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News Snapshot: Universities Failing to Manage Risks

August 27, 2020

Universities Failing to Manage Risks

Just last week, UNC Chapel Hill, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and other higher educational institutions announced plans to suspend in-person learning over COVID-19 concerns. In fact, as of earlier this month, about 30% of four-year colleges announced plans to operate mostly or entirely online.

“UNC-Chapel Hill’s decision to go remote is a pattern many other universities are likely to follow, education and health experts say. Hundreds of colleges in recent weeks have already backtracked on reopening for in-person instruction.”
“The University of Notre Dame suspended in-person classes after 146 students and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19… moving all undergraduate instruction online for two weeks.”
“Michigan State University is going fully remote for the semester.”
“Ithaca College announced it was extending remote learning and not welcoming students back for the fall semester.”

Despite the growing number of universities back-tracking due to the sharp onslaught of new COVID-19 infections among students, some have pressed on with “college-as-usual” to detrimental effects.

On August 25, the University of Alabama reported 531 confirmed cases between students, faculty, and staff on the Tuscaloosa campus since classes resumed Aug. 19.

“Clemson, Baylor, Louisville and dozens of other Division I universities reported cases in their athletic departments. And at Iowa State, aggressive testing of students moving into dorms turned up scores of cases.”

This week, The New York Times reported that in a survey of more than 1,500 American colleges and universities — including every four-year public institution, every private college that competes in N.C.A.A. sports and others that identified cases — has revealed at least 26,000 cases and 64 deaths since the pandemic began.

The ever-increasing number of universities reversing course on in-person learning – especially this early on in the school year – effectively demonstrates the chaos that can ensue when organizations don’t adequately manage risks associated with face-to-face interactions and are forced to change plans at the last minute due to growing pandemic-related concerns.

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