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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: UNC's missing piece is accountability

Fake Vaccination Card

DTH Photo Illustration. Concern at UNC is growing that some students might be using fake COVID-19 vaccination cards to avoid being tested regularly.

Everything is reappearing on campus — in-person classes, students, Wendy’s spicy nuggets in the Union. But one crucial thing is still missing from campus culture: accountability.

This tweet from Global Health Policy professor Benjamin Mason Meier exposed an alarming truth about UNC students — of those Meier spoke to, all knew how to purchase a fake vaccination card and knew peers who had done so.

This revelation comes after UNC refused to issue a vaccination requirement for students and instead asked them to submit their vaccination status on ConnectCarolina, essentially relying on an honor system. Unvaccinated students will be subject to regular COVID-19 testing.

With such pressure to keep this semester on track, you would think the administration would crack down on fake vaccine cards. Yet, the University has only issued warnings on the subject, choosing to trust that students will not submit fakes. University spokesperson Jeni Cook said in an email that UNC is conducting random weekly audits to verify the vaccination status of students. 

"We have no evidence that indicates students are misrepresenting their vaccination status," Cook wrote. 

North Carolina ranked among the top states where students searched for fake vaccine cards on Twitter, according to WCCB Charlotte. 

In North Carolina, only 0.5% of COVID-19 hospitalizations are of vaccinated individuals, also known as breakthrough cases, according to data from The New York Times as of Aug. 10. The newest rise in severe cases is almost entirely impacting people who have chosen not to get vaccinated.

This is why it is so important that unvaccinated students undergo routine testing and comply with the university's rules regarding COVID-19, even if those rules aren’t very stringent. But, as Meier points out, compliance and accountability are far from reality.

Students who are supposed to be accountable to their peers are lying about their vaccination status to avoid regular testing. That dishonesty is coupled with an administration — which is supposedly accountable to the student body — unwilling to take action against students who harm the wellbeing of others. By solely relying on the honor system, the administration is only serving the interests of dishonest students who blatantly disregard COVID-19 regulations.

The honor system can’t work when students have proved, time and time again, that they do not honor the system.

Some of us rushed Franklin Street at the height of the pandemic. Others attended parties and social events while campus was closed. UNC should have foreseen students avoiding their testing requirements.

This is a chance at a semblance of normalcy, and it’s being disrupted by students and administration that have avoided responsibility at every corner. 

The sad truth remains: there is nothing holding UNC accountable. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that UNC was not currently investigating or enforcing disciplinary action on students with fake vaccination cards. The story was updated to say UNC conducts weekly random audits to verify vaccination status' of students and has no evidence that students are falsifying their status. The Daily Tar Heel apologized for the error. 


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Caitlyn Yaede

Caitlyn Yaede is the 2023-24 print managing editor of The Daily Tar Heel and oversees weekly print production. She previously served as the DTH's opinion editor and summer editor. Caitlyn is a public policy master's student at UNC.