Students gather in the Pit, picnics and frisbee games fill the quads and lecture halls are packed with students as some squeeze in and make seats for themselves in the aisles or on the floor.
After over a year of modified class instruction modes and social distancing, UNC's campus is operating under near pre-pandemic conditions. But for 500 faculty and staff members, this return to in-person instruction has been the cause of serious concern and confusion.
Those faculty and staff members have signed a petition to move classes online for the first four to six weeks of the fall semester.
Titled “The Risks are Too High,” the open letter expressed concern surrounding the recent increase in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant, along with the University’s lack of planning for an off-ramp option without a vaccine mandate or enforcing physical distancing on campus.
“I am appalled at the lack of planning for this semester," former sociology professor and petition signee Sherryl Kleinman said in a statement. "The delta variant clearly puts students, staff, faculty and surrounding communities at risk. With ICUs filling, people with serious illnesses that aren’t COVID-related will have trouble finding beds."
Kleinman added that the chancellor has an ethical obligation to mandate vaccinations and move classes to remote teaching to give everyone time to get vaccinated.
According to UNC Media Relations Manager Carly Miller, as of Friday, 88 percent of students have submitted proof of vaccination. That number is also reflected on UNC's COVID-19 dashboard as of Tuesday.
“The University has layers of safety precautions in place – primarily focused on vaccines, testing and masks – to limit the spread on our campus,” Miller said in an email. “All of our students and staff will be vaccinated or tested, and everyone will be wearing a mask indoors.”
During a Campus and Community Advisory Committee meeting on Aug. 11, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said the University has no intention of moving to remote instruction.