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Purdue University President Mitchell Daniels sent out a long letter to the Purdue community on April 20 staking out an aggressive position that the University’s core mission requires a return to business, on campus, by September 1. This will likely serve as a reference point for other institutions in higher education and beyond. The gist of the plan is data- and science driven smart behaviors including testing, tracking, and density reduction. The most important aspect, of the letter is the full-throated commitment embodied in the following quote:

“a return-to-operations strategy is undergirded by a fundamental conviction that even a phenomenon as menacing as COVID-19 is one of the inevitable risks of life. Like most sudden and alarming developments, its dangers are graphic, expressed in tragic individual cases, and immediate; the costs of addressing it are less visible, more diffuse, and longer-term. It is a huge and daunting problem, but the Purdue way has always been to tackle problems, not hide from them.

Closing down our entire society, including our university, was a correct and necessary step. It has had invaluable results. But like any action so drastic, it has come at extraordinary costs, as much human as economic, and at some point, clearly before next fall, those will begin to vastly outweigh the benefits of its continuance. Interrupting and postponing the education of tomorrow’s leaders for another entire semester or year, is one of many such costs. So is permanently damaging the careers and lives of those who have made teaching and research their life’s work, and those who support them in that endeavor.”

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