But in a UNC Faculty Council meeting on Sept. 11, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said that due to the instructional time already lost from students moving out, students will not have their morning classes canceled on University Day.
"We made this decision to allow our students, faculty and staff to remain focused on their important scholarly work, and we will celebrate University Day through special content posted on unc.edu and on our social media channels," Provost Bob Blouin said in a campus-wide email.
This decision has been met with outcry from students and faculty who are now left without breaks for the rest of the semester.
Joseph Richards, a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Communication, said they’re concerned for the mental well-being of students in an already overwhelming semester.
“It feels a little disconnected to what’s happening in the lives of students this semester,” Richards said. “I don’t think the University is prioritizing students. I think they’re prioritizing budget and income.”
Senior Flannery Fitch, majoring in history and American studies, said taking away this small break for University Day feels unnecessary.
“It’s so frustrating that we can’t even get that half day off,” Fitch said. “Everyone I know is falling apart, and we really could’ve used that time to rest and catch up.”
Fitch and sophomore Zehra Hassan both said they feel they’ve had more work this semester than in their previous years at UNC.
“The workload has drastically increased with online learning,” Hassan said. “I think with most residence halls being shut down and classes being shifted to virtual learning that there shouldn’t be such a big focus on getting this semester wrapped up.”
Richards emphasized the need for faculty to be aware of the challenges students are facing due to the transition to remote learning and the removal of breaks for occasions like University Day.
“UNC administration is demonstrating that it is not prioritizing student health and well-being,” Richards said. “That means it’s really up to the people teaching classes and they need to be compassionate and considerate and actually give students the space and resources that they need.”
University Day moves to the virtual
Though students are not having classes canceled, UNC is working to celebrate University Day virtually with asynchronous activities for students and staff to view.
In a formal notice sent out to the campus community, Provost Bob Blouin indicated that at 3 p.m. on Oct 11, a virtual event will be held to officially install Guskiewicz as UNC's chancellor.
There will also be more special programming posted on the University’s website and social media pages.
In addition to the chancellor’s installment, awards will be given out to distinguished faculty and staff members.
The Employee Forum will be presenting the inaugural Rebecca Clark Staff Award for Moral Courage to James Holman, who has worked at UNC for 15 years and is currently serving as a housekeeping crew leader.
He said he’s honored to be recognized for his hard work.
“It was pretty much a surprise,” he said. “I’m sort of happy that I’ve gotten it because I’ve stuck my neck out for the last 12 years working for the housekeeping department. It makes me feel pretty good that someone is recognizing the work that I have done.”
Another recognition, the Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award, will be presented to Nick Didow, an associate professor of marketing in the Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Didow has worked on several service projects, including the Food Bank of North Carolina and starting UNC’s Carolina Center for Public Service.
Didow said he is deeply touched to have been selected to receive this award.
“The Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award is a special reminder that we have three priorities here at UNC that give us purpose and guide our priorities: excellent research; excellent teaching; and excellent service and engagement with the people of North Carolina and beyond,” Didow said.
Lloyd Kramer, former chairperson of the faculty and history professor, said University Day serves as a reminder of the school’s evolution.
“Only after many decades of transition has (the University) become what it is now, a much more diverse group,” Kramer said. “University Day helps us think about that a little bit, where did we come from and how have we changed.”
Kramer also said University Day symbolizes the University’s broader impact on society during uncertain times.
“Because of the upheavals we are living through, our mission has become even more important to the life of the state and wider society,” Kramer said. “University Day could give us a framework for reaffirming the value of the life of the University in a time of extreme crisis.”