Vice President Mike Pence discussed the potential reopening of college campuses for the coming fall term with more than a dozen higher education presidents Wednesday.
Administration officials told the Daily Caller the discussions took place during a Wednesday afternoon conference call. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and White House coronavirus task force response coordinator Deborah Birx were also on the call. (RELATED: A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Pence’s Latest, Off-Camera Coronavirus Task Force Briefing)
Full list of call participants:
- Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn
- Arizona State University President Michael Crow
- Purdue University President Mitch Daniels
- Ohio State University President Dr. Michael Drake
- University of Florida President Dr. Kent Fuchs
- Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey
- Wake Forest University President Dr. Nathan Hatch
- Carnegie Melon University President Farnam Jahanian
- University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins
- Marquette University President Dr. Michael Lovell
- University Virginia President James Ryan
- University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John
- Stanford University President Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne
- University of Texas-El Paso President Heather Wilson
All of the school representatives were afforded time to express concerns about the new year and ask questions about government reopening guidelines. In addition to discussing reopening groups formed at each school, several representatives touched on efforts their laboratory facilities would undertake to support coronavirus vaccine and treatment research. Pence has held several such conference calls with state governors and industry leaders specifically centered on reopening concerns.
Additionally, calls have escalated in recent days for President Donald Trump to open a coronavirus task force dedicated to helping schools reopen, including from some of the president’s close circle of out-of-government supporters and confidants. One such individual informed the Daily Caller that he personally sent White House chief of staff Mark Meadows an op-ed over the weekend highlighting the need for a higher education task force. White House officials later told Daily Caller that Meadows had not discussed launching new task force with anyone.
“I think they should absolutely open the schools, absolutely,” Trump told reporters gathered at the White House later Wednesday afternoon. “It’s had very little impact on young people.”
“Our country has got to get back and it’s got to get back as soon as possible,” he continued. “I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed.”
Wednesday’s discussion comes as universities grapple with moves by state governors to slowly reopen economies and lingering public health concerns regarding a coronavirus resurgence. Some universities, like Rice in Houston, are planning on reopening this fall. Others are expanding online offerings while others are postponing the next term altogether.
Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the top medical experts on the White House coronavirus task force, warned during his Tuesday testimony before Congress “that the idea of having treatments available, or a vaccine, to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something of a bit of a bridge too far.”
Still, new polling suggests that two-thirds of college students would return to a normal class schedule regardless of whether or not a vaccine was ready to be applied to the masses. Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb predicted Wednesday morning that most universities would return to a more normal schedule for the fall term.
“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,” he said during an interview on CNBC. “I think there will be a seasonal effect here.”