UNC-Charlotte Public Health Sciences faculty oppose reopening campus

The Public Health Sciences faculty at UNC-Charlotte is opposing the school’s decision to reopen to on-campus living and in-person instruction in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday the school announced it would begin its Fall semester undergraduate courses online but would resume in-person instruction on Oct. 1. Students would be allowed to move in at the end of September. The school, which was set to begin classes Sept. 7, is the first in the UNC System to move courses online before they’ve actually begun.

But in a Friday letter to UNC-Chancellor Sharon Gaber before that announcement was made, the school’s Public Health Sciences faculty advocated for moving online for the entire fall semester. The goal: to  avoid the outbreaks that have happened at dorms and fraternity and sorority houses at UNC-Chapel Hill, East Carolina University and N.C. State University since those schools began classes earlier this month.

From the letter:

We acknowledge that these decisions are not easy. However, the recent outbreak of cases at multiple universities (1) can provide evidence for the epidemiological arguments against returning to any face-to-face instruction. As such, we focus our attention on the community’s health. It is our shared belief that reopening campus will result in avoidable illness to our campus and surrounding community.

Our University has an opportunity to be a public health role model for the Charlotte region and our state. At this point in time, the Mecklenburg community is seeing a decline in their percent positive cases, daily case counts, and hospitalizations. Our department has worked to develop relationships with local healthcare entities, which are strained as they vocalize concern over our institution’s contribution to potential COVID-19 proliferation. Mecklenburg County Health Department Director, Gibbie Harris, stated that despite our sound plans, she is expecting a rise in COVID-19 cases due to universities reopening (2). While UNC Charlotte is a resourced community, our surrounding areas are not as equipped to handle the effects of the inevitable surge of infections if students are invited back to campus. Furthermore, if we follow other university trends and subsequently move to online instruction after beginning face-to-face, we risk dispersing the virus back into other communities. For these reasons, we believe the best course of action would be to start the semester with virtual-only instruction.

Read the full letter here.

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