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The tents on the quad have been taken down, evoking mixed reactions from students

Wilson Library behind Outdoor Seating Tent
A large white tent, installed to provide an outdoor and socially-distanced study area for students, fills Polk Place in front of Wilson Library on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. The tents were removed this summer.

They may have been massive — and to some students, an eyesore — but the tents in the quad and surrounding areas on campus provided plenty of shaded and safe outdoor seating during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, students returning to campus this fall will notice that the large white canopies are no longer there.

Six tents were installed on labor day weekend in 2020, and they provided more than 850 additional outdoor seats for students on campus during the pandemic. Provost Chris Clemens previously announced in April that the tents would be taken down following Commencement on May 8.

Stephanie Berrier, Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing for UNC Finance and Operations,  said in a statement that the canopies had been scheduled for removal during the summer and the areas where the tents stood will be restored to their previous conditions.

She said the lawn would be reestablished in places where the tents had been placed on the grass. 

“The plan for the tents coming down was somewhere around June 1, and they were mostly done by then, maybe took a total of a week to get them all out of here,” said University grounds worker Eric Tolar.

Tolar has been with UNC Groundskeeping for four years, and he explained what type of upkeep was required when the canopies were still on campus. 

“It was mostly trash upkeep with the tents, and we would blow them out too when leaves and storms and stuff like that happened,” Tolar said. 

As part of the University’s pandemic planning process, the need for additional outdoor seating was reevaluated for the upcoming semester. 

Rising junior Rhyan Given said she would regularly sit under the tents around campus to do homework, eat lunch and work on her laptop.

“I definitely enjoyed having the tents there and having access to outdoor seating that was safe and accessible to us during the worst of the pandemic,” Given said. 

While Given has enjoyed the tents while they have been up, she also believes the tents distract from the beauty of the University's campus. 

“They have become a little bit of an eyesore, just because we have such a beautiful campus and so much to see in the quad and so much space that's there that now won't be taken up by those tents,” Given said. “At the end of the day, while there were a lot of benefits to having those tents, I do agree that it is probably time to say goodbye.”

Other students were not as quick to say farewell to the outdoor seating these tents provided. 

Teddy Iliev is a rising senior who said he thinks the University should keep the tents up.

“Instead of having my daily Chick-fil-A or Med Deli from Lenoir or whatever the case was inside, I would just bring it out to the tent,” Iliev said. “Or if I had a class in Dey Hall, for example, I would just sit out there before I went to class.” 

Iliev also mentioned the lack of available outdoor seating on campus in explaining why he didn’t want the tents taken down.

“We’ve got to get some seats out there," Iliev said.

Some of the furniture purchased to be used under the canopies will remain on campus for outdoor use, with additional outdoor seating now available at Lenoir Dining Hall and Chase Dining Halls and the Genome Sciences Building. 

Some areas where canopies were located require a certain turf that cannot be installed until temperatures fall, and Grounds Services expects the sod to be installed in early September.


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