So far most of the reporting on the opening of the 2020-21 school year has focused on K-12 schools. But now, as post secondary students are returning to colleges and universities, community and technical colleges, there has been a shift in reporting. Over the past week, institutions of higher learning are finding themselves to be COVID-19 hotspots.

While much of the reporting has been on big universities where masses of students are returning to campus, small colleges and community colleges have not been immune to the novel coronavirus. These universities, which by and large had intended to go ahead with in-person instruction, sadly, what they are finding is that there is an enormous challenge when students are returning from places with a greater outbreak than where the college is located. Add to that the fact that 18 to 22 year olds away from home for the first time are ready for some active socialization. Even in those places where bars may be closed, house parties are popping up. It seems that many college students are not following the safety recommendations issued by colleges. Additionally, these colleges don’t seem to have plans to control activities that will lead to the spread of the virus. 

As we have pointed out before, we live in a state where partisan posturing by legislative leadership has led to a situation where there is no ability to impose statewide restrictions that will lead to the containment of COVID-19. Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, who was hospitalized for the virus, has asserted the “personal liberty” is paramount. And by “personal liberty,” Speaker Ryckman means letting people do whatever they feel like doing. Don’t want to wear a mask? Exercise your “personal liberty” and refuse to do it. Don’t like social distancing? Don’t do it – you’re covered by your “personal liberty.” Want to party with 100 of your buds? Go ahead! You’ve got “personal liberty.” 

So we should not be surprised if our colleges and universities find themselves facing a COVID-19 outbreak. And according to reporting from CNN, there are five unnamed Kansas colleges that already have outbreaks. Bethel College in North Newton has been reported as being one of them. 

This situation is terrible for the colleges and for the faculty, staff, and students on their campuses. But it is also a crisis for the communities in which those colleges are located. The citizens of North Newton, Kansas, are at greater risk if the college is a COVID-19 hotspot. Every community in Kansas that is home to a university, college, community college, or technical college is at greater risk if those institutions become hotspots. 

It is imperative that higher education administration consider their place in the community and take the necessary steps to protect both the institution and the broader community. 

What are the boards of trustees, presidents, deans of students, and other college administrators doing to enforce behaviors that will contain the virus? We know the state’s legislative leadership won’t take any action so it is imperative that institutions and individuals take action. 

The following is a review of some of the reporting on this very issue:

University of Kansas, Lawrence: “As part of the university’s COVID-19 protocol, each student, faculty and staff member is being tested for the virus. On Wednesday, the early test results came in: 89 people, 87 of them students, have tested positive so far, the university announced. A large majority were from fraternities and sororities, where students moved back early. Click here to read more.

Bethel College, North Newton, KS: “Nearly 10 percent of the first roughly 500 students and employees tested for COVID-19 at Bethel College, in Kansas, have the virus, the local health agency and Bethel’s president announced Monday.” Click here to read more. 

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: “The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill abruptly decided it will no longer hold in-person classes on campus after about 130 students tested positive for COVID-19 in the first week since classes began.” Click here to read more.

Notre Dame football: “Five Notre Dame football players have tested positive for COVID-19 and six others are in quarantine through contact-tracing protocols, the school announced Thursday.” Click here to read more.

Notre Dame University: “The University of Notre Dame on Wednesday reported at least 222 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on its campus — just two weeks into the fall semester. The university on Tuesday canceled all in-person classes and moved all instruction online for at least two weeks as it reevaluates its safety protocols.” Click here to read more. 

Northeast Mississippi Community College: “Hundreds of Northeast Mississippi Community College students are quarantined after nine positive COVID-19 cases on campus since in-person classes resumed on Aug. 3.” Click here to read more.

University of Colorado at Boulder: “There have been nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 at CU Boulder this week, according to the university’s novel coronavirus testing dashboard.” Click here to read more.

Fifteen states have reported COVID-19 cases at colleges and universities: Click here to read more.

  • Colorado: Colorado College
  • Connecticut: University of Connecticut
  • Georgia: University of Georgia
  • Indiana: University of Notre Dame
  • Iowa: Iowa State University
  • Kansas: 5 clusters at unnamed colleges
  • Kentucky: University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University
  • Massachusetts: Boston University and Emerson College
  • Mississippi Northeast Mississippi Community College and University of Mississippi
  • North Carolina: East Carolina University, North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma State University and University of Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania: Temple University
  • Tennessee: University of Tennessee
  • Virginia: Virginia Tech
  • West Virginia: West Virginia State University