The Future of Reopening Campuses – Why Colleges Worry They Might Get Sued

Key Points

  • College Presidents had a call with Vice President Pence about reopening colleges.
  • They expressed their concerns about being liable if students get sick after reopening, which would put yet another delay on classes.
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb believes U.S. colleges will welcome students to campus in the fall.

Colleges want to reopen their campuses for the fall but they are also worried about the legal liabilities they will face if students get sick while attending classes. If this happens, the colleges may be subject to legal action.

Top college presidents had a virtual meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and other participants from the federal government on May 13th to discuss the reopening of their campuses. They expressed their concern about the possibility of getting sued and requested that they be shielded from legal liability in the event that students get sick while on campus. The representatives from the federal government were reported to be “in listening mode” but no concrete answers were provided.

Colleges are not the only businesses that are fearing legal liability if they reopen. “Manufacturers and business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been pushing to be freed, at least temporarily during the pandemic, from being held liable if workers, customers and others get sick on their property — something a lawyer for Texas Christian University told senators is “foreseeable, perhaps inevitable.”” (Inside Higher Ed 2020, Colleges Worry They’ll Be Sued if They Reopen Campuses, Available from: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/05/15/colleges-seek-protection-lawsuits-if-they-reopen. [15 May 2020])

However, former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb believes that colleges should reopen their classes for the fall. “I think we’ll be in a position where we’re going to give a try at opening schools, opening residential college campuses in the fall because I’m hopeful that coming off of July and August, we’re going to see some declines in cases in the summer,” Mr. Gottlieb said on Squawk Box.

We believe that reopening education institutions will be one of the first signs that the world is returning to normalcy. But while we’d all love for this to happen sooner rather than later, proper safety measures should be enacted before resuming any campus-related activities.

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