Students identified violating COVID-19 Community Standards in videos shared by the “Where y’all goin” Instagram account could face serious disciplinary consequences, University and Town officials say.
The Instagram account @whereyallgoin_unc was started in August by a UNC senior, who requested to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.
As on-campus cluster count and students' collective anxiety rose in the fall, the administrator, inundated privately with videos of people gathering in large numbers, decided to take things public.
“I was like, ‘It's clear that the University isn't enforcing this, but people keep taking pictures and sending them to me,’" the administrator said. "'We should just post them just to give more substance to the claims that every student's making.'”
The administrator said their account presence and submission frequency grew in January as students moved back to Chapel Hill in hopes of an in-person semester.
Undergraduate Vice President of UNC Student Government Preeyanka Rao said she sent information about the account to Amy Johnson, vice chancellor for student affairs, on Jan. 27.
“One of the issues that the University has been facing in terms of holding students accountable is that if they don't have evidence of the student that's reported actually violating said guidelines, it's very hard for them to actually enforce the community guidelines,” Rao said. “So they really value it when they have names, when they have videos and when they have clear evidence of community guidelines being violated.”
University Media Relations clarified that other members of the administration, including Johnson, were made aware of the account by multiple sources, but declined to name the sources.
Johnson released a statement on Jan. 29, reminding students about the community standards they agreed to at the beginning of the semester and reiterating the consequences for violating them — such as removal from on-campus housing and/or disenrollment from the University.
In a Feb 2. statement to The Daily Tar Heel, Johnson said the University has received several reports that include or reference Instagram videos, but said UNC does not actively monitor social media.
"We do not endorse social media as the place to report alleged violations of our community standards," Johnson said in the statement. "Furthermore, although we understand and support students’ desire to hold each other accountable to our standards, we are extremely concerned about some responses that involved hostile or threatening language to those students alleged to be in the video. "
The Office of Student Conduct is investigating the actions of several of the students who allegedly appear in the videos, but will weigh video evidence for credibility and accuracy, Johnson said in the statement.
On Jan. 28, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz mentioned the videos in a media availability. He said there are a number of students currently in the judicial process who may face consequences as severe as disenrollment for the spring semester.
“We learned a lot from last semester and our division of Student Affairs is working closely with many organizations on campus, including Greek life, to be sure that everyone is adhering to the COVID-19 community standards,” Guskiewicz said. “Our UNC-Chapel Hill Police Department, they are working closely with the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Police Departments to patrol in the evenings, most specifically on the weekends, to try to enforce those standards.”
In a typical week, the "Where y’all goin?" administrator said, the account will receive a couple weekday submissions. On a weekend it might receive four or more, they said.
According to the Carolina Together website, the University received 456 reports of Community Standards violations in the third quarter of last year, from August 1 to October 31.
Of these reports, 324 resulted in developmental actions — which include written warnings, educational interventions, activity restrictions and probation — and 56 of the reports resulted in removal from Carolina Housing. 60 cases were dismissed for insufficient information or no violation.
UNC Media Relations wrote in an email that an updated report on violations for the next quarter is expected to be released later this month.
UNC Faculty Chairperson Mimi Chapman said although she understands the allure of submitting content to the “Where y’all goin?” Instagram account, she would prefer students report violations through more official routes.
“I think the better thing for people to do is to use the University's reporting protocols to report that to the people that need to know about it, and giving dates and times and places and doing that in as close to real-time as possible,” she said.
Johnson said she encourages students who spot violations off campus to immediately call the police and to refer behavior to Student Conduct.
As of Thursday, Chapel Hill’s Police Department had investigated 166 possible COVID-19 policy violations that resulted in follow-up since July 18, 2020.
Students who are found in violation of North Carolina or Orange County’s COVID-19 emergency declarations could be charged with Class 2 misdemeanors, which are punishable by fines as high as $1,000 and up to 60 days in jail for repeat offenders, Ran Northam, the interim communications manager for the Town of Chapel Hill, said.
“The law would be the same regardless of you being a UNC student or not,” Northam said. “The only thing that’s additional, which is not a guarantee, that your name might be presented to the University if it’s determined that you are a UNC student.”
In a later comment, Northam clarified that all student violators are reviewed at CHPD's weekly meeting with UNC and Orange County Health Department officials.
In the account’s direct messages, the divide in student opinion is clear — some students send the administrator death threats, but most send words of praise. The administrator said they’re thankful for the support, but what they really want is something from UNC itself — follow through.
“UNC did not reach out to me directly,” the administrator said. “That being said, they said that they have seen particular videos on the Instagram page. That's not like a promise that Kevin G. has scrolled through my account, but I don't think it needs to be.”
In-person instruction is scheduled to begin on Feb. 8. Even as videos of students partying and breaking community standards are shared across the student body, Rao is optimistic that the semester will be able to continue with limited in-person classes.
“At the end of the day, we can't control every individual's behavior,” she said. “And I do think it's a small subset of students, in fact, who are kind of blatantly breaking these guidelines. I have faith in the Carolina community in terms of really wanting to ensure that you're following the community guidelines and making sure that the semester is a good semester for everyone, but I don't think we're ever going to get 100 percent compliance.”
Arts & Culture Assistant Editor Madison Ward contributed reporting.
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