COVID-19, Education, Higher Ed, News

Faculty urge UNC System leaders to move Fall semester online as COVID-19 pandemic worsens

On Monday a group of current and emeritus faculty from across the UNC system sent a letter to top UNC System leadership and the UNC Board of Governors, urging them to join other university systems in making online instruction the default for the coming Fall semester as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The letter comes nearly a week after an email from Ramsey to UNC System chancellors stressing the importance of returning to campus and asking for “worst case scenario” reports on how the schools would absorb budget cuts of between 25 and 50 percent should the schools have to shut down again in the coming semester.

The letter, in full:

Dear Chair Randy Ramsey, members of the Board of Governors of the UNC system, Interim President William Roper, and President-Elect Peter Hans:

On July 7th, 2020, 34 faculty, graduate students, and staff from 10 UNC-system campuses emailed a letter (link is below) to the chancellors and provosts of their universities. We now urge you, as Chair and members of the BoG, to:

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.

The health crisis in North Carolina has gotten worse. COVID-19 Infections surpassed 100,000 today. Hospitalizations, and deaths have increased significantly and show no sign of stopping. COVID cases have recently occurred among UNC athletes and campus workers, although classes have not yet begun (see story).

In addition, current student housing plans put our dormitories in the Center for Disease Control’s “highest risk” category for spreading the virus (see CDC statement here). Local school boards in towns with UNC campuses are responding to the inevitable surge in cases by moving August-September classes for K-12 students on-line (see story). If public schools with an August 17th opening are already deemed unsafe for children and staff, certainly campuses opening on August 10th cannot be safe for anyone.

As infections increase, so too do voters’ concerns. The petition that grew out of the letter to the chancellors and provosts has, as we write this, nearly 3,000 signatures, including many heartbreaking testimonies from members of campus communities and the North Carolina public at large. It has also received considerable media coverage (News &

Parents, elderly residents, workers in businesses that serve our campuses, and many students, faculty, and staff are calling on you to join other universities, public and private, in choosing safety.

Here is a link to the letter and the petition:


Sherryl Kleinman, Emerita Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and David Auerbach, Emeritus Assistant Professor of Philosophy, NC State University
David Ambaras, Professor of History, North Carolina State University
Beth Bee, Associate Professor of Geography, Planning and Environment, East Carolina University

Michael Behrent, Associate Professor of History, Appalachian State University

Wendy Brenner, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Belle Boggs, Associate Professor of English and Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, North Carolina State University
David Brannigan, Groundskeeper, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Daniel Buffington, Associate Professor of Sociology, UNCW
Cristina R. Cabral, Associate Professor of Language and Literature, North Carolina Central University
Frederick Cubbage, Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Research Professor, Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University
Chet Dilday, Associate Professor of Social Work, Fayetteville State University
Bob Edwards, Professor of Sociology, East Carolina University
Stefanie A. Frigo, Associate Professor of Language and Literature, North Carolina Central University
Carolyn Fulford, Associate Professor of Language and Literature, North Carolina Central University
Rachelle Gold, Associate Professor of English, North Carolina Central University
Isaac Hughes Green, Graduate Teaching Assistant in Creative Writing, North Carolina State University
Hal Herzog, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Western Carolina University
Mary Jean Herzog, Professor Emeritus, School of Teaching and Learning, Western Carolina University
Katie Hogan, Professor of English and Faculty Affiliate of Women’s and Gender Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Maryrica Lottman, Associate Professor of Languages and Culture Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Martha McCaughey, Professor of Sociology, Appalachian State University
Kevin R. McClure, Associate Professor of Higher Education, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Sarah K. Miles, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Joshua Nadel, Associate Professor of History, North Carolina Central University
Nicole Peterson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Michael Schwalbe, Professor of Sociology, North Carolina State University
Alan Shapiro, William Kenan Distinguished Professor of English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jay M. Smith, Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Taylor Sykes, Visiting Lecturer of English, University of North Carolina Asheville
Blair Tormey, Coastal Research Scientist, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Western Carolina University
Chuck Tryon, Professor of English, Fayetteville State University
Lynn Wood Mollenauer, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Jim Westerman, Professor of Management, Appalachian State University
Laura Wright, Professor of English, Chair-Elect of the Faculty, Western Carolina University
Karin Zipf, Professor of History and President of AAUP Chapter, East Carolina University


  1. Stephen Leonard

    July 20, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    It is pretty clear what is happening here: the letter from faculty expresses a sentiment that the letter from Ramsey is intended to quash. The question that has to be answered is, who put Randy Ramsey up to this? I suspect this week’s BoG meeting will see some of the moderate/responsible members of the Board asking just that.

    Stay tuned! A new season of “divisions on the BoG and the breakdown of UNC governance” begins this week!

  2. M. Singleton-Murrell

    July 24, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    As a parent of a UNCG student listening to the science, and a chorus of medical professionals across the country call for a nationwide shutdown to bring a deadly virus to containment, I am afraid for every life put in danger by your decision to open campuses for hybrid and person to person learning. Online is the only way to go unless the System is setting a death trap.
    Families are hurting financially. University budgets matter at what costs? We are living in unprecedented times but we will recover. Asking families of students to take loans to pay for services that are not available or safe for them is reprehensible; with talk of no refund if asked to leave! Sounds like a twisted and opportunistic plot. Asking and expecting professors – many with underlying conditions to show up for classroom learning is a travesty. Many universities are implementing online learning for a specific period of time as the only true means to keep students and others safe. Yes, we are worried about the economy and fiscal losses, also, North Carolina’s COVID-19 cases are wreaking havoc on lives and health care systems. The effects of reopening will cause further disruptions. By the way, flu season is upon us. What good is a college education or professor at the end of the day if we don’t employ the most effective strategy of safety? What’s the hurry to risk lives? We have seen what happens when we move to open too soon during the height of a pandemic. Long term affects of the disease that we do not know nearly enough about.
    Please seriously consider the faculty’s letter to the BoG with the high regard it deserves. Thank you.

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