A College Reality Check – The New York Times


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Colleges have come rushing forth to announce that they will be inviting students back to campus this fall. But as I’ve spoken to college officials over the past few weeks — usually not for quotation — I’ve been struck by the difference between their public optimism and their private uncertainty.

Many university leaders aren’t sure how well on-campus living and in-person classes will work during this pandemic. Some acknowledge it may not work at all.

It will require radical changes to the normal campus experience, like canceling many activities, rotating which students can return (to keep dorms from being too full) and continuing to hold classes online (to protect professors).

This approach is likely to frustrate students — and it still might not prevent new coronavirus outbreaks. Nearly all distinctive parts of a campus experience, including parties, meals and extracurriculars, revolve around close social contact, often indoors.

So what explains the surge of “We’re open!” announcements? Competitive pressure, in part. Many colleges will face serious financial problems if they lose a year of tuition and other revenue.

Now professors and administrators have begun publicly criticizing reopening plans:

  • “My suspicion,” Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan economist, wrote on Twitter, is that “colleges are holding out hope of in-person classes in order to keep up enrollments.” She added: “If they tell the difficult truth now, many students will decide to take a year off,” which “will send college finances into a tailspin.”

  • Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, noted that the new class of Army recruits at Fort Benning recently suffered a major outbreak, despite universal testing there.

There are no easy answers. Telling students to stay home in the fall also has big downsides. And it’s possible that students will do a better job wearing masks and remaining socially distant than skeptics like Steinberg expect.

But the path that colleges are choosing comes with big risks. American higher education is about to embark on a highly uncertain experiment.

The new memoir from John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, contains a series of remarkable allegations against Trump: that he pressured China to help him win re-election, praised China’s internment of Uighur Muslims, asked if Finland was part of Russia, said some reporters should be “executed,” and said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela.

The Justice Department has asked a judge to immediately halt publication of the book, saying it contained classified information.

Every modern president has had former aides write memoirs with modest criticisms or unflattering anecdotes. But the harshness of the criticism from those who worked in the Trump administration — like Jim Mattis and others — has no precedent.

The Trump administration has largely stopped treating the coronavirus as a crisis, with the president saying in an interview Wednesday night that it was “fading away.” The White House’s task force now meets just twice a week. Experts like Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx speak to the president less often. The country’s designated “testing czar” has returned to his old job.

With federal leadership receding and cases climbing in many places, state officials have been left to figure out how to handle the situation on their own, The Times reports.

More virus developments:

The coronavirus shutdowns are hitting black-owned small businesses especially hard, new data shows. These businesses lack easy access to loans and appear to be benefiting less than white-owned businesses from government stimulus programs.

Our story includes maps of New York, Chicago and several other major cities, showing where businesses were running short on cash heading into the pandemic.

A former Atlanta police officer, Garrett Rolfe, was charged with felony murder and aggravated assault in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s restaurant.

Prosecutors said that Rolfe shot Brooks twice in the back, declared, “I got him,” and kicked him as he lay on the ground. The Fulton County district attorney said another officer involved in the confrontation, Devin Brosnan, stepped on Brooks’s shoulder.

Appearing on Fox News, Trump defended Rolfe and blamed Brooks: “You can’t resist a police officer, and if you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact.”

More protest developments:

  • Senate Republicans unveiled a policing overhaul bill yesterday that will compete with a House bill proposed by Democrats. Among the differences: Democrats would allow victims of police brutality to seek damages, while Republicans would not.

  • Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, urged the United Nations on Wednesday to investigate the police killings of black people in the United States.

  • The Aunt Jemima brand is getting a new name and logo, after its parent company acknowledged that its origins were “based on a racial stereotype.” Uncle Ben’s is also “evaluating all possibilities” concerning its branding.

  • The actor Danny Masterson, known for his roles in the sitcoms “That ’70s Show” and “The Ranch,” has been charged with raping three women in the early 2000s.

  • Lives Lived: Thomas F. Freeman was such an authority on public speaking that Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Jordan and Denzel Washington all heeded his wisdom. So did the debate teams at the historically black Texas Southern University, which he coached to national renown over 60 years. He has died at age 100.

Tara Parker-Pope has been hearing from Times readers who want to know when it will be safe to allow domestic workers — like cleaners, plumbers and home health aides — back into their homes. Her answer flips the question: The main risk is for the workers, not the homeowners.

Domestic workers often visit multiple homes in a single day, increasing their chances of infection. In response to the questions she’s been getting, Tara has written a guide for The Times’s Well section.

Her two main pieces of advice: Leave the house when the workers are there (or, if that’s not possible, spend time in a closed room). And open as many windows and doors as possible to improve ventilation.

Related: “Is it safe to keep employing a cleaner? Wrong question, lady,” Roxane Gay writes in the Work Friend column.

Maque choux is a fancy name for a dish that’s really the perfect opportunity to use up the odds and ends in your fridge. Got half a red onion? Toss it in. Maybe a bell pepper, on the verge of going bad? Perfect. Half a chile? Use it.

The traditional Cajun side dish makes for either a condiment or light lunch. Placed on a bun, it’s like a refreshing vegetarian sloppy joe, Gabrielle Hamilton, a chef, said. Find her recipe here.

When the N.B.A. resumes its season inside Walt Disney World, the league will follow a long set of rules meant to protect players and team personnel from the coronavirus, including:

  • Players will not be allowed to shower after games until they are back at their hotels.

  • Each team will have its own on-site chef, and Disney restaurants will occasionally be closed to accommodate players.

  • The league will make socially distant recreational activities available for players, including video games, movie screenings and golf (without caddies).

The new home-court advantage: The Athletic reports that the league will be split among three hotels — with the top teams earning the most posh lodging.

The cult comedian Eric Andre considers himself to be “a benevolent attacker.” Known for the cringe-inducing antics on his series, a send up of late-night talk shows, he says he relies on “an element of a sleeping danger — you want there to be something at risk.” Past stunts include pretending to vomit in front of an unsuspecting guest and chasing a bassinet floating away on balloons while screaming, “My baby!”

In a profile, the 37-year-old star talks about his new Netflix special and comedy film.


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