The homophones “higher” and “hire” in the July/August issue (“What’s Next for Higher Ed?” and “Hire the Tiger”) underscore the similar sound but discordant direction Princeton has taken during COVID. When the higher-ed article on COVID and universities quoted President Eisgruber ’83 claiming it is a “moral responsibility” to now return to in-person teaching, and in the next article on hiring Tigers I learned that during COVID Princeton undergrads were able to successfully secure investment banking, consulting, and tech jobs, I started to wonder where exactly Princeton’s moral compass is pointing these days.
While Princeton was following CDC guidelines and public-health emergency declarations when they taught classes remotely and conducted career fairs and job interviews via Zoom technology, the term “moral responsibility” seems a bit elevated and out of sync with the COVID experience of many other parts of society. We have always expected firefighters, policemen and policewomen, and paramedics to immediately respond to 911 calls in the face of danger and uncertain circumstances. At the onset of the COVID pandemic we all expected doctors, nurses, and other health-care workers to continue caring for sick patients even in the face of inadequate protective equipment and no COVID vaccine. What would happen to our society if firefighters only responded to alarms when the smoke cleared? Or if the most talented and smartest college graduates sought “essential-worker” professions instead of lucrative remote jobs?