UNC-Chapel Hill Commission: too many hurdles for return to campus in pandemic

On Friday, as students began returning to dorms at UNC System schools across the state, UNC Chapel Hill’s Commission on Campus Equality & Student Equity released an emergency resolution regarding the return to campus during the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in the state. The resolution condemns the university’s lack of communication with students about its decisions and how they are reached.

The commission’s conclusion: it is simply too dangerous for tens of thousands of students, staff and faculty to return to in-person instruction.

The Bell Tower on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

“Through our dialogue with undergraduates, graduate and professional students, and community residents, we have found that major concerns currently exist regarding internet accessibility, effective adherence to community guidelines, and the lack of asynchronous course offerings,” the commission wrote in its resolution. “Presently, there are too many health and socioeconomic hurdles in place for both our students and the residents of Chapel Hill to confidently state that it is appropriate to bring students back to our campus.”

“We realize that such a decision will place our facilities workers at risk, but we have requested that these workers be reassessed for other ways they can contribute to the Carolina community and that the University take all necessary precautions to prevent the job loss of these workers while aiming to keep our students and families safe,” the commission wrote.

“We condemn the University’s lack of acknowledgement and actionable response to the thousands of students, facilities workers, and faculty members that have expressed grave life-threatening concerns regarding an in-person return,” the resolution read.

The move comes the same week 30 tenured professors at the university published an open letter urging students to stay home in the Fall  semester.

“Your experience as a Chapel Hill undergraduate is a journey we are delighted to join and feel fortunate to be a part of,” the professors wrote. “We want to be in the classroom teaching you.”

“However, we cannot, in good conscience, perform that role on campus this semester,” they wrote. “We need to stay safe from Covid-19 by staying at home – and we need you to stay home in order to protect yourselves and your fellow students, your teachers, the many workers who serve you on campus, the residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and your own family members and loved ones.”

Read the Commission on Campus Equality & Student Equity resolution in its entirety here.

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