UNC System President Peter Hans issued a statement Thursday blaming students for rolled-back reopening at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.
UNC and N.C. State both started classes on Aug. 10, but UNC switched to online courses just one week later on Aug. 17.
N.C. State announced on Thursday that it also would move undergraduate courses to online delivery beginning Aug. 24, but the university is not closing on-campus housing. Residents can choose to cancel their housing contracts with no penalty.
Hans said the UNC System planned for reopening under the guidance of public health officials and considered the different situations at each university.
"This hard work is being undermined by a very small number of students behaving irresponsibly off campus, which unfairly punishes the vast majority of their classmates who are following the rules," Hans stated.
UNC has confirmed six clusters on campus in residence halls and off-campus student living since classes started last week. The University asked students to cancel their on-campus housing contract by Aug. 25.
One week after the start of the semester, UNC reported 135 new cases of COVID-19. The positivity rate of tests was 13.6 percent — five times the 2.8 percent positivity rate reported the week before, when classes had not yet started.
UNC did not restrict the availability of on-campus housing, as recommended by the Orange County Health Department director in a letter in late July before on-campus move in began. The semester started with housing at 61 percent capacity on campus and 76.8 percent capacity in Granville Towers after students elected to cancel their housing contracts.
At a special meeting of the Faculty Executive Committee on Monday — 15 minutes after the University announced its move to online undergraduate courses — members of the committee questioned if this outcome could have been prevented.