WEST LAFAYETTE — In an opinion column published Monday in the Washington Post, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels wrote that not opening campus for in-person classes in the fall semester would be "an unacceptable breach of duty."
Daniels, who previously penned a letter to the Purdue community describing plans to host in-person classes in the fall, wrote in the Post that the university's 45,000 students want to be on-campus and the COVID-19 pandemic "poses a near-zero risk to young people." He added that it will be Purdue's challenge to protect the minority on campus who could be at serious risk to the illness.
"Forty-five thousand young people — the biggest student population we’ve ever had — are telling us they want to be here this fall," Daniels wrote. "To tell them, 'Sorry, we are too incompetent or too fearful to figure out how to protect your elders, so you have to disrupt your education,' would be a gross disservice to them and a default of our responsibility."
Purdue closed its campus and moved all spring semester classes online on March 10.
Daniels wrote that a panel of scientists and clinicians is helping Purdue plan changes to the way the university houses and feeds students, along with how it will allow students and faculty to interact while maintaining physical distance between the two groups.
In order to make Purdue's campus less dense, Daniels wrote that at least one-third of the university's staff will be required to work remotely. Additionally, he wrote that 700 classrooms and labs, along with 9,500 dormitory rooms, have been redesigned with lower occupancy limits to allow for social distancing.
Large-enrollment classes will be offered both online and in-person to reduce the number of people in classrooms and to accommodate students who cannot or choose to not be on campus, Daniels wrote.
Daniels added that social events, such as concerts, convocations and fraternity parties, will not be permitted in the fall semester. The university plans to test and trace contacts of anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus, and each student will receive a kit that includes face masks, a thermometer and a pledge "to commit to a semester of inconvenience."
"Perhaps most important will be the cultural change on which we have to insist because, in another lesson of the coronavirus spring, nothing makes a more positive difference than personal behavior and responsibility," Daniels wrote. "I will urge students to demonstrate their altruism by complying, but also challenge them to refute the cynics who say that today’s young people are too selfish or self-indulgent to help us make this work."