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Wippman on Balancing Safety with Normal College Experience


Hamilton College President David Wippman and Glenn Altschuler, the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University, address the challenge of balancing safety with a normal college experience in an op-ed published in Inside Higher Ed on Aug. 19.

In Déjà Vu All Over Again?, the authors write that “just a few weeks ago, colleges and universities across the country anticipated a relatively normal fall semester. Now, with the Delta variant surging, confidence has given way to apprehensiveness. At many institutions, mask mandates have returned, along with fears of an escalating series of ‘déjà vu all over again’ restrictions.”

But Wippman and Altschuler contend that this year is different. “We should be able to balance safety and normalcy much more effectively, to have our cake and eat it, too,” they write, citing a “recent study that suggests that campuses with vaccination rates higher than 90 percent can offer a full residential experience this year without the need for extensive testing, masking and distancing.”

Noting that vaccinations are mandated for all students at both Hamilton and Cornell, the authors admit that “the sharply polarized environment, in which the chasm between the people who focus on safety and those who focus on individual liberty, makes it a virtual certainty that whatever protocols we adopt will be sharply contested.”

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