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UNC Advisory Committee discusses potential changes to the spring semester

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Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz speaks at the UNC Advisory Committee met on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. The committee discussed potential adjustments to the 2021 spring semester as the University makes plans for the future. 

Members of the UNC Advisory Committee met Thursday to discuss potential adjustments to the 2021 spring semester as the University makes plans for the future. 

At the meeting, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz set an upbeat tone while accepting feedback from committee members, mostly having to do with the future. 

Guskiewicz started off the meeting optimistically, at one point mentioning the University's fifth-place ranking among public schools in a recent edition of the U.S. News and World Report. He highlighted various advancements, including bringing on more counselors to help with student mental health concerns.

He also spoke about a Carolina Away class, which he recently sat in on. 

"I do believe that we're continuing to provide an outstanding education for our students," he said. 

Planning for spring

After this introduction, the group briefly discussed the structure of planning for the 2021 spring semester. 

Committee members brought up various ideas for limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus, including only having certain classes, such as seniors and first-years, on campus.

Guskiewicz then acknowledged the struggles of remote classes. 

"We have certain classes that we're hearing need to be taught in person," he said. "...We're hearing a lot from our laboratories and natural sciences." 

He suggested that strengthening IT capabilities could serve to improve online class experiences. 

Guskiewicz then gave committee members the opportunity to ask questions regarding the spring 2021 semester, and discussed solutions the University could implement.

"Some universities have indicated that they're going to back up the start of their spring semester a few weeks,"  Guskiewicz said. 

He added that this plan would include the elimination of spring break. 

Committee member Jay Aikat, a professor in the computer science department, weighed in. 

"I wonder if one of the options is to just bring in the seniors, or just bring in first-years and seniors, knowing that first-years tend to be in the dorms," she said. 

Documenting the present

In addition to discussing possibilities for the future, the members of the committee also discussed methods of keeping record of this semester. 

Committee member and professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health Rohit Ramaswamy spoke about efforts to document faculty members' experiences.

"Part of a lot of this work that I think would be really powerful would to be to acknowledge the learning from the past as something that is of value in its own right," Ramaswamy said. 

He said a possibility would be a collaboration with the theater department in order to produce some monologues based on faculty experiences during COVID-19.

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The meeting came to an end after a discussion about the role the committee should play in future spring planning. 

The next meeting of the Advisory Committee is scheduled for Oct. 14.