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Students encounter transportation barriers as UNC moves classes off main campus

Alberto Rivera, set-up coordinator for the Friday Center exits the building on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Some classes have been moved to the Friday Center for the Fall 2020 semester to promote social distancing, but the change has created transportation problems for some students.

Some classes that were going to be offered on campus have been assigned to locations off of main campus, just days leading up to the first day of class. 

Many students and faculty members have raised concerns on social media about how students will find transportation to classes held off campus. 

Paul Delamater, an assistant professor of geography at UNC, said he found out last week that one of his classes would be held at the Friday Center for Continuing Education, a building located about 3 miles away from campus.

UNC Media Relations said in an email that some courses are being held at the Friday Center to "de-densify the central campus, maximize flexibility and promote physical distancing." 

“For me, it’s easy for myself to get there,” he said. “I’m worried about students being able to get there safely and in time; that’s my biggest concern. I didn’t get any special information about getting there or what to tell students.”

Delamater said he is teaching a HyFlex course, so some of his students have already opted for a remote version. He said he has postponed any in-person meetings of his course until next week and is waiting for more information.

“I’m a little bit not sure what I’m going to do about it because it seems difficult that the students are going to have to go all the way out there,” he said.

'Something else unknown'

Anjali Keyal, a first-year pre-health policy and management major, said she was confused when she saw her only class this semester with an in-person component, English 105i, would be held at the Friday Center.

She said she posted in the UNC class of 2024 Facebook group, asking if anyone else had a class off campus or advice for getting there.

“Some people said that I could take a bus to get there, and then I started getting really panicked because I was already kind of anxious about starting college in these weird circumstances, being online,” she said. “Having something else unknown come at me like that was a lot of anxiety at that time.”

She said she didn’t think she could rely on a bus to get her to the Friday Center three times a week, as the bus capacity is capped, and she didn’t have time in her schedule for the hour it would take to walk there.

“Since that class was the only justification I had for living on campus and I was already pretty nervous about COVID-19 and everything with moving in, I decided for me the best option was to just drop the class, take it next semester and just stay home,” she said.

UNC Media Relations said in an email that Chapel Hill Transit's FCX and S routes serve both the main campus and the Friday Center. They also said UNC Transportation and Parking has contracted with Carolina Livery to provide additional buses to accommodate an increased demand for this route. This is also meant to ensure that physical distance on transit is maintained, and that these buses are incorporated into Chapel Hill Transit’s existing Friday Center routes. 

Parking options

Gabriela Silva, a sophomore majoring in romance languages and business administration, said she received an email that said she could either take the bus or get a parking permit to drive to her class located in the Friday Center.

Students and employees with any weekday main campus permit may park in Friday Center visitor parking, and those without main campus permits may request a Friday Center parking permit, according to an email from Media Relations. Daily parking options are also available through ParkMobile, the University’s partner for daily parking, they said.

Silva said she and several other students in her class asked for the class to have an asynchronous option, which Silva said the professor was able to provide. 

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“I feel like this is just the way classes are headed,” she said. “They’re all probably headed online, so it just seems inconsiderate to make things seem like we’re good to be coming back on campus when that’s not how it’s looking outside of general University news.”

Abby Boettcher, a senior majoring in economics and public policy, said her economics class was first going to be held at the Friday Center, then in Fetzer Hall, before finally being moved online on Thursday.

“I was actually really glad it got moved online,” she said. “I was not looking forward to having to drive to the Friday Center and just am not fully confident in being in the classroom right now, so I was glad I wouldn’t have to deal with that.”

Boettcher said last-minute changes to classes create extra stress for students.

“With everything else going on, it’s not one of those things you want to be dealing with,” she said. “It’s just trying to figure out what I was actually going to do to get my requirements done and not have to run around campus or change my schedule completely.”