We are so special

The president of my university has sent down a message to all the branch campuses. Mine gets some special love.

For Crookston and Morris:

Move-in for University housing in Crookston will continue as scheduled, and on-campus Morris students should remain on campus. Classes on both campuses will proceed as scheduled. Our approach is different here because of timing and because both campuses operate in communities where reported case numbers are lower than in other areas of Minnesota. We also believe the likelihood of widespread disease transmission to be lower on both campuses compared to our other campuses that have higher campus and community densities and more consistent traffic in and out of campus areas. Both campuses continue to work closely with our Health Emergency Response Office (HERO) and local and state public health officials. We are closely monitoring the situation with Chancellors Holz-Clause and Behr, and will continue to revisit our plans daily and consider any necessary adjustments to protect the health and safety of these campuses. Watch your email closely for updates from your Chancellor.

We opened first, so the word is to just continue as we are with no adjustments. Isn’t that nice? They also promise to watch us guinea pigs closely — if we start dropping dead, they’ll change their policy. Very reassuring.

For the other campuses, though, she announces a “pivot” (there’s a word that has been wearing out its welcome.)

For Duluth, Rochester, and the Twin Cities:
Move-in dates for University housing on all three campuses are postponed for at least two weeks to provide additional time to evaluate new and emerging federal testing guidance, as well as continued evaluation of techniques used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This window helps us avoid moving large numbers of students into on-campus housing and then moving them out again if public health conditions eventually require distance learning for the remainder of the fall semester. Students who plan to live in University residence halls or apartments will soon receive more information from the relevant office on your campus.
If University housing is your safest and best option, or if you are an international student with no other housing option, we will work with you to ensure you have a place to stay on campus. Duluth, Rochester, and Twin Cities housing will remain open to students facing these challenges, much as it has for a small number of students during the spring and summer terms. Students should contact the housing office on their campus with concerns.
Undergraduate courses for all three campuses will proceed as scheduled, but will be wholly online for *at least* two weeks with some limited exceptions. Prior to the start of the semester, students will be informed by their professors about how courses will change, if at all. After the Regents meeting next week, please contact your advisor or student success coach if you have questions or concerns about your schedule.

Oh. So they’re sensibly backing away from their plan to open classes for in-person instruction…but while leaving my campus dangling. They’re tentatively planning to open up again after two weeks, if all goes well. I guess if they hear screams and moans from Western Minnesota, they’ll scrub that plan, too.

Meanwhile, here in that western community that opened up on Wednesday, I saw a young woman celebrating the first weekend of the school year by buying four pizzas and several liters of Coke. She didn’t look big enough to be eating them all by herself, so she must have brilliantly figured out to eat pizza in a group while wearing a mask.

Nah, I shouldn’t be so cynical. Our students are wise, she was probably just delivering boxes to her friends, and they’ll maintain a responsible distance while eating far apart, and I won’t have to worry about a cluster of cases in two weeks, just when the central campus is looking our way to see if we’re dying yet.


  1. cartomancer says

    To be fair, I’d probably have eaten all that over the course of a single weekend by myself when I was 18.

  2. raven says

    Look on the bright side.
    PZ doesn’t have to survive an entire school year at a university without coming down with Covid-19.
    He just has to make it until they shut UM, Morris down because of Covid-19 outbreaks.

    I’ll make a wild guess and say, somewhere around halfway through the Fall Semester.

    A lot depends on what the testing procedure will be for Morris.
    I’m assuming that they do have a testing procedure in place though.

  3. raven says

    Why are the universities opening in the middle of a pandemic anyway?

    COVID-19 will hit colleges when students arrive for fall …
    https://www.usatoday.com › news › covid-cases-college-fall-semester-tuition

    5 days ago – COVID-19 will hit colleges when students arrive for fall semester. So why open at all? Money is a factor. Chris Quintana. USA TODAY.

    This article claims it is because they have no other options.
    They need the money or else.

    We really need to learn how to open institutions like universities without killing and maiming large numbers of people.
    If the Chinese could do it to a whole city like Wuhan, it should be possible, in theory, to do so.
    I have a few ideas but since no one asked me, or cares, and I’m not an expert in this field, it isn’t worth spending more time on.

  4. whheydt says

    Sounds like the Powers That Be want to even out the infection rates across the whole state.

    My morbid suspicion is that COVID-19–in the long run–is going to cause a lot of wealth redistribution (between generations) and upward job mobility. Specifically in academia, if it kills off a chunk of the older, tenured, faculty, ther will be tenure-track slots opening up for younger ones to step into and get off the year-to-year contract treadmill.

  5. opus says

    Meanwhile, here in Georgia, the Board of Regents of the University System has caved in after the contractor for student housing asserted that the system had no right to jeapordize the company’s profits by reducing dorm room occupancy.
    I expect the lockdown to occur ~24 hours after the refund policy expires.

  6. says

    Here in Oregon Kate Brown is blocking the reopening of schools but allowing colleges and universities to re-open. I’m fairly certain they won’t stay open for long. Long enough to generate a spike in infections though.

  7. says

    Well we’ve had one week of school and already 8 schools had Covid cases (1 Million inhabitants in the State) and I have a very sore throat. No, I don’t think it’s Covid (feels very much like the usual tonsillitis) but I may have to call in sick on Monday. I have a Covid test scheduled for Tuesday anyway.

  8. René says

    Giliell, I hope the best for your test results. (I have some experience with the emotion of praying being as atheist as they come. I once had to wait a whole week for the results of an AIDS test.) I support your prayers (if you recognize it as such).

    Fingers crossed (but even that is nonsense). What would help?

  9. nomdeplume says

    Still, on the bright side PZ, UM could be added to the results from German rock concerts to see how quickly young people gathered together can infect each other. Followed by tests to see how quickly they infected the older generation…

  10. birgerjohansson says

    You know, if a student gets sick and gets lasting organ damage from blood clots and the cytokine storm, ‘contingency lawyers’ will home in like sharks sniffing blood and bleed the university white.

  11. raven says

    @ 12

    Questions remain over whether colleges should be protected …
    https://www.insidehighered.com › news › 2020/06/03 › questions-remain-…

    Jun 3, 2020 – Colleges ask to be protected from coronavirus lawsuits if they acted responsibly
    . … But those who take reasonable precautions shouldn’t have to worry about getting sued, … COVID-19 bill unless it has some liability protection for colleges and … for granting legal immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

    They are already way ahead on that.
    Schools, universities, nursing homes, assisted living homes, day cares, beauty salons, bars, churches, corporations, food processing plants, and any place that you actually do catch the Covid-19 virus are seeking to have legal immunities written into law.

    Follow the money.
    Those who have the power and money have a huge influence on the laws that get made and enforced.
    I’m sure there will be legal immunities by law, it just remains to see how much of their activities it will cover.

  12. hemidactylus says

    @7- jimzy

    I wore a face shield combined with a mask for a while until I couldn’t take it anymore and replaced the shield with protective eye gear (clear oakley style glasses). More comfortable.

    Meanwhile 2020 may be setting up to become a tragedy of epic proportions for the US gulf coast:


    Followed soon by:


    The potential second punch to coastal Louisiana (including perhaps NOLA) is more than 3 days out so may change. The initial jab looks fairly locked in.


    The seasonal peak in September is coming soon.

  13. says


    Jun 3, 2020 – Colleges ask to be protected from coronavirus lawsuits if they acted responsibly

    I hate to say it, but quite often that’s the rationale for doing something. Now, as I understand US colleges have more autonomy, but here at school we’re basically covering our own asses while knowing that our precautions are bullshit.
    BTW, it#s only a normal cold. But I have a Covid test scheduled tomorrow anyway.

  14. JustaTech says

    I have two cousins who are off to in-person college this year. Both of them are clawing at the door to get out they are so over being at home. For one of them, their school has taken some concrete steps to reduce inter-person contact (each student gets a single room and half of courses are online-only). The other one, I can’t quite tell but it looks like business as usual, maybe without sports.

    I expect both of them back by October. Maybe sooner.
    And then we can have a nice bonding experience of “your freshman year of college coincided with a terrible tragedy”, (mine was 9/11, so different in that it was fast and unexpected, where theirs is slow and clearly-seen).

  15. says

    @#4, whheydt:

    I think you’re being too optimistic. I suspect that if a lot of tenured professors drop dead of coronavirus, the current tendency among academic administrators will simply be to eliminate those positions citing costs, and continue to hire adjuncts.