CANCEL IN-PERSON CLASSES AT UNC-CHAPEL HILL, AND THE UNC SYSTEM AS A WHOLE FOR FALL 2020

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UPDATE 7/18: UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey makes it clear that chancellors won’t be able to ultimately decide whether to close their campuses due to COVID-19 infections. Instead, that call will be made by incoming UNC President Peter Hans and the UNC Board of Governors. In addition to signing and sharing the petition, everyone is encouraged to send their concerns to the Public Comment Submission Mailbox.

UNC Chapel-Hill, and hence the entire UNC System must CANCEL all in-person classes EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.

Knowing that no single school can make such a decision at an independent level, we ask that UNC Systems and its 17 institutions cancel all in-person instruction and switch to an entirely online model. As a case study for this reasoning, we have conducted research about the specific impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UNC Chapel Hill.

We recognize that these specific conditions may not be the case for all other 16 institutions, but we however believe this to be sufficient reason to close the entire UNC System. Knowing that UNC Chapel Hill does not have the agency to act alone, we ask that our students be protected by simultaneously protecting all UNC Systems students.

UPDATE: We also demand that the campus should only be required to stay open to accommodate those who must stay on campus such as Out-Of-State, International Students and those who may face housing insecurities.

TO RANDY RAMSEY: We need to prioritize the well-being of students despite the fact that most students want to come back to campus (Reeves Moseley, UNC Student Body President). 

With currently 37 UNC athletes, coaches, and athletics’ staff members testing positive for COVID-19 as of July 13, the devastating impact on the Chapel Hill community, both on- and off-campus, is inevitable as more than 8000 residential students plan to return to campus in a few weeks. Allowing an influx of young people within the age group has been shown to be the driving force behind COVID-19 clusters of outbreaks before, is irresponsible and contradictory to a claim of wanting to protect the Chapel Hill community.

A new survey of UNC-Chapel Hill students shows 84 percent of undergraduates say they’re willing to wear face masks to class when they return to classes next month... about 30 percent said they will still go to parties and other large gatherings.” The people in the 30% will undermine any effort by students, staff, and faculty in ensuring that everyone’s risk of contracting COVID-19 is at a minimum.

An article from NC Policy Watch reports on a UNC fraternity that states they will host parties and have social gatherings regardless of the necessary safety precautions. UNC staffers at the fraternities are forced to choose an ultimatum between continuing their jobs or risking their health. Meg Miller was the “house mother” at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. When she tried to be frank with the men about basic COVID-19 precautions, they simply told her they are not going to do it. “They’re not going to wear masks in the common areas. They’re going to have parties. They think of it as their choice — they’re going to decide what they do, nobody else. But for some of us, there isn’t really a choice about being safe”.

Campus workers (ResNET workers specifically) have been required to sign liability waivers that refer to them as “volunteers”. Asking workers to sign off on forms saying they ‘volunteer’ to perform life-threatening tasks may allow the UNC system to escape liability. This action proves how the system performs more like a corporation that values profit over people, rather than as an institute of social progress. (@unc_reinvest)

“Listening to the Carrboro Town Council meeting, Provost Blouin says there are 164 beds set aside for isolating students that test positive for COVID-19 AND those quarantining.... this feels like an underestimate”. (@sara__pequeno)

"Blouin said UNC may set up tent hospitals in the event cases surge in campus. He said the tents would not be for extra beds, but would allow for quarantined students to be outside". (@HeedenTaylor

**UPDATE 7/17/2019: CORRECTION: A previous version of the DTH article incorrectly stated that UNC planned to set up tent hospitals in the event of a surge in coronavirus cases on campus. The University has a plan to place tents on campus to support physically distanced outdoor seating space. The story has been updated to reflect the change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

Here is additional data forwarded by Council member Sammy Slade from Carrboro to consider as well:

  • Yesterday the Governor extended for a second time phase 2 because state metrics are not where they should be
  • In Orange County positive tests are at 7%, the state and local goal Is under 5%
  • Hospital is at maximum testing capacity and other testing outfits are having slower turn around times as regents for testing are in short supply due to surges throughout the country.
  • Dorms are congregate living facilities and congregate living facilities is where outbreaks have been happening a lot.

In addition, here is a study examining the impact of school closures in major USA cities, and other NPI, and their precise timing, in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic:

"The earlier that schools were closed (ideally even in advance of outbreaks), the lower the number of excess deaths in 43 US cities during the 1918 Influenza pandemic. The longer that school closings and other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) were applied in each of 43 US cities during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the lower was the ultimate mortality rate." - Dr. Christakis (Yale Professor and Physician).

"Cities in which multiple interventions were implemented at an early phase of the epidemic had peak death rates ~50% lower than those that did not and had less-steep epidemic curves."

After speaking to the Dean of Students and Scott Myers, Auxiliary Services Manager about food access, it was found that “subsidized free meals will not be provided for students who may have COVID-19 or come in contact with COVID-19 who then end up in those residence halls. It was heavily implied that these students should rely on things like ubereats, postmates, and other financially inaccessible options.” (@CollynJacob)

The pandemic is real and the data proves it is spreading at an alarming rate. Attending lectures with hundreds of people and resuming university operations, even with a Roadmap towards safety, runs the high risk of a large on-campus outbreak  , if a student is unknowingly affected. It only takes one person to start the chain, and place everyone on-campus at risk of contracting a serious disease. The coronavirus has flu-like symptoms or young people can become asymptomatic careers, which means that many cases will go unnoticed or worse- addressed after it is too late. It is increasingly difficult to ensure both the safety and security of students, faculty and staff on campus. We cannot rely on hindset to assess our progress, because it may mean the death of a fellow classmate, beloved professor, or admired staff member. As we have in the past, we stand with one another in order to prevent tragedies to our Tar Heel family and our own families.

The goal of this petition is not to disrupt the operation of the university, but a request to ensure that UNC students and staff are safe and can continue to study in a controlled environment. We believe that the environment is NOT on-campus. We do acknowledge that the University is already looking at numerous ways to mitigate damage, but it is imperative to prioritize the health and safety of students now more than ever. We demand that you make the right decision.

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