The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 21st

Students express mixed feelings about UNC's fall 2021 reopening plans

Jason Kennedy, a first year computer science major, poses on the steps of Murphey on Thursday Mar. 11 2021.
Buy Photos Jason Kennedy, a first year computer science major, poses on the steps of Murphey on Thursday Mar. 11 2021.

The University is planning "a more typical residential academic experience at Carolina" for the fall 2021 semester, according to a March 5 email from Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin. 

Guskiewicz said in the email that the University hopes to return to full in-person instruction as well as near-normal capacity in the residence halls.

Many students, especially first-years like Jason Kennedy, are excited to see what a more normal semester of college looks like.

Kennedy, who is living on campus, said he has enjoyed meeting other students during the in-person classes he has taken this semester. Kennedy said he is looking forward to a fall semester where that can continue.

“I can't wait to be in a suite with a bunch of people because right now, my suite is just me and one suitemate,” Kennedy said. “I'm looking forward to playing intramural sports and having more in-person classes just so I can meet a lot more people.”

But other students are more apprehensive about what a “normal” semester will mean, especially since uncertainty remains as to when the general public will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccination. 

Junior Holly Koeval said hearing the University was planning for a primarily in-person fall semester felt like a slap to the face. 

Koeval has an autoimmune disorder that impacts her mobility, and she has remained at home this semester in order to protect her health. 

“I am just incredibly concerned for people who are in a situation like mine, whether it's personal or their family's health,” she said. “It kind of makes me wonder where the University's priorities really are.”

Guskiewicz said in the March 5 email that many of the safety protocols outlined in the University’s COVID-19 Community Standards will likely remain in place, including the Carolina Together Testing Program and potential mask requirements. Residence halls will have increased capacity, but some rooms will still be set aside for quarantine and isolation.

But the message contained no information about whether online classes will still be an option for those unable to or uncomfortable with coming to campus. 

“Personally, I still feel kind of nervous about going to a huge lecture hall, so I think there needs to be a good mix of in-person and remote,” Sneha Pasupula, a first-year who has been at home the entire school year, said. “I feel like it's better to start off by planning more cautiously and then easing restrictions as we find out more about how the vaccine rollout is going to go.”

North Carolina is now allowing the second part of Group 3 to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, and members of Group 4 who have medical conditions that put them at a higher risk will be able to get the vaccine beginning March 17. President Biden said recently that the United States will have enough vaccine supply for all adults by the end of May. 

Pasupula said she will be moving into on-campus housing for the fall semester, but she hopes the dorms will not be at full capacity.

For those who will not be on campus, transportation to classes could pose an added risk.

Latonya Dalton, a nontraditional student expected to graduate in fall 2022, lives with her 23-year-old autistic son in Graham, about half an hour from Chapel Hill by car. Dalton would have to take a substantial bus ride to campus if online options were not offered, further putting her son at risk.

“I love going to school and I love being in person, because trying to study and do my work with my son is kind of a distraction,” Dalton said. “But at the same time, I'll deal with the distraction as long as I can keep myself and my kid safe.”

The University encourages students with health concerns to reach out to the Accessibility Resources & Service office to discuss options and accommodations for the upcoming semester.


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