UNC leaders look for socially-distant alternatives to rushing Franklin Street

Posted February 10, 2021 11:33 p.m. EST

— You've probably seen the video by now of UNC students rushing Franklin Street after they defeated Duke over the weekend, violating mass gathering restrictions amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, university and local leaders are taking action to try and prevent this from happening again.

The big question from Wednesday's meeting among leaders: What will it take for students to get the message that rushing areas like Franklin Street is just not OK?

They want students' input – and students some students say that seeing leaders like coach Roy Williams sharing a message would get their attention.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger says she was disappointed to see the gathering.

“It was so disheartening, Hemminger said.” “Events like this push people further into the anxiety range.”

There is an abundance of concern in Chapel Hill following this celebration, including anxiety over a possible super spreader event. This has UNC leaders, law enforcement and the mayor working together to prevent this from happening again.

Today was the first of many meetings.

“To figure out what we can do moving forward, because we have another game coming on March 6, Carolina vs. Duke [and] it’ll be here in Chapel Hill," Hemminger explained. "What can we do differently to really get that message across to students that it’s not OK, it’s really not OK to rush Franklin Street? You’re putting people’s safety and health at risk.”

Hundreds of students have been identified and will face consequences – their punishments vary from a warning to disenrollment.

Even UNC men’s basketball players can be seen in this video partying without masks.

UNC alumnus Michael Galloway called the celebration a safety hazard.

Galloway has seen his fair share of wins, and he understands the importance of the rivalry and winning the game, but says there's still no excuse.

“Student safety is always the number one priority," Galloway said. "Basketball is basketball, it’ll be here and it’ll always be here.”

Local leaders want students to celebrate but in a safe way and plan to ask for input in the coming days. Students we talked to suggest a virtual zoom party, or a way to interact virtually with players after the game.

Other ideas are being floated, such as a car parade like the one we saw following the presidential election.

UNC Sophomore Simon Palmore is all for it.

"People drove down Franklin Street in both directions, honking and celebrating and sticking posters out of their car windows. I think that’s a really good model for how students can celebrate safely during a pandemic," Palmore said.

Hemminger says those involved in rushing Franklin Street have been asked to quarantine until they test negative. She also says today’s meeting was a good start, but they still have a long way to go and look forward to student input.

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