Liberty Set to Welcome Back 5000 Students

The university is welcoming students back to campus, even as classes are going online.

“Photo of the Day: 5/15/17” by The White House is in the Public Domain, CC0

In a follow up to a previous post on Liberty University’s reaction to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Richmond-Times Dispatch reports: Thousands of Liberty students expected to return to campus amid coronavirus outbreak.

In an interview Sunday night, Falwell said somewhere between several hundred to more than 5,000 students are expected to live in campus dorms, where they will continue coursework online rather than in classrooms.

Meanwhile, hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours.

“I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they’ve already paid for and to not interrupt their college life,” Falwell said.

[…]

In contrast with other schools, Liberty’s dorms, academic buildings, library and fitness center remain open to students.

The university has taken some steps to help slow the spread of the virus. Gatherings in campus buildings, including a handful of classes still holding in-person meetings, are capped at 10 people in accordance with an order by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Similarly, dining halls are only providing take-out service and campus visits have been suspended.

To my ear, as someone in the middle of these exact kinds of issues, this sounds like an attitude from a month ago (which is a long time in the current crisis) and is also highly irresponsible. Indeed, it sounds likes the worst of both worlds (that is the mix of going online while still maintaining substantial face-to-face activity). Either the virus presents a substantial public health threat, in which case social distancing is our best immediate tool or it isn’t, and life should proceed apace. Trying to do both (which sounds a lot like what Trump was suggesting at yesterday’s briefing) is fence-staddling of the highest order and serves neither to really maintain normalcy while at the same time creating a large number of potential disease vectors.

I do understand the challenge presented by students who may not have an immediate place to go wanting to stay in dorms and, also, meaning you have to feed them. Still, the notion that the fitness center is open and small classes are meeting strikes me as highly irresponsible.

It will be something of an experiment in several ways, to include how many students are willing to take the risk. It could also provide data on what an attempt to be more or less normal looks like (the problem is that such results could be dire).

This, however, suggests a basic lack of understanding about how diseases spread:

“I think we, in a way, are protecting the students by having them on campus together,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk.”

I would note that 1% of 5000 is 50. Is Falwell willing to let 50 of his students become seriously ill just to prove some unnecessary point? (And that assume these students do not help carry to the virus to others, which is not the way this works).

Some people (Falwell included, I guess) seem to think that the young are immune, but this is not the case. Bloomberg reported almost a week ago (Yes, Young People Are Falling Seriously Ill From Covid-19):

New evidence from Europe and the U.S. suggests that younger adults aren’t as impervious to the novel coronavirus that’s circulating worldwide as originally thought.

Despite initial data from China that showed elderly people and those with other health conditions were most vulnerable, young people — from twenty-somethings to those in their early forties — are falling seriously ill. Many require intensive care, according to reports from Italy and France. The risk is particularly dire for those with ailments that haven’t yet been diagnosed.

One example is especially salient to the choices as Liberty:

One of those younger adults is Clement Chow, an assistant professor of genetics at the University of Utah. “I’m young and not high risk, yet I am in the ICU with a very severe case,” Chow said in a March 15 tweet.  “We really don’t know much about this virus.”

And then there’s this:

emerging evidence suggests that infants and toddlers may also be at risk of severe complications. In a study of  more than 2,000 young children with Covid-19 from China, published this week in Pediatrics, Chinese doctors found that about 11% of cases in infants were judged to be severe or critical, as were 7% of those in toddlers and preschoolers. While still a lower rate of severe disease than adults, it’s hardly insignificant.

It would behoove decision-makers to realize that there is a lot that we do not know at this time and that erring on the side of caution is the wise course of action. Also: understanding basic math is really important these days.

FILED UNDER: Academia, COVID-19, Education, Health
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    Well, I’ve read before about political and/or military leaders that were stubborn enough to get a lot of people killed for no good reason, but I haven’t before watched it in slo-mo.

    This is the fruit of politicizing everything, lying constantly, and decrying adverse reporting as “fake news”. This is what information warfare has wrought.

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  2. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Not directly related, but we (the faculty at my college) are being made to jump through various tedious administrative hoops as we’re just trying to make our classes virtual as seamlessly as possible in the name of accreditation. And I have a really hard time believing that SACS is seriously going to strip anyone’s status away because they had to made unexpected difficult choices about contact hours, labs, etc., in middle of a semester due to a pandemic.

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  3. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Denial, hopes & prayers vs. reality, virology, and science.

    I wish them well.

    (… insert snarky popcorn comment here. morons )

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  4. Kathy says:

    One justification Spaniards used for treating the native populations in the Americas so cruelly, was the prevalence of human sacrifices in religious rituals.

    I suppose the viral version of Russian Roulette is not exactly human sacrifice, but it’s right up there.

    But one can see their point. The alternative, giving refunds or extending the semester as long as the epidemic demands, would be well beyond the pale, no?

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    People need to understand that white Evangelical Christianity is a death cult. They want his to be the End Times.

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  6. Mister Bluster says:

    @Michael Reynolds:..They want this to be the End Times.

    I want November to be the End of Trump Times.

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  7. Paine says:

    Reminded of a comment from Slate: These people would rather die believing Trump was right than live admitting he was wrong. Crazy.. and sad.

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  8. Slugger says:

    I hope that this large experiment in viral transmission has been run past a research ethics committee.

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  9. mattbernius says:

    I would love to understand what Liberty’s legal team thinks about this. It feels like a giant risk.

    FWIW, Monroe County NY just had our first teenager diagnosed. It was a college student.

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  10. Jen says:

    I’m sort of at the point where I’m just about ready to throw up my hands and say “fine. Go for it.”

    I desperately wish there was a way to cordon off this stupidity so that it won’t affect the vulnerable.

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  11. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    And you can be sure that if someone does get seriously ill and/or die from this, somehow that jackass will find a way to blame the libs. Falwell is such a waste of oxygen.

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  12. John A Peabody says:

    I have a son taking Navy training in Connecticut. Far from shutting down, his classes are plowing ahead at full-size…at least two dozen in the classroom for hours every day. Mess halls are takeout only, though.

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    Also: understanding basic math is really important these days.

    But the Bible doesn’t mention math. Or epidemiology. Or even the germ theory of disease. Nor do Falwell Jr.’s bank statements, which I expect he reads more carefully.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    People need to understand that white Evangelical Christianity is a death cult. They want his to be the End Times.

    I complained in a comment a day or two ago that the media don’t talk about Dominionism. This end times stuff is an aspect of that. Myself, I’d kind of like to know that people who have control of nuclear weapons don’t actively desire Armageddon.

    One fairly overt example was Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, who seemed to believe that when God said. “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” He meant NOW. Use it all up before the end days. And don’t worry about the environment. But most of them fly under the radar. And when confronted, obfuscate, as Watt did.

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  14. An Interested Party says:

    Also: understanding basic math is really important these days.

    Do they actually teach that at “Liberty” University?

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  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    We’ll probably never know, but it would be interesting to find out how many students take a Mulligan and withdraw, then secondly transfer in the fall.

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  16. Argon says:

    It will be something of an experiment in several ways, to include how many students are willing to take the risk. It could also provide data on what an attempt to be more or less normal looks like (the problem is that such results could be dire).

    A horribly unethical and immortal experiment, I must say.

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  17. Pete S says:

    @gVOR08:

    Your comment about Falwell’s bank accounts is about right. All these kids checks have cleared, it would be a shame to be on the hook for refunds.

    This is not an original thought, but it seems that damn few of our religious leaders act like they believe in the fear of Hell they use to keep the followers in line.

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  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Pete S:
    Ever notice how every flood, every hurricane, every tragedy was always the fault of someone Evangelicals hated? Usually gays. Now, suddenly they can’t even begin to suggest that maybe they’ve been the cause of this divine retribution.

    Exodus 32 King James Version (KJV)
    32 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

    2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.

    3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

    4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

    [ ]

    7 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:

    8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

    [ ]

    19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

    20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

    [ ]

    26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

    27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

    28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

    [ ]

    33 And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

    34 Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.

    35 And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

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  19. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: i’m sure if a person spent a few days going through old timey newspapers in Mississippi, or South Carolina, they could find news stories about how “Preacher Johnson gave a sermon about how the sorghum failures are clearly a result of the coloreds agitatin’ for special rights.”

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  20. Barry says:

    @mattbernius: “I would love to understand what Liberty’s legal team thinks about this. It feels like a giant risk.”

    I want the Fallwell clan sued until they are living in cardboard boxes under an overpass.

    I want them investigated for crimes (for example, the million dollar payment to the pool boy was likely not a legitimate, tax-deductible business payment).

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  21. Scott F. says:

    @Jen:

    I desperately wish there was a way to cordon off this stupidity so that it won’t affect the vulnerable.

    This is more the point, isn’t it?

    Even if “Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk.” – and that’s a pretty big If – 10o% could be asymptomatic vectors of the virus taking it back to their communities at the end of the school year! It’s one thing to put your 50,000 person student body at risk, but factor in the cities & towns where these students live and it’s profoundly irresponsible.

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  22. @Argon: Agreed.

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  23. Kingdaddy says:

    I would note that 1% of 5000 is 50. Is Falwell willing to let 50 of his students become seriously ill just to prove some unnecessary point? (And that assume these students do not help carry to the virus to others, which is not the way this work).

    Falwell might not care, but some of the people who listen to him might fall into the common trap of thinking that 1% = 0%. It’s the same fallacy that someone discovered when studying the psychology of video games. You tell someone, “There is a 99% chance that you will hit the target.” When that person shoots and misses, the response is, “This game is broken!” not “Well, I guess that was the 1% case.”

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  24. Teve says:

    You know it will really stick it to us libtards? If they announce Alumni Day for next week! You know, for networking.

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  25. @Kingdaddy: Indeed. Or people who think a 70% chance that a given candidate will win an election really means a sure thing.

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  26. Pete S says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And then the religious wonder why they are losing public support almost by the hour. Do you remember when (I think it was Pat Robertson) blamed a hurricane and poverty in Haiti on a slave rebellion long ago?

    But it is not even a joke at this point to suggest that Falwell is close to a modern Jim Jones. He is not there yet but you can see it coming. I thought his father was evil but this is cartoon villain level evil.

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  27. Tyrell says:

    One doctor said that it might have been better for the colleges and universities to have stayed open and encouraged the students to stay on campus for spring break. Going back home has them around their families, grandparents, friends, and other groups of people. Staying on campus keeps them in one location and they are not in contact with as many different population groups as they once they get home.

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  28. @Tyrell: I would suggest to said doctor that he is unfamiliar with the behavior patterns of 18-22 year-olds if he thinks they would just stay on campus.

    And, likewise, said doctor seems not to understand the people (faculty and staff) come and go from campus daily, meaning possible disease vectors on a daily basis.

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  29. An Interested Party says:

    Speaking of phony Christians, apparently some think they have a direct connection with God…Even if he never said it, the quote attributed to Gandhi was so right…”I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.”

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  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Barry:

    I want the Fallwell clan sued until they are living in cardboard boxes under an overpass.

    In the spirit of several discussions over the past day or so, I want to go on record that I do not wish this event on them (although Barry is his own moral agent and can want whatever he chooses). Still, should it happen, I will not shed one tear over it. Justice is an important concept and needs to be honored when it happens (which is not often enough, humans being its instrument and all that).

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  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: 🙂 😛 😀 (And there I go not being a particularly nice person again. 🙁 😉 )

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  32. Jen says:

    @Tyrell: I’ve seen this type of comment elsewhere, and it reflects a remarkable level of naivete about how college campuses operate.

    Who works at the college? Community members. You cannot insulate college students from the rest of the world. Plenty of those kids might already be carrying the virus, and when they get to campus, it’s an environment full of shared close quarters. And one, or more, of those kids will interact with a member of the community who is now required to be at the school in order for it to function.

    This is a dumb, dumb, dumb idea.

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  33. @Jen: Yup

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  34. Tyrell says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Here are some articles I had been hearing about:
    “The Downsides of Closing Schools and Colleges in a Crisis”
    By Rebecca Koenig   Mar 12, 2020 Ed Surge
    “sending students home to grandparents or older caregivers could expose them to the virus. And students sent home often gather together at places like malls, risking community spread.”

    “Colleges and universities nationwide could be making a big mistake by sending students home from campus because of the coronavirus. They may be making it more likely, not less, that their own students will contract the disease, and also more like that they will spread it more widely and to populations that are more at risk.
    Their lives generally revolve around campus in ways that keep them semi-segregated most of the time.
    As such, students are generally less likely to interact with broader populations coming from a wider variety of “walks of life” if campuses remain open than if students are all sent back to their hometowns. They are at least equally likely to contract the virus in their hometowns” (Washington Examiner)

    “Why closing down schools to prevent its spread could actually make it worse” ( Patty Hayes, LA Times)

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  35. Mister Bluster says:

    @Tyrell:…ways that keep them semi-segregated most of the time.

    semi-segregated is like being a little bit pregnant…

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  36. @Tyrell: Sure, there are downsides of every action–and the referenced column raises some real issues.

    However, none of that addresses the problem of continuing to have masses of people engage in mass interaction.

    And, again, it misses the point that faculty and staff are often the same ages as the parents in question.

    The notion that leaving students on campus is an efficacious way of containment is simply foolish.

    (And do I really have to point out what I do for a living as a means of suggesting that perhaps I have some understanding of this topic?)

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  37. Mister Bluster says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:..(And do I really have to point out what I do for a living as a means of suggesting that perhaps I have some understanding of this topic?)

    No…no you don’t. And I suspect that your time as a college student only enhances your insight regarding this matter.

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