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UNC Faculty Council talks testing, budget and student survey responses

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Screenshot from the virtually-held Faculty Council meeting where Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and members discussed COVID-19 testing rates and in-person classes for the Spring semester.

UNC employees should not expect across-the-board furloughs or salary reductions at the moment as a result of the University's budget shortfalls, Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Becci Menghini said at a virtual Faculty Council meeting Friday. 

Other administrators and faculty updated the council and general faculty on the University’s budget, shared student and parent responses to recent surveys and discussed spring semester plans. 

What’s new?

  • Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz gave remarks reflecting on the fall semester. He acknowledged that more COVID-19 testing should have been done earlier and that the mid-fall transition from some in-person classes to completely remote learning was difficult for students, faculty and staff.
    • Looking ahead, he said testing has already increased and will continue to do so going forward. He said everything possible will be done to maintain in-person teaching throughout the spring for classes that begin in person. 
    • “We have a responsibility to deliver and provide a quality educational experience for our students and that’s what we will do,” he said.
  • Interim Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Nate Knuffman and Menghini gave updates on the budget and its implications.
    • Knuffman said the University has three main budgetary issues: 
    • 1. A structural deficit that is projected to be $100 million this year, which existed before the pandemic but is being worsened by it.
    • 2. COVID-19 revenue loss that is approaching $200 million this fiscal year.
    • 3. An estimated $850 million in deferred maintenance — located mainly in academic buildings.
    • While answering frequently asked questions, Knuffman said the reason UNC’s endowment cannot be used to address the University’s fiscal situation is that most of the endowment is restricted for certain uses, like funding professorships or scholarships.
  • Professors Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld and Mitch Prinstein updated the council on a recent student survey, in which 67.8 percent of respondents were undergraduates. 
    • The main hardships identified by the student respondents included mental health, academic struggles, finances and physical health. 
    • Respondents said flexibility from professors was helpful, but that they were struggling with Zoom fatigue and feeling isolated.
  • Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson updated the council on a similar parent survey.
    • The majority of the respondents to this survey favored in-person instruction in the spring with safety precautions and online options, as well as re-entry and ongoing COVID-19 testing, Johnson said. 
  • Provost Bob Blouin spoke to the council about UNC’s spring plan, which includes fewer students living in residence halls, single-occupancy rooms only in residence halls, increased testing, quarantine and isolation availability and efforts to make students in quarantine and isolation feel more supported.
  • Dr. Amir Barzin and professor of epidemiology Audrey Pettifor gave updates on what COVID-19 testing will look like in the spring. They said they expect to have the capacity to test up to 7,000 samples per day. Students will likely also be able to volunteer to help at testing locations and provide isolation and quarantine support.

Who is on the council?

  • The Faculty Council is an elected body that has members from the libraries and each school on campus.

What’s next?

  • The council will hold its next meeting remotely on Dec. 4.

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