Dear Carolina Community:
This week, I met with representative groups of faculty, staff and students from across campus: Faculty Executive Committee, Employee Forum, Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor and the Staff Advisory Committee to the Chancellor. The insights, ideas and recommendations about our campus were incredibly valuable, and I am grateful to each person who participated.
I have heard people share the anxieties and fears that they and many are feeling as we face the uncertainty of COVID-19. This pandemic has continued to impact our lives longer than many of us anticipated, and coupled with the changing nature of the virus, I know the toll that it has taken on us as individuals and a community.
It is important for us to remember that this fall our current circumstances are different than last fall. Just this week, we hit a milestone when 90 percent of our students attested that they are vaccinated from COVID-19. Among our faculty, 95 percent are vaccinated, and 83 percent of our staff are vaccinated. Those are numbers worth celebrating. If you are not yet vaccinated, all students, faculty and staff should make an appointment to get vaccinated at the Student Stores Pharmacy. We are seeing high levels of community spread across North Carolina and the Triangle, and that causes a lot of uncertainty. But the numbers of cases we are seeing on our campus are close to what our experts projected, and we’ve planned for this. We will continue to adjust and respond to this virus as necessary. I’ve heard questions about logistics around testing, vaccines, classroom attendance, and more. Many of the answers to these questions are available on Carolina Together. We also sent an update yesterday on our testing program and how we are notifying the campus on clusters.
I know that many of us are looking forward to the fall athletic seasons, including next weekend’s home football game. Regarding large outdoor events, we have been in conversations with Orange County Health Department and local leaders who recommend that face coverings be worn for outdoor events where large crowds may gather. Therefore, we will continue to strongly urge everyone attending events with large crowds, including athletic events, to wear masks when you are not able to physically distance. Some of the precautions we are taking at athletic events include running public service announcements during the games strongly encouraging mask wearing, passing out masks at gates, and closely monitoring trends across the country at other athletic events. By keeping these events safe, we can continue our campus traditions of cheering on the Tar Heels in our stadiums.
Even during this pandemic, we are making important progress on major initiatives as part of our strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. I met with our data science working group Wednesday to discuss our initiative on data science and society, which will promote data-centric and data-driven research and education with an emphasis on social impact. This effort, long in the making, will implement data literacy programs that support undergraduate students and help develop the workforce talent that is needed for our region. We will provide an important campus update on this initiative in the weeks to come.
On Tuesday evening, I talked with students who are part of our Carolina Across 100 initiative, a program led by Professor Anita Brown-Graham to support communities in each of our state’s 100 counties. It exemplifies our mission to serve our state by creating meaningful partnerships with communities, helping them respond effectively to the opportunities and challenges they face, especially as they recover from the wide-ranging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talking to these students, I was reminded of the Tar Heel Bus Tour that our faculty and campus leaders took across our state two years ago. At the end of the tour, Anita Brown-Graham asked each of us to give one word to describe the trip. People shared words like pride, hope, people, diversity and pain. My word was “responsibility.” We have a responsibility, as the nation’s first public university, to serve our state. I feel that sense of responsibility just as strongly today. Our ties to the broader public are a strength that enhances the impact of our research and teaching. We are rooted in this state’s history and our commitment to its future is what separates us from other universities. Carolina Across 100 is just one example of the many ways our students, faculty and staff are improving the lives of North Carolinians every day.
As I told the many groups I met with this week, I am so grateful to each of you for your resilience and commitment to our mission as a university. I know how difficult the past several months have been with transitions and change, not to mention the anxiety shared by many of us. None of us relish these circumstances, but we’re all finding ways to live and learn within this challenging reality.
Heading into the Labor Day weekend, I hope you can take time to rest and enjoy time with family and friends. I look forward to seeing you in the weeks ahead.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz
This message is sponsored by: Office of the Chancellor