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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: You spoke. The University didn't listen.


Students and other UNC community members in masks listen to Jennifer Standish, a UNC graduate student in the Department of History, speak at the Die-In Protest organized by the Anti-Racist Graduate Worker Collective on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The protest called for UNC to transition to fully remote classes for the Fall 2020 semester after a letter of caution sent to Chancellor Guskiewicz by the Orange County Health Director Quintana Stewart.

Happy first week of classes, Tar Heels. 

But is it really a happy one?

In the weeks and months leading up to the beginning of the fall semester, students and workers organized in protest of UNC’s reopening plans, demanding the administration move all classes online, or at the very least take preventative steps to ensure the safety of everyone on campus. 

But — unsurprisingly — the administration didn’t listen. UNC has always valued profits over people, so why would they stop now?

One editorial is not enough space to list all of UNC’s mistakes leading up to this semester (there are just so many!). So here is a non-comprehensive list of questions and grievances we have against the University:

  1. Not requiring testing for students and employees upon their return to campus.
  2. Choosing to ignore the Orange County Health Department’s recommendation that UNC go fully remote for at least five weeks — and failing to share the letter from faculty. 
  3. The absurd lack of transparency regarding individuals within the campus community who test positive for COVID-19. 
  4. The Carolina Ready app as a supposed solution to student safety concerns, and the slew of cybersecurity issues that come along with it.
  5. Announcing that UNC Police would be present at dorms during move-in to help make the process “safe, healthy, and enjoyable” — grossly ignoring the concerns of Black students who rightfully feel unsafe and uncomfortable by police presence on campus.
  6. Forcing students to sign a community standards pledge that could potentially be used to absolve UNC of any responsibility in the event of an outbreak.
  7. Continuing to make changes to students’ course schedules last-minute, making it impossible for students to plan ahead and make preemptive decisions about their education. This includes the sudden decision to move some classes to off-campus locations — raising serious transportation barriers for many students.
  8. The prolonged confusion and miscommunication about CARES Act emergency funding for students. 
  9. UNC continuing to allow full capacity in dorm buildings, despite the plan being deemed ‘highest-risk’ by the CDC.

This is by no means a complete list. We must acknowledge the added trauma placed on Black and brown students as they set foot onto a campus that somehow feels even less safe than it did before. We can’t forget the plight of University employees — who largely hail from minority populations — whose lives the University has chosen to sacrifice in order to turn a profit. Nor will we forget the white tenured faculty who failed to use their privilege and job security to advocate for all-remote learning, even when asked to do so, and the administration who ignored the calls, emails, protests and petitions from the students they claim to represent.

Student activists and University employees are risking so much to fight for our collective safety, while those in positions of relative power largely remain silent.  And the consequences are higher than ever.

All of these issues are intersectional — and it’s the same story every time. And when this incomplete, selfish, negligent plan inevitably results in death and suffering, the University will be to blame.