The Town­houses are the official on-campus quar­antine zones. Courtesy | Kalli Dalrymple

We cannot have the com­munity nec­essary for liberal edu­cation when we treat our fellow cit­izens like bio­hazards. Therefore, Hillsdale College ought to remove all coro­n­avirus restric­tions on campus.

Healthy stu­dents should not have to go into quasi-solitary con­finement because they side-hugged someone who had mild flu-like symptoms. As of this writing, 43 stu­dents are in quar­antine at the college, while only 6 have actually tested pos­itive for the virus.

How will this work long-term? Once these neg­ative-testing stu­dents are released, will they have to return to quar­antine if they come into contact with another pos­itive case? How long, exactly, does the college plan on keeping these quar­antine prac­tices in place? When will we declare the pan­demic over?

There are 20.2 million college stu­dents in America, 1.5 million pro­fessors, and mil­lions of other support staff and admin­is­trators at insti­tu­tions of higher learning. The New York Times main­tains the most com­pre­hensive database of coro­n­avirus cases and deaths in col­leges and uni­ver­sities. It has reported 88,000 pos­itive cases and 60 deaths, the majority of which hap­pened in the spring — even though that was when iso­lation rules were stricter. In other words, by the best available count, college stu­dents and faculty have a less than 1 in 300,000 chance of dying from the coronavirus. 

That is not a crisis. 

The numbers closer to home tell the same story. Hillsdale County has a pop­u­lation of 45,600. In an average year, 514 of those cit­izens die. This year, there have been 26 coro­n­avirus-related deaths in the county — 20 of which occurred in one nursing home back in March and April. Since May, there have been a total of only two coro­n­avirus deaths in the county.

 A 5% change in the local death rate, driven largely by deaths among the very old and infirm, is not a reason to stop normal life.

Sweden, whose pop­u­lation of 10 million is roughly the same as Michigan’s, never insti­tuted a mask mandate, does not enforce quar­an­tines or contact tracing, and kept most schools open throughout the spring and summer. 

Sweden has had 5,870 coro­n­avirus-related deaths. Michigan has had 6,971. If any­thing, the evi­dence sug­gests that perhaps lock­downs, mask-wearing, and contact tracing make the death rate from the illness higher for the broader population. 

Taking all this into account, Hillsdale College should remove all remaining coro­n­avirus-related restric­tions. There is no need for masks, plex­i­glass shields, dining restric­tions, or the closure of college facil­ities. Normal life is not a biohazard.

The college admin­is­tration should simply stop testing stu­dents — including ath­letes. If ath­letes aren’t cur­rently allowed to compete in the National Col­le­giate Ath­letic Asso­ci­ation, they shouldn’t be subject to its juris­dic­tions. Hillsdale’s inde­pen­dence is too valuable to be sac­ri­ficed to fearful bureau­cracies. Stu­dents who feel ill should stay home until they are better. The college is under no oblig­ation to adopt the role of vol­unteer aux­iliary coro­n­avirus police for the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Com­munity Health Agency. 

As Dean of Social Sci­ences Paul Moreno pointed out in a piece pub­lished by the Detroit News, both the 1945 Emer­gency Powers Act and the 1976 Emer­gency Man­agement Acts are vio­la­tions of the non-del­e­gation clause in the state’s con­sti­tution. Even if the Michigan Supreme Court rules that these acts are legit­imate and allow Gov­ernor Whitmer to con­struct or enforce a contact-tracing regime using her exec­utive authority, it does not change the fun­da­mental problem James Madison iden­tified in Fed­er­alist 47: The com­bi­nation of exec­utive, leg­islative, and judicial power in one set of hands is tyranny. The college should not follow uncon­sti­tu­tional laws or ally itself with the very tyran­nical admin­is­trative state it condemns. 

Instead, the college should use its extensive financial, legal, and political resources to thwart any attempt by the state to interfere with its edu­ca­tional mission. Stu­dents cannot learn when they are con­fined to their rooms. They cannot become more vir­tuous and excellent human beings when they live in con­stant fear of spec­u­lative dangers. 

Student life at the college is already close to normal. Hillsdale is, in com­parison to almost every other college in America, a par­adise of freedom and common sense. But the numbers are clear — there is no point in main­taining even our cursory coro­n­avirus restric­tions. It is time to return to normal life.


Josiah Lip­pincott is pur­suing a master’s degree in the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship.