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Faculty and leaders address fall roadmap, racial equity in community conversation

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Screenshot from the virtually Faculty Committee Meeting on Friday, June 19, 2020 to discuss the Carolina Roadmap.

Chairperson of the Faculty Lloyd Kramer and Chairperson-elect Mimi Chapman hosted a community conversation Friday to discuss concerns about fall semester plans including course instruction, housekeeping changes and racial equity on campus.

The meeting modeled how a hybrid course would be structured, with some faculty and campus leaders seated in Kerr Hall at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy and others joining via Zoom. Chapman began the meeting by presenting open-ended comments and questions based on results from a survey conducted earlier in June by the Faculty Executive Committee.

Concerns with the Roadmap

The first of these comments was about the timeline and resources for faculty to plan their courses for the fall. Course plans and instruction types from colleges and professional schools are due this week and will be subsequently mass-uploaded to ConnectCarolina, Lauren DiGrazia, assistant provost and university registrar, said. 

DiGrazia said these updates should be available for viewing on July 1.

Other faculty survey responses were concerned with campus cleaning and housekeeping.

“A lot of that will be the responsibility of the student and the faculty to do their own personal areas,” said Bob Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost. “But there will be cleaning that will include door knobs, doors, the main entrances, etc., that there will be high touches to including bathroom areas, throughout the day.”

Cathy Brennan, executive director of UNC Environment, Health and Safety, said there will be enhanced cleaning in research buildings and the University will potentially hire additional housekeeping staff.

Faculty also asked about how the University will decide to change campus operations, in the event that positive coronavirus cases increase on campus. Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said there will be off-ramps for these scenarios in the Roadmap within the next two weeks.

“There are probably going to be in the neighborhood of eight to 12 categories of factors that would play into an off-ramp decision,” Blouin said.

Some of these factors could include the number of cases in UNC’s isolation spaces and the capacity of UNC Hospitals.

Racial equity on campus

Kia Caldwell, professor in the African, African American and Diaspora Studies department, commented on the concerns of faculty of color.

“Trust in our leadership has been broken multiple times, so it is hard to put faith in our leadership for many faculty of color,” Caldwell said.

She discussed a roadmap to racial equity that she planned to present at the Faculty Executive Committee's June 22 meeting aimed at guiding future decision and policy-making. The first request is the establishment of faculty advisory groups on racial equity, community and belonging.

“There is a pattern of faculty of color requesting meetings with our administration,” Caldwell said. “And we really would like to see a shift where our administrators are inviting us to meet with them and make a commitment to ongoing conversations with us.”

Staff and athletes

In addition to faculty concerns, the community conversation included discussions regarding UNC staff and athletes.

Shayna Hill, department manager of Statistics and Operations Research, spoke about the concerns of staff, who have been working on campus with an accelerated timeline for fall reopening.

“We’re afraid we’ll fail,” Hill said. “We’re afraid that you won’t hear how desperate we are to be cared for.”

Guskiewicz said during the meeting that the University is preparing to have a fall athletics season. Athletes will return to campus early to begin conditioning.

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“We’re interested in making sure that our student-athletes remain healthy and their needs are put before obviously, revenue, and things of that nature,” said Melissa Geil, vice chairperson of the Faculty Athletics Committee.

Geil said the Faculty Athletics Committee is worried about the risk for student-athletes, as they will face exposure from their respective sports team as well as the general student body. Guskiewicz said the University is in conversation with other schools and the ACC to determine how games will be run and whether to restrict travel for games.

Because athletes cannot wear face masks during games, proper testing will be important to maintain safety, said Dr. David Weber, the associate chief medical officer for UNC Health Care.

“I think that will play some role in those areas where people cannot wear masks to make sure they can be safe, as well as, obviously, we need to make sure any teams that we play are following similar guidance that we are,” Weber said.

Kramer and Chapman said future conversations will be held with the community to continue to address the concerns raised Friday and to address other questions about UNC’s fall reentry.