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Friday June 9th

Faculty Council discusses COVID-19 protocols, approved absences policy

Though virtual learning was a struggle for many students, luxuries like cooking a meal during class will be missed. DTH Photo Illustration.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. During a faculty council meeting on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, Provost Bob Blouin said it is at faculty members’ discretion whether to provide simultaneous Zoom and in-person participation.

 If UNC students did not get tested at Campus Health, they should report positive results in order to get a University Approved Absence document, Dean of Students Desirée Rieckenberg said at Friday’s Faculty Council meeting.

She said about 2,000 total University Approved Absences have been submitted since the start of the semester.

At Friday’s meeting, Faculty Council members also discussed COVID-19 protocols and hybrid learning options.

Blouin's last council meeting

Friday's Faculty Council meeting was Bob Blouin’s last as acting provost and executive vice chancellor before his recently appointed replacement Chris Clemens begins the role.

In his meeting remarks, Blouin said he hopes faculty can be more trusting and supportive of the administration and find a way to better work with the University’s governing boards.

“We make decisions at the administrative level – our deans, our provost, our chancellor, along with our governing boards – for an attempt to do what is right at that moment,” Blouin said. “These are very complex decisions. And I would hope that even when individuals disagree with those decisions, that it doesn't erode the trust that is so critical in order for us as a University to move forward together.”

Blouin also thanked Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and other members of UNC's leadership team, and said he remained hopeful about the future of the University.

What’s new?

  • On Thursday, the University announced that the Campaign for Carolina reached its $4.25 billion fundraising goal. Guskiewicz said during his meeting remarks that the remainder of the campaign will focus on more funding for professorships, student scholarships and undergraduate and graduate fellowships.
  • In his presentation on COVID-19 and the omicron variant, Dr. David Weber, associate chief medical officer at UNC Health Care, said the vaccines do have reduced effectiveness against omicron, but that being up-to-date on the vaccination sequence – including a booster shot – is the best way to protect yourself.
    • Weber said that after someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can safely take off their masks around others after 10 days, without worrying about virus transmission, which is in line with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • The CDC currently recommends a five-day isolation for individuals who are asymptomatic or have improving symptoms, as well as for people exposed to the virus.
      • “From day six to day 10 (after a positive test), CDC freely admits that up to 30 percent may be infectious,” Weber said. “Nevertheless, if they really do wear their mask and everyone around them is masked – and the only time they're with other people unmasked is separated by six feet – the chance of transmission is very, very low.”
    • Weber said he is not worried about the risks of transmission in classrooms where everyone is masked.
      • He added that he doesn’t think wearing an N95 mask or a KN95 mask is necessary if you have a well-fitted medical mask or are wearing a gator or cloth mask on top of a medical mask.
      • Weber also said that testing, including getting a test before going to a party or large gathering, is not a prevention strategy.
        • “Masking and vaccines are prevention strategies,” he said. ”Testing may be a strategy for early detection and help with containment, but given the very, very short incubation period for this disease, testing has limited ability to protect people.”
  • Rieckenberg said most students should be able to isolate for five to 10 days based on their symptoms. The University Approved Absence Office will send out extensions for students who need to be absent for longer, she said.
  • “We're really encouraging students and faculty to be able to work closely together,” Rieckeberg said. “And for faculty to recognize you do not need to seek approval from the University Approved Absence Office to approve a student and/or to work with them around making adjustments to assignments, exams, and we really encourage you to be able to do that.”
  • Blouin said it is at faculty members’ discretion whether to provide simultaneous Zoom and in-person participation.
    • “We've been reluctant to say that every class needs to be live streamed and made available synchronously,” he said. “We have been encouraging all faculty to record their classes and make them available asynchronously and, where possible, make them available synchronously. But we do know that not every class is conducive to synchronous delivery.”

Who is on the Faculty Council?

  • The UNC Faculty Council consists of 91 elected voting members with Mimi Chapman serving as the Chairperson of the Faculty. 

What’s next?

  • The council will next meet on Feb. 11, possibly in a hybrid format. 


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