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Heel Talk episode 12: Faculty and staff petition UNC against return to campus

In this episode, host Evely Forte spoke to DTH reporter and incoming Assistant Copy Editor Sasha Schroeder and incoming Assistant Online Editor Praveena Somasundaram to understand why many UNC faculty members, professors and teaching assistants are petitioning UNC administration about the fall 2020 semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic, what the petitioners are really demanding and how they hope the University will implement potential changes. 


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Tyler Smith, an incoming first-year, exits Graham Residence Hall wearing a mask as two RA's, sophomores Tiel Pham (left) and Nigel Goins (right) sit in the entryway to assist with move-in on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

Orange County health director calls for UNC to go fully remote for at least five weeks

Orange County Health Department Director Quintana Stewart sent a letter to UNC officials on July 29 recommending the University limit on-campus housing and implement online-only instruction for the first five weeks of the semester as a minimum. The letter was released to the public Wednesday, sparking outrage among faculty and community leaders. Shutting down campus, however, "is not a realistic option," Stewart said.


Screenshot from the virtually Faculty Committee Meeting on Friday, June 19, 2020 to discuss the Carolina Roadmap.

'This road leads to a disaster': Faculty express reopening concerns in letters

UNC faculty have expressed concerns about the University's reopening, along with student leaders and campus workers. Through a public letter published in The Charlotte Observer and a letter from Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman, faculty have expressed their fears of returning to campus and of community spread of COVID-19.  “We are willing to do our part,” Chapman wrote. “But at this point, I believe that our University and perhaps the entire UNC System is being asked to turn straw into gold.”


UNC System workers march across campus towards South Building on Friday, July 17, 2020 to protest the university’s approach to reopening.

Campus workers delivered demands to University officials. Their deadline just passed.

Director of Housekeeping Services Herb Richmond received a petition from UNC housekeepers on July 22, which demanded a response within the next five business days. To date, campus workers have heard no response, said Penny Elliott, crew leader for UNC Housekeeping.  The petition addresses concerns such as providing proper personal protective equipment, requiring health checks at work, extending administrative leave and requiring the University to be transparent about the private contractors hired to clean. 


Screenshot from the virtually held Commission on Campus Equality and Student Equity meeting regarding UNC's fall reopening on Thursday, July 16, 2020.

UNC student commission resolution: ‘All courses must be offered virtually'

The Commission on Campus Equality and Student Equity's resolution calls for full remote instruction and limitations on the number of students living on campus. The resolution came in response to the concerns students and Chapel Hill residents have expressed regarding UNC's reopening plans. “The only way we can make sure that everyone is safe, and everyone has access to an equitable education experience, is by offering all courses virtually and de-densifiying our dorms,” said Chairperson Lamar Richards.