As colleges bring students back to campus for the fall semester are being raised more and more questions about what it would take to send them home or return to online instruction in the event of an outbreak of COVID- 19.

governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, drew a red line for the universities of the State of New York on Thursday, announcing: "If universities have 100 cases or if the number of cases is equal to 5 percent of its population or more, have to go to distance learning for two weeks, at which time we will reassess the situation. "

in other states without such guidance, teachers and students are demanding more and more in schools to release information on the criteria they are using to decide if and when we need a change in person to remote operations.

relatively specific few universities have published reference numerals are used to determine when an increase in COVID-19 cases could lead to a close, despite increased number being published general information º criteria and that They are considering. Common criteria include metrics related to COVID case numbers and rates of positive test, admission rates at the local hospital, and occupancy rates of rooms reserved for quarantine and isolation.

A university that has issued specific metrics is the University of Wyoming. Metric projects last updated on August 11, college lists a number of specific benchmarks that would trigger an automatic pause operations in person while administrators assess the situation. Benchmarks include increased day 20 or more new cases relative to a moving average of seven days, daily rate higher positive test to 5 percent, or fatality in the population of UW.

Berea College, a small private college in Kentucky with a focus on serving low-income students has also published criteria that would cause it to consider closing the campus, including reaching 80 percent of quarantine and isolation capacity or having 10 employees sick at any one time.

"I was glad to have these metrics out there," says the president of Berea, Lyle Roelofs. "Teachers and students are paying close attention, are asking me quite regularly how we are going compared to the metrics. It's good to have something solid out there for people dependent rather than simply saying, 'We administrators have good judgment and we know when to think about this. ' I was not going to play well with our community. "

Some other universities are publishing lists various criteria taken into account in any close decision without identifying specific numbers that would trigger closing. The University of Texas at Austin has published a detailed list (left) considerations of community and school level that are being used as "triggers decision" to close or partially close. Other universities that have published these lists include Eastern Michigan University, Liberty University and the University of Kansas.

Chancellor of Kansas, Douglas A. Girod, I stressed that the criteria are evaluated holistically by college years Pandemic medical advisory team.

"in other words," Girod wrote, "there is no single indicator, single circumstance, 'magic number' or 'trigger' we only lead to change the status of school operations ".

The University of Wisconsin in Madison similarly says that does not depend on a single metric.

"there is no single approach that will push us to make a decision about reversing or reducing our plans," Chancellor of Madison, Rebecca Blank, wrote in a message Wednesday. "We are monitoring various quantitative and qualitative factors - these include the percentage of people who tested positive and capacity in our spaces of isolation and quarantine on campus as well as the broader community measures as a percentage of the county people testing positive and the capacity of our health system. also continue to receive expert advice on infectious diseases here on campus, as they help monitor what is happening. we have developed a series of contingency plans that we can adjust our operations to a situation fast moving. "

Some students and teachers are asking for specific numbers. Rector of the University of Cornell, Michael Kotlikoff recently responded to such calls on campus in Ithaca, N.Y. He told members of the Assembly of Cornell University last week that 250 new cases in a week would "consider turning a trigger to say". (Kotlikoff made the comments before the announcement of Governor Cuomo on Thursday set a lower threshold of 100 cases. He said the university said in a statement the same day that "will work in consultation closely with the Department of Health Tompkins County and in strict accordance with the entire state of New York guidelines ").

The argument for publishing metrics is reduced to issues of transparency and accountability.

Andrew M. Schocket, professor of history and American culture studies at Bowling Green State University, argues that publishing metrics "require university leaders to face potential death toll of learning and explicitly weigh the risks those who are asking their students, faculty and staff, along with community members to bear. "

"If you may well regret the lack of flexibility of this approach would involve, which is the point: the establishment of these conditions early mitigate how, once the semester is underway, their decision making Wil l inevitably clouded, "Schocket wrote in an opinion article in Inside Higher Ed.

Chris Marsicano, assistant professor of practice in educational studies at Davidson College in Carolina of the North, notes, however the disadvantages of reducing operating room managers putting specific numbers out there. For example, a school might say that it would close if 10 percent of students COVID contract only to find that fewer students enrolling expected, giving the additional capacity of the university for isolation and quarantine.

"The reason why charity institutions are not publishing this information is things change and change fast and so you need to have the flexibility," says Marsicano. "But it can be disconcerting for students and faculty and staff and families to hear, 'Hey, guys, just trust us, we have some of this,' without seeing the written plan."

Michael A. Olivas, professor emeritus of law at the University of Houston and former interim president to the campus of downtown Houston, and an expert in higher education law, does not believe that the publication of the criteria for closure affects the liability of a school significantly one way or another. It also says that the use of such benchmarks can not give any particular university liability protection.

Most schools that have published these criteria, he says, have included vague or cover so that leaves room for discretion. As for universities that are publishing specific numerical references, "Any school is saying that we will close 10 percent is starting to make plans at eight," he says.

The president of Berea agrees that the specific numerical thresholds publication provides less flexibility university administrators, but suggests it might be a good thing.

"undoubtedly owes an explanation to our community if you get one of these metrics and do not close" says Roelofs. "Then we turn on the load to explain ourselves, is right. If we fail to do that, then we are trying to create more flexibility than we have in my opinion anyway."

Trinity University in Texas, has also published some specific numbers activation leading to consider closing the campus. The university will consider closing, for example, if you have 50 concurrent positive cases among students or 20 concurrent positive among employees. Tess Coody-Anders, vice president of Trinidad for strategic communications and marketing, says the university is in the process of reviewing its criteria published and potentially adding new indicators now that students are in school and administrators have learned more about college testing capabilities and contact tracing.

Coody-Anders said that the focus of the university "has been to be as completely transparent as we could be for anyone surprised if we have to make adjustments."

"We have developed a strong ability to test, detect and treat," she says. "However, this virus is relentless and highly contagious, and can not guarantee the health and safety. All we can do is make every effort to alleviate and mitigate its impact."

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