Earlier today, Chair of the Faculty Mimi Chapman sent the following letter to the UNC System Board of Governors written in response to reports of coronavirus clusters being detected among students.
August 15, 2020
UNC Board of Governors
Mr. Randall C. Ramsey, Chair
Dear Chairman Ramsey and Members of the Board of Governors:
Once again, I write to urge you to give our Chancellor the authority to make decisions for our campus in light of the global pandemic and conditions on our campus. In the last two days, within the first week of classes, already three clusters of students that are positive for the virus have been identified. Two in dormitories and now one at a fraternity house. These are likely the tip of the iceberg and we will see more in coming days.
We knew there would be positive cases on our campus. But clusters, five or more people that are connected in one place, are a different story. The presence of clusters should be triggering reconsideration of residential, in-person learning. However, moving to remote instruction cannot be done without your approval. I asked President Hans about our leader’s level of independence at our Faculty Assembly meeting last week using the example of the Orange County Health Department’s letter dated July 29th in which they recommend five weeks of remote instruction, and he confirmed that such a choice would require a “conversation” with the UNC System Office and the BOG, meaning that our Chancellor does not have the authority to do what he believes, given the best advice he is being given, is right. This is an untenable situation in which to put our leadership and I ask that you change it right away.
Although young people are much less likely to suffer severely from this virus, please remember that there are young people on our campus who do not yet know they have a condition that may predispose them to poor outcomes, including death, from the virus. They do not yet know that they have diabetes or lupus or some other sort of condition because their symptoms have not become so concerning as to prompt them to seek medical care. Many students who know they have pre-existing conditions have chosen to stay home. But those that don’t may be participating in campus life at their peril.
Please know that, as Chair of the Faculty, I am prepared to ask our faculty to make sacrifices for the good of the institution, our students, and our extremely dedicated and hard-working staff. However, I cannot ask them to do that when our leaders are not empowered to act in the campus community’s best interest. Our campus needs local control and, at this point, I believe it is your moral duty to provide it.
Mimi V. Chapman, Ph.D., MSW
Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor, School of Social Work
Chair of the Faculty
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Provost Robert A. Blouin, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
President Peter Hans, The University of North Carolina System