Written by 4:00 pm New York News

Opinion | Can Colleges Meet the Covid Challenge?

To the Editor:

Re “To Stay Open, Colleges Wage War on Parties” (front page, Aug. 23):

The move back to campus and on-site learning was always going to be a challenge. The uptick in Covid cases among students and staff at many universities was not unanticipated. Pointing fingers at young adults away from home and engaging in social activities that defy distancing and masking guidelines is appropriate.

But that doesn’t let administrators off the hook: Colleges have been winking and nodding at high-risk behaviors for as long as most of us can remember. Not having greater control of on- and off-campus activities was and is a recipe for continued spread of disease and the necessary return to online learning.

The financial health of institutions of higher learning is a priority, but let’s not throw our young adults and vulnerable staff into a cauldron.

Raymond Coleman
Potomac, Md.
The writer is a pediatrician.

To the Editor:

Your article addresses the difficulty in getting college students to alter their normal behavioral patterns and repress their social desires. What it misses is how isolated students are.

As the father of a freshman, I have heard how his first week in a college dorm waiting for classes to start has been barren of human interaction. Common areas are closed, and there are none of the activity booths or club recruiting that usually goes on the first week.

Attempts at Zoom activities offer no opportunity for students to form new friendships. Furthermore, freshman classes are the largest and therefore the most likely to be on Zoom. Consequently, without opportunities for regular interactions in classes, dorm common areas, or clubs, freshmen arriving at a new school, where they do not know anyone, stand a diminished chance of forming personal connections.

At this point I have gone from being excited for my son to go to college to wondering why the university wanted students on campus. I hate to exaggerate, but it seems as though a myopic focus on Covid safety has led schools to hold students in the dorms like lab animals. However, even lab animals lapse into depression when isolated. I am afraid that there is a looming mental health crisis coming for colleges that could have worse consequences than having them attend parties.

Matt Evans
Altoona, Pa.

To the Editor:

The college partiers are fully self-absorbed. They choose to ignore those who grieve the loss of loved ones from Covid-19; those who have lost their life savings; and those with no job relief in their future who have lost all hope for how to care for their families. Americans in despair live steps from students who spend $50,000 for tuition so they can celebrate themselves in narcissistic revelry while they contribute to the spread of this deadly virus.

The undergrads are not children; they are young adults with all the privileges that accompany adulthood. Along with privileges, their adulthood comes with a moral responsibility to protect others from harm. Where is their collective conscience?

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