Campus events with more than 50 attendees are canceled effective immediately, according to the message.
This announcement follows similar decisions by colleges across the country including the University of Washington, the University of California at Berkeley, Ohio State University and Harvard University.
Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina on Tuesday.
Biology professor Todd Vision sent a letter with 46 faculty signatories to the chancellor and provost Wednesday, urging the University to instruct students not to return to campus after spring break.
“Closing K-12 schools before cases appear is known to be one of the most powerful non-pharmaceutical interventions for controlling infectious disease epidemics,” the letter said. “At UNC, where thousands of students are currently preparing to return to campus, the case for proactively taking instruction online is even more compelling.”
The letter said cancelling on-campus classes in the next few weeks was “almost inevitable,” and that allowing students to return to campus and later sending them away would accelerate the spread of coronavirus both to and from campus.
“The time to act is now, while we still have the opportunity to ‘flatten the curve’ and ensure that we stay within the capacity of our health care system to provide critical care to all those who will need it when the epidemic is at its peak,” the letter said.
Vision told The Daily Tar Heel he heard Duke University’s announcement on Tuesday and wanted to provide a “nudge” to UNC, in case the University was on the edge about what decision to make. He also said he recognizes that the decision-making authority at a state university can be more difficult than at smaller, private institutions.
Vision said he believes the University has the necessary infrastructure to begin teaching online classes, though professors of smaller classes with more interaction may need to change their teaching methods more.
“It won’t be as rich of an experience as on-campus, but assuming the IT infrastructure holds, I think it can be done,” Vision said.
The University previously announced that students returning from countries with Level 2 (Practice Enhanced Precautions) or 3 (Avoid Nonessential Travel) travel advisories would be asked to self-quarantine away from campus for 14 days.
Prior to spring break, the University also announced that students traveling to areas in the U.S. that had declared a state of emergency may be asked to self-quarantine. University Media Relations said in an email that students returning from University-affiliated travel may receive up to 14 days of excused absences, but that students returning from personal travel would not get their absences excused while quarantining.
Here’s how some other universities have responded to coronavirus with cancellations and remote classes:
- Duke University — On-campus classes are suspended and online classes will continue indefinitely. Those who are out of town for spring break have been told they should not return to campus.
- The Ohio State University — In-person classes are suspended until at least March 30. Students have been given the option to complete their classes from home or remain on campus.
- University of Maryland — After spring break, in-person classes are suspended until at least April 10. Students are asked not to return to campus after spring break.
- University of California, Los Angeles — In-person classes are suspended until at least April 10. Campus housing remains open.
- Harvard University — Students have been asked to move out of their dorms in less than a week, and classes will be held remotely.
For updates on how UNC is responding to coronavirus, check the University's designated website.