Dear Carolina Community:
Two weeks ago, we made a difficult but necessary decision to transition to remote undergraduate instruction and began efforts to de-densify our campus. We made this decision first and foremost for the health and safety of our community and so that we could more ably continue our mission of world-class teaching, research and service.
I regret that many of our students who were abiding by the University’s Community Standards will be unable to complete the semester in their residence halls and classrooms as they had planned. I also regret that this caused a great deal of frustration for so many of our students and their families who had to change their fall living arrangements on such short notice.
I want to thank our University staff — especially those in our Facilities Services, Housekeeping and Dining Services who worked incredibly hard all summer to make sure the campus was thoroughly prepared and ready for a safe Carolina on-campus experience. Your hard work is noticed daily, as the University remains open and many campus facilities and departments are operational. I also want to thank our faculty for their diligence in preparing for the fall semester and their ongoing passion for helping our students achieve success, regardless of the instruction method. I hear often from students that despite the challenges of not being face to face, the teaching and mentoring they are receiving continues to be high quality.
Carolina has a strong symbiotic relationship with community neighbors and local municipal leaders who share this wonderful town and county with our University. I want to thank them for their commitment to the University and, especially, our students who call this place home for several important years of their lives. Our town/gown partnership was built on a shared commitment to maintaining a robust, high-quality and safe place to live. We know there is real concern and anxiety about the spread of COVID-19 among our off-campus student residents. We are working closely with the Town of Chapel Hill and our off-campus students to prioritize the health and well-being of the community through education and enforcement of the University’s Community Standards and local and state orders.
While we’re committed to doing all we can to ensure a safe and successful fall semester we’re also looking ahead to planning for the spring semester. We are in the process of pivoting our Roadmap Implementation Team’s efforts to the Spring 2021 semester. They will be evaluating the full scope of planning, implementation and experience from the fall semester, and working with state and local public health officials, faculty experts and the UNC System. My leadership team will also receive input from a campus and community advisory group comprised of a diverse group of students, faculty, staff and members from the community to provide University leadership additional perspectives and recommendations for consideration. We will keep you updated once this group begins its important work in mid-September. We must turn our focus to the road ahead, while learning from the road we have traveled.
I realize and appreciate that the stress and strain of preparing for the fall, welcoming students back to campus then sending many of them home — and now, planning for spring — has created many questions about who ultimately makes decisions about our operating plans, especially ones like these. Over the past four months, we spent countless hours on student, faculty, staff and community town halls updating on our plans, answering questions and listening to feedback. There were hundreds of hours invested by deans and other senior leaders as they did the same with their constituencies. Ultimately, it all flows to South Building. I’ll always welcome the input from students, faculty, staff and our community; I truly respect and appreciate all of those opinions. There will be times when I will need to consult with our Board of Trustees and the System Office on certain matters with broader implications because we are part of the 17-campus UNC System. But the final decisions delegated to our campus will always rest with the Chancellor, with final input from our campus senior leadership team.
Throughout the summer and fall, it has been easy to miss some of the significant momentum that has emerged at Carolina despite the uncertainties. Carolina and the state continue to benefit from an incredibly successful research enterprise driven by our world-class faculty that is already on a record pace for this fiscal year and now exceeds $1 billion in sponsored research. In addition, the challenges we have faced have helped fuel many innovations by our faculty and staff in developing new curricula, pedagogical approaches and innovative ideas to enrich our outstanding teaching capabilities. We have expanded our footprint in ways that we have never done before and are teaching a record number of students this fall semester.
The impact of our teaching, research and service is recognized worldwide. You may have seen last week that Carolina ranked 30th in the world (up from 33rd last year) and is tied for 20th in the United States among global universities, according to the 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities. I’m proud of the many people across our campus and around the state who have used this time to push even harder to move Carolina and the state ahead during challenging times. As we have said since March, every revenue source of our University is threatened as a result of this pandemic, but we will continue to put measures in place to mitigate the impact of a budget shortfall with the goal of staying true to our mission and taking care of our people.
From my first day as your chancellor, I have worked to be transparent, collaborative and focused on our mission as a leading global public research University. Thank you — to our students, faculty, staff and members of our shared community — for your commitment to Carolina during the most challenging of circumstances. I appreciate your flexibility and passion and belief that we will get through this together.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz