Skip to comments.Why Mitch Danielsí Determination To Reopen Purdue University This Fall Is A Brilliant Business Move
Posted on 04/29/2020 6:27:46 AM PDT by Kaslin
'Even a phenomenon as menacing as COVID-19 is one of the inevitable risks of life,' writes Purdue President and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
While other education leaders are waiting for politicians to release their students from the lockdowns suspending their futures, former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, now head of Purdue University, is making plans to reopen his campus for fall.
We have every intention of being on campus this fall,” he told the faculty senate on April 20, according to USA Today. “We are sober about the challenges that will bring. We believe in the value of the on-campus experience, and were determined, if were permitted to do so by the public authorities and medical circumstances. If at all possible, we intend to be open and operating.
Daniels was appointed president of the highly ranked public research university in 2012 after a cost-cutting, no-nonsense governorship that sparked fruitless attempts to get him to run for president. As president of the Indiana university, he has frozen tuition, deployed innovative online programs, and increased enrollment by about 6,000 students to nearly 45,000. During that timeframe, college enrollment nationwide declined 11 percent.
On April 21, Daniels issued a publc letter detailing the university’s initial plans for reopening campus after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in March banned in-person education due to coronavirus fright.
“Closing down our entire society, including our university, was a correct and necessary step,” Daniels wrote, diplomatically. “It has had invaluable results. But like any action so drastic, it has come at extraordinary costs, as much human as economic, and at some point, clearly before next fall, those will begin to vastly outweigh the benefits of its continuance.”
Daniels noted the serious costs to students of degrading their education through the international stampede into online coursework. These include “Interrupting and postponing the education of tomorrows leaders,” “permanently damaging the careers and lives of those who have made teaching and research their lifes work, and those who support them in that endeavor,” and damaging learning, since “all the evidence reveals that students who live and spend more of their time on campus succeed academically at higher rates.”
Daniels acknowledged that about 20 percent of the Purdue community is at higher risk from coronavirus due to age or pre-existing conditions. He said he is serious about keeping them and lower-risk student and faculty safe while not sacrificing the other 80 percent of students’ futures.
“At least 80% of our population is made up of young people, say, 35 and under. All data to date tell us that the COVID-19 virus, while it transmits rapidly in this age group, poses close to zero lethal threat to them,” he wrote. Studies have found that, primarily because of these factors, school shutdowns are one of the least effective ways to “flatten the curve.” In fact, shutting down schools likely puts the elderly and sick at greater risk of death because it delays the herd immunity from healthier people necessary to protect them.
So reopening Purdue could be a way to make it safer — if state and federal officials allow. Daniels suggested some “preliminary” safety steps the campus is considering in order to open in the fall while protecting all students and staff. These include, as summarized by USA Today:
- Spreading out classes across days and times to reduce their size;
- More online instruction for on-campus students;
- Allowing or requiring people more at risk to the virus to work remotely;
- Pre-testing students and staff for infection and post-infection immunity and using the Purdue laboratory to ensure fast results;
- Tracing contacts for those who test positive and asking contacts to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“[T[hese concepts are preliminary, intended mainly to illustrate an overall, data-driven and research-based strategy, and to invite suggestions for their modification or exclusion in favor of better actions,” Daniels wrote. “They will be augmented by a host of other changes, such as an indefinite prohibition on gatherings above a specified size, continued limitations on visitors to and travel away from campus, required use of face coverings and other protective equipment, frequent if not daily deep cleaning of facilities, and so forth.”
This is what leadership looks like, and it will make Purdue even stronger long-term. Students at all levels and their parents have been forced into emotionally destabilizing holding patterns over their futures, and Daniels is providing them a place to safely land. Providing stability is crucial for parent and students’ trust in his university, which is key in a down market for higher education.
He’s making Purdue the place to be for smart students who want as few education disruptions as possible and will select his high-quality university, instead of their competing options, to get it. This will attract smart kids who are comfortable facing controlled risk — precisely the kind of graduates who will go on to make Purdue proud and burnish its reputation in the years to come.
As Daniels wrote, teaching the world and especially the young people under his leadership what it means to be a Boilermaker, “a return-to-operations strategy is undergirded by a fundamental conviction that even a phenomenon as menacing as COVID-19 is one of the inevitable risks of life.”
Higher education, like much of American elite institutions, was already rotting before the Wuhan virus arrived. Before the shutdowns, college enrollment had already dropped 11 percent, and not due to fewer available young people, but to doubts about academia’s true value that Covid-19 only exacerbates.
The wake of our coronavirus panic is likely to erase countless institutions in the long-term, regardless of whether Congress prints them stacks of cash like it is every other interest under the sun. Purdue was already less likely to be one of these lost universities, given its strength going into the crisis, and Daniels’ clear, bold, and anxiety-assuaging leadership during this crisis is keeping it that way.
It’s an absolute win for Purdue to present itself in uncertain times as the strong horse for smart and gutsy young Americans.
So conducting business is a brilliant business move.
As opposed to not conducting business?
I think most colleges are planning to open in the fall. At this point at least.
Mitch, do not wait till Fall. Do it now.
One issue is this: the “Karens” prefer to shelter in place for a long time, but on the other hand don’t want to pay $60K a year tuition for their children to attend online schools in the fall. I think online college classes are typically about $300 per class.
There may be some interesting changes ahead for colleges.
If I were an incoming freshman at a university that had not yet declared they were opening in late August, I would take a gap year.
why pay full tuition, at a new school, for which you will only get online courses?
Yes. My daughter decided to go back to school to get another degree. Shes a teacher and is looking to get a degree is some science. She can do it online at the University of Florida and use some of her prior courses to reduce her credit requirements. She figures it will cost her $4000. Cant beat that. My son though is in CA. I suggested to him that he should see if they have similar deals at UC Berkeley and UCLA. Turns out they dont. They havent made any changes yet despite protests by students. But they may yet.
Ive got a high school senior son. He was accepted at a Virginia Public Ivy for the Fall. Out of state tuition is around $45,000 plus room, board, fees.
Im not paying that much for him to sit in his room and do correspondence courses.
He will definitely be taking a gap year!
This is true leadership. Kudos to Mitch!
I hope many institutions of higher learning follow his example. And use the lean times to uproot any program, class, or instructor who has “Studies” in it’s title. But those pansies might self select to hide under their beds, and go extinct. They should be encouraged to do so.
From what I've been told, my alma mater (Gonzaga) is planning on reopening in early September, as usual. It would not have been a problem when I was a student there, and the undergrad population was around 2000. Most of my classes had less than 30 students, and I'll never forget a macroeconomics class that was brutal...there were 5 students in that class. The professor took no prisoners, and God help you if you answered a question incorrectly. LOL, one of the best classes I ever took.
Enrollment is now upwards of 6000 (about the size of Allen High School...ahem), in large part to the success of our men's basketball program. At the time our run started, the university's president, Fr. Bob Spitzer, saw the marketing potential. Under his guidance, the school's endowment went from virtually zero to $150 million, and several new buildings were funded by donors.
Based on my experiences, the school has maintained much of the same family type atmosphere as when I attended. It's a very close knit community. My problem was I enjoyed the "Gonzaga Experience" a bit too much...lol.
I think the after action reports regarding online schooling will be declared a disaster. I expect the first third of my grandson's 4th grade year to consist of remedial instruction for what he missed the last few months of third grade.
I'm not blaming anyone, the educators and administration were dealt "aces and eights".
This is a brilliant move. If you are a top notch senior HS student and Purdue is your only choice, it will influence your decision.
Would Mitch have been a good POTUS?
It's bad enough that public high schools have not prepared students for 4 year colleges and universities. That has been the case for at least 50 years IMO. I still remember my first two weeks of college, nearly 50 years ago. I was terrified, seemed like everyone I met was in the top 1% of their class.
Mitch has just earned consideration for 2024.
My daughter is a 3rd year at university and her school seems to be trying hard to make distance-learning work. Particularly as you get deep into a major, everyone is learning that group interaction, specialization, hands-on training, etc is very difficult to transfer on-line. Internships have stopped. Meetings with industry professionals have stopped. From what I would guess, I would say class work has been cut down 20-30% to allow for the on-line format (fewer projects, reduced office-hours with teacher, etc..) It works OK for now, because she already knows the professors, knows her classmates, class style and culture were in place since January, and they had formed into work and study groups before Coronavirus hit.
NONE of that would exist for an incoming freshman. As you point out, literally everything is new, and it would be extremely difficult to make the jump in expectations, work-needed and competition from others with a pure on-line format. Beyond that, they would lose the life-long, memory forming events of making new friends, going to the first homecoming game, etc
I think most colleges are planning to open in the fall. At this point at least.
Cal State colleges even in counties/cities with minimal CV cases are still playing the waiting game.
Big East colleges are big ? marks, of course if your campuses are in or near NJ/NY, you might have reason to quiver and quake re to reopen or not!
OTOH, he had a wicked sense of humor that would never be employed with a virtual classroom. I was targeted on several occasions, as I was his only student (of 80) that was in ROTC. It was never personal, it was more poking fun at the waste found in government and the military. He had personal experience, having served in the Navy during WWII.
There was one episode that I dust off when asked "what was the experience like at Gonzaga?" During March Madness, I'm asked that when I'm at a sports bar by those that attended huge Power Conference schools. The usual response to my old, dusted off stories is "damn, my college experience was nothing like that."
A few of my buddies were ticked off at me, so they prepared a fake drop slip for all 3 of my accounting classes. They got the professor to give it to me after the first hour of our 3 hour long CPA review class. I took a look at it, and put it aside for after class.
It must have been torture for my friends, trying to stifle their laughter for two hours. Finally, the secret was out at the end of class...I thought it was great that the professor played along with it.
That drop slip remains in one of my photo albums from college.
Never would've happened in today's online world.
Sorry to digress, but here's one of my finest moments, academically. I knew I had aced the fall semester final exam in cost accounting. When we compared notes, I was the outlier with my answers. I wasn't the greatest of students, so my answers were met with skepticism.
When we returned for the spring semester, we were in the GU bookstore, when our professor entered. When he saw me, he walked up to me and said, "NHN, I want to shake your hand, I'm proud of you!" To say that jaws were dropping was an understatement.
I scored something like a 141/150 on the test. To put his scoring in perspective, he'd give a B+ for 90/150.
My grandson is a senior and will be going to college in N.C. He was told the school has every intention of opening in the fall.