Our college presidents face unprecedented challenges
There's the same vibe every August at college campuses across the country. Young adults, filled with unwavering excitement about their futures, unpacking their belongings with the help of family and friends into dorms and apartments, ready to begin (or continue) their higher education journeys. But that was then, and this is now. Across America, college presidents and chancellors are faced with undoubtedly the biggest challenge of their careers: not just educating the children they become (in a very real sense) custodians of, but now, keeping them physically healthy and safe in a country ravaged by COVID-19, the biggest public health crisis of our lives. In Michigan, the Big Three research universities — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — are led by medical doctors (Samuel Stanley, Mark Schlissel and M. Roy Wilson, respectively). And at Oakland University, President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, a pediatrician, served as executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of U-M’s Health system earlier in her career. Stanley and Wilson — both epidemiologists — attended Harvard’s medical school at the same time (this week was to be their 40th reunion). Wilson, who estimates WSU has lost about $10 million so far and projects losses could grow to $50 million, said not having a hospital has been a silver lining. “There have been times we wished we had a hospital,” said Wilson. “This is one of the times we’re glad we don’t. We have partnerships but we aren’t financially responsible for those hospitals.” The COVID-19 crisis and its extraordinarily debilitating impact won’t be here forever. Nor will this way of life continue for all of us forever. As for Schlissel, Stanley, Pescovitz and Wilson they remain determined that when it ends, students will once again enjoy the benefit of a full experience on their campuses.
May 18, 2020