Guidance on returning to campus

Bell Tower in autumn.
Fall scene on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. November 7, 2018. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Faculty and Staff,

A little more than a year ago, campus as we knew it changed dramatically. Students were sent home, classes were moved online, and many of us began to work remotely. At the time, we thought these transitions would be short-lived. Fourteen months later, however, we all know otherwise. We owe incredible gratitude to those who have remained on campus, working to keep the doors open, the classrooms and residence halls clean, safe and occupied, and the research ongoing in labs across the University.  

Our students, faculty, and staff have followed COVID-19 community standards and participated regularly in the Carolina Together Testing Program—and the evidence suggests these measures have worked. Since mid-January, the asymptomatic testing positivity rates among our campus community have remained well below 1%. Likewise, vaccine distribution has continued, K-12 schools in the area have returned to in-person instruction, and the Governor continues to ease restrictions on movement and gatherings.  

These inroads in our fight to slow the spread of the virus mean we are now able to plan for the fall semester, and one that will look more “normal” in many ways. 

  • We anticipate inviting all enrolled students back to campus in the fall; 
  • Any instruction that previously transitioned to become remote will revert back to in-person, meaning students will receive their instruction in our on-campus classrooms. Programs such as Carolina Away and other pre-approved programs such as our traditional online degree programs will remain online. 
  • Carolina Housing is expecting to maximize occupancy while still honoring the COVID-19 Community Standards and preserving space for quarantine and isolation; and 
  • We expect our faculty and staff to return to on-site work accordingly, such that we can provide the full on-campus and residential environment expected by our students. 

To prepare for a return to a more typical campus experience, we are announcing an employee return date of July 19, 2021. Our hope is that by providing this date now, employees currently working remotely have sufficient time to prepare for a full campus return, and that those needing ADA accommodations or other workplace supports have ample time to work with their supervisors and managers, as well as the EOC Office, to arrange for them.  

We recognize that there will be questions about what a full-scale return looks like, we are working on answers. In the coming weeks and months will provide communications and training for employees, supervisors, managers, and department chairs outlining specific details. 

In short, we will maintain the campus COVID-19 Community Standards throughout the fall semester although those standards will likely be modified based on guidance from our health care experts. We expect that masks will remain a requirement on campus and testing will continue in some fashion, though likely at a lesser frequency.  We will be reevaluating our physical distancing requirements as more definitive information and guidance emerges from the CDC, FDA, our local health experts, and the UNC System Office over the next several weeks. There may be more remote and hybrid work options available for some positions, but we are awaiting final guidance from the UNC System Office on how that would be implemented. We have begun conversations with deans and vice chancellors about reviewing job duties and business needs, as well as physical spaces, in advance of that guidance. We are also working on more updates about details like parking, transportation, and workspaces more generally.   

We know that for some of you, the lack of specifics is yet one more unknown in the face of big change. We understand, but thought it most important to share with you the campus return date so that you could make plans while we continue to work on the details 

Updates leading up to the return will be provided via email and will be posted to the Human Resources and Carolina Together websites. Training opportunities will be communicated directly in the coming weeks and months.  


Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Robert A. Blouin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost 

Becci Menghini
Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance