UNC-Chapel Hill student leaders demand more campus COVID-19 safety measures

Teddy Vann

UNC-Chapel Hill student leaders demanded the university mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, improve access to COVID testing, and make online instruction widely available.

Students said at a meeting Friday that the administration’s approach to health and safety is irresponsible considering hospitals and their ICUs are filling with COVID-19 patients, and that students and faculty could get sick and infect family members and others on campus.

“Despite evidence suggesting that the COVID-19 Delta variant would fuel infections on campus and lead to more severe illness in those who contract it, the university chose to return students to campus fully in-person and with no social distancing in classes –  no matter how large,” said Teddy Vann, Black Student Movement president.

The university’s COVID-19 dashboard reported Friday that 466 students and 74 employees had tested positive since August. Ninety percent of students, 95% of faculty, and 83% of staff have told the university they are vaccinated. No one is required to show documentation, Policy Watch has reported.

Student who are not vaccinated must be tested for the virus twice a week, but there is only one testing site and it’s closed on weekends. Students standing in long lines have complained about the wait to get tested.

Unvaccinated faculty and staff must be tested for the virus once a week starting Sept. 15.

UNC student Simon Palmore said students deserve more information.

“We have a student body that is not only afraid of what is going on but is totally in the dark,” he said.

“Students are concerned. I’m concerned. All I’m hearing is optimism.”

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz has said that he would like a vaccination mandate, but that he does not have the power to impose one, Policy Watch has reported.

Student Body President Lamar Richards said Friday that Guskiewicz, Provost Bob Blouin, and other administrators had agreed to attend the meeting, but back out.

UNC Media Relations released an email Guskiewicz sent Richards that said Guskiewicz and Vice Provost Leah Cox had planned to go when he believed the meeting was going to be a Q&A with no more than 25 students, as Richards had described in an email last week.

An email from students Thursday about UNC student leaders slamming the administration “reveals you are more interested in generating publicity than producing meaningful dialogue,” Guskiewicz’ email said.

The UNC Media Relations email said masks are required indoors and the university notifies students in residence halls as soon as it sees a trend of positive cases and encourages them to proactively test.

Students invited the UNC-Chapel Hill community to sign a statement of demands. By Friday evening, nearly 250 faculty, staff, and students representing organizations had signed.

This article was updated Sunday at 7:50 am to correct a misattributed quote.

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