The month of July triggers many memories. When I was younger, the month kicked off with the Fourth of July holiday festivities of picnics and fireworks, all of which were fascinating to me, my siblings, cousins, and friends. July 4 was also my grandfather’s birthday, an occasion that we were fortunate to celebrate with him through his 95th.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Inside Higher Education and Hanover Research have regularly surveyed college and university presidents, asking questions about their actions during the crisis. More recently, these presidents have been asked about their expectations of when campus life will return to normal.
As a parent of Division I athletes, I found the points in the Forbes article “Has Higher Education Lost Its Mind?" written by Donna Lopiano and Andrew Zimbalist to be more than interesting. The authors opened their article with news about the suspension of voluntary summer workouts at the University of Houston, when six players tested positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks after their return to campus.
In a recently published article, Wall Street Journal reporters Dana Mattioli and Konrad Putzier ask the question, “When It’s Time to Go Back to the Office, Will It Still Be There?” Mattioli and Putzier state that because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will likely be fewer offices in the center of big cities. Companies will build hybrid schedules that will allow workers to stay home part of the week to free up space for social distancing, and smaller satellite offices will pop up in less-expensive suburbs as the workforce becomes less centralized.
Inside Higher Ed’s Rick Seltzer writes about two initiatives related to measuring institutional financial health. Mr. Seltzer reports that the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) voted to continue to use the federal financial composite scores as the primary factor for evaluating whether or not institutions are eligible to be members.
The month of March was not a good month for higher education. With the national, state, and local social distancing recommendations, college leaders recognized that college campuses had to be closed. Within two weeks, almost all of our colleges and universities transitioned to online classes with students attending classes remotely from home, their off-campus apartments, or in a few cases, from their dormitories.
I’ve worked hard during the “work remote, shelter at home” period to continue my routines and break the gap between work and non-work activities, in order to keep from being bored and going stir-crazy. Everything was going according to my never-experienced, work-from-home plan.
A friend of mine owns a restaurant that closed after the governor of Maryland ordered non-essential businesses to close and for no one to assemble in groups of more than 10 people. His situation is not unique: in any city or state with similar emergency regulations, the only restaurants open provide carryout. Because of our friendship and my background in finance, he asked me if I would help him build a set of projections to reflect the restart of his business. Building the spreadsheet was not difficult, since he had detailed historical financials by month going back years. The difficult part was dealing with the uncertainty of when the business would be allowed to reopen.
Nationwide, all aspects of higher education were forced to quickly adapt to the deep and widespread changes necessitated by mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. While the movement to work from home has impacted all of us differently, I'm proud of what we have collectively accomplished at American Public University System and in higher education as a whole. By making the decision to "social distance" and then "work remotely," I believe we minimized the potential spread of the virus to all of us.
You are not alone – we need one another to remind each other that it’s OK to feel anxious, afraid and helpless. We are human and wired that way to respond to a threat, even when it is invisible. Feeling out of control is only natural. But we do have control over our inner self-narrative.