CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN)– With COVID-19 numbers spiraling, 163 faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have signed an op-ed published in the Daily Tar Heel calling on the University to go fully remote for the spring semester.
The op-ed written by faculty members appeared in the Daily Tar Heel on December 2, and at the time, 70 people had signed it.
Now a total of 163 faculty members have signed the amended letter that calls on the University to change their plans that currently allow some in person classes this spring.
“It’s simply common sense from a health perspective,” said Jay Smith, a history professor at UNC-CH.
Smith is one of the faculty members who helped draft the letter. He argues that with COVID cases on the rise, that now is not the time to bring students back for in-person learning.
“If you bring thousands of students from all over the state and all over the country back to campus, some of them are going to be bringing viruses with them,” Smith said. “We’re just all afraid that the spring is going to bring the same terrible news that August brought.
During a UNC Faculty Council and Employee Forum earlier in December, UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz talked about what the University is doing differently than the fall to ensure students will be safe.
For instance, only 20 percent of the classes at UNC-CH will be in person this spring compared to the 40 percent last fall.
Also, only 3,500 students are expected to live on campus this spring compared to the 5,800 students who were living on campus in August. In addition, students will have their own room.
Guskiewicz also said the new robust testing program that requires all students get tested before returning to campus and throughout the semester will keep the number of COVID cases down.
“Infectious disease experts believe our asymptomatic testing program will identify cases and any trends earlier,” Guskiewicz said during the meeting.
But Smith argues that robust testing may not be enough to stop the spread.
“Even if you have a good testing program which I believe the university does, there still is going to be a lot of the virus present,” Smith said.
He said that he thinks the University is hesitant to continue remote learning because they are afraid they will lose students and revenue.
“It’s all about the finances and the tuition dollars that the administration feels that we need,” Smith said. “When you get right down to it, it’s immoral for the university to place its finances ahead of the public health of the community.”
CBS 17 reached out to UNC-CH to find out if they were considering going to remote learning this spring semester.
In a statement, Joel Curran, Vice Chancellor of University Communications, said they are closely monitoring the latest COVID numbers and they are prepared to change their spring plans if they need to.
Curran said they will announce any changes no later than January 9.
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