COVID-19, Higher Ed, News

UNC System-wide petition urges a move online rather than return to campuses

This week a new UNC System-wide petition is calling on the system’s leaders to reconsider a mass return to the 17 UNC campuses next month as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen in North Carolina.

As the state continues to post record days of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations the faculty, students and staff at the universities have continued to push back against a plan for students to return to face-to-face instruction while living in full capacity dorms on campus. The new petition makes specific requests in three areas:

1. Move online: Because the COVID-19 epidemic is not yet under control and because communities surrounding our campuses are put at risk by campus activities, it is unsafe for students and instructors to return to face-to-face instruction; online or remote teaching should be the default mode on all campuses during the fall 2020 semester.

2. Be transparent: Increase participation of faculty, students and staff in decision-making and improve communication between and among administrators, faculty, students and staff.

3. Protect the health and economic well-being of the university community:  Routinely test individuals, implement thorough and rigorous contact tracing, and provide protective equipment to all those who must be on campus. Ensure the continued employment of campus employees. We oppose all COVID-19-related furloughs and terminations of vulnerable workers and those who are essential to the core academic mission.

Dr. Cat Warren

The petition included more than 30 initial signatures from professors at UNC-Chapel, Hill, N.C. State, Western Carolina University, Appalachian State University, N.C. Central University, UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Charlotte, East Carolina University and Fayetteville State University. As of Wednesday afternoon it had gathered more than 400 signatures.

Cat Warren, a professor of English at N.C State, said it’s increasingly clear that bringing students back with 60% of classes face-to-face — a number that’s been suggested at several UNC System schools — is simply not safe under the current conditions.

“We’re seeing enormous spikes in infection and hospitalization in North Carolina and we’re certainly seeing younger people getting infected,” Warren said. “I think the cautionary principle should be in play here rather than the gung-ho thing of, ‘We’re going to give the students that university campus experience that they’ve been wanting but they may end up dying for.'”

It also needs to be clearer who is making some of the decisions about safety, Warren said. Faculty and staff across the system feel they have not been properly consulted and aren’t certain which mandates are coming down from the UNC System office and which are happening at a campus level.

“These are state schools,” Warren said. “The taxpayer is significant here. The degree to which there should be transparency, that there’s an obligation for transparency, is clear to me. But we’re really not getting that. There seems to be a jumble of recommendations.”

Hybrid courses should allow a small number of students and faculty who need to return to campus to do so, Warren said — but that shouldn’t be the default mode and expectation. Instead, the schools should invest in and concentrate on giving students the best online experience they can during this time of national crisis.

“I think the kinds of resources being put into building a weird little false front that pretends it’s safety would be so much better used in doing a deep dive into the kinds of online resources that could really help students and faculty,” Warren said.

“I don’t think our petition is saying ‘shut the entire thing down,'” Warren said. “But the plan we have now is a recipe for disaster — both for the universities and the communities around them.”

13 Comments


  1. Geneen

    July 9, 2020 at 7:59 am

    Online classes for now will be the best to keep everyone safe.

  2. Vivien Bev

    July 9, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    I have two educators in my family; a son in Australia and a daughter in London. I support global online teaching until a vaccine is discovered and verified and widely accessed.

  3. Tracy

    July 9, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    No…teens need to go back to school! Dems again trying to destroy everything!

  4. Sierra

    July 9, 2020 at 11:28 pm

    It could be safer to go online but what about the students who are hands on learners and can’t learn through a computer screen? If the schools go to online only, it would be a waste of time and money just to learn nothing. There are better precautions that can be taken instead of hurting so many students chances to get a secondary education. No one knows when this pandemic will be over, it could be weeks, months, or even years! So we should normalize effective precautions instead of canceling everything.

  5. james raynor

    July 10, 2020 at 12:01 am

    with the death rate of people below th age of 64 in NC at. less than 1/2 % . There is no reason not to have kids on campus. We must learn to live with this virus. We might not ever have a vaccine. These professor that make over 100,000 forget about all the other workers that make much less and can not afford to take the semester off. If the professor do not want to teach then furlough them. If Students do not want to come back they do not have too.

  6. Terri Shelton

    July 10, 2020 at 8:05 am

    Let the kids go back to school! By keeping “quarantined” in our homes, we are staying away from needed germs . That sounds crazy to some, but it’s not! Of course the viruse lays low while we are in our homes, but we MUST come out and start being around others, working and getting our kids around germs too!

  7. Michelle

    July 13, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    I see a lot of people pointing out how it’s safe for these young people to go back to school, however no one knows what the long term effects of Covid 19 might be. Not to mention who they might unwittingly infect if they show up to class sick, many might not show symptoms and would even know they were sick. As a 53 year old full time student with some other risk factors its considerably less safe for me, not to mention many of my professors who are even older than I am. It isn’t just the “invincible” youth that has to be considered in this equation. On top of what I have already mentioned that attitude of invincibility has to be taken into account, because it can adversely effect those who come in contact with them.

  8. Glenda Jones

    July 14, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Classes should be offered online. Interacitive-online classes offer students a great in class type experience. Last semester, when classes went to online, the professors adopted well to that change. The summer classes were even better. The more professors and students experience these online learning offerings the better they will adapt.
    Truth is we are all resllient and adaptive especially with the right attitude!
    College is already a stress inducing time, to add more worry every second about breathing the air is not a necessary. There is a better way.
    Stay out of public classes for now and make classes online.

  9. Amanda

    July 15, 2020 at 11:28 pm

    As a front line worker in the hospital, I have seen first hand the devastation this virus has done. I have seen patient go from walking and talking in the morning, to being on a ventilator by evening. A lot about this virus is still unknown but there is one thing for sure..IT IS NOT A HOAX! With the infection rate now shifting to the 20-30 year old population, it will be catastrophic to allow in person classes to be resumed. Everyone wants to return to a more normal society and are rushed to do so. In this haste, our numbers are continuing to rise, now above all other comparable countries. We must make sacrifices to experience the great benefits. Online classes would be the best option to allow our country to rebuild

  10. Nikki

    July 16, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    I am scared to send my son to campus. We have to take this virus seriously. I am a frontline essential medial provider, and I see the effects of this virus daily. I am praying that the UNC system will change to remote learning only for the safety of students, staff and the community. Parents, instructors and students need to know something ASAP.

  11. UNC Employee

    July 18, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    Our campus communities have been denied adequate support staffing, failed to provide any training, and lacks adequate PPE. We have been stripped of our nursing positions by administrative agendas. The risk of return to school, impact of cluster outbreaks, and student health should be paramount in the decision to move away for in person classroom.

  12. chelsy

    July 23, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    It is not fair. school needs to be canceled. Unc’s number one priority should be keeping their students safe and healthy before anything else. As a very powerful school, they seem perfectly capable of doing the same educating virtually. I am terrified of my older sister going back. So many people who don’t tell anyone that they’re infected or don’t show symptoms yet can spread it around. staff members who are older or students with illnesses can easily die. You need to put the students and staff first. please understand that this is a global pandemic and this can make cases worse.

  13. william mitchell

    July 27, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    My daughter will be a freshman. If they have it i know she wants to go, but 75% of her classes are online, and it sounds like there will be no social interaction. So we are paying sky high dorm and dining fees and they are stuck in there rooms, and kind of at risk. Seems like a better move to wait and get them to start Jan 2nd. They will still get the education online, which is the same as on campus. The university can save some money, as well us the taxpayers and the parents.

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