Faculty: UNC-Chapel Hill needs to postpone in-person classes for at least a month
Two days before the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is set to begin the fall semester, hundreds of faculty members are signing a petition calling on university administrators to delay in-person classes for at least a month because of coronavirus concerns.Posted — Updated
The virus' Delta variant has created a steady increase in infections in recent weeks. North Carolina reported about 15,000 new cases in the last three days, and more than 2,650 people are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19 – the highest total since the beginning of February.
Officials said that, as of Monday, 86 percent of students and 78 percent of faculty and staff have attested to being vaccinated.
"The current plan for UNC, which includes no 'off-ramp' for remote learning – unlike last fall – and no vaccine mandate, is for regular classrooms with no physical distancing, near-full dorms, football games with no masks and full-to-capacity dining halls. This is a formula for disaster," states the faculty petition. "We need a block of time to get this situation under control."
A year ago, a spike in coronavirus infections in the first week of fall semester prompted an end to in-person undergraduate classes and eventually forced most students to leave campus.
The petition, which had been signed by more than 350 faculty members by Monday afternoon, calls for holding remote classes for the first four to six weeks of the semester "until the metrics improve."
"The time to act is now," the petition states. "This is the only moral and compassionate path. We require bold and courageous leadership. The risks are too high."
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said last week that the university will "take all the necessary precautions" but has no plans to delay in-person classes.
"We’re committed to an in-person learning environment. Our students need it for their academics and for their mental health and well-being. I know there’s still uncertainty out there, but we are confident that we can get through this semester successfully and safely together," Guskiewicz told members of the Campus and Community Advisory Committee. "We don’t believe that we have to choose between safety and in-person learning. We can do both with the right approach."
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