As many colleges and universities begin to close for the coming weeks or for the semester to contain the spread of coronavirus, Harvard Graduate School of Education's Anthony Jack stresses the importance of helping students who need an exit strategy.
Jack, a sociologist who studies the experiences of first-generation college goers and low-income undergraduates, shares tips on how colleges and universities can talk to their students, help them prepare, and offer support during this uncertain time.
Q: What considerations do colleges and universities need to take into account when deciding to close?
Jack: Colleges must treat the public health issue at hand, but what they cannot do is ignore the social inequality that is exacerbated by this pandemic. There are students on campus who are economically disadvantaged, as well as those who have fraught relationships with their parents for religious, political, gender, and sexuality related reasons. There are students in the foster care system. These students must be seen as a vulnerable population in a moment like this, just as much as those students who are from countries that are level three crisis centers. Something all these different groups of students have in common is that either they can’t get home or they have no home to go to. We must treat this situation in a way that looks at who is vulnerable, versus who is observably affected. Often it’s the invisible population who are the most disadvantaged in moments like this.