Evely Forte: I’m Evely Forte from the Daily Tar Heel, and this is Heel Talk.
The UNC Men’s Basketball team beat Duke on March 6th at the Dean E. Smith Center — with fans cheering on the Tar Heels in person for the second time this basketball season.
Today, I’m joined by DTH Sports Senior Writer and former Sports Editor Brian Keyes to discuss the Duke game outcome and the opportunities for fans to attend in-person sporting events moving forward.
So welcome to Heel Talk, Brian. Happy to have you on the show with us here today.
Brian Keyes: Of course. Happy to be here.
EF: So yeah. Thank you for being here, Brian. I wanted to bring you on here really to talk about the Duke game. We know that UNC beat Duke on Saturday, but to get us started, um, could you really share with us if there were any standout players from the game, from your perspective as you covered the game on Saturday?
BK: Yeah. So what was notable about Saturday's game was that a lot of times UNC has had one or two players play well, and the rest of the team, you know, be kind of up and down. This game, actually, it seemed like a lot of players had it going. Three different players scored 18 points, Kerwin Walton, Kayla glove, and Armando Bacot. Garrison Brooks in his last game in the Dean Smith Center scored 14 points. Those were the four guys to all score in double digits and all of them shot 50% from the floor or better. So offensively, at least it was really stand out for the team as an entire effort.
EF: Gotcha. So what does the performance, Brian, of each team mean for the rest of the season as they look ahead to the coming months, really?
BK: Yeah. So in the immediate aftermath, what it means is that UNC is now the sixth seed in the ACC tournament. They’ll play their first game on March 10th cause they start in the second round, and that's just, you know, they get a slightly easier match up then. If they've lost, they would have been the seventh seed. In the longer grand scheme of things. What it means is that it has basically cemented their position as a lower seed NCAA tournament team. By winning and winning in such a dominant fashion. It probably locks up that UNC is going to be in the tournament almost for sure, but you know, probably a lower seed than what most UNC fans are used to.
EF: Interesting. And so, you know, that this was the first UNC Duke game that the season right, that fans were allowed to attend in person, but this was the last regular season game, and so as we look forward to the rest of the spring season for other sports, will there be opportunities for fans to attend sporting events moving forward?
BK: Yeah. So after, uh, North Carolina, governor Roy Cooper gave his sort of latest update in the stage of recovery, I guess, that North Carolina is on, they changed the rules for fans and just attendance in general, large arenas. That's why people were able to attend the last two home games for UNC because they were finally allowing people to go to indoor stuff. That decision led UNC to make the move to sell tickets for the remaining spring sports, so they announced that now fans can purchase tickets to the following sports and that's field hockey, baseball, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, softball, volleyball, gymnastics, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf, and rowing. In the past for olympic sports, UNC students could just flash their OneCard and walk in to basically anything as long as there were seats, but now you do actually have to pay for a ticket in what I assume is an effort to control the number of people who are coming in and out of these things, because there are still pretty strict capacity requirements.
EF: Yeah. And I did want to ask about those sorts of requirements and I guess, limitations that are being imposed on these sort of sporting events to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Do we know Brian, what other sorts of protocol is in place for these sorts of in-person attendance games?
BK: Yeah. So currently the limit for outdoor venues, which is almost every sport that's being offered right now, besides volleyball and gymnastics, I believe. Tennis is also sometimes indoor. But all the outdoor arenas are essentially limiting capacity at 30%. And for indoor arenas, if you buy tickets, it's at 15% capacity.
EF: Okay. And also, Brian, you mentioned earlier that students would have the opportunity to purchase tickets to these games, which is different than pre COVID-19 times of when students could show their one card and, and gain admission that way. Are students, the only types of fans that are going to be allowed to attend these sporting events in person for this semester, at least.
BK: Uh, no. So it looks like the tickets are available to purchase for anyone.
BK: That was one thing that was notable about the last two men's basketball games was that there was, uh, 3,200 tickets, total and 75% of those were reserved for students. And you didn't have to buy those, you just entered into a lottery like normal. But it seems like for sort of the remaining slate of everything, it's just kind of, you know, first come first serve.
EF: Got it. Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Well, thank you so much, Brian. Those are all the questions I had for you. Appreciate you being here today.
BK: Yeah, of course happy to be on anytime.
EF: Next, we’re going to talk about University updates regarding spring commencement, vaccine rollout and fall classes with University Desk Editor Maddie Ellis. But first a word from our sponsor.
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So now university desk editor, Maddie Ellis is here to talk about updates regarding spring commencement, the vaccine rollout and fall classes for fall 2021 cannot believe that is a thing.
But yeah, so welcome to Heel Talk, Maddie, happy to have you on here, again. Lots of university updates that we've had these past few weeks. But yeah, thank you so much for being here today.
Maddie Ellis: Thank you so much for having me.
EF: Awesome. So let's get started. Maddie. I definitely want to talk about spring commencement for the class of 2021, which I know has you know, received a lot of attention these past few days since the announcement of the university came out regarding the commencement in person plans. And so is this going to be one ceremony or will there be various ceremonies taking place for the class of 2021?
ME: Yeah. So it's going to be spread out over three days, and it's still going to be in Kenan stadium. It will be separated by department or school. So let's say you're in the journalism school, you will be graduating with your fellow, with your colleagues in the Hussman school, or if you're in the college of arts and sciences, it'll be separated by department or major.
ME: So you will be with your classmates. Um, it's spread out over three days, May 14th, 15th and 16th, in the stadium. It will also be live-streamed, so I think something that we've tried to emphasize is, the university announced that yes, there will be an in-person commencement ceremony, but it's optional. You have an option to attend or not. It will be live-streamed.
ME: And then I think something that raised a lot of eyebrows and got people pretty excited is they announced that the commencement speakers would be Dr. Anthony Fauci and Kizzmekia Corbett, who is a UNC graduate and one of the lead researchers in the development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
So I know the town of Chapel Hill has honored her in various ways because she's from Orange County, so it's really exciting to hear that she'll be speaking. And they will be speak to like anticipate questions. They will be speaking virtually.
EF: I was going to ask.
ME: It'll be a virtual speaking engagement. They will not, no. I'm so sorry, Class of 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci will not be at Kenan Stadium talking to you. It will be a video. But nonetheless super exciting.
EF: Yeah, for sure. And have we in our reporting reached out to health experts and kind of gotten their perspective and take as far as the safety of these plans for commencement this semester?
ME: Yeah. So we haven't yet individually, like, as reported, reaching out to these scientists about their thoughts on this plan. But when the chancellor announced it, he emphasized that these plans were made in development with the Orange County health department, the university's experts, their COVID-19 response team. He emphasized that this was all based on their guidance. And then some of the precautions that will be in place for the ceremonies are so graduates can only have two guests. They can only bring two people and they have to register in advance. And I imagine, I imagine it would be similar to how the basketball games have been going, where it's kind of the two people, the two guests would be kind of sequestered in their own little pod in the stadium.
But then another thing is they will not be doing the procession because processing into Kenan stadium would violate. It would be very hard to do that from 6 feet apart, so that is not happening. That's one of those other details about how things are going to look really different this commencement ceremony.
EF: No, definitely. And at least from what I've seen on social media, it seems like the class of 2020 has been very vocal about these commencement plans. And at least again, from what I've read on social media, some class of 2020 graduates seem to feel forgotten, right. Or left behind. And so do we know anything about a make-up commencement ceremony for the class of 2020? I know that's something that the university has mentioned was in the works or at least an idea, if not for this semester for the fall, but I wanted to ask you directly if we have any updates on that end as far as the makeup commencement goes for the class of 2020.
Yes. So the class of 2021 found out about the ceremonies on Thursday in a campus email and the Wednesday, so the day before, the class of 2020 received an email from the chancellor saying that there would be a reunion weekend, October 9th and 10th. And the details were pretty vague. It was very uncertain what that reunion weekend would entail. So they, so a lot of people took to social media to say like, “what is a reunion that does not make up for commencement at all? What could that possibly entail?” So already there was some frustration about that. And then hearing that the class of 2021 would be having a commencement, that just stirred up a lot of, um, a lot of anger, frankly. There was, uh, there was a petition made Thursday calling for the class of 2020 to be able to have an in-person ceremony at Kenan stadium.
So that was made Thursday. It was a very short chain of events where all this happened, but I'm happy to report that the chancellor later announced in an email to the class of 2020 Friday, so the next, very next day after the class of 2021, that this reunion weekend would be both a reunion weekend and a commencement weekend. So there would be signature activities. It's centered on the weekend of the UNC versus Florida State football game, so there'll be events around that. And then in the email, they also include events such as the bell tower climb, and then, as the university put it, a tassel turning ceremony like no other on October 10th in Kenan Stadium.
So as of now, we're still waiting to talk with members of the class of 2020 to get their thoughts on where things stand. But as of Friday, they are having an in-person ceremony. It'll just be an October.
EF: Gotcha. And as we look to October and the fall 2021 semester for undergraduate students I know that the fall 2021 calendar was released and the schedule looks to par with previous semesters, when classes were held in person before the COVID 19 pandemic. Has the university announced, Maddie, if all students would be expected to return to campus, come this fall?
ME: So what we know about the fall right now, and I'm sure we'll get more details in the coming weeks at various meetings, and we'll make sure to stay on top of it, but what the chancellor announced Friday is that it'll be definitely more, more normal. And the goal is to return fully to in-person instruction.
But there will still be safety precautions in place, such as the COVID-19 community standards, likely mask wearing, the Carolina Together testing program, they say, will most likely remain in place. So I'm glad students are getting adjusted to it cause it doesn't look like it's going anywhere. Carolina housing does intend to have more people on campus. They aim for residence halls to be operating at near normal capacity. So right now I think it's safe to say the university is planning for something, a lot more people on campus, just again with those precautions that we've seen over the fall and spring.
EF: No, definitely. And do you know, Maddie, if some sort of online class component will be offered to, I don't know, potentially students who can't return to campus? I guess my question really is, has the university anticipated if it would need to offer some form of like hybrid or online class component for undergraduate students, for example?
ME: That is a good question.
And that's definitely something we'll keep asking as these plans develop. But right now, what we have in this email from Chancellor Guskiewicz the provost is that they aim for most classes to be in-person.
ME: And so I think they sent this email so that students can kind of anticipate what to expect, and this is what their goal is.
EF: And I guess just to transition here briefly I did want to ask you, Maddie, about the vaccine rollout plan of the university. And I know, you know, some friends and students that I know of here in Chapel Hill have already been eligible to receive the vaccine, but I wanted to ask you specifically, do we know which sorts of campus community members are eligible to receive the vaccine at this point?
ME: We do. So, now that North Carolina moved up. So before group three was kind of split and the start time that people in group three, mainly frontline workers, is actually going to be a little later in March. But now we are officially in that phase of group three, everyone in group three is now eligible to get vaccinated.
And there are actually a lot of students who qualify for group three. A lot of my friends are already getting vaccinated if they hadn't been already. So basically frontline essential workers include faculty working in person. It also includes work students working in labs, work study students with in-person elements, basically anyone teaching or researching or working or being paid by the university in some in-person capacity is now being, is now eligible to get vaccinated. And I believe this also includes volunteers. So students involved in the Carolina Together Service Corps program, who are volunteering. Those are the students you likely see scanning your bar code or giving your testing materials. I believe those students are now considered frontline essential workers and eligible to get vaccinated as well. We reported back in January that most students likely wouldn't be able to get vaccinated anytime soon, because in general, like the general college student, whether you're taking classes in person or taking classes online, you're considered, you're group five, which is just the general body population.
EF: Well yeah, so thank you so much, Maddie. Those were all the questions I had for you. I really appreciate you being on here as always. But yes, Maddie Ellis, everyone.
ME: Thank you so much. Thank you.
EF: That’s it for this week’s episode of Heel Talk, sponsored by Tar Heel Verses and the UNC English Department. Here’s Jonesy Wilbanks, a sophomore from Richmond, Virginia, reading her poem about motherhood.
Jonesy Wilbanks: How To Cry
My mom talks about how she used to cry
When she took me to the pediatrician.
After handing me over to the nurse,
I would shriek in despair as the familiar
Comfort of her warm embrace
Upon my delicate newborn skin
Was replaced with an unfamiliar touch
Of the frigid metal baby scale.
She would sit on the maroon chair
Located in the left corner of the
Examination room that smelled
Strongly of sanitation spray,
After nurturing me for nine-months,
My life became her life,
My sadness became her sadness,
My tears became her tears.
Eighteen years later,
Sitting in the examination room
For my final pediatrician check-up,
The shrieking of newborn babies
Longing for the comfort of their mothers
Echoed through the door.
Staring at her little girl
Who was now grown up,
My mother sat one last time on
The maroon chair in the left corner,
EF: This podcast episode is hosted by Evely Forte and produced by Praveena Somasundaram. Supervising producers are University Desk Editor Maddie Ellis, Digital Managing Editor Will Melfi, and Editor-in-Chief Anna Pogarcic.
So if you enjoyed today’s episode, please consider subscribing, rating, and reviewing the episode, and sharing it with someone that you think would enjoy it too. I’ll see you next time.
Episode hosted by Evely Forte and produced by Praveena Somasundaram. Supervising producers are University Desk Editor Maddie Ellis, Digital Managing Editor Will Melfi and Editor-in-Chief Anna Pogarcic.
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