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The Daily Tar Heel

FEC discusses masks, BOT relations and UNC's racial history at Monday meeting


Masks lie at the entrance to Wilson Library on Jan. 9, 2022. 

Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman has extended invitations to UNC trustees to attend Faculty Executive Committee and Faculty Council meetings, but has been met with no response, she said at an FEC meeting Monday.

The committee discussed communicating with the Board of Trustees, as well as COVID-19 updates and the University's relationship with its history during the Monday meeting.

What’s new?

  • FEC members proposed ways to better the relationship and communication between the committee and the BOT.
    • Committee members Misha Becker and Meg Zomorodi both suggested extending another invitation to the BOT, as new members are being added to University governance positions.
    • “We have an incoming new student body president. We have a new provost. We have new things happening,” Zomorodi said. “Can we have a conversation inviting them to calibrate everyone? If the goal is focused on calibration and clarity, and that’s the purpose, would that be more inviting?”
  • Ronald Strauss, UNC’s executive vice provost, and Dr. David Wohl, a professor in the UNC School of Medicine, spoke about COVID-19 as the University lifted its indoor mask mandate on Monday.
    • Along with dropping the mask mandate, on-campus testing will be reduced to three days a week beginning March 14, according to a campus-wide email sent last Wednesday. 
      • “The most important message that I’ve been hoping to get out is that though the required masking will go away, I will be very happy to see lots of people going around our campus choosing to be masked,” Strauss said.
    • The new COVID-19 subvariant, BA.2, will continue to be monitored, Strauss said.
    • Though COVID-19 data will continue to be monitored, case numbers will not be as accurate as they once were, due to the increase in at-home testing. The lack of reported cases could change the way numbers look, Wohl said.
      • “So, what do we do now that we’re on the down swing and we’re exhausted as a population and exhausted as a campus and as a University?” he said. “Do we throw the crutches down and just say that we’re done and it’s all over, or do we take a very measured approach?"
    • As many students begin to attend in-person classes without a mask, UNC data will continue to be gathered throughout the upcoming weeks, Strauss said.
      • “Together as a community, we’re going to navigate this with as much access to good science as possible and with all of the positivity of building our campus as a community,” Strauss said. 
  • The committee allowed time for open discussion at the end of the meeting, where members were invited to discuss UNC updates and news. UNC Professor Sue Estroff brought up the ongoing situation between the University and photographer Cornell Watson’s "Tarred Healing" photo story.
    • The project's photos focus on spaces of Black history and memory at UNC and in Chapel Hill. It was originally going to be displayed in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black History and Culture, but was subsequently canceled.
    • “At a minimum, it’s a perception problem that stacks on top of other things that play into that same space,” Rumay Alexander, a clinical professor in the School of Nursing, said.
    • UNC’s racial history and situations like those with the Tarred Healing exhibit could turn both current and future faculty members from underrepresented communities away from the University, Alexander said.
      • “This is a huge, smoldering ember, shall I say,” she said.  I’m not even sure it’s a smoldering ember, it may be a full blown blaze.”

What’s next?

  • The next FEC meeting will be held virtually on March 21 from 3 to 5 p.m.


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