UNC-Chapel Hill officials discuss pandemic fallout
UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Board of Trustees Chairman Richard Stevens discuss the school's ongoing efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
briefing. First of all to the media. Thank you for your cooperation today. We wanted to be back on campus. We wanted to be back in the Carolina and where our usual meetings take place. But we have limitations, space limitations. And so thank you for agreeing to pool both video and and other news outlets. I hope that it was satisfactory for your information. Unfortunately, I don't think it was a very controversial meeting. We had three amount of business to conduct, but it was pretty straightforward. Obviously, we've spent a great deal of time talking about, uh, the fall semester and the potential for spring semester and the impacts that Cupid has had on campus and certainly are aware of the challenges has had for everybody, particularly the faculty, staff and students and certainly thank the Chancellor and his team and everybody. For all their efforts to make sure the university continues, Um, what I believe is a very important and critical role in our state that the provision of higher education and the research we're doing in the service we're doing to our state. So glad to answer your questions when we get that far. But again, thank you for your cooperation today. Okay. Thank you, Richard. And appreciate everyone being here today. I thought today was a great meeting. We had, uh you know, my my comments were really focused around some of the incredible efforts by our faculty, staff and our students on our campus right now during these unprecedented times, Uh, we talked about the some of the new classes the Carolina Way program, which has enrolled 700 students that air really learning in a unique way where we've actually built in these Copa 19 investigation classes with some of our world class faculty. They're studying in this area, and we're taking this across the world to are the 700 students and we're connecting the back of Chapel Hill with a number of over 300 events that are taking place on a, uh you know, over the course of a week or two, the students have an opportunity engage in in 2025 of these different events, and we're creating these learning communities. And so these 700 students are having a really unique opportunity. It's allowing us to re imagine the way that we deliver instruction. I also talked a bit about the campus, uh, community advisory Committee, which I charged this past week, and we're gonna highlighted some of the efforts that we're putting in place to ensure that all voices across our campus and we heard as we think about planning for the spring semester. I also mentioned that will be, um, likely moving our start date for that spring semester back in the mid the late January and will make an announcement on that within the next two weeks. Currently were scheduled for January 6th as a start date, but we're working alongside our infectious disease, public health experts, and and others on campus toe. Help us think about how toe best do this. Well, faculty and staff will be involved as well. But on then I'll just wrap up saying that. You know, we did acknowledge the concerns around the budget and some of the financial implications of the pandemic, while underscoring the health and safety and well being of our campus community being our top priority. And that Z uh, we're certainly factoring all of this and as well as the financial health of the university, and and then I just I'm really proud of the efforts that everyone's putting forth. And we heard some really great news over the past, Uh, three or four weeks with us maintaining our top five public, uh, ranking in U. S. News and World Report. We were ranked third among of all publics in the Wall Street Journal rankings, and we moved up from 33 to 30 in the Shanghai global rankings. And so there's a lot of great things happening. Uh, in addition, tow our research enterprise continues to set records. Uh, were about 13% ahead of where we were last year at this time in terms of total research dollars coming into the university. And Thean Pact of that work is really critical for our mission. Moving forward, I'll stop there and happy to take questions. All right. Thank you, Chancellor. Dusko is we begin with our first question from W R. A. L and Keely Arthur. One second. Kelly, let me on New York, right? Okay, months. All right. I think I'm a muted. Thank you so much. I did sit on the in on the meeting, um, earlier today, Very interested in the spring semester in the idea of returning students back to campus. E. No, there's in the meeting. There was talk about pointing of fingers and how sometimes people weren't on the same page in terms of returning students back to the fall campus as chancellor. Did you want students to return to campus this past fall and then looking ahead? Do you think that everyone's going to be on the same page regarding the spring semester? Thanks, Kelly. I did. You know, I talked to a lot of students and faculty and staff over the four or five months as we were planning, and what was important to me was that we wanted to try to provide on on campus experience a safe on campus experience for as many students who wanted to be here and that we could safely accommodate. And that was our goal. We gave flexibility and options to students, faculty, staff. Those that wanted to be here could be here. Those who couldn't, for whatever reason, we allowed them toe, learn to teach the work remotely. And so, uh, my goal was to bring students back if we could do it safely, and we we we found we learned a lot through that process and, uh, that will further inform our decision making moving forward. We formed this as I've already said this campus and Community Advisory Committee, so that we could hear more voices. And I'll just say that we spend a lot of time with faculty, staff and student groups over the summer to hear those voices on. But this is just gonna be one more way in which will be able to do it just a quick follow up. What's the difference between the fall semester in the spring semester? In terms of the idea that bringing students back to campus will work this time around? Is that the numbers? Well, we know we know more about the virus now than we did then. We know, you know, certainly the path of the virus in terms of how quickly it can or can't spread in certain settings. Way had a We have a great set up on our campus right now. They're still students living and learning on our campus. Right now, we have about 1500 students living on campus. We have students, graduate students taking courses on campus. Our research labs are open. We're learning from all of that We have some different testing programs right now that are in place. Toe help inform our decision making for the spring semester, and, uh, and there are better testing methods available. So I think the difference is we just gnome. Or And as I said earlier in my comments today, we'll find the right way to scale this return to accommodate a zoo. Many people's weaken accommodate safely. Thank you, Chancellor Gaskell. It's our next question is going to be from Kate Murphy with the News and Observer. I chance, I guess. Quits and chair Stevens. Thanks again for taking the time. I know that that we saw a lot about the budget outlook and that has also been presented to faculty, um, in the past. And I'm just curious. If you could kind of describe the current budget challenges from that cove in 19 has caused bond. Obviously, we've also seen some salary cuts and furloughs, particularly in the in the athletic department earlier this fall. Can you describe how employees might be affected further? Sure. Chair Stevens would like me to take that. I'm happy. Take. That s o. So what we what we know Kate, is that you know, every university around the country is facing revenue losses in some cases historic revenue losses. And so Carolina is no different. Most of those have been in our exhilarate units such as housing, dining, parking, athletics are, uh, patient care of that with within the health care system. And some of those have been, um, you know, have returned back to normal operations and and they're recovering some of those losses. Others we may continue to see losses if we, uh, spring semester if we don't bring back, you know, depending how many people students we would bring back into and, ah, living environment on campus. But we we estimate that, as I said, uh, on a couple occasions over the past few weeks, that it's probably, uh, just over about $100 million in revenue lost their for those auxiliary units, um, combined, and probably another 50 to 55 million this coming fall A. Now there are offsets to that. There are things, you know, way have had to furlough some individuals in those exhilarate units. Eso there are offsets there. Certainly we don't have if we don't have dining halls open for normal operations and we're not feeding the same number of people who would. Normally, there's, uh there's offsets there and savings, if you will, that that will help recover some of those losses on. We do have some reserves and some some of these units. So we will, uh you know, we're doing everything to try to help mitigate this. We're also being very cautious about filling vacant positions on and how we're doing that very carefully. Uh, you know, looking at each one of these very closely and we're saving a lot of money through non personnel restrictions on non personnel spending. Uh, these past six months, there's been very little travel or hosting of events on campus. And so there are a lot of offsets there, so the number itself sounds somewhat dramatic, but it hopefully if we can continue to keep measures in place, it won't be a Z. Bad is what we're projecting. Thank you. Our next question is going to be from Brighton. McConnell with WCHL in Chapel Borough. I brighten. Hey, good afternoon, guys. Thanks so much for taking the time. Kate kind of covered my question, actually about the budget, so I want to ask Chancellor Gus quits. You mentioned the students and staff that are still on campus, and the campus dashboard is showing that some students on campus says, Well, it's off campus are continuing to test positive for the virus. I'm just curious what you believe that you, the university and health officials can learn from this data that you're getting from the students that are still on campus. Their experience as you prep for the spring semester. Sure. Well, this is, uh, you know, one of the things that is important as we look toward the spring semester, and, uh, the positivity rate is down significantly from where it was earlier in the semester. And I think that we've been able to, uh, sort of monitor the spread of the virus where it's, uh, occurring. I mean, certainly on campus. And I started to say this earlier, but the measures we put on campus in our classrooms, dining halls, uh, in our in the libraries and student unions and where we know all the students are are really, uh, adhering to the community standards of mask wearing and distancing and hygiene etcetera. Uh, we are continuing to monitor, you know how those community standards are being adhered to and followed. We know that where we ran into some challenges early in the semester was some of the off campus activity and that coming back into the residential halls. And we're even looking closely at that at the types of residents, halls and those living environments and where some may the risk for spread may be higher than others, and and so that will allow us to a zay said earlier. Scale our operations for the spring semester as we decide who, how many students we would wanna bring back. And the testing is an important part of that. We're looking at different testing methods. Cem randomized uh, testing options, as well as just testing that would allow us for for students that air living in certain living conditions toe have mandatory testing and eso We're learning not only from our own experience here, but we're looking at other universities around the country to see how it's working there. There are some universities that have put in place mandatory testing, and they're seeing positivity rates and uh, number of positive cases that are very high, and so there's no one right way to do this, but we're gonna put in place. Uh ah. Plan. That will work best for us. Thank you. Now, for our last question with Carolina connections Aurora Charlo. Hi. Um, high Chancellor Guskiewicz. Thank you so much for taking the time. Um, so I have a question. Um, specifically about, um, one campus budget department. I would like to ask you about campus health funding. Uh, and my first question is, uh, did U N C increase campus health funding in response to Cove in 19 for the fall semester. And are they planning Thio increase campus health health funding for the spring. So campus health has, um, you know, it's funded predominantly from student fees. And, uh, they we do have some of our covad 19 relief funds that that we've received the university, both federal funds, as well as some funds that came from the state that we are able to subsidize and help where there's a need. We we spent a lot of money on the testing and on contact tracing So those air additions to what their budget would have otherwise accounted for, and so we we will be We will make certain that the campus health, which has done a incredible job. The team there over these past, uh, 2.5 3 months, you know that there was the prep part, and then there was the actual hands on part that when students started returning to the campus, And so we will make certain that they are funded appropriately. Thio to be able to manage. Uh, you know, whatever types of you know, the operation that we're gonna have once the spring semester would start. Aurora, I believe you had a second question. Um, I asked my follow up question for the spring. So Chancellor Guskiewicz answered both. Thank you, Chancellor. Guskiewicz. Thanks for All right. That's all the time we have for now. Thank you for joining us. If you do need a recording of the media availability again, please email us at media relations at unc dot eu. Thank you. Thanks, everybody. Thanks for getting