August 26, 2020
Mayor Hemminger and Members of the Chapel Hill Town Council:
We want to open this letter by recognizing the important work you do every day to help make Chapel Hill and our region a safe place to live and work. These have been very challenging times for all of us and in our roles as the Chancellor and Provost of UNC-Chapel Hill and as long-time Chapel Hill residents, we appreciate and cherish the unique, symbiotic relationship we share.
In your letter dated August 17, you outlined several initiatives that have been already addressed since we’ve moved to remote instruction. In this letter we would like to share with you how we are addressing the concerns we have heard from you and other residents in our Chapel Hill community.
In our August 17 campus message, we announced that we were moving all undergraduate instruction to remote learning and significantly reducing campus housing density. Equally important, we reaffirmed our commitment to work with you on creating a stronger framework of adherence to our Community Standards. Both as administrators and as residents, we are very aware of the concerns felt by our neighbors and other local residents over the potential spread of the virus among our citizenry. The health and well-being of those who live in our community remains a top priority for the University.
On August 18, Mayor Hemminger and Vice Chancellor of Communications Joel Curran agreed to re-double our joint efforts to keep our students and local community members safe. The very next day, senior leaders from the town of Chapel Hill and the University met to discuss the best ways to create a safer environment for both our students and the residents of our community. The meeting reflected the long-held mutual respect and well-established collaborative, integrated relationship we share between the town and the University.
We know positive outcomes will require more collaboration on education and enforcement from both the town and the University to reinforce the importance of these public health orders on and off campus. At Carolina, we will continue to communicate through Student Affairs, Campus Health, University Police and institutional channels regarding what the Community Standards are and how to abide by them, as well as consequences if students do not comply.
We respect the fine work of the Chapel Hill Police and appreciate their efforts to first educate, and then enforce local ordinances whenever necessary. The joint patrols with Chapel Hill Police and UNC Police are working and a much-appreciated partnership has developed. Students who fail to live up to the agreed upon expectations by blatantly disregarding state and local public health orders and our Community Standards on or off campus are subject to a range of outcomes as determined by local ordinance and the University. The University has forged a partnership between UNC Student Affairs and the Chapel Hill Police Department so that the University receives notice and documentation of offenses off-campus that result in either warnings or citations permitting the University to respond immediately to reports of violations by off-campus students. Individual offenders or those found responsible are held accountable in proportion to their offense ranging from written warnings, to restriction of access of campus facilities, to disenrollment from the University. For organizations found responsible for violating our Community Standards or disregarding state and local health orders, sanctions range from restrictions of use of campus facilities, to limiting access to university funds, to losing campus standing and recognition. We have dealt with, and are dealing with, several dozen cases arising from conduct on and off campus. You can read more about our Office of Student Conduct’s COVID-19 Administrative Process here.
We recognize the very real problems with the behaviors of some of our fraternities and sororities, and we will continue to work with the leaders and alumni of those organizations to find ways to ensure alignment with our Community Standards and local and state orders. On August 7, we sent this letter to all fraternity and sorority members and held a meeting on August 19 with Greek life leadership to discuss off-campus behavior and remind them of their responsibility to follow the Community Standards. We sent a more strongly worded follow up letter on August 24. Additionally we are meeting with the Orange County Health Department daily and with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services multiple times a week to address mutual concerns regarding health and safety issues related to Greek life. We can assure you that the University, working alongside these county and state agencies, will do all we can to achieve student compliance.
Campus Health conducts tests for students seven days a week and is working with the Orange County Health Department to coordinate contract tracing for on- and off-campus students. We have created two new positions to provide more support for our contact tracing teams. In consultation with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Orange County Health Department and in partnership with UNC Health, we have implemented large group testing for residence halls that have been identified as clusters. In addition, we are now updating the COVID-19 dashboard daily Monday – Friday to create a comprehensive illustration of health trends and operational capacities across campus. Previously, the dashboard was updated weekly.
I know that many of you share my concern about students’ mental health and ensuring students have what they need as they transition to remote instruction. I sent this message to students last week, and we will continue to utilize the COVID-19 Student Care Hub we created in April to address student needs. This website provides resources for students as well as places to request financial assistance and seek support. In March, we created the Carolina Student Impact Fund, which offers immediate support and emergency funding to students facing financial hardships and expenses. We will continue to disburse financial support to meet the needs of our students.
Additionally, our Student Affairs and Community Relations team continues to work with your town staff to share important messages as part of the Good Neighbor Initiative, which many of you have joined in the past. We are now working virtually in this effort to ensure our students abide by the new standards.
We have learned a lot over the past month and want to assure you that we are taking these matters seriously and will continue to listen to your suggestions about how we can strengthen our community. We always want the town to view the University as an asset, just as the University views the town.
Thank you for your partnership and continued collaboration.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz
Robert A. Blouin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Peter Hans, President, UNC System
Randy Ramsey, Chairman, UNC Board of Governors
Joel Curran, Vice Chancellor for University Communications