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University letter to Fraternity and Sorority Life Presidents, Advisors, and House Corporation Partners

August 24, 2020

Dear Fraternity and Sorority Life Presidents, Advisors, and House Corporation Partners,

This past week witnessed significant changes in the operations of our University.  As you know, the emergence of large numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, including clusters of multiple cases both on- and off-campus, necessitated a transition to remote instruction for undergraduates.  In addition, we are substantially reducing the number of on-campus residents to further mitigate community spread.

We appreciate the efforts that most of you have made to promote the health and well-being of your members, the campus community, and our neighbors in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.  You have formulated COVID safety plans; complied with University, state, and local public health directives; and cooperated in providing information to aid in limiting the spread of the virus.

At the same time, we are disappointed and frustrated by the apparent indifference and recklessness that some individuals and organizations have shown during the past two weeks.  We have credible reports of large gatherings being hosted, disregard of face mask and physical distancing requirements, and unsanctioned recruitment events.  All of these reports will be pursued and, as appropriate, both chapters and individual participants will be subject to administrative and/or disciplinary action.  Moreover, we are learning of increased levels of non-compliance in disclosing positive test results and a lack of cooperation with contact tracing processes coordinated by Campus Health Services (“CHS”) and the Orange County Health Department (“OCHD”).  We have also received reports of fraternity and sorority members being discouraged by their chapters from testing to avoid quarantine or isolation measures in the event of positive results.  These practices cannot continue and jeopardize the health of not only chapter members, but peers, family members, and people in the local community.  We expect and require your collective leadership and action to ensure that all requirements are being followed.

Discontinuing Gatherings and Events

State and local mandates establish that no formal or informal gathering in North Carolina may have more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors.  This is the law, but the public health guidance is that NO formal or informal gatherings of any number of people occur at this time. The University requires that face coverings be worn and physical distancing be maintained at all times.  Given the current status of virus transmission, the University revised its Guideline on Gatherings and Events to prohibit on-campus gatherings of any size until further notice.  We strongly encourage each fraternity and sorority to go above and beyond the bare minimum that the law mandates you do by similarly prohibiting gatherings of any kind in chapter houses or other off-campus locations until it is safe to resume in-person events.

Testing and Contact Tracing Protocols; Notification Requirement for Students who Test Positive

An essential public health component of controlling the spread of COVID-19 is effective testing and contact tracing.  For students, this is jointly supported by CHS and OCHD.  In light of the current rate of community spread and based upon guidance from OCHD, every fraternity and sorority member is strongly recommended to get tested for COVID-19. This is regardless of whether you live in the chapter house. The University is making additional testing available regardless of whether a student is exhibiting symptoms.  We ask that you share this information with your members and encourage them to be tested.

If students are still in the area, it is preferred that they be tested at Campus Health.  Please call 919-966-2281 or visit the Campus Health Healthy Heels secure portal to request an appointment. Due to high call volume at this time, requesting an appointment through the secure portal may be preferable. Testing hours are Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm this week.  Walk-in’s during these times will be accepted but the wait time for those with an appointment will be significantly shorter.

For those with a vehicle, testing is also available at the UNC Health Respiratory Diagnostic Center. This is a UNC Health testing facility located on campus. The address will be provided at the time of scheduling. Please do not show up without a scheduled appointment. To be tested at this location, a student should complete the form on this link and the UNC Health team will call them to set up an appointment for testing.

If a student has returned to their permanent residence, visit the NCDHHS website to identify a testing location in their area.

Given widespread virus transmission on campus, and with concern for friends, family and communities, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommends that students who have been in congregate living settings proactively self-quarantine for 14 days once they leave campus.

Regardless of the testing location, the University’s Guideline on Health Monitoring  expressly requires that “[a]ny student . . . who tests positive through a medical provider off-campus is required to notify Campus Health.”  Students who test positive will be required to isolate for a period of time.  Close contacts of an individual who tests positive must quarantine.  The Guideline on Health Monitoring further states that “[a]ll students . . . are expected to comply with all isolation or quarantine requirements as prescribed by University staff.”

We are aware that some students have already elected to test off-campus and even outside of Orange County and they are free to do so.  However, concealing a positive result or providing misleading or inaccurate information so that CHS and/or OCHD do not become aware is a violation of University guidelines and may result in disciplinary action.  In addition, lack of cooperation with OCHD acting under its legal authority may result in civil or criminal penalties for a chapter and/or individual members.  Even more importantly, withholding information actively puts your members and others in the community at risk.  We implore you to establish clear expectations of your individual members and to lead your chapter in a culture of compliance in these health-related matters.  As noted in the guideline, “[a]ny information provided [as part of the testing and contact tracing process] will be used only for the purpose of providing health support to individuals who have potentially been exposed to the virus.”  To be clear, we do not use health disclosures as a basis for University disciplinary action.

Housing Occupancy and Additional Steps to Reduce the Risk of Transmission

In accordance with guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”), the University has reduced the number of residents living on-campus and in Granville Towers.    Every chapter should employ additional measures to reduce further the risk of transmission, including:

Conducting chapter meetings virtually

Prohibiting parties, mixers, and other social events whether formal or informal

Limiting food service to takeout meals only

Restricting access in the chapter house only to residents in the house (i.e., no guests permitted)

Require face masks be worn in the house at all times except when in the privacy of one’s own room

We understand that none of this is easy, but it is essential.  The challenges and concerns set forth in this letter do not go away just because the University transitioned to remote instruction.  If anything, it is a jarring reminder of our observation in July that “[d]ecisions by any of us to disregard public health requirements jeopardize the health of students, staff, and faculty and compromise the ability of the University to remain open to all students.”  We need your leadership, cooperation, and collective action now more than ever.  Please help us keep our Tar Heel family and local community safe and well.

Sincerely,

Amy Johnson, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Aaron Bachenheimer, Executive Director of Off-Campus Student Life and Community Partnerships
Alexandra Marchesano, Executive Director of the Carolina Union
Ion Outterbridge, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life