ASU among universities seeking legal immunity for COVID lawsuits stemming from campus reopening

Issue could become key factor before in-person classes can resume

The+University+of+Kentucky+is+among+colleges+hoping+to+reopen+for+fall+semester

Tom Ipri (Flickr)

The University of Kentucky is among colleges hoping to reopen for fall semester

Ole Olafson , Reporter

A key cog in the works of college reopening this fall may have been revealed last week as Arizona State University President Michael Crow joined with other college presidents from across the country in seeking immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits stemming from their school’s reopening.

According to a State Press article by Wyatt Myskow, Crow and 13 other college presidents held a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx asking for legal immunity as long as the institution had implemented approved safety measures.

The fly in the ointment of trying to keep students, faculty and staff healthy will likely come down to testing.  As many health experts have espoused over the last two months, it is extremely difficult to stop the spread of COVID-19 without widespread testing to identify infected individuals and trace their contact with others.

The University of Notre Dame announced yesterday that they would reopen their campus in the fall.  Among the changes they are reportedly considering include starting classes two weeks early, so students can finish the semester before the Thanksgiving break, essentially eliminating the risk of students bringing the virus back to school during the semester.

The University of South Carolina was one of the first colleges to announce in-person classes for the fall.  They are considering a similar plan that calls for switching to remote learning after the Thanksgiving break until the end of the semester.

The University of Kentucky also plans to reopen this fall.  They seem to be leaning towards the same scheduling system as USC where they would hold in-person classes leading up to the Thanksgiving break and then shift to remote learning as well.  The university is also considering prioritizing those students who would benefit from the on-campus experience most, like freshmen, student athletes, graduate students and students with labs associated to their coursework.

In the end, individual colleges reopening their campuses will likely depend on a variety of factors.  The availability of testing, how new cases of the virus are trending in a particular area and the financial viability of the institution to survive additional semesters of remote learning will probably all factor into the institution’s decision.