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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Dispatches from the eye of UNC's COVID-19 storm

Students enjoy the outdoors while being social distant at Polk Place on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.

There are storms swirling around UNC as students return to campus for the fall semester. Whether it is the fallout from the tenure inaction for Nikole Hannah-Jones, or the perpetual threat of COVID-19 sending us all home again, this year has ominous energy to it. 

For now, at least, we are standing in the eye of that storm. The dark clouds have not yet penetrated campus. In some ways, there is peace and joy in this moment. We can celebrate moving into dorms, returning to in-person learning and finally seeing our friends after far too long apart. It feels good to have a veneer of a Carolina experience, even if it isn’t perfect. 

The pandemic has taught us to be more appreciative of the little things — the things we once found mundane. Walks to class or running into acquaintances on the quad now have a renewed sense of purpose. This moment of unity is a thing to appreciate.

There will, however, be more storms this year and chaos is inevitable. Kevin Guskiewicz will issue an ignorant statement, fraternity parties will be the source of COVID-19 clusters and we will all feel that perpetual sense of uncertainty. 

That sentiment is undoubtedly anxiety-inducing, but if we are honest with ourselves, what is UNC without chaos? 

Seniors are now the only class of students to have seen a full year on campus, but we know their first year wasn’t smooth sailing either. Between Silent Sam coming down the day before FDOC, two literal hurricanes and a water catastrophe, it would seem even in the “normal times” this university is subject to utter pandemonium. So, here we go again, into the storm. 

The COVID-19 cloud is already poised to become a full-fledged natural disaster before we know it. Classes have barely begun and as of Aug. 16, UNC already has 115 cases. There will be more, which we know because the UNC administration has admitted as much.

The administration is also giving us mixed messages about what’s safe. We will be masked and socially distant indoors during classes, but we are still allowed to share our bodily fluids all over the spigot of the Old Well for the sake of tradition. 

There’s also so much about this fall semester we still don’t know because the news around the virus changes every day. UNC’s ambiguity is further disorienting students and contributing to the nationwide pandemic exhaustion. 

Confusion around this school year casts further doubt on if this administration is competent enough to navigate the pandemic. While their messaging says they understand the severity of this public health problem, they often seem more concerned with maintaining a good public image and securing a check. 

Tropical storms begin with a cluster of thunderstorms, each one its own looming destruction. As the storm grows, it needs to take in more air and uses the energy of the other storms to get stronger and stronger. The storm clouds surrounding our university are gaining energy and building on one another. But for now, we can find refuge in sitting in the eye of that storm. 

The way we make it through this disaster-prone year is by acknowledging the turbulence around us and finding peace in the everyday. Surges will come and we will be swept into the brunt of the university’s debauchery because this storm is too big to contain. But when you feel overwhelmed by the power it has over you, let your peers be the centrifugal force to bring you back to the center.  

Rather than constantly going from one thing to the next, grant yourself grace and simply just be. Be cognizant of mayhem around, but take solace in the fact that we are in this together. We will stay calm in the eye of the storm because we have one another.  


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