covid 19

You will have 120 minutes to complete this writing task. Please take at least 20 minutes to prewrite. Consider the question carefully and plan what you will say.

The Hard Truth About the Fall
All across higher education, college leaders are searching for a way to make sense of our new existence. The Covid-19 crisis has changed everything about our lives and institutions. As I observe the various decisions that colleges are making with regard to this fall — a vast majority are planning for a semester in person — I’m skeptical that those decisions will hold up when the start of classes is imminent and there still is no vaccine or widespread testing. What interests will colleges choose to serve? Will it be the health of students and staff? Or will institutional and financial concerns rule the day?

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I am not naïve. As the president of a small college with neither a large endowment nor significant state appropriations, I understand the economic pressures that administrators face. The pressure is unrelenting, and at times forces us to choose between our professional ambitions and our moral code. The pandemic is one of those moments.

Acknowledging that reality is terrifying. Far too many colleges and universities are ill-equipped to weather any prolonged financial storm, especially after this spring. It is therefore tempting to cling to the hope, however fleeting, that “normal” will return before fall and save us from near-certain financial ruin. This hope (or is it fear?) has caused a number of college leaders to convince themselves, at least publicly, that they can find a way to control a virus that we can’t cure and don’t yet fully understand.

When viewed in this light, it is easy to see why large segments of the American public have lost faith in higher education. In a moment where people need hope, the paralyzing fear of financial ruin has caused too many of us to shrink from the greatest challenge of our era. This fear, and it is legitimate, is no excuse for risking the lives of students and staff. This is not what America needs from us. What they need is to see that we can balance both financial and health concerns without sacrificing either.

Among the changes that must be made:

Slow down. While we face great financial pressure to resume classes in person, doing so without a better understanding of the risks associated with Covid-19 is a mistake that will lead to unnecessary death and suffering. Returning to campus safely, not just quickly, must be the No. 1 priority.

Embrace remote learning. Stop framing remote learning as substandard and problematic. Until we have more facts about how to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 or we have a reliable vaccine, remote learning is our best option for instruction. Instead of poisoning the public’s opinion about online learning, let’s focus on improving it.

Covid-19 is a tragedy. But it has also provided a chance for the industry to display leadership that extends far beyond the boundaries of our classrooms and campuses. My hope is that we seize this moment and act not out of self-interest but out of moral concern. If we fail to do so, we may never have another chance.

— Michael Sorrell, President of Paul Quinn College, 5/15/20

Writing Assignment

Write a comprehensive essay in which you do the following tasks:

Summarize Sorrell’s attitude toward his subject matter.
Explain to what extent you agree or disagree with his opinion. Support your argument with relevant facts and/or examples from your own experience, knowledge, and things you have read or learned.

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