ENG1102 Weaver Section 400
Major Project 4 – Research
Colleges’ Responses to the Spanish Influenza Outbreak of 1918
For some individuals, the COVID-19 pandemic did not but merely allow them to slow down the very fast-paced lives they were living. However, for high school seniors like myself that intend to attend college in the fall, understanding how colleges and universities reacted to the global pandemic of 1918 can prove to be quite useful in allowing us to look forward to the upcoming semester. We could recycle some of the strategies used during that pandemic and test them to see if they could help us cope better, at least in the college and university setting. Doing so may even assist us in developing more strength, patience, and resilience for upcoming school years in which this outbreak may continue.
In his article titled “A 1918 Influenza Outbreak at Haskell Institute: An Early Narrative of the Great Pandemic”, author Peter Grant discusses the impact that the influenza pandemic had on the Haskell Institute (now known as Haskell Indian Nations University). While describing the flu pandemic, Grant states that it was “like a thunder bolt out of clear sky” (Grant 1). His stating this shows that similar to the coronavirus pandemic, it was quite sudden and impacted students almost immediately. Students at the Haskell Institute began to fall ill at a rapid pace, with awful symptoms such as “nausea, vomiting, chills, and ‘Rigors’ (shivering)..” (Grant 1). While these symptoms seem quite tolerable today due to there now being a vaccine that originally was released in 1945, what preceded it made it extremely difficult for those that became ill. This is significant because although hundreds of thousands of individuals have been vaccinated in the United States since January 20th, we are still in a time where the number of people that have caught the coronavirus is increasing daily–which is also increasing the number of deaths caused by it. Grant’s article is primarily written from the perspective of the state of Kansas but still ties well with the argument that implementing the lessons and strategies that may have been used during the pandemic of 1918 may assist head individuals of colleges and universities in making more efficient decisions considering the current epidemic we are in.
Authors James W. Thomas and Holly Ann Foster highlight in their article titled “Higher Education Institutions Respond to Epidemics”, other states across the nation, however, government officials struggled to manage the outbreak and this resulted in colleges being “turned into military training centers…” (Thomas and Foster). This was due to the upcoming war that was to take place known as World War I. On another note, the faculty of some colleges such as the State College of Washington (located in Pullman, Washington) stated the following concerning the Spanish flu outbreak: “…it was believed that the State College in its position of comparative isolation from the centers of population and traffic might escape a serious attack of the malady. These hopes were justified until the arrival of the October fifteenth detachment of six hundred student-soldiers who, by the War Department, had been assigned to this institution for vocational training in military trades. In spite of all that could be done by the college authorities and the officers in command of the detachment, Spanish influenza assumed a very serious aspect, and a number of fatalities occurred” (Thomas and Foster). This particular scenario is one that we can implement into the circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in. The confession this school had to make was due to the fact that they felt that they had upheld their goal– to maintain distance from the severity of the outbreak–until soldiers that were headed to war were assigned to them. Simply put, this was a result of there being too many individuals in one place and even resulted in individuals’ deaths. For us now living through this coronavirus pandemic, we must take this as a valuable lesson and one that we should implement in the school setting. Although the military soldiers were not students, it is apparent that the same would have happened had there been 600 students in the institution at once. Therefore, we must make an effort to avoid these kinds of scenarios and remain in very small groups, if in any groups at all.
Both the influenza and coronavirus pandemics have had crushing effects on low-funded schools in America, and Peter Grant detailed the experience Haskell Institute underwent in Lawrence, Kansas. Undergoing similar circumstances at the time was the State College of Washington in Pullman, Washington. Although each school has its own response, it is very clear that using previous experiences that occurred during other pandemics, such as the Spanish flu outbreak, can prove to be useful in helping us better our college experience while remaining safe and leaving 2021 high school seniors with much more to look forward to than those of 2020.
Thomas, James W., and Holly Ann Foster. “Higher Education Institutions Respond to Epidemics: History of Education Quarterly.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 14 July 2020, www.cambridge.org/core/journals/history-of-education-quarterly/article/higher-education-institutions-respond-to-epidemics/EB66063A485B0E9A836DEECD9F91A67B.
Grant, Peter. “A 1918 Influenza Outbreak at Haskell Institute: An Early Narrative of the Great Pandemic.” Kansas History, vol. 43, no. 2, Summer 2020, pp. 56–82. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=khh&AN=145396653&site=eds-live&scope=site.