Chair of UNC-CH faculty: “a serious breach of trust” campus not aware of Orange County health recommendation

The chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty sent an email to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin Wednesday expressing “dismay” faculty were not made aware that the Orange County Health director last week recommended the school move to online-only instruction and restrict student housing due to mounting evidence of widening COVID-19 infection.

“It feels like a serious breach of trust to have kept such recommendations from the campus community of faculty, staff and students,” wrote Dr. Mimi Chapman, chair of the faculty.

In the email, whose subject line is “Dismay,” Chapman goes on to say that she has personally changed her plans to hold an in-person orientation for doctoral students this week and that the class she planned to teach in person this semester will change to remote.

“I could not possibly do otherwise in the face of such a letter from our local health department,” Chapman wrote.

Chapman pointed to already rampant flouting of mask and distancing rules on campus, in student stores and at off campus gatherings.

“These look like off ramps to me,” referring to the term UNC-Chapel Hill has used to indicate things that would lead them off of their “roadmap to return” and back to the online-only instruction of last semester.

Policy Watch has reached out to UNC-Chapel Hill, the UNC System office and UNC Board of Governors for response to the Orange County health director’s letter. They have not yet responded.

Chapman’s letter, in its entirety:

 

Dear Kevin and Bob:

This morning members of the FEC had the attached letter forwarded to us. We are  completely shocked that such a letter would’ve been received last week and that none of us have known about it until now – hours before it has turned up in the News and Observer.  It feels like a serious breech of trust to have kept such recommendations from the campus community of faculty, staff, and students.

Yesterday, I received word from a faculty member that in student stores, which was packed, only a third of people there were wearing masks.  Just now I received a video from a citizen who videotaped a line of what appeared to be sorority women – at least 50 – coming out from an indoor, unmasked gathering at 210 Ransom Street.

These look like off ramps to me. For myself, I am changing my plans to hold a in in person orientation for our doctoral students tomorrow, and my class that was planned to be delivered in person will change to remote.  I could not possibly do otherwise in the face of such a letter from our local health department.

Since assuming this role, it has been my intention to interact collaboratively.  I recognize that people occupying roles such as yours are balancing many competing priorities and, that in the current environment, the choices are very difficult.  However, with outside guidance from public health authorities such as is included in this letter, to proceed without completely candid discussion with your faculty, as well as other interested parties, feels like a betrayal.  I urge you to call a meeting of the general faculty immediately and to address the concerns that are outlined in this letter. Or if you would like me to call it, I will.  If the implications of this letter means that we must send some students home, that is how it will have to be.  If it means bringing this information to the BOG so that they might grapple with the implications of ignoring these warnings, then by all means do that, and I will stand with you.

I look forward to speaking soon.

With best regards,

Mimi

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