Both Hamilton and Cornell University kept their COVID-19 case numbers low in the fall semester. Based on both institutions’ methods for success, President David Wippman and Cornell Professor of American Studies Glenn Altschuler co-authored an essay outlining key lessons learned in the process in Inside Higher Ed. Titled “How Colleges Can Spring Forward,” the piece appeared on Jan. 11.
Their roadmap to success included the following five points:
- Testing is essential, and frequency matters.
- Campuses following appropriate protocols turned out to be surprisingly safe spaces.
- Culture is crucial. Engaging students as partners worked better than blaming and shaming.
- Implementing the changes needed to operate safely was an enormous challenge, but managing the human and emotional toll proved even harder.
- In a pandemic, geography is destiny. Small residential colleges in rural areas can more readily limit contact with the surrounding community than large, urban universities.
The writers concluded by pointing out that every decision about reopening this spring demands balancing risks and rewards.