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Friday September 17th

Lights out: UNC students face power outages on the first day of finals

UNC students walk on an empty campus on March 5, 2021. Students recount their initial reactions to the country shutting down due to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
Buy Photos On Friday May 7, some UNC students experienced power outages interfering with their exams.

After many months of remote learning during a global pandemic, it may seem like the semester couldn’t present more challenges. But on the first day of final exams, some UNC students faced an unexpected problem — a power outage. 

On Friday May 7, over 4,000 Chapel Hill residents experienced power outages from 2-7 p.m. Duke Energy identified the outage on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which is a popular area for off-campus housing. 

Luke Hines, a sophomore economics major, lives off-campus near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He said his exam ended just an hour before the outage. 

“I was very lucky,” he said. “After the final was over, the lights went off for like a split second and then came back on momentarily. But soon after, they went out and stayed off.” 

But some students weren’t as fortunate. Sophomore philosophy major Jolie Koonce was in the middle of a final when the power shut off. 

“It really did cause a lot of stress and anxiety,” she said. “I frantically called my friend and ran over to her place. Thankfully, she had power. But, it was very difficult to deal with during exam time.”

Even though she was able to submit her final, Koonce said she hopes the University accommodates students who weren’t able to turn in their assignments, like by giving them extra time to submit their work or an extra day to finish. 

And finals aren’t all students have on their minds. Hines said the pandemic adds even more stress to the situation for students. 

“During normal times, (losing power) wouldn’t have been an excuse to not study for finals,” he said. “ But because of COVID, not a lot of people feel comfortable going out and finishing their final or studying in public places that offer Wi-Fi.”

One source of difficulty for Hines during the outage was something he took for granted — food. 

“The biggest question I had was, are my groceries going to be an issue?” he said. “I was concerned that they would spoil, which is a lot of money.”

Hines said he wants the University to take these extenuating circumstances into consideration when providing accommodations for students. He also said he hopes all exams that took place on May 7 have a required makeup time. 

Sophomore political science major Aaron Decker said he lost his power in the middle of his exam — but luckily, his professor was accommodating. 

“I sent him an email and he responded really quickly,” Decker said. “He was able to reset the exam as soon as I found access to power.” 

Leslie Minton, associate director of UNC Media Relations, said students who were impacted by the power outage should reach out to their instructors immediately. 

“The University has a policy and process in place to help students who experience emergencies that impact their final exams,” she said. “Any student who will miss a final exam or who needs assistance with their exam schedule should reach out to their instructor as soon as they are able to discuss their situation and outline next steps.” 

For more information on UNC’s final examination policy, click here

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