It’s been a month since UNC announced it would shift to remote learning after just a week of in-person instruction. Case counts have dropped, housing occupancy reduced and tuition dollars collected. Now, the administration seems to be moving forward — but most UNC students are still trying to sort through the mess they've left behind.
In the past four weeks, thousands of students living on campus were displaced after being forced to cancel their housing contracts, leaving them scrambling for an alternative. Hundreds of students tested positive for COVID-19 and were relegated to desolate quarantine dorms. Dozens of resident advisers and other student housing staff suddenly found themselves without jobs. Does the administration even care?
“I don’t regret any decisions.”
“I don’t apologize for trying.”
These statements — from Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin, respectively — are a slap in the face to students who are still picking up the pieces of a shattered semester, illustrating perfectly the ever-present divide between the administration and its students.
Since the pandemic began, the administration’s decisions flew in the face of a “student-focused” approach. The current situation can’t be undone, but the administration, starting with Guskiewicz, should at the very least acknowledge and apologize for their role in this disaster.
But as of now, the administration won’t even give students, faculty and staff that much.
In fact, in an interview with DTH University Desk Editor Maddie Ellis, Guskiewicz said he was “proud” of the steps the administration took to prepare a “safe” campus for everyone.
What does he have to be proud of? The consequences of these decisions have real impacts on the campus community. Students are now struggling with access to the internet, finding housing and unemployment. There are ramifications for those in the greater Chapel Hill and Carrboro area as well. Affordable housing is becoming harder to find in Orange County since the pandemic began, and now that the University has shut down, local businesses are struggling to stay afloat without their usual stream of customers.
A series of faulty decisions got us here, and the administration must take responsibility for them. The University brought us back to campus, blatantly ignoring the advice of nearly everyone it consulted. Even mass testing was sidelined because the administration believed it could create a “false sense of security.”
We didn’t sign up to be guinea pigs in the country’s reopening experiment. But the administration treated us like lab rats, as if this was all just a trial run to see if reopening could be possible. Sure, they’ve learned a lot — but at what cost? Acknowledging the human toll of their botched reopening should be at the forefront of all future decisions the administration makes as they look to the spring and beyond.
Guskiewicz should regret his decisions. Showing a little remorse is literally the least he can provide. He and the rest of the UNC administration must do everything in their power to not repeat the mistakes of this semester — and they can start by listening to the voices of the communities they claim to care about.
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