DTH: Has the UNC System issued any guidance about planning for the spring?
KG: They've given every campus the ability to set their spring calendar ... We've been consulting with our faculty experts, public health and infectious disease experts to get their input. We've been talking to the deans and various faculty groups, and so I'm really proud of the way that we collectively are coming to, I think the right decision on the spring calendar ... I'm certainly keeping (the UNC-System Office) apprised of what our plans are, and so they've been very supportive.
DTH: What guidance has changed leading UNC to now offer mass asymptomatic testing?
KG: Testing is a lot better today than it was even just eight or nine weeks ago. There are more options available, the sensitivity of many of the testing methods has improved. So we decided that we should do some pilot testing to see what might work best for that spring semester. And so, we were able to bring a company from Wake Forest that's doing the saliva-based testing, because we heard from a lot of students that the nasal-based testing was — that they weren't interested in getting in those lines for that testing. And so, we're finding that we're having more success with the saliva-based testing. The sensitivity of it is better than what it was, even just two or three months ago.
And so that's what we're doing. We're rolling a pilot project to see if that might be a direction to go for the spring semester.
DTH: What has to happen from the administrative level before final decisions (about the spring semester) can be made?
KG: We — our executive team, myself, the Provost, our cabinets — are the decision makers. We certainly will be working alongside the UNC-System Office as we're sharing our plans moving forward. But ultimately, we are making the decision, with the input of these various groups ... It's a process, and I realize that our runway isn't that long. We have probably four to six weeks to make some of these really important decisions about how we move forward for the spring semester.
DTH: We've been following the meetings of the Campus and Community Advisory Committee. What happens after this group makes a recommendation? What happens next?
KG: It's one piece of important information that we receive. Their feedback is important, the feedback of these other groups that I've just mentioned is important. And so, we'll take that feedback and make decisions that we think will help provide the safest learning environment for our students for the spring semester.
DTH: Why can't UNC offer a full day off in the middle of this semester?
KG: The semester calendar was already compressed. We worked really hard to try to create a calendar that would allow the semester to be completed by Thanksgiving break so that students could go home and not have to come back to campus. So because of that, we have used every hour of every day I think possible, including even University Day ... We changed that this year as well, because we knew that faculty needed those contact hours to provide instruction.
DTH: What considerations from your team are going into thinking about breaks for the spring semester?
KG: We've had a lot of opinions on this, and I respect every one of them. I can respect the need for a break for a week. And that's what many students I think were hoping for. Others, though, raised the concern about where students might go to, traveling and coming back to campus, and needing to hit reset, and what would that entail. Does that mean everybody has to get tested right before they come back? Does it mean students have to quarantine for some period of time? And we just don't know what the path of the virus is going to look like in early to mid-March. In fact, we don't know what it's going to look like in early to mid-January.
And so, we're trying to make decisions with a lot of uncertainty. I wish we had a crystal ball. But we don't.
Members of our campus community felt that not having a full week off for Spring Break, but sprinkling some wellness days across the spring semester might be a better approach. And so, the implementation team, along with our leadership team, has looked at both of these options.
DTH: Student leaders have called for a day off on Election Day. Is another pause in classes possible on Nov. 3?
KG: We're just not able to do that. We, again, we felt that the wellness day on Friday — which is at the middle of the exact midpoint of the semester, it's right there and in alignment with World Mental Health Day — that was the better option.
We have provided a lot of guidance to students in campus emails around how students can prepare themselves for Election Day, for voting, and there are a lot of different options. And so, I hope that they'll certainly exercise their right to vote; it's important.
KG: There's a lot of good things happening here at Carolina right now, and I know that it's not the kind of semester that we had hope for ... Students continue to to do incredible work during these challenging times, and strong universities adapt to challenges and pressure, and Carolina will certainly rise to the occasion here. So I'm just continuing to lead with a lot of optimism, and I hope that our students and faculty staff will the same way.