Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As pastors and church leaders craft their messages to church members about moving forward during this uncertain season of quarantine, Mitch Daniels letter is an example of candor, concern and positivity. It can serve as a model for your responses.
TO THE PEOPLE OF PURDUE:
The global pandemic which has altered every previous reality of daily life has, of course, inflicted great harm on the nation’s colleges and universities. American higher education, often criticized for its antiquated ways and its slowness to change them, has improvised and responded with admirable, even amazing alacrity to enable students to finish this semester with the progress they anticipated.
The central question now, assuming governmental authorities permit reopening of our schools by the customary August start dates, is should schools do so, and with what new rules and practices. Purdue University, for its part, intends to accept students on campus in typical numbers this fall, sober about the certain problems that the COVID-19 virus represents, but determined not to surrender helplessly to those difficulties but to tackle and manage them aggressively and creatively.
Institutions committed to the on-campus educational experience face special difficulties in returning our operations to anything like their previous arrangements. At Purdue, we have pursued a conscious policy that promotes density of our population. Our campus master plan aims at bringing people more closely together. Our housing policies, with significant success, have been designed to encourage on-campus living. And there are far more of us; we have grown our entering classes, both undergraduate and graduate, by some 25%, while investing heavily in programs like learning communities that foster higher retention and graduation.
There were sound reasons for these steps. Serving more students is our most worthy social mission. Making the campus more convenient and walkable likewise has obvious merits. Most important, all the evidence reveals that students who live and spend more of their time on campus succeed academically at higher rates. The learning experience is enhanced not only by being closer to faculty, labs, and classrooms, but also by being closer to other students, especially those from different backgrounds.
Now, sadly and ironically, the very density we have consciously fostered is, at least for the moment, our enemy. Distance between people, that is, less density, is now the overriding societal imperative. It could be argued that a college campus will be among the most difficult places to reopen for previously regular activities.
… The approaches below are preliminary, meant to be illustrative of the objectives we will pursue. View them as examples, likely to be replaced by better ideas as we identify and validate them.
Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.
Read more at … coronavirus.purdue.edu