COVID-19, Higher Ed, News

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper addresses UNC community on COVID-19

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper posted an online video again Monday addressing the UNC community’s ongoing effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the video Roper, a physician and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks about the decision to postpone commencement ceremonies at UNC System schools this semester.

Policy Watch reported on that decision last week, when Roper announced it at a UNC Board of Governors meeting held by teleconference.



Interim President Bill Roper on COVID-19 from UNC System on Vimeo.


From Roper’s remarks:

“To our students and their families, I want to thank you all for your contributions to our ongoing efforts to confront our national health crisis. I am here today to give you an update of where the UNC System is in its response to this national emergency.

Everyone should, by now, be aware that the CDC and health experts have issued urgent warnings that, if Americans don’t act quickly, the COVID-19 infection will spread rapidly, and our health care systems will be overwhelmed.

Students and young people are not immune to COVID-19.  The public health advice to practice 1) social distancing, and 2) frequent and careful hand-washing with soap is meant to help decrease the spread of this virus. You may not get seriously ill, but you may transmit the virus to others who may be more susceptible to illness.

With your help, the UNC System has responded quickly to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff … and to support our State and national effort to “flatten the curve” of infection.

To mobilize nearly 240,000 students across the UNC System, the System and each of our institutions have had to apply strict guidance in little time. But each institution has put into place processes for granting exceptions for students facing extenuating circumstances and needs.

If you are a student with unique challenges that make it difficult for you to find food and shelter off-campus, or to get access to online course materials, please reach out to representatives at your institution. We want every student in need to have a viable option for remaining in campus housing, with access to food and the internet.

Many of you have questions and concerns during this unprecedented period of upheaval. There are many, many moving parts to this situation … and they are moving very quickly. We don’t yet have answers to all the questions, but we are working diligently to find them, as quickly as we can.

We are addressing the most critical issues first: health and safety, the transition to online learning, and the well-being of our students in need. I know matters related to fees, room and board, and grades are important … but they aren’t as urgent as these other issues are…right now.

We expect to be in a position to start to answer these questions thoughtfully, carefully, in consultation with the federal and state government, and accreditors, in the weeks ahead.

Unfortunately, the projected time frame for the virus reaches into our spring commencement season. Simply put, we have had to face the reality that spring graduation ceremonies will be disrupted.

I know and understand that this will disappoint our students and their families, who have worked toward this goal for so many years. But the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff must be our top priority. Rest assured, your institution will celebrate your academic achievement in due course.

COVID-19 presents the UNC System with one of the most significant challenges it has faced in its long history. But witnessing our faculty, students, families, and leaders at every level of the UNC System, rallying together, has filled me with great optimism.

We will not get everything right as we adjust to a rapidly evolving situation, but I can assure we will make corrections as we move forward.

These are challenging times, and the UNC System is rising to this challenge, quickly and thoroughly. Thank you all for your contributions to this vitally important effort.”

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