Purdue University president speaks to plans for fall semester

Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana, talked to "GMA" about how the university plans to reopen safely, why he is confident in the decision and what students can expect.
4:32 | 04/28/20

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Transcript for Purdue University president speaks to plans for fall semester
Thank you so much there, tomorrow. As some states relax lockdowns there's concern about re-opening universities around the country in fall. Joining us is Purdue university president Mitch Daniel, also a former governor of Indiana who last week announced plans to welcome students back to the campus this fall. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. You described purdues is a city of more than 50,000, so how can you re-open the school safely? We'll have to do that under very different conditions, I will point out that city, which you mentioned is unusual in this respect. Over 80% of its residents on a daily basis are under the age of 35 and, therefore, the data is very, very clear that essentially no lethal risk from this disease. Our problem and it's a big one will be to see if we can devise ways to protect the -- those who are vulnerable. Older, those who have various associated co-morbidities from the virus and it'll take every day between now and the fall to make those preparations and those changes and that's why we are trying to start now. I know you just said 80% are 35 and under but the other 20%, they're still vulnerable. Not only is it just the student there is but also the faculty. You know, some other people who work there who are at risk as well. What would you say to them about, okay, the school is going to open. You are at risk. What is the plan that you have to protect them as well? Michael, that's exactly the point we've made to them if you read our letter. Listen, Michael, we are here for our students and our students in overwhelming numbers say they want to be here. Our applications have set another record this year, acceptances of our offers have set a record which surprised us and hearing every day from students who want to know will we make arrangements so that they can pursue their education and get their lives started on the schedule they wanted. So, the whole challenge for us, the biggest challenge is exactly as you said, what do we do about -- to protect our faculty and staff that significant number who would be at greater risk and we'll make so many changes -- have to make so many changes to the size of classes, the venue of classes, dining and residential arrangements and everything with that goal in mind, we think we can do it but we don't pretend to have all the answers. We're working very hard right now. I know social distancing will be tough because kids share bedroom, they share bathroom, common area, lunch areas and all those different things, Harvard university said it cannot guarantee they will re-open in the traditional way this fall. What makes you feel -- what makes you so much more confident you can re-open your campus? We're not guaranteeing anything. We're just saying we have a can do attitude at Purdue. You know, we're known for engineering and science that we've always said that we want every graduate whatever they study to leave here with -- as a problem solver. Someone prepared to try to tackle the challenges of life, make a better world. And that's what we're saying we're trying to do now on behalf of 40,000 students who are telling us they want to be here and want us to make that possible and safe for them and for those around them. Have you been talking to other college presidents and if so, do they have a similar plan like you do? Well, we're hearing from a lot of people. Again, we don't pretend to have a plan yet although we have many, many ideas, a faculty led group including some of really the world's premiere biologists and public health experts has been working on options, we'll be looking at them very soon, we're not prescribing and we never do at Purdue anything we're doing for anyone else. We're trying to make the best decisions for our students and our institution. If we think we've learned anything we'll gladly share it but for the moment, we're in a planning mode and in an analysis mode and therefore not holding ourselves out as world's experts on any of this. All right, we appreciate your time, Mr. Daniel, thank you so much and good luck in this upcoming school year. Thank you very much. Robin.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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