News & Blog


In This Pandemic, Ohio’s Colleges and Universities Are Serving the Public Good

Martin Kich
Professor of English, Wright State University
President-Elect, Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors

Ohio’s colleges and universities are contributing in uncountable ways to the state’s efforts to contend with the coronavirus pandemic. Our faculty have provided expertise that has helped our state to meet a wide range of challenges, from conducting ground-breaking bio-medical research to resolving unprecedented logistical and technological issues. Our institutions have opened their facilities and have donated their equipment to meet pressing community needs.

Our faculty have educated most of the medical professionals combatting the pandemic in our communities—the EMTs, the physicians, the nurses, and the other medical professionals from respiratory therapists to grief counselors, all of whom have inspired us with the strength of their commitment to their patients and to the public good.

Our faculty have also educated most of the other first responders—the police and the firefighters and the professionals who have maintained community services despite the dramatic disruptions that the pandemic has created in our daily lives.

Our faculty have also educated most of our leaders at all levels of government, in the business community, and in the non-profit sector—all of whom are meeting almost unimaginable challenges in a remarkably organized and efficient manner.

Graduates of our Public Health programs are organizing the contact tracing that will very shortly be necessary to contain the disease.

The academic programs that have produced these remarkable alumni/-ae maintain supplies of personal protective equipment, from masks and goggles to gloves and gowns. Just about every college and university in the state has donated their inventories of these essential PPE items to local hospitals in order to alleviate the shortages in their supplies.

In addition, some of the programs involve training with ventilators and respirators, which have also been loaned to the hospitals to meet sudden spikes in demand. In fact, several of the regional campuses that serve rural communities have even loaned hospital beds to the smaller hospitals there.

And when our institutions have not had the finished equipment on hand, they have provided materials needed to produce it or have actually begun to produce it.

For instance, the Theater Costume Shop at Lorain County Community Colleges has donated fabric appropriate for making masks.

Students in the Plastics Engineering Technology Program at Shawnee State University have designed special face shields for first responders and essential workers, and students at the University of Toledo and at other institutions have been using 3D printers to produce face shields.

Although the faculty, staff, and students have been working remotely, our campuses have not been shuttered completely. Some of our facilities are large enough to accommodate large numbers of people while also maintaining social distancing, and they have been used by local agencies for all sorts of purposes—from a blood-donation drive at Bowling Green State University to day-long food distribution to the needy, conducted by the local food bank, at Wright State University.

Beyond all of these immediately evident contributions, researchers at our universities have been contributing to the scientific innovations that will allow us to manage this disease. For instance, researchers at Ohio State University have made major contributions to multi-institutional efforts to develop effective and efficient COVID-19 testing.

In this crisis, our colleges and universities are demonstrating how integral they are to the well-being of our communities. In uncountable ways, they have enhanced the economic vitality and the quality of life within our communities. More importantly, even in the best of times and especially in the midst of a crisis such as this pandemic, they also are essential to preserving the lives of our family members and neighbors.

In the past few weeks virtually every college and university in the state has made or proposed drastic faculty and staff reductions in the face of financial difficulties exacerbated by the pandemic. Institutions of higher education will not be able to maintain their excellence, to sustain their contributions to communities and public health, or to keep students safe in the next academic year if they don’t receive more aid from the federal government. It would be a desperately needed investment not only to ensure that institutions survive, but to put them on footing to thrive for years to come.

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