JIM SHARPE

NAU students teach a lesson in making coronavirus political

Sep 1, 2020, 1:00 PM | Updated: 9:40 pm
(Facebook Photo/NAU)...
(Facebook Photo/NAU)
(Facebook Photo/NAU)

Yesterday, my alma mater opened for in-person learning. Actually, I call Northern Arizona University my “alma NOT mater” because I went — but I didn’t graduate.

NAU became Arizona’s third state university to welcome back students for in-person learning. By the end of the week, 16,000 students are expected to have set food on campus and many of them — and their professors — are excited about learning and teaching on Arizona’s most beautiful college campus.

Other students, however, aren’t excited. In fact, they’re vehemently against in-person NAU.

Who they are (and whom they represent) is politically pretty telling.

In a Sharper Point commentary last week, I mentioned that our family is getting out of the house a little more (in a very careful way — with masks, sanitizer and physical distancing all in place).

We felt we have to because our little girls are in desperate need of more interaction than just remote learning — even though their teachers have been doing an awesome job. (At least that’s what my wife tells me. I have to rely on her opinion as she is the parent who’s won myriad statewide and national teaching awards.)

But let’s get back to NAU — where I did lousy in school and it sounds like they’re doing an awesome job trying to keep students and faculty safe as can be. 

Dr. Rita Cheng, NAU’s president, told ABC15’s Danielle Lerner about the school’s long list of health and safety protocols: surge testing, mask requirements, physical distancing, flex-learning options, an app that alerts you when you’ve been exposed to COVID, and (are you ready for this?) contactless delivery robots.

Robots rolling here-and-fro? What is this: Death Star University? 

But even robots don’t provide a high-enough level of safety to keep the NAU Student Chapter of the Arizona Education Association from protesting NAU’s in-person plan. (Although, methinks it’s not safety — but politics — that’s top o’ mind for these Lumberjacks.)

Nice assist, kids.

What’s really going on in the cool pines is this: politically-active future teachers are helping politically-active current teachers set the stage for a future when many of those teachers will refuse to go back to work — even after we’ve met community benchmarks and school safety protocols have been put into place.

Unless a teacher (or someone they live with) is elderly and/or has underlying health issues, refusing to go back to work when so many other Arizonans already have is a political shell game that involves changing the definition of a “safe return to schools.”

Don’t believe me that it’s political? Well, the other (erstwhile) on-campus group speaking with a loud voice against NAU’s in-person plan is… the NAU chapter of the Young Democrats of Arizona. 

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NAU students teach a lesson in making coronavirus political