way too many administrators). You are insane if you think Republican Governors are the problem and Democrat Governors aren’t as well. New York and New Jersey are the two worst states in terms of deaths. Plenty of private non-for profit colleges. If you think one party is all good and the other is all bad you are a moron. I’m not happy with 2020, but I can at least see that both parties have major flaws.

    • Scott k says:

      @Paul, first off I agree with you, Cuomo in particular has done a shit job. I never said democrat governors aren’t at fault, just that Scott made a bit of a false equivalence between Republican governors and university administrators, because the former are elected officials whereas the ladder are mainly private actors. College tuition rates today are criminal for a lot of reasons, one of which is bloated admin budgets as you point out. My point was that the government could have nudged the universities to go online by giving them money/ interest free loans to do so, which likely would have saved a lot of lives. Now, in terms of comparing our parties responses, the Dems, at least in sum, have listened to the experts and tried to implement reasonable solutions. You simply can’t say the same about the Republicans – Trumps admission to Woodward in February clearly illustrates the ineptitude and fault of the GOP.

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