The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 18th

Campus & Community Advisory Committee holds inaugural meeting

Screenshot from the Campus Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.
Buy Photos Screenshot from the Campus Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.

The Campus & Community Advisory Committee — composed of students, faculty and community members who will give feedback on fall reopening and input on spring planning — met for the first time Tuesday. Selected by Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, the Committee was announced last week in a formal notice to the campus community.

The focus of the meeting was to identify the Committee’s purpose and the current state of COVID-19 research. The Committee has 26 members and three co-chairs from different groups across campus, according to the formal notice.

“My charge to you today is to examine how we can provide the best Carolina experience to as many students as possible with the safety and wellbeing of our campus community as our top priority,” Guskiewicz said.

In his introduction, Guskiewicz said final decisions would still rest with the University’s leadership, in consultation with the Board of Trustees and the UNC System Board of Governors.

Breaking down the Committee

The three University groups directly working with senior leaders are divided into the Committee, Content Experts — who will advise decision-makers on the most current science of COVID-19 — and the Roadmap Implementation Team, which will facilitate the reopening plan’s execution.

The Campus & Community Advisory’s three co-chairs are Mimi Chapman, chairperson of the faculty, Shayna Hill, chairperson of the Employee Forum and Reeves Moseley, student body president.

“As we work through the planning process for this spring semester, my sincere hope is that staff voices will be heard and considered as plans develop,” Hill said during her remarks. “I appreciate the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”

Chapman reflected on the fall 2020 semester, during which the University took an off-ramp, de-densifying its residence halls and shifting fully online.

“The country will look to us again to see how we incorporate the lessons that we learned through the pain and the frustration of the fall semester,” Chapman said.

She also spoke about the values that the Committee has agreed to follow by agreeing to be a part of it, including:

  • Transparency: being honest in decision making and notifying community members of the recommendations of the Committee.
  • Inclusivity: including as many perspectives as possible in the Committee’s work.
  • Realism: providing realistic recommendations to University leadership while honoring the needs and day-to-day experiences of the Carolina community.

New COVID-19 safety considerations

Gillings professor Audrey Pettifor, who serves as one of the content experts advising University leadership, presented on COVID-19 data and testing options available for the upcoming semester.

According to survey data from the summer presented by Pettifor, over 90% of both undergraduate and graduate students responded that they would be willing to take a COVID-19 test upon returning to campus. 

But for fall reopening, UNC followed guidelines from the CDC in its decision to not test the entire campus community upon re-entry. Instead, UNC community members were asked to seek testing if they were a close contact of someone who tested positive or experienced COVID-19 symptoms.

Currently, Campus Health uses PCR nasal swab tests. Pettifor presented other options that might be considered for spring COVID-19 testing, including saliva and antigen testing.

“We’ve learned from HIV, particularly for people who are asymptomatic and low risk, if testing isn’t really easy or convenient, people aren’t going to do it,” Pettifor said.

Prior to the beginning of fall classes, the University released a list of community standards for the public health and safety of the campus community. Many of these standards were included in the list of prevention options that Pettifor presented during the meeting. 

But she also included new potential options that the University could consider, including symptom tracking apps, testing wastewater of dorms and de-densifying campus housing from the start of the semester.

“Most of these I think are based in public health best practice, so I think a lot of these continue,” Pettifor said. “I think the hard parts are the behavior change, the off-campus piece and the testing part that are kind of new and different.”

Currently, UNC is scheduled to begin the spring semester on Jan. 6. Guskiewicz said it may make sense to push that back, but no official decisions have been made yet.

The Committee will continue to collaborate with the other advisory and operational groups to provide feedback to University leadership on spring reopening plans.

Further clarification on the upcoming academic calendar will be provided prior to spring registration, said committee member Chloe Russell, assistant dean of the Academic Advising Program.

@praveenavsoma

university@dailytarheel.com

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