Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Notre Dame To Resume In-Person Classes Tomorrow

Following up on my previous posts:

Roger P. Alford (Law), Susan D. Collins (Political Science), Kirk Doran (Economics), Francesca Murphy (Theology) & Jeffrey A. Pojanowski (Law), Recalculating the Risks:

Notre Dame (2020)As professors at Notre Dame, we have closely watched the debates over whether the University should send students home for the semester. A new danger stalks the world, and it is not clear when we will have it under control. Nevertheless, we think the right decision is to have students learn and live together in person. We recognize there are some risks, especially to faculty and staff, but we do not think they are high enough to deprive students of the opportunities we were fortunate enough to enjoy at their age. Our society has already made young people sacrifice so much during the pandemic. Based on our understanding of the risks and present situation, we think shuttering the campus indefinitely and banishing students to isolated online learning would be unjust. ...

Assessing the proper response to this new pandemic is not easy, but we think our society’s approach has unfairly discounted the costs we are imposing on the young and those who do not have the luxury of working from home. In that respect, Notre Dame’s decision to reopen with sensible precautions was admirable, courageous and reflects a reasonable balancing of the risks. As of now, we have no reason to believe that decision was wrong and until we do, we encourage the University administration to honor its commitment to the students. As long as we can, we will be there — in person — because we love being here and we believe we owe it to our students and the University community.

Press Release, Notre Dame to Begin Gradual Resumption Of In-Person Classes Sept. 2:

In an online address to the campus community, University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced today that after a two-week break, all in-person undergraduate classes will resume in stages beginning Wednesday (Sept. 2). In-person instruction was suspended and several gathering restrictions were instituted Aug. 18 after a steep rise in new COVID-19 cases on campus.

Since then, the number of new cases has decreased substantially and, while the positivity rate of 10.8 percent is high, it, too, is on the decline, and from Aug. 20 through 25 was 6.3 percent. In addition, more than 1,200 surveillance tests on members of the campus community have been conducted with a less than 1 percent positivity rate.

“With these encouraging numbers, we believe we can plan to return to in-person classes and gradually open up the campus,” Father Jenkins said.

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I'll echo one sentence that I think so many are missing: "we think our society’s approach has unfairly discounted the costs we are imposing on the young and those who do not have the luxury of working from home."

Our response to COVID-19 in academia has been driven by decision makers that are largely in the high risk groups. How many University Presidents and Provosts, if any, are under the age of 60? Our policies are not an inconvenience to students for their own protection and safety (the students are all going to be just fine even if they catch COVID-19 and they know it). Rather, our policies are shifting what should be a non-factor for students and a major disruption for high risk groups (like University presidents, full faculty members, deans and provosts) to a major disruption for students and a minor inconvenience for decision makers. The approach is wrong an I'm glad some faculty at ND have the temerity to speak up.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 1, 2020 7:37:35 PM

I commend Notre Dame for its experiment, but have a different perspective. Both of my 18-year-olds are thriving online. And the online law school classes that I teach are (I believe) better than anything I taught pre-COVID. I recognize, however, that students' abilities to thrive online vary widely.

Posted by: Ted Seto | Sep 1, 2020 1:05:55 PM