Students are itching to return to college campuses, hungry for social interaction and the collegial experience they’ve longed for since schools abruptly sent everyone home in the spring. But professors and faculty aren’t so excited. Many are anxious about the precautions (or the lack thereof) their colleges and universities plan to take against COVID-19.

The New York Times dubbed faculty concerns a “rising revolt.” Who can blame those who work in academia when college is synonymous with socializing? Will coeds heed social distancing warnings or skip Friday-night parties?

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If universities can’t open fully, they’ll likely suffer a huge financial hit, with some students demanding (and getting) tuition discounts and others delaying education. So much of the college experience relies on the convergence of thought, conversation, and — for many — being present.

If only you could place a protective bubble around each person to enforce social distancing and ward off droplets. Unfortunately, that’s magical thinking. A full return in a way that makes students, faculty and staff feel less at-risk requires a new kind of planning and more reliance on technology. While some universities plan to set up COVID-19 screening stations, check temperatures daily and require tests for those with a fever, others may not yet have a full plan.

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About the Author:

Rob Mesirow is Connected Solutions Principal, PwC, and Patrick Parodi is Managing Director, PwC.


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