The intrusion of courts, Congress, state legislatures, and governors into higher education has become so common, so ordinary, and so unsurprising that any of us can easily slide into numbness. But interference in the research, teaching, service, and operations of colleges and universities will advance only political aims.
The facts that graduate students are older, may have their own families, often work to support themselves, have different stage-of-life health and well-being challenges, and are closely engaged with (and often dependent on) faculty mentors are not reasons to dismiss or ignore their needs as still-developing people.
In many ways, then, COVID-19 introduced public health methods, practices, and results to campuses for the first time... How might a systemic, campus-wide approach, grounded in public health theory, better support a fully inclusive community?
The Supreme Court’s decision will complicate plans on many campuses to develop health-promoting universities with an inclusive and caring spirit. What the Court’s decision and new state laws will not prevent is students coming to health and counseling centers with unwanted pregnancies, or in need of reproductive health services that healthcare professionals may be forbidden to provide.
Too many students have come to believe what they do matters more than who they are. Too many think “busy” equals “worthwhile.” The differential suffering imposed by inequity has cheated too many out of their potential.
The problem is not that we don’t know, or haven’t known, or can’t know what to do; the problem is that opportunities for change have been submerged, stifled, and snuffed out by the intransigency of staid institutional, organizational, and commercial culture. But change is the partner, or implementation plan, of existential moments.
This semester will be remembered, if outlived. Educators are resilient people—if nothing else, intrepid. Even in the midst of our fatigue and frustration with Zoom, the sadness we feel for the students who, despite being our purpose, had such a diminished experience this year, and the wrenching uncertainties that define these times, we long for the return of the familiar.
There will be no going back to normal for higher education institutions post-Covid-19 pandemic. How will we support students—all students—and make it possible for them to take full advantage of what our colleges and universities can provide?
Keeling & Associates, LLC, like our clients and colleagues across higher education, is adapting the way we do things in response to COVID-19. Preventing or slowing the transmission of the new coronavirus is all of our responsibility; saving lives matters most.