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UNC System not planning to require COVID-19 vaccines for students returning this fall

Vaccines, diversity, financial aid and more were on the table at Friday's Faculty Council meeting.

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Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman speaks during a virtual meeting of the Faculty Council on Friday, April 16, 2021.

The UNC System is not planning to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for returning students, Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman said at Friday's Faculty Council meeting.

Chapman said there has been no specific public health guidance for requiring vaccines, and the System — as a state entity — does not believe it has the legal authority to do so. Current laws define which vaccines may be mandatory, and she said amending those laws would take too long.

Additionally, Chapman said there is concern that enrollment in System schools will decrease and “vaccine hesitancy” will rise if vaccinations become a requirement. But she said the Faculty Executive Committee will regularly meet over the summer and closely monitor the issue. 

“Certainly as more and more campuses across the country move to require vaccines, and new guidance comes out, this conversation may change,” Chapman said. “But that is what the position is at the moment.” 

Chapman said she strongly encourages all eligible people to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. 

Provost Bob Blouin said UNC has vaccinated over 3,200 students through the Carolina Student Vaccination Clinic. The clinic began administering the Moderna vaccine on Friday after it stopped using the Johnson & Johnson shot due to concerns about possible side effects

‘A fraught time’

Aside from the pandemic, Chapman said she wanted to acknowledge the “fraught time” brought on by recent events and how they have affected particular communities on campus. 

“The violence just keeps coming, particularly toward Black men,” Chapman said. “... In the midst of this comes the news that legislatures across the country — including our own — are taking aim against people who are transgender.” 

Kia Caldwell, a professor in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, said she would like UNC leadership to recognize that recent racial violence has impacted both students and faculty.  

“People can’t be productive when we’re also traumatized and our communities are under assault,” Caldwell said. “It’s not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic of violence in our country.” 

The council unanimously approved a resolution, put forth by Chapman, “on supporting a safe and inclusive campus.” 

The full resolution can be read here

Diversity and financial aid 

Donald Hornstein, chairperson of the Scholarships, Awards and Student Aid Committee, and Rumay Alexander, chairperson of the Committee on Community and Diversity, issued a joint report due to the overlap between financial aid and diversity on campus. 

Hornstein said getting rid of need-based financial aid would lead to a decrease in academic excellence — as well as first-generation college students, rural North Carolinians and underrepresented minorities attending the University. 

“If you cut need-based financial aid, it is not like we are shooting ourselves in the foot,” Hornstein said. “We are getting rid of some of the meritorious students that we all benefit from.” 

Alexander said that in 2019, 41 percent of minority students received and depended on need-based aid. She said she agreed that cutting such assistance would lead to a decline of representation on campus. 

“We all know that talent and innovation does not have a gender, race, ethnicity or economic status,” Alexander said. “So, we lose out in terms of what we contribute to the state, the country and to the world.” 

Hornstein said recent data has shown that the number of underrepresented minorities on campus who depend on financial aid is increasing. He said future need-based aid will require greater funding — not less — especially due to the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on African Americans and Hispanics. 

“At the beginning of your meeting, you adopted a policy celebrating having an inclusive campus,” Hornstein said. “You will not have an inclusive campus if our financial aid policy effectively excludes. It’ll take far more than just resolutions.” 

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New secretary of the faculty 

The Faculty Council voted to elect Jill Moore, associate professor of public law and government, as the new secretary of the faculty. 

“This is quite historic,” Chapman said. “We’ve never had a woman in this role.” 

Suzanne Gulledge, chairperson of the Advisory Committee, announced the nomination of Moore to fill the position. Gulledge said Moore has been a part of the UNC community since 1967 and has shown a strong commitment to upholding equity and inclusion. 

Current Secretary of the Faculty Vin Steponaitis said he is personally delighted with the Advisory Committee’s choice and looks forward to working closely with Moore over the coming months. She will take office on July 1. 

Other topics of discussion

Caldwell and Erin Malloy, lead principal investigator for TEAM Advance, gave a presentation on the results of a recent faculty mentoring climate survey regarding participation in the program. TEAM Advance is geared toward providing faculty mentors with training related to incorporating intersectionality, gender and racial inequities, Malloy said. 

Elizabeth Dickinson and Misha Becker, chairpersons of the Status of Women Committee, shared a presentation addressing gender and racial inequities on campus. Dickinson said UNC faculty that self-identify as men make 20 percent more than those who self-identify as women, with that number increasing to 28 percent with the inclusion of the medical and dental schools. 

Becker added that, as opposed to white faculty, faculty of color are also less likely to hold tenure, less likely to hold a full professor rank and have spent fewer years in their current positions. 

Two ceremonial resolutions were also mentioned, honoring Shayna Hill, chairperson of the Employee Forum, and Steponaitis. 

Friday’s Faculty Council meeting marked the last of the 2020-21 academic year.