An Experiment in Self-Governance

by David Hebert and Stephen C. Miller
The American Institute for Economic Research

A few weeks into the Fall semester, a so-called natural experiment is being conducted on campuses across the country. This is not an experiment in epidemiology, but in self-governance. The question is: Are college students capable of self-governance? Are they capable of understanding that their actions affect not just themselves, but others throughout their communities, and act accordingly?

Some colleges decided over the summer that their students are incapable of such thinking and are conducting classes remotely. Others, like Eastern Carolina University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, initially decided to give their students the chance only to decide, after the semester was underway, that they were not. While plenty of colleges are still open for in-person classes this fall, only time will tell how many will remain open all the way through December and possibly even beyond.

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