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Friday April 23rd

Faculty Advisory Committee discusses spring commencement and next fall semester

Screenshot from the Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
Buy Photos Screenshot from the Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.

The Faculty Advisory Committee met on Feb. 25 where members announced preliminary plans for an in-person spring commencement. 

The committee also discussed plans for the fall 2021 semester and COVID-19 vaccine distribution. 

What’s new?

  • Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said plans are in the works for an in-person spring commencement ceremony. 
    • Guskiewicz said he has been consulting with the Orange County Health Department about holding a series of limited capacity ceremonies.
      • “Over the course of that weekend there would probably be four or five separate ceremonies,” he said. “All events would also be live-streamed for those who don’t feel comfortable attending in-person.”
    • Clinical Professor of Public Health and committee member Rohit Ramaswamy said he was concerned that a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 would make in-person graduation an irresponsible choice. 
      • “If we advertise a face-to-face graduation ceremony and then later on, we are forced to cancel or do something online, does it cause greater stress and greater dissatisfaction?” Ramasway said.
    • To address his concern, Guskiewicz said any official plans will be contingent upon the pandemic’s status. 
      • “We have continued to provide flexibility, options and choices for our faculty, our students and our staff throughout these last 11 months,” he said. “We'll do the same thing as we think about commencement.”
    • Guskiewicz said he will announce official plans within the next two weeks. 
  • Guskiewicz also updated the committee on plans for the fall 2021 semester. 
    • Guskiewicz said fall semester plans are still not finalized, but he is optimistic most classes will be in-person.  
      • “ We would likely see a scenario where the vast majority of classes would be taught in person,” said Guskiewicz. “Both students and faculty would likely still be wearing masks in the classroom. We have to continue to work with our infectious disease public health experts to help us put the right protocols in place.”
    • Guskiewicz also said summer 2021 courses will be mostly remote — and the program has seen an increase in enrollment since the switch to online. 
      • “Last summer, the vast majority of classes were taught remotely,” he said. “It went well, we actually had the highest enrollment for summer school we had ever seen.”
    • Suzanne Gulledge, clinical professor at the UNC School of Education and chairperson of the committee, asked if this increase was beneficial to the University. 
      • “Is it actually helping us to have so many students online?” she said. 
    • Guskiewicz said undergraduate enrollment has been relatively steady throughout the pandemic. 
      • Undergraduate enrollment across the country is down 14% nationwide,” he said. “We're very fortunate that ours have only fluctuated a half a percent.”
  • The committee also discussed COVID-19 vaccine distribution for campus employees.
    • Guskiewicz said it is extremely important for campus members to get vaccinated when it is available to them. 
      • “On the 10th of March, vaccine distribution will go live here on campus for our essential workers,” he said.“This is the best way we can all return to a safe campus environment in the fall.”

Who is on the committee?

  • The committee is an elected group of University faculty and staff.
  • Gulledge is the current chairperson of the Committee. 

What’s next?

  • The committee plans to meet again in March. 

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