COVID-19 Update: Message on Last Night and In-Person Undergraduate Classes
Dear Carolina Community:
As you are no doubt aware, last night hundreds of Carolina fans — many, presumably students — flooded Franklin Street to celebrate our men’s basketball victory over Duke. In any other year, this would be a typical, joyous occasion. Of course, this is not a typical year for our community. As we said in the Chancellor’s statement last night, this type of behavior is unsafe during this pandemic and creates health risks for our entire community. At the start of the Spring semester, our students agreed to adhere to our COVID-19 Community Standards that include following the state gathering limits, as well as wearing masks and physical distancing, and those standards do not include exceptions for winning basketball games. Student Affairs has already received hundreds of Student Conduct complaints. Those leads will be evaluated and students found to have violated our COVID-19 Community Standards will be subject to developmental or disciplinary action.
Of course, the timing of Saturday night’s event with the start of in-person classes tomorrow has created some concern among students, faculty and staff, including questions about how we should proceed. Our faculty and students have told us in-person instruction is still the preferred way to teach and learn. Today we spoke with our infectious disease and public health experts as well as Orange County Health Department officials and they continue to tell us that our campus COVID-19 mitigation tactics make our classrooms among the safest environments. That remains unchanged. We still have a de-densified campus environment: only 31% of our undergraduate students will take one to two courses in-person, which will all be small class sizes and require masks and physical distance. All students who are scheduled to attend in-person classes are required to test twice weekly, and we know the Carolina Together Testing Program is working to slow the spread of the virus. We also know the vast majority of our students are practicing the 3-W’s and are doing their part to maintain a safe and healthy campus and community.
Earlier today, we also consulted with the deans of the College and professional schools representing the greatest number of courses scheduled to be taught in-person on campus. They agree that we need to be flexible in our modes of instruction. We will continue to start undergraduate in-person instruction tomorrow, as planned. However, as we have heard concern from some faculty, we will allow faculty the flexibility to stay with remote instruction this week, and begin in-person instruction on Feb. 17, following the wellness days on Feb. 15-16. Faculty should communicate any temporary alterations in plans with their department chairs or deans and their students directly. Staff should continue their normal work schedule, as originally planned.
As our nation prepares to end the first year of this historic and transformational pandemic, we find ourselves on the eve of positive trends: positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths on the decline as America rolls out a robust vaccination program. We are, once again, asking our students, faculty, staff and our neighbors who call this area home to stay vigilant with the established safe practices — wear a mask, wash your hands and wait six feet part. Get tested regularly and, as soon as you are able, get vaccinated. We can do this together.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz
Robert A. Blouin