The Ethics of Reopening
Inside Higher Ed
Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities President
July 21, 2020
The Reverend Dennis H. Holtschneider explores the numerous thorny issues that leaders and members of college communities will confront.
Pandemics rightly invite the language of science and best practice when it comes to the choices we make. If you listen, however, there’s another conversation of right and wrong and assignments of “Who is responsible?” It’s the language of ethics and morality, and, in that vein, I’ve been ruminating on the ethics of colleges and universities reopening for the fall term. Here’s a baker’s dozen.
No. 1: Everyone holds ethical responsibility for others in a pandemic. A college or university president, much like a city mayor, relies ultimately on the responsible actions of everyone. That said, leaders do have the power to educate the community, to encourage responsible behavior and to moderate social interactions. For instance, they can call for installing Plexiglas between people, adjusting seat proximity and dormitory assignments, changing the timing of class exchanges, and so forth. They hold the power to send people away who prove themselves intentionally reckless or to provide separate accommodations for those who are diagnosed positive. Their responsibility extends to the reach of their power, no less and no more. The rest is up to us.