LETTER: Dr Karen Kelsky, in her book The Professor Is In, writes: "The American academy is in crisis. Decades of shrinking funding and shifting administrative priorities have left public universities strapped for cash and unable to sustain their basic educational mission."
This sorry state of affairs occurred before Covid-19 struck. The situation must have exacerbated the global impact of the pandemic.
So higher learning institutions have to adapt. Many were unprepared. Lecturers who are used to the chalk-and-talk method found that there are no students in the room listening to them.
They have to reach and teach students online. Those who are not conversant with this new method of delivery have to learn how to use it.
Campuses are now quiet. Top universities that used to attract bright students from abroad find that many are not coming.
The restrictions on air travel and strict border controls are among the reasons for the dwindling foreign student enrolment.
The hike in tuition fees is another factor. Professors who have planned for their sabbaticals overseas have had their plans thwarted.
The many international conferences that they had planned to attend were shelved.
However, they can still submit their ideas or theories to journals for publication. Digital technology is impervious to deadly pathogens.
Columnist Fareed Zakaria made the prophetic prediction on his CNN show on June 25, 2017.
"One of the biggest threats facing the United States isn't big at all. Actually, it's tiny, microscopic, thousands of times smaller than the head of a pin." Sounds familiar?
We do not know how and when the battle with the pandemic is going to end, but society and our country have to live with the pandemic.
Activities they have taken for granted are now beyond their control and reach.
Cue Isaac Newton, who in 1665 discovered the Theory of Gravity when he was confined to his home because of the plague.
Doing a Newton may be the best thing that professors can come up with in these troubled times. Every cloud has a silver lining.
DR KOH AIK KHOON
Alumni, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times