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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: A thank you to the University's essential workers

CDS employee Francisca Ventura serves food from Latinx communities on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 at Lenoir Dining Hall in Chapel Hill.

To all the essential workers supporting the University: the Editorial Board would like to acknowledge the work you are doing and extend our utmost gratitude. 

As the University takes our money and exploits your labor, we all get caught up in a COVID disaster. The media often gives students a platform to speak on these issues, but workers are just as affected by the University’s poor decision-making. Know that the tireless work you all are doing does not go unnoticed or unappreciated — at least not by us.

Workers at UNC advocated for better working conditions, and the University largely ignored them. The danger you are putting yourselves through to salvage our ‘college experience’ is ridiculous. In just one week, multiple COVID-19 clusters emerged and the University canceled all in-person classes. Students living on-campus were also forced to leave.

While much of the conversation about these clusters is centered on students, the workers who clean and manage campus spaces deserve the same level of compassion and concern. 

The workers who maintain facilities, work in dining halls, clean dorms and support sick students do the labor that ensures this University can continue functioning. Pre-pandemic, that was already an incredibly difficult task. Now you all have to go the extra mile to follow University, state and national guidelines while risking your own health. 

The Editorial Board is aware of the sacrifices you are making — and we cannot thank you enough.

Without a doubt, UNC failed its students, faculty and workers. Bringing students to campus and resuming in-person instruction against recommendations of public health officials is pretty damning. 

Workers on campus have been let down by both the University and its students. Students are gathering off-campus, violating social distancing and community guidelines. All the while, students return to campus each day for classes or other gatherings. This puts the lives of University employees — many of whom are Black or people of color, and therefore at higher risk for COVID-19 — in danger. 

You deserve better.

Your lives have been affected by COVID-19 in uniquely difficult ways. In addition to worrying about the health of your own families, you are now expected to take care of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students. The mental, physical and emotional cost of this labor is so high. 

On top of this, the University is notorious for its lack of transparency. Students often find themselves in the dark about important and relevant information. We can’t imagine the communication to essential workers is any more transparent. 

Let’s be real. Many students are privileged enough to have the choice to come back to campus, to take classes online and stay at home. For University employees, leaving UNC is not as simple as selecting the “Remote Only” option on ConnectCarolina. 

Your income and livelihood is tied to a university that is putting your life at risk every day. Interacting with students who choose to ignore community guidelines is only one aspect of these challenges. We could spend all day describing the ways that students have made living in Chapel Hill even harder for residents: increased rent and partying, just to name a couple.

Now, as UNC moves to remote instruction after just one week, everyone can see how the administration lacks a brain as well as a heart. Students and employees were exposed unnecessarily, now to be sent home and risk bringing the virus with them.

The Editorial Board has an incredible amount of respect and gratitude for the work of employees who keep the University’s doors open, pandemic or not. We know the faceless term ‘employees’ hides that you are individuals with lives that are just as vulnerable — if not more vulnerable — to COVID-19 as the rest of the campus community. 

The last few weeks would have been even worse without your help. So, to every person who is working to keep UNC as clean and safe as possible: thank you. 

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