Education

UNC officials begin to plan on-campus housing for spring semester

Posted October 7, 2020 5:54 p.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2020 1:41 p.m. EDT

— “University of North Carolina Chapel Hill students will be living on campus this spring.” That's the message from UNC Housing officials as they tried to assure parents on that the failures of fall will not be repeated.

Wednesday was the first time UNC announced some of its spring plans with certainty.

The university brought students back to campus and to residential life in August, only to require a quick about-face that sent thousands home after the coronavirus spread.

By October, only about 1,000 students, out of a student body of 19,355, were still living on campus after demonstrating a need to be here.

A UNC spokesperson said they could guarantee that the students currently living on campus would be able to stay for spring. Whether that could get expanded to include more students is still up in the air.

On Tuesday, university leaders held a Zoom call with parents to answer questions about housing in the spring.

Carolina Housing director Allan Blattner talked about students' return to dorms as a definite, but said the numbers of students that the university will allow to return, who will get priority and the timeline for returning is still up in the air.

"I know there is lots of work going on, but I have no idea when that will all come to fruition and be ready," he explained.

Blattner said deciding how many students could come back "has to do with a number of factors, both public health related and connected to the academic offerings of the campus."

UNC officials did confirm that university housing will be single rooms only in spring, but students will be charged the cheaper rate as if they had a roommate.

UNC has not announced whether classes will be all in-person, a mix of online and in-person or online-only.

Sophomore Simon Palmore said he was concerned that UNC seemingly intended to bring students back. He's one of the students who moved into a dorm into the fall only to quickly be forced to move out as coronavirus cases climbed.

"I haven't seen enough evidence that they've learned lessons and thought critically about the situation enough for a reopening in January to have any better result than it had in August," he said.

Palmore said he planned to continue living off campus for spring.

"I would say if you do decide to move into the dorms -- don't bring too much stuff. Don't hang anything on the walls, because it could very easily be over in just 10 days, like it was in the fall," he added.

Jonathan Knudsen said his family would also not be attempting to move their son, a resident advisor at UNC, into on-campus housing for spring.

"Even with the enhanced cleaning protocols that were supposed to be in place, photos of his shower tell a different story," said Knudsen. "UNC Housing did not remedy the situation in the weeks that he lived on campus before moving back home.”

Knudsen said the on-campus experience in fall was a "failure" and attempting to move back on campus for spring would "be foolish and irresponsible."

Palmore did add that he thought students could be brought back safely, but that it would require "a large plan and large system of testing and containment."

Blattner said with single occupancy for every room, the university would be able to have 3,900 students on campus at full capacity.

He did not have a timeline for when a formal decision about spring housing would be made.

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