The pandemic has challenged University policies from every angle, and the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant before the spring semester highlights the failures of these policies – and the administration that crafts them.
The omicron variant is known for being far more contagious than the delta variant – which the University attempted to grapple with last semester. It has a reinfection rate that is 10 times higher than the delta variant.
In the wake of a public health emergency, UNC policies have only become more relaxed, indicating a false sense of security where urgent action is needed.
Instead of reassessing its decision to return to in-person learning, the University is filling the Dean Dome to capacity. Instead of testing being expanded, it is restricted, with safety nets such as isolation housing ripped out from under us.
UNC cannot have its cake and eat it too.
The University cannot make the choice to continue on the path of in-person learning and on-campus living without taking all necessary precautions to preserve the health and safety of the community.
The most glaring policy issue is that UNC still refuses to institute a vaccine requirement, even after other universities have proven that it is possible.
Meanwhile, appointments for COVID-19 tests are few and far between, with the Student Union testing center closed on weekends. Vaccinated students remain exempt from testing requirements, despite the known contagion risks brought by omicron.
Say you’re able to get tested and test positive. Now what?
The biggest change from last semester is for students living on campus, who no longer have access to isolation dorms. Now, the Carolina Together website asks students who test positive to return home or stay in their assigned residence hall rooms unless absolutely necessary.
There are no systems in place to deliver meals or other items to students isolated in their dorms. Thus, UNC has no way to ensure that students infected with COVID-19 can safely isolate themselves and prevent the spread of the virus to their peers through shared facilities.
With no safety nets in place, UNC only makes matters worse as it allows basketball games to remain at full capacity, and facilities like Campus Recreation reduce cleaning periods and scheduling requirements.
Even where policies were made to address the rising number of cases, enforcement is sorely lacking. Students living on campus were asked to upload negative PCR test results three days before returning to campus. PCR tests take several days to produce results, and the University did not let students move into dorms until less than 48 hours before FDOC.
The webpage that was sent out to students and was supposed to provide more information on this requirement? As of the day residence halls reopened, it doesn’t exist.
With limited time and the scarcity of COVID-19 tests, the University leaves students between a rock and a hard place, with little on-campus testing availability and no other options for students unable to get tested before arrival. Meanwhile, students can move in with no repercussions if they fail to fulfill this requirement.
Classes, many of which remain in-person and at pre-COVID capacities, begin tomorrow. Resources for students are dwindling, and the University has failed to implement every policy tool made available to it: a two-week virtual delay, a vaccine mandate and safety nets for infected students.
UNC administration cannot be the master of both worlds, although it may try, because there is only one right course of action – the one that protects students, faculty and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro communities we reside within.
Anything else is negligent.
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