David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Moment of Truth

March 12, 2020

It is the understatement of all time to say that this has been the most remarkable week of my life.  My god, professional sports (and the NCAA, I count you in there) have decided to shut down!

Every waking minute this week has been devoted almost entirely to SMC's response to the Coronavirus situation. And that is not an overstatement. I tried to have a conversation with a dear friend today, wanting to stay away from the damn COVID-19 topic and failed. Everything came back to that, even when we tried to talk about our kids.

By the end of today, SMC had made the decision, as had most of my peers across Michigan Community Colleges, fellow combatants in a free-for-all cage match all waiting to see who would make the first move, to move all classes out of face-to-face deliveries to alternative deliveries (primarily online).  This is unprecedented for all of us. After 20+ years serving in some kind of administrative role in higher education, I find that I continue to deal with new scenarios.

There is some truth about how the nature of humans comes out in a time of crisis.  The process of working through the last four days to these decisions reflects the best of all of us.  Different sets of people getting together to analyze, hypothesize, and justify specific decisions.  From a governor through vice presidents to front line staff and faculty, all of us at SMC came to a decision that I firmly believe we fully support.  I have never been prouder of a group of people than I am at this moment.

However, as the Cowboy Junkies sing, "a man in a crisis falls back on what he knows best/a murderer to murder, a thief to theft," and we are seeing the other side of human nature that comes out in a crisis. I rarely turn this blog into a political statement, but when high-ranking officials, t.v. and radio personalities continue to suggest that a possible pandemic -- one that has led to every sport basically being ended, one that has led a country like Italy to shutdown -- is a democratic hoax, it is tantamount to treason.  Our murderers and thieves have shown their true colors.

I can't help but think it is trickling down to the parent who lodged a complaint mere minutes after our announcement that his kid will not be able to complete his course because the subject, lab-based, cannot be done online, despite the communication that said "class content will be delivered primarily online" and that students can "expect to hear shortly from their professors or academic deans regarding individual course specifics." I can kind of get the overlooking of the other possible ways to deliver that aren't online (for the record, we are trying to avoid larger groupings of people, so faculty with labs are looking at scheduling small groups of students outside of the normal class time), but I can't overlook the ignorance of comparing this situation with a flu that occurred years ago and that, the parent suggests, didn't lead to such dramatic actions on the part of the college (I wasn't here so I wouldn't necessarily know).  There are so many ways to unpack the logical fallacies of that statement that it could be a semester-long lesson.

Overall, I hope that this parent was responding from a place of concern for the child, and not simply from the back of the armed marauders racing into the already vulnerable town ready to murder and thieve their way to selfish means.

Sometimes I wish the word "vulnerable" could be defined by something else than just physical health.