I usually don’t respond to reader email publicly. Usually, I just answer privately or not at all, if the e-mail contains nothing more than personal attacks.
In this case, however, I am making an exception, because this particular e-mail is pretty representative of the negative responses to my recent column on reopening college campuses. (I also received many positive responses.) By answering this one reader, I am in effect answering them all.
The e-mail in question comes from a small business owner in Roswell. As a courtesy, I am withholding both his name and the name of his company. I was, however, happy to hear from him for two reasons: I always like to get e-mail, whether positive or negative, because it means people are reading, and in this case I was pleased to see that my column is reaching people outside of Gwinnett County.
The text of his e-mail, under the subject line “You should be fired,” was as follows: “Your article reads like a college recruitment poster. Incredibly irresponsible, your words may influence others into ultimately risking their lives. You are not a virologist, you are not a scientist.”
In response, rather than debating, I would just like to ask this reader a few questions:
When you say I should be fired, do you mean from my day job as a college professor or from my part-time gig as a freelance newspaper columnist?
If the former, are you familiar with the concepts of tenure and academic freedom? If the latter, are you familiar with the First Amendment?
Are you aware that the opinion expressed in that column — that Georgia should reopen college campuses in the fall — is also shared by University System leaders, who have announced plans to do just that?
Are you suggesting that college students are more likely to die from COVID-19 than from drug overdoses, car accidents (including alcohol-related), or suicide? If so, what is your evidence for that assertion?
Do you believe college leaders are being irresponsible when they keep their campuses open while thousands of students are dying each year from the causes mentioned above, as well as many other causes — including infectious diseases like seasonal flu?
If not, why not? Why do you believe campuses should close for something that is statistically a minor risk while remaining open despite other much more significant risks?
Do you have any children in college? (I have two.)
Do you believe that only doctors and scientists are allowed to have an opinion on this topic?
Do you believe that only doctors and scientists are allowed to cite doctors and scientists?
Do you believe that doctors and scientists are infallible? If so, how do you account for the many disagreements among doctors and scientists, on this issue and many others?
Thank you. I eagerly await your replies!