COVID-19 Comes to College: Managing Your Institution During a Pandemic
Very few challenges facing higher education deserve the label “unprecedented.” During the first two decades of the 21st century, colleges and universities weathered the disruptions caused by the Nine/Eleven terrorist attacks, the SARS and Swine Flu epidemics, and the Great Recession. Even so, “unprecedented” may be the only word that captures the current closures that have swept across the nation’s campuses in the face of the Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, pandemic.
As the winter of our discontent slips into an uncertain spring, hundreds of higher ed institutions have moved their spring semesters out of the classrooms and onto their online learning platforms, while sending students home for the remaining four to six weeks of the term. Many, many more took the more tentative step of extending pending spring breaks by an additional week or more.
Meanwhile, no one knows for sure what will be the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic. Will it peak, plateau and decline, the way annual influenza outbreaks do? Or will it mimic the Spanish Flu of a century ago, appearing to peter out in the spring, only to resurge in an evolved, far more virulent form the following summer? Regardless of the uncertain epidemiology of COVID-19, one certainty is that the current closures mark a new normal for enterprise risk management in higher education.
- How to use scenario planning, differentiated visioning, rigorous prioritization, and purposeful resource allocation to control the crisis
- Health and safety factors that go into the decision to stay the course or close and go online
- What happens when students demand room and board refunds
- How to accommodate students with disabilities when the delivery mode suddenly shifts from in-class to online
- What to do about those students who aren’t able to head for home on short notice
- How Uncle Sam is helping: from FERPA to the GI Bill to DOE regulatory flexibility
- How to handle your support staff, left stranded on an empty campus
- What are the ADA, FMLA, OSHA, Unemployment Comp and Workers Comp issues to brace for, regardless of whether you stayed open or closed down
- If you have unionized faculty or staff, what is your bargaining obligation regarding decisions driven by a pandemic
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