Long time readers know that I have been highly critical of UI in the past. In my February 2020 column, I discussed UI’s steady declining enrollment that started in 2005. Idaho needed to do something drastic to stop the hemorrhaging, and the State Board of Education did just that. They made the non-conventional move to hire a businessman, Scott Green, to be UI president instead of yet another career academician.
In my July 2020 column, I argued that UI needed to return to live classes that Fall. Remote learning would be another nail in its coffin. They are not good at it, and they charged the same as as for live classes.
Rather, I argued that they should follow the science. In July 2020, the CDC reported that coronavirus had killed a total of 157 individuals in the 15-24 age group. I argued that we shouldn’t be shutting down K-12 schools or colleges for a virus that is statistically unlikely to kill anyone in that age cohort.
President Green did something during the Covid panic that no academic admin weenie would do: he introduced a hybrid-flex instruction option where students could attend live classes if they so desired. And although he mandated masks on campus (which we already knew were worthless at stopping the virus), he did not require the students to be vaccinated. The UI was one of the few campuses open in the US, and students flocked to it.
Back in July 2020 I wrote “Moscow and UI should acknowledge that college students are statistically unlikely to die from the coronavirus and should take this opportunity to set themselves apart as a rational institution, unwilling to destroy their institution or the local economy by living in fear and expecting taxpayers to prop them up.”
Predictably, Moscow’s professional philosopher, Nick Gier, criticized my arguments for live classes. “For libertarians such as Courtney, the focus is always on the individual, not the collective.” For collectivists like Gier, one size must fit all. No liberty for an individual to choose whether a live class would be best for him. All students must learn remotely. All restaurants must be closed. All people must be jabbed.
President Green’s willingness to follow the actual science and common sense is what turned UI enrollment around. And Idahoans should be grateful for his boldness to stand up and do what few would do.
No, common sense isn’t so common seven miles to the west of Moscow. Perhaps part of WSU’s declining enrollment is that potential students know they are not going to die from Covid, don’t want the experimental jab, and are shopping for colleges that doesn’t require it?