The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday February 26th

Student Government demands accountability from the University in memorandum

A small group stands near the Old Well behind South Building on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2020.
Buy Photos A small group stands near the Old Well behind South Building on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2020.

Student representatives in the UNC Student Government undergraduate executive branch cabinet and the student safety and wellness committee published a memorandum on Sept. 17 with 11 demands for UNC administration.

“We write to express deep concern for the safety and comprehensive wellness of students who remain on campus for the fall semester,” the memorandum reads. 

The memorandum, addressed to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and the current UNC administration, details 11 demands regarding the health and safety of students who remain on campus.

Nikhil Rao, a senior health policy and management and psychology major, serves as a senior adviser within the executive board. He commended the initiative of the student safety and wellness committee for spearheading this project. 

“I'm also glad that it was very interdisciplinary and cross-cutting in nature, just started heading on a ton of different topics such as food security, discrimination — even within just the larger COVID sphere — which was what the entire memo was about,” Rao said. 

The memo outlined specific demands, including accountability for the actions of the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic members through an external review board, hazard pay to resident advisers and protections for students still on campus. 

Examples of protections include the promotion of “adequate mental health resources” for international and out-of-state students, required COVID-19 testing for students still on campus and increased transparency from UNC administration. 

In order to gain insight as to what students were facing that could be voiced to University administrators, the executive branch posted a survey on its Facebook account, allowing anonymous submissions. 

Avni Singh, a sophomore studying behavioral economics, said the committee had a desire to ensure that demands would protect every type of student. 

Though the survey didn’t elicit a large number of responses, Singh said she found the responses submitted to be extremely helpful and detailed.

“I know it can seem sort of unreachable and mysterious, which is why we stressed getting student input to ensure we were actually listening to our friends and peers,” Singh said. 

Anusha Dubey, a junior health policy management and neuroscience major, said as a member of the student safety and wellness committee, she helped write the memo. 

The members who wrote the memorandum requested a response within one week, and Dubey said she remains optimistic.

Ananya Tadikonda, a sophomore public policy major, is a chairperson for the student safety and wellness committee that spearheaded this project. Tadikonda said it's important for the University to prioritize the interests of students and their well-being over the “interests of the institution." 

“It's imperative that the Chancellor respond to these demands and actually consider them as viable means for ensuring that not only students who remain on campus this semester, but students who need to come back to campus for the spring semester and live in Chapel Hill in the dormitories and other on-campus housing, have the resources they need to be as safe as possible,” she said.

In an email to The Daily Tar Heel, UNC Media Relations said Guskiewicz will respond directly to the committee. 

Dubey said there were drafts in the works even before the fall semester started. The memorandum was sent back to the drawing board for revisions before it could get initial approval because things were changing rapidly. 

“And so I'm skeptical, but I'm also hopeful at the same time that with enough power behind our voices and enough helpful pressure, that maybe some change will be coming from this,” she said. 

university@dailytarheel.com

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