With classes switching to remote instruction and residence halls emptying, student leaders are frustrated that the University took so long to acknowledge a decision they advocated for — months before classes even began.
“I wanted it to be a moment that felt like a moment of vindication because we were right,” Undergraduate Student Government Senate Representative Collyn Smith said. “But I can’t even feel like that because there’s so many issues and there’s so many lives that are at stake here that have been played with as if we were lab rats.”
Smith said he feels betrayed by the University because it refused to act until case numbers and publicity spiked, even though student leaders had been warning about this for months. He said the road to this decision led him to believe that the University prioritized money over the health of both its off and on-campus students.
“I knew it was going to happen and I think a lot of us knew this was inevitable, that this was just some little summer camp that people were here for two weeks for and then said bye,” Smith said.
Smith is a member of the Commission on Campus Equality and Student Equity. This commission issued recommendations for de-densified housing and all remote courses in July.
UNC Media Relations said in an email statement that student leaders and organizations have been an important part of the planning process and have met regularly with the University since May regarding classroom logistics, student support services, campus messaging and prioritizing inclusivity in all aspects of fall planning.
The representative said Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and his senior leadership team, and many of UNC’s infectious disease and public health experts, held several "Town Hall" meeting webinars for students, faculty and staff to share feedback and concerns and ask questions.
“As I've listened to students over the last eight or nine weeks ... it’s clear that nothing beats the on-campus Carolina experience. We know students learn in different ways and grow in different ways,” Guskiewicz said during a webinar on June 11.
Lamar Richards, chairperson of the commission, said while previously the commission was left out of key conversations, it will advise the administration with student input going forward.