The fall semester begins in 76 days and this year, more than ever, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone return to campus. Since the end of the spring term, UNC staff and faculty have been busy preparing so that we can safely resume in-person instruction on August 24. While we are working to be back on campus as much as possible, we know that UNC will deliver some courses online and in a hybrid manner to maximize learning outcomes while facilitating appropriate social distancing guidelines. Every decision being made is informed through active coordination with state and local public health officials as well as guidance from the CDC. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of students, staff and faculty when we come back together this fall.
While the classroom experience may have to look a little different this year as we adapt to COVID-19, our approach will always reflect UNC’s commitment to providing an exceptional academic and co-curricular experience. The services we provide and the centers available to our campus community – cultural, student support, counseling, advising, health and wellness – will remain a vital component as we enter the fall semester. Our planning and preparation take into consideration how to better support you, our campus community, and how we can create flexible ways to engage with each other.
UNC is undergoing scenario planning as several variables could impact us in the coming months, such as a second wave of COVID-19, a positive case on campus or additional stay at home orders. I remain optimistic that we will offer in-person instruction for the entire academic year, but we must also prepare to adjust if required and maintain a level of flexibility should changes emerge after the fall semester begins.
Re-Entry Task Forces comprised of students, staff and faculty are meeting weekly to plan for academic and student impacts, and campus operations in the next academic year. Recent updates include:
- By June 30, we will share with campus how each individual course will be delivered, whether in person, online, or hybrid. A new schedule will be finalized by early July to allow students to register or amend their fall schedules based on necessary changes.
- Our classroom spaces will have different capacities in the fall based on the effects of social distancing. An inventory of all campus instructional spaces was recently conducted to help inform final decisions on how, where, and with what capacity limitations course sections will be taught in the fall semester to meet health and safety guidelines.
- The Logistics Task Force has been working to determine classroom configurations and foot traffic flow in buildings as well as social distancing measures to include but not limited to signage, floor decals and adding clear barriers such as plexiglass at point of service areas to keep our students, staff and faculty safe. UNC public health faculty experts are also being consulted to discuss safety measures in housing, dining, and recreation areas.
- On-campus housing will be providing room occupancy options by June 30.
- Maximizing the student experience remains top of mind. Some events and programs will be able to occur in person in the fall and staff are working to determine necessary modifications to gatherings. UNC is also reviewing ways to assist student organizations in enhancing online experiences and helping create environments on Canvas and via Zoom to connect with members and plan their activities where in-person activities cannot yet occur.
- Contact tracing protocols are being developed through the UNC student health center in the event cases are diagnosed on campus.
- The UNC Student Health Center is now providing both COVID-19 viral tests and antibody tests for members of the UNC community. Please contact them with questions or to schedule a time for testing.
I know that many of you have questions that have not yet been answered. We are working as quickly as we can to identify issues, address problems and provide answers to members of our community. As we continue to plan, I am committed to communicating regularly with you, as well as learning about your experiences and obtaining your feedback. Together with Provost Anderson and Vice President Rodriguez, I have been attending virtual town halls with admitted students and their families to answer questions about the fall semester. Similar town hall events are also being planned for current students. Those will take place in July with dates, times, and details on how to register will be sent to students by the end of next week. The university also has created a confidential student survey to determine how we can better assist students in terms of academic support, student services, and health, safety and wellness resources. Students should receive the survey by email later today.
Please continue to visit the UNC Coronavirus website, review the Weekly Operational Updates and our social media channels for new information, and I encourage students to check their Bear Mail throughout the summer for important emails and newsletters.
I look forward to sharing more updates with you over the summer and seeing you in the fall.
Rowing, Not Drifting,