Episode 42: A Safe Campus for All This Fall? What College Leaders Need to Know


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Aired May 6, 2021

Jon Fansmith and Sarah Spreitzer provide insight into what President Biden’s American Families Plan means for higher ed as well as how international students are being affected by the pandemic. ACE Vice President and General Counsel Peter McDonough visits the podcast to talk about what college leaders should know about vaccine requirements and the legal issues associated with making campuses safe when students return in the fall.

Here are some of the links and references from this week’s show:

From the Introduction

Statement by ACE President Ted Mitchell on American Families Plan Higher Education Proposals

Free Community College Is Centerpiece of Biden Administration’s Latest Infrastructure Plan

Biden Administration Moves to Make It Easier for Most International Students to Come to the U.S. This Fall

China Rivalry Spurs Republicans and Democrats to Align on Tech Spending
The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) | April 14, 2021

Letter to State and DHS Requesting Support for International Students in Fall 2021

From the Conversation with Peter McDonough

Issue Brief: Requiring (or Urging) COVID-19 Vaccinations at Colleges and Universities for Fall 2021

Here’s a List of Colleges That Will Require Students or Employees to Be Vaccinated Against Covid-19
The Chronicle of Higher Education (sub. req.) | May 5, 2021

Maryland Public Universities Will Mandate Coronavirus Vaccines. Other Campuses Aren’t So Sure.
The Washington Post (sub. req.) | April 23, 2021


 Read this episode's transcript

Jon Fansmith: Hello, and welcome to dotEDU, the public policy podcast from the American Council on Education. I'm your host, Jon Fansmith, and I'm joined by my co-host Sarah Spreitzer, but not by my other co-host Mushtaq Gunja who is taking the week off from hanging out with us Sarah, I assume it's mostly personal.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, I know Jon, I was going to ask where is Mushtaq? I didn't realize it was just going to be me and you, I might have also passed.

Jon Fansmith: I actually thought it was entirely you, because you two had just recorded an episode together. Just the two of you and immediately thereafter he doesn't want to do it again, so-

Sarah Spreitzer: And that went really well, so it might be more of a comment that he's only going to record them with me.

Jon Fansmith: I think it's pretty telling you thought it went really well and Mushtaq didn't return, so draw your own conclusions.

Sarah Spreitzer: True, that's true.

Jon Fansmith: We are going to be joined later by a friend and a colleague, ACE's vice president, general counsel, Peter McDonough. He is deeply versed in the challenges facing institutions dealing with reopening in the fall and what students will be required to do, particularly in terms of COVID vaccinations, we're going to get into that, what are the decisions college presidents are looking at? And Pete is going to walk us through a lot of those things, I think that'll be great conversation. But before we get to Pete, Sarah, besides alienating our co-host, how are things going for you?

Sarah Spreitzer: Well, actually Jon, even more importantly, what's Pete's title?

Jon Fansmith: Pete is, and I just said this, obviously not paying attention, but Sarah is making fun of me because when we recorded our session and as a clue to the listeners, we recorded that earlier, even though you'll be hearing it after this part, I did accidentally promote Pete to a senior vice president and general council, he is very eminently worthy of that promotion in case anyone in ACE senior leadership with that power is listening. Similarly, I think I am deserving of that level of promotion as well, so I'll just throw that out there, but yes, he is not a senior vice president, Pete is a vice president and general counsel. But thanks for highlighting that, Sarah.

Sarah Spreitzer: In your defense, I also thought he was the senior vice president, so we obviously pay a lot of attention to titles here at ACE.

Jon Fansmith: I'm barely aware of what my own title is actually.

Sarah Spreitzer: I'm barely aware of what month and year it is, so. But anyways, Jon, what are you working on this week?

Jon Fansmith: Much like you I'm very busy and not to bore our listeners too much with our constant complaints about how busy we are, but it is unusually busy so far this legislative season.

Sarah Spreitzer: This is supposed to be recess.

Jon Fansmith: I know, it's too busy. Well, anyway, nobody wants to hear us complain about our workload or our work-life burdens, that's a different podcast topic I think. But big big news, this is sort of the national news higher education stuff that is really just exciting actually to engage with as much as I complain, but President Biden, his administration announced their proposal for their second big infrastructure bill, and this one they're calling the American Families Plan. There's a lot in there both in terms of policy and in terms of money, but really, I think the signature piece was free community college proposal, and we've talked about that on this podcast, it's been widely expected that the administration would put that forward, but this is that they have now formally announced that it would create a federal state partnership that would replace tuition costs for students and community colleges across the country. It is a big really bold proposal, Ted Mitchell put out a statement and he talked about that as a revolutionary approach to funding higher education.

We have always previously attached student aid to student takes it wherever they go to each institution, the federal government doesn't step in and actually pay the tuition cost directly, it would be a sea change. But even beyond that, there were some quite significant pieces as well, there's a program that would provide for HBCUs and other MSIs to get significant federal support to either offset wholly or in part tuition at those institutions, both public and private, making them much more affordable and available to students. There is a huge program, $62 billion proposed for student support services, and this has all sorts of things that I think there's a growing understanding of the importance of not just wrap around academic services, but counseling and support, emergency grant aid. Things like that, that have a huge role in students' ability to complete and helping them get over challenges they might face that often times cause them to stop out or drop out of college. So it's a pretty revolution proposal, certainly the scale of it is pretty massive. The bill that it's based on had proposed a billion dollars a year, so this is more than six times that, it's big.

The one thing that probably isn't as big as we would've liked is there is an increase in Pell grants, the American Families Plan calls for a $1,400 increase in Pell grants, the Biden administration had already, or they will be asking for $400 increase in Pell grants through regular federal funding, the appropriation cycle. So all told an $1,800 increase to the maximum award, that's great, that would be the largest percentage increase basically since the beginning of the Obama administration. But it's far short of doubling the Pell grant, it's about 27% of increase in the Pell grant. We, ACE along with 300 or so other organizations, 900 or so institutions, sent a letter up asking to double Pell grants, this is something we're deeply committed to, we think it's very important. There was hope that this bill might have that, that doubling of Pell grants in it, and it didn't. So, the administration has reiterated, they're supportive of doubling Pell grants is a campaign promise of President Biden, they are working towards that, but initial steps sort of short of the goal. So, we'll keep working with them, I know they're working on it, hopefully we will get there but it's not quite the rapidly forward I think a lot of people were hoping for.

Sarah Spreitzer: Is it more like, are they thinking about it as a down payment on doubling the Pell?

Jon Fansmith: That's a perfect parroting of the talking point, that's right out of the actual plan language, Sarah.

Sarah Spreitzer: I did also listen to President Biden's address to Congress, where he may have mentioned it.

Jon Fansmith: He did, yes.

Sarah Spreitzer: I may have picked it up there.

Jon Fansmith: Yes, it is a down payment and while it's hopefully when we see the administration's full budget request sometime towards the end of this month, we'll get more details about what exactly it means you would think based on the fact that they're doing about a quarter of the maximum award in one year, that this may be a four year plan, a multi-year plan to get Pell back up to the level we think it should be at. But we're speculating, we'll find out more when we get more details and see what they're thinking. But yes, a down payment is exactly how they described it.

Sarah Spreitzer: So Jon, the Senate's in recess this week, and when they get back they're going to take up their China legislation again. And next week I think we're looking at the markup of the Endless Frontiers Act, which you've heard me say before is the-

Jon Fansmith: And I love the name Endless Frontiers Act, let me just say.

Sarah Spreitzer: It feels endless at this point, not that I am not supportive.

Jon Fansmith: It's the endless legislation act.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, not that I'm not supportive of support for the National Science Foundation, but it creates a new authorized funding for the national science foundation on the scale of, I think it’s a hundred billion dollars, is that right? Because NSF is currently at $10 billion, but creates a new directorate that would be focused on technology development. And really it's being messaged as a way to kind of out-compete China, that we're going to make this huge federal investment in science and technology, but as part of that, they're also looking to attach a bunch of bills to that legislation that would address issues of foreign influence, especially for us around institutions of higher education.

So a lot of things going on around section 117, foreign gift reporting, issues related to student visas and then also of course my perennial favorite Confucius institutes. And so, we're watching that very closely, there's another bill that might be considered called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, that's being offered by Senator Portman and Senator Carper. And that includes a provision that would expand the authority of the Secretary of State to deny visas based on national security concerns, and this week we actually had an immigration attorney, Dan Berger, who's very well known by the higher education community, look at the legislation as it was introduced last year and really the impact on those provisions on our international students and scholars. And so we will share that on the podcast page, and it's posted right now on our website.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, and I do miss Sarah, one of the things I miss most about being in person in work is, since we share an office wall, you coming over and talking to me about Confucius institutes, which is always a subject of great interest of mine as you know.

Sarah Spreitzer: Well, and Jon, just so I can share my good news with you so we're not complaining-

Jon Fansmith: You have good news?

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah.

Jon Fansmith: I thought we had a rule, aren't we supposed to start with good news, because it's so little?

Sarah Spreitzer: No, we actually saw some good news for our international students last week. And so we had sent a letter to DHS and state asking for some flexibilities for international students in the upcoming fall semester and it turns out they actually listened and we saw state announce that there are going to be some flexibilities for countries that are under travel restrictions, this includes China, Brazil, South Africa, a few others, you're not allowed to enter the US if you've been in one of those countries 14 days before you try and enter the US. They are going to provide a national interest exemption for international students starting August 1st. So if a student has a valid visa, they'll be able to travel here to start their studies. And then we saw the Department of Homeland Security announce that they are officially extending the guidance that was issued last March, that provides flexibility for international students at institutions who may have had to transition some programs to online, because of COVID. And so announcing the extension so early allows our institutions and our international students to actually start planning for the fall. So I thought that I'd share that as an example of one of our advocacy efforts actually work to give you hope, Jon.

Jon Fansmith: That someday mine might actually work, thanks a lot Sarah.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, exactly.

Jon Fansmith: I like ending these little updates on a happy note, regardless of the clear and unambiguous shot at me. Anyway, thank you for letting us know, and I'm sure many of our listeners will be very happy to hear that. We are going to be back after a very brief break with Pete McDonough, let me be very clear, he is ACE's vice president and general counsel, and we'll be talking about vaccine requirements and all the things that go into that. So back in a second.

And we're back, we are joined by our special guest, Pete McDonough, ACE senior vice president, general counsel, a fellow Hoya, and as a fellow Hoya, someone who will agree with me that your previous tenure at Princeton University as general counsel or a school that I like to call the Georgetown of central New Jersey, so always a pleasure to have you join us here and we have a very interesting topic to talk about today. I noticed you're not saying anything about my Princeton comments, so I'll take your silence as agreement.

Peter McDonough: Well, Jon, as a double Hoya, I will say that during my time at Princeton, I always suggested to them that I brought needed objectivity to the enterprise. So I think it worked both ways very well.

Jon Fansmith: You can see that as Georgetown runs are known for our objectivity as this conversation has already indicated. But speaking objectively, our colleges and universities are facing a huge decision now as they look towards the fall. And that is what do they do about handling students returning to campus, whether they're vaccinated, what are the procedures? And I think certainly this is something that's been in the news quite a bit recently, but Pete, why don't you tell us, just sort of give us an update of where things stand right now.

Peter McDonough: Yeah, thank you, Jon. So, as we sit here today, somewhat surprisingly I will say, at least to me is we have over 200 colleges and universities that have so far announced that for Fall 2021, they will expect at least their students to be vaccinated as a condition of being on campus. Now, certainly for those that are, shall we say residential campuses where students will be living in dorms or nearby that applies, but for almost all of those schools, it also applies if you're going to be on campus for any reason, coming to class, being part of an acapella group, a sports team, inter murals, there's an expectation. And to show how that has evolved rather quickly, it was only March 25th, which was coincidentally the same day that President Biden had doubled the first hundred days goal so to speak, of the number of shots in arms, that the first college that picked up a lot of press about this announced this thing, that was Rutgers University. So we go from essentially one school on March 25th to over 200 schools on May 5th. And we'll see more, most certainly, I think that there's probably not a college or university in the country that isn't evaluating. And then again, reevaluating where they ought to be, to encourage as many shots in arms for their campus community as possible.

Jon Fansmith: And some of these policies are being announced, really I think kind of at a transition point in how we're thinking about the vaccine, certainly a year ago there was hopes that we would see a vaccine that'd be widely adopted, within the last few months when vaccine distribution was starting to pick up and targeted communities first and then more into the general population, there's a lot of debate and discussion about the limitations of the vaccine, the availability, who could get it? When could they get it? That doesn't seem to be the concern so much right now and I'm wondering, talk a little bit about how college presidents are looking at the current environment and what that means for some of the thoughts of these policies.

Peter McDonough: Yeah, so the typical cycling for planning for the following semester would have had lots of conversations, these are even ups in COVID, occurring in February and March about what are we going to do in the fall? So, exactly to your point, the decision-making that was being made and continues to be made now was presuming a lot about availability. And that undoubtedly created a bit of a pause or conditioned comments for a lot of schools, but here we are, we're at a place now where vaccines are going pretty much unused in a lot of parts of our country, certainly the opportunities and appointment dates and times are not being filled. And so, we have evolved from what I would call a vaccine opportunity question to a vaccine hesitancy or vaccine embrace concern. And so if I was sitting on a campus in a lot of places in this country right now, I think I would find that the discussion among the senior leadership group that starts with a goal of getting as many community members vaccinated as possible for our school, will be influenced more by how do we deal with a perception that maybe the vaccine isn't the way to go, as opposed to a concern that I wouldn't be able to get vaccinated.

Jon Fansmith: I find that fascinating, partly because if you remember last fall when schools were starting to reopen in some limited capacities, I think the media narrative was a lot about, are they bringing students back that will infect their local communities? Will these be super spreader events when these schools reopen? And now we're talking a lot more about actually schools in some ways being oasis of vaccinations amidst their surrounding community, and some of this hesitancy you've seen is starting to be expressed in state laws or local laws requirements around, in some places certainly requirements for vaccinations, but in other places you're starting to see laws that are kind of the opposite, they're saying you have the right not to be vaccinated?

Peter McDonough: Yeah, it's an interesting and multifaceted challenge, I wouldn't put it as a stark, political line drawing, it's not a Republican versus a Democratic issue, might be more fairly phrased as an individual rights issue, for some it's a concern about, do I know enough about this? Do I trust my government? Do I trust doctors? But what's been fascinating is even in states where, to your point, Jon, there's been recently introduced or even passed legislation at the state level to preclude a college or university, a public college or university in particular from requiring students to be vaccinated. You don't find that it's the vaccine, that's the focus of the the bills, it's the requirement. So, I was struck by the fact that the Utah state representative who sponsored the legislation that was passed, barring public colleges and universities from requiring proof of vaccination, said publicly, he's not an anti-vaccination, in fact he's encouraging everyone to get the vaccine, he just doesn't want the government telling someone to get the vaccine. And so, if you're a college leader, you need to figure out how I deal with that. How do I avoid turning the conversation into one about requirements or mandates that might in fact inhibit or lessen the number of people who will actually be vaccinated on my campus? And for others, they might say, this has become so pervasive, this hesitancy, that unless we have a requirement, we can't count on our students, our faculty, our staff, our visitors, to make their own individual choice to be vaccinated, so looks like we have to have a requirement.

Sarah Spreitzer: And Peter, obviously that complicates planning, right? For the fall, because if you're planning to reopen all your facilities and house all your students and provide everyone with that in-person experience, that's going to be much harder to do if you have a lower vaccination rate. We had a conversation with Phillip Rogers, who's the new chancellor down at ECU, and he was talking about incentivizing students and staff and faculty to get the vaccine. Can you talk a little bit about those efforts and whether or not you think that those will actually be helpful?

Peter McDonough: Yeah, so even in late March, I started to hear some campuses question whether incentives will be the way to go. Pro and con, incentives have to be implemented somehow, right? So one incentive might be, if you can show proof of vaccination you can come into the football game, or you can come into the concert at an indoor venue. Another incentive might be, if you can show proof of vaccination or we have you in the system as having said you've been vaccinated, you don't need to be tested twice a week for COVID. All of these things have operational challenges that might lead a campus to say, just when we're trying to get everybody back to something approaching normal, we would be creating different rules for different people. Maybe we're better off just assuring ourselves reasonably that we have people here who have been vaccinated, with the exception of course for folks who have legitimate religious or medical or other exceptions to a typical vaccine requirement.

Sarah Spreitzer: And obviously that could have legal ramifications, right? If you're saying one population can participate and another population can't?

Peter McDonough: So one of the things, Sarah, you're not wrong, I think what folks have become accustomed to saying in response to a question like that to their lawyers is, we're a little bit between a rock and a hard place, if we do X, we'll probably be sued, if we do Y, we'll probably be sued. I've even heard schools say, if vaccines are available and many, many other schools in our area require vaccines and we don't require vaccines, maybe we'll be sued by individuals who allegedly contracted COVID on our campus, and we'll be sued because we didn't have a requirement. And that just kind of underscores the fact that the threat of litigation for most schools I think is not going to be the highest or even close to the highest point of decision-making, it's pretty far down on the list, it's really, damned if you do, damned if you don't. And then I'll say the last thing here is, I think schools at the end of the day are about trying to do the right thing, particularly in this era and with the challenges that are facing. And for so many, student mental health has been identified as an enormous concern, probably the preeminent concern, I think our ACE Pulse Point survey has identified that. And so how do we get students back to something approaching normal as soon as possible? How do we get them with their fellow students? That's probably going to be a much bigger concern for any campus leader than a threat of a lawsuit, or even the cost of dealing with the lawsuit.

Sarah Spreitzer: Obviously we have mandated that students be vaccinated against other things, mumps, measles, things like that, that's often been a requirement for our students. Why is this different? Does it have something to do with the fact that this received emergency authorization, it hasn't been completely approved by the FDA, what's the difference?

Peter McDonough: It's a great question, Sarah. Let me start with underscoring your point, which to be honest was a little bit of a surprise for me when I started looking at this issue about vaccinations, I didn't appreciate that we can go back a hundred years and more to required vaccinations in this country and a Supreme Court of the United States decision that was not just about schools or students, but about a community, it was Cambridge, Massachusetts so long ago. So, vaccine requirements are really normal, and even in states where now there's enormous question about whether this vaccine can be required, there's K to 12 schools in those states that require vaccines. Vaccines are required everywhere in this country for students, and undoubtedly, there are folks now, adults who are saying, I won't be vaccinated for COVID, whose children have been vaccinated with their permission for a whole host of things in order to go to school. So, what's causing this right now? Sure, there's undoubtedly the fact that this came about quickly in the realm of medicine, in the realm of research, in the realm of vaccines and this vaccine has been issued under what's called an emergency use authorization. It offers an opportunity for folks who just are hesitant or concerned to grab onto that and say, this well, it's different than others I think. And that's one thing.

The other might be that we just happen to have these vaccines developed in a fraught time where we had already created what some called mask wars, right? We have had folks sort of stake out a position about whether you can tell me to do something to deal with COVID. Can you tell me to wear a mask? Can you tell me to wear it outdoors? And so we've built up if you will, a position that a lot of folks have already taken, about it's my choice, or as others would say, well, it takes a village, it's not really your choice, it's our collective choice. And so maybe that influences a little bit where folks are aligning on the requirements issue.

Jon Fansmith: And when they're putting these requirements in place, I think that some people will choose not to be vaccinated. How does a campus enforce that? How does a campus prove that a student is ... We've heard this in other contexts about industries looking at ways to set up databases of who's been vaccinated, what not. How does an institution do that? What does that look like practically?

Peter McDonough: Yeah. And we've introduced Jon, a new terminology that we didn't have or at least we didn't spend much time using a year ago like vaccine passports. A term I didn't use regularly. And I guess I'd answer it this way, many of us, probably most of us who have received the vaccination have gotten a card. Does it look the same from state to state and county to county? I'm told no, but lots of them have things that are now recognizable as a vaccination card. Is it proof? Well, it's proof unless it was forged, right? But these kinds of questions about whether I'm telling the truth on colleges and university campuses are probably the red herring questions. We have students who take tests, we have students who do papers, we expect they won't cheat in the classroom, we expect they won't plagiarize in their dorm rooms or in their apartments or at home. And so there's a concept, right? That when a student tells me something at college or university, they're telling the truth.

So, I think that most colleges will find it acceptable to get some reasonable proof or indication of vaccine, whether it is a copy of that card being uploaded in a pre-existing system, or otherwise, just like when we enroll our children in K to 12 schools, there's something that comes typically from your pediatricians' office, it's delivered to school, that could be forged as well. And so, I think there will be less focus about whether this could be forged and can we have foolproof system to avoid uploading a forged document, and it will be more about should we require students to step forward and tell us they've been vaccinated.

Sarah Spreitzer: It also feels like that could somewhat be addressed by kind of larger than just higher education, there's a lot of talk about travel this summer and whether or not other countries could require you to show proof of vaccination and what would that look like? The Biden administration has already said that the federal government is not going to mandate vaccination passports for US citizens, but our larger international community may be moving towards something like that, and if you want to go abroad, you're going to have to demonstrate that. For US institutions of higher education, Pete, we've been dealing a lot with what does the fall look like for our international students? And you've heard me talk a lot about the issues that we have with visa processing and getting our students here if our campuses are fully opened. One of the things that we saw early on was when Rutgers announced this mandate for vaccines and other institutions started following them. It talks about US approved vaccines, you must show proof that you've been vaccinated with the US approved vaccination.

In other countries, China, Russia, and others have been developing their own vaccines very quickly. So could be the case that an international student receives the Russian vaccine, what does that mean for them then when they show up for their US campus who has said that you have to show proof of the US vaccination?

Peter McDonough: It's another great question, Sarah, I think these are exactly the kinds of things that are being revisited based upon real time data that's being developed. I have heard, certainly like you have, that the typical approach for US colleges and universities is exactly as you've said, US approved vaccines. So take the international student who hasn't yet been vaccinated at all, I imagine almost all campuses are establishing protocols to enable the arrival of an international student with an awareness and an agreement that that student will be vaccinated with a US approved vaccine upon arrival, if that is a school that has decided it will require vaccines.

I'm certainly not trained or knowledgeable about the efficacy and the appropriateness of double vaccinating. So, I don't know as I sit here, what one does with an international student who's already been vaccinated, but not with a "US approved vaccine." My suspicion is that schools are making decisions imagining that the data is going to result in us arriving in a, again, a more evolved and maybe even a different place about some of those vaccines that have been provided abroad by the time we get to August. And maybe they'll evolve their policies accordingly, we might have a vaccine that's been used in Europe that hasn't yet been approved in the US being provisionally approved and maybe the policy adapts accordingly, as an example.

Sarah Spreitzer: That's really helpful. And I know we've also spent some time thinking about those populations who don't kind of fit into our traditional US higher ed students as we think of them going to four year institutions. Can you talk about kind of the special concerns around say, what we used to refer to as non-traditional or adult learners and also our DACA population, some of those concerns?

Peter McDonough: Yeah, sure. And this doesn't apply only to the question of whether one should require vaccines, but how do we assure that as many people as possible who would like to have to be vaccinated will feel comfortable being vaccinated. Early on, and I think continuing there have been concerns about adult learners, who certainly now having heard that you can for many people count on a day or two of not feeling so well after one or both of your shots, they might say, I can't afford to miss two days of work and so that becomes a very practical issue. How do we deal with that? And I don't think those issues of course are unique to the college and university concerns but they're real concerns, so that's an inhibitor that's being talked about. There are certainly members of our community who simply have a distrust more of historical concerns about government and actions taken against populations that would, as I said earlier suggests a mistrust of the government. So how does schools deal with that? It undoubtedly starts first with recognizing the legitimacy of the mistrust as opposed to dismissing it. And will that weigh into and be a decider about a requirement? It's possible for a particular school in a particular circumstance.

Age, interestingly, in the same conversation about three weeks ago, I heard one president say that at my school, we think our students are just fine with being vaccinated, but it's their parents who may be a little concerned. And another president said I've got a student population that I'm pretty convinced that 60% of them may not return in the fall if we have to require vaccination, but basically our faculty and staff are fine with it, the adults are fine, the students are concerned. And part of it is because of the echo chamber that they exist in, and the information that they have at the moment. So that president was talking about the challenge of getting what we'd view as accurate information into the mainstream of their conversation.

Sarah Spreitzer: So Pete, given all of this kind of issues that are kind of still up in the air and the churn and the discussions going on. Do you have any thoughts on kind of what's next, what institutions are going to be doing, looking towards the fall?

Peter McDonough: Well, because colleges and universities certainly embrace science and data, and because it does seem, like you and Jon had noted earlier that we've evolved from issues about availability to issues about hesitancy. I think we're going to find the conversations probably taking place today and tomorrow on campuses with greater recognition of the hesitancy concern, but also with a counter balanced certainty that the more shots in arms that can occur for their campus community members, the quicker and more certain everybody will be to returning to something closer to normal. So, I think that we're going to see less and less frank concerns about, shall we say, liability and can we, and much more about how do we, and the how do we is, how do we get as many of our community members vaccinated as possible? Whether it be a comfort level that they have individually to step forward and be vaccinated or the school saying, I think we need to make this a requirement.

Jon Fansmith: And Pete, I want to thank you for joining us today. I want to first note two different things, though. The first would be that I think you said, roughly five times, great question to Sarah, whereas you never once said it to me, so-

Sarah Spreitzer: Thank you.

Jon Fansmith: ... I am trying not to take that personally but I absolutely am taking it personally. Second thing, which may be more relevant to our listeners than my hurt feelings, is that you authored an issue brief for ACE, that actually touches on a lot of these issues and gives to my mind, both helpful and easily understandable explanations of some of the issues and what college presidents should consider. We will make that available with a link on our website, but before I said goodbye to you, or just offer any thoughts on the brief and the utility of that to you.

Peter McDonough: Well, first I want to stress that I co-authored it with a terrific intern that we had with us, as you recall, Emma Hart, who's a sophomore at Oberlin College. And it was an interesting journey for Emma and I, because we started looking into this issue maybe two or three weeks before that issue brief was published, and we were speculating about what the speculating would be. As institutional leaders sat down and in late March and April to figure out what they're going to do in the fall. So the issue briefly referring to which poses, if you will, a framework for thinking about these issues, has stood a test of time, but time is short, but for COVID it's almost an eternity. It's stood the of test of time in that most of the issues are still the issues, the questions are still the questions. If our students aren't vaccinated, what are we going to do? COVID testing, we're not going to let them in a performing arts venue.

And I think that it underscores the fact that these decisions are probably being written in pencil, even if they're being announced in print. Stay tuned, would be the word for probably most campuses at higher education and maybe our country as a whole.

Jon Fansmith: Well, it really is an excellent resource, I assume we can thank Emma then for the readability part of it, certainly amidst other contributions she made, but it is a great resource as are you both to us and to our members and thank you so much for coming on and helping us navigate what's a pretty complicated issue that is of great importance right now. So thanks again for your time, Pete.

Peter McDonough: You're welcome. Thank you, Jon. Thank you, Sarah.

Jon Fansmith: To listen to earlier episodes and subscribe to dotEDU, you can find us on Apple podcast, Stitcher, Google podcast, and wherever you get your podcasts. For show notes and links to resources mentioned in the episode, you can go to our website at acenet.edu/podcast. And you can also use our email podcast@acenet.edu for suggestions, for upcoming shows or guests you'd like to see, or just thoughts on how we're doing. Before we go, I'd like to thank Carly O'Connell, Laurie Arnston and Audrey Hamilton and Malcolm Moore, who are the exceptional producers of dotEDU, and make us sound as good as we do every episode. And finally, I'd like to thank you for listening.

About the Podcast

​Each episode of dotEDU presents a deep dive into a major public policy issue impacting college campuses and students across the country. Hosts from ACE are joined by guest experts to lead you through thought-provoking conversations on topics such as campus free speech, diversity in admissions, college costs and affordability, and more. Find all episodes of the podcast at the dotEDU page.

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dotEDU: Tell Us What You Think

We’re wrapping up the second season of our dotEDU podcast and getting ready to launch our third this fall. Are you a regular dotEDU listener? Does it help you think through the policy issues that impact your campus? How can we make it better?

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Connect With Us

​We'd love to hear from you. Tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @ACEducation or email podcast@acenet.edu.