Dear Carolina Community,
The past two months have been extraordinarily challenging, and I remain grateful for your willingness to shift to remote operations and your ability to adapt to unprecedented change. The challenges brought about by COVID-19 have disrupted the lives of nearly everyone in our campus community.
Despite those hardships, our students, faculty and staff have persevered in historic fashion, carrying out the University’s mission of teaching, research and service in innovative ways that reflect the very best of our community. Our campus pulled together through the uncertainty of the spring, and now we must turn our attention to a fall semester that will be like no other in our history, and another opportunity to rise above the challenges.
I recognize that there is high interest in Carolina’s plans for this fall, and with it, much concern about the safety, health and well-being of our community. In talking with many of our faculty, students and parents, it’s also clear to me that students learn and grow in different ways and most thrive through the in-person interactions with their faculty and classmates; and through the co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities that a Carolina education provides. The best Carolina experience is one that occurs here on campus where that is all possible.
Therefore, we have been working hard on many scenarios, and we are ready to share our initial thinking about Carolina’s Roadmap for Fall 2020. This path forward outlines the major areas of campus that we are modifying to respond to the realities we face because of COVID-19 and represents thoughtful and deliberate input from our deans, vice chancellors, students, staff and faculty, which includes our world-renowned infectious disease and public health experts. In addition, the University has continued to work closely with state and local public health officials, peer institutions and UNC System leadership.
Based on advice from our infectious disease and public health experts, who believe we could be facing a second wave of COVID-19 sometime late fall or early winter, we are making significant changes to our operations. On their guidance, we are starting and finishing the fall semester early in an effort to stay ahead of that second wave. As these are unprecedented times, our roadmap will also have off-ramps, and we will modify this plan if conditions change and the situation warrants. The safety, health and well-being of our campus community will always be paramount in our decision-making.
This fall semester will look and feel different from the past. Here are some of the initial changes we are implementing to care for our community:
- Faculty and staff will return in a phased approach. Research programs and laboratories will begin ramping up on-campus operations June 1. Employees should initially expect staggered work schedules, alternating schedules, reconfigured workstations, remote work and other accommodations to limit density on campus and maximize safety. More details to follow.
- The first day of classes will be Aug. 10 (professional schools may vary), final exams will be completed by Nov. 24 and students will not return to campus after the Thanksgiving holiday. We will announce plans for New Student Convocation (Aug. 9) and Winter Commencement at a later date. The University will observe Labor Day (Sep. 7) and University Day (Oct. 12), but will eliminate fall break (Oct. 15-16) this year.
- Students participating in organized co-curricular activities (e.g. Carolina Athletics/ROTC/UNC Marching Tar Heels) will be invited back to campus in a similar phased approach. More details to follow.
- We will ask our campus community to adhere to our “community standards” and public health guidelines to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
- Class sizes will be adjusted to allow for appropriate physical distancing; entering and exiting buildings will occur through clearly marked one-way corridors.
- Time between classes will be extended to allow for necessary physical distancing in and out of buildings, which will impact the number of courses held during typical weekdays. Therefore, students and faculty can expect additional weeknight classes. More details to follow.
- Up to 1,000 new students who are unable to begin residential learning and living in August may participate in a new experience called Carolina Away. This initiative, still in development, will allow them to learn together in high-quality, digital sections of key courses in our general education curriculum, participate in small group experiences and engage in learning communities that focus on the impact of COVID-19.
- Many other areas are still in the planning phase. The University will launch Carolina’s Roadmap for Fall 2020 website next week that will serve as a repository of information relevant to fall 2020 operations. The website will be updated throughout the summer as more details are available.
The following are more topline details regarding key areas of academic and campus operations:
Community standards for health and safety
We are ramping up our community standards to promote a safe and healthy environment to teach, learn, work and play. This is an opportunity for us to come together to protect each other’s safety, health and well-being. In coordination with federal, state and local guidance, we will ask you to practice physical distancing, wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer, maintain clean spaces and wear appropriate face coverings/masks (provided by the University for those who need them), among other best practices. Housekeeping staff will continue to clean office and workspaces according to CDC guidelines and “high touch” areas like doorknobs and bathrooms will be cleaned more frequently. Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms or knowledge of exposure should seek medical care and must not report to work or class. We will post signage in campus buildings with these important reminders.
Returning to the workplace
We will phase in the return of our workforce with a focus on the health and safety of our community. Decisions about who returns to campus, and when, will be managed centrally, and supervisors will be contacting employees about work arrangements in the coming weeks. We will work with employees to balance individual needs with those of the school, unit or department. Faculty and staff will be asked to abide by the community standards for health and safety.
Returning to laboratory research
While labs related to COVID-19 research have remained fully operational and much research has continued remotely, we will implement a phased approach to resume other key research activities on campus. We will allow labs and facilities to reach 50% capacity but ask that work which can be done remotely continue off-campus initially. Vice Chancellor for Research Terry Magnuson and our deans will provide further instruction to their respective areas.
Instructional strategy, academic calendar and classroom space
The College of Arts & Sciences, along with our schools and units, are reconfiguring in-person course instruction to include physical distancing provisions. These considerations mean that small classes will meet in larger spaces, and large lecture classes may be split into smaller sections, delivered remotely or consist of a combination of both. Our goal is to offer as much flexibility for students and faculty as possible.
Under guidance from our infectious disease and public health experts, we have revised the academic calendar to begin classes a week earlier and conclude before Thanksgiving. We made the difficult decision to eliminate fall break not only to finish sooner but also to minimize possible virus spread associated with travel. We understand that this new schedule may disrupt your summer plans and want you to know that we considered many options to avoid as much disruption as possible. Thank you for your understanding and know that we will do everything possible to offer flexibility and accommodation as needed.
Student experience, sense of belonging and holistic support
We are committed to supporting students at all levels as they continue to learn while adjusting to unforeseen change. Whether students choose to return to campus or participate in remote learning, we want to foster a sense of community and belonging among everyone. To that end, we will facilitate virtual summer programs for new students, encourage student organizations to re-engage, establish a regular check-in system, and provide on-campus and remote advising and counseling sessions. We will continue to use the Student Care Hub to connect students with academic, wellness and financial resources.
Residence halls will operate at normal capacity — standard double-occupancy — with few exceptions, including one residence hall that will be used to provide temporary housing to residential students who test positive for COVID-19 and a second residence hall will provide temporary housing for residential students who have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus but do not have a confirmed diagnosis, as recommended by Campus Health or other health authorities. Additionally, some double rooms will be converted to singles and held for residents with immunocompromised conditions as approved by Accessibility Resources and Services and/or Campus Health.
Given the early semester start date of Aug. 10, move-in will begin Aug. 3 by pre-scheduled appointment to help achieve physical distancing throughout the move-in process.
Additional information and details will be provided to residential students and student staff by Carolina Housing
Carolina Dining Services
To help limit density, Lenoir Dining Hall (including Mainstreet on the ground floor) and Chase Dining Hall will be open only to students with a UNC Meal Plan. We are developing new meal plan options for students and will share details soon.
All other on-campus dining facilities will be open to students, faculty and staff. Seating in dining halls will be reduced to promote physical distancing, and we will expand takeout offerings in all locations. In addition, mobile food ordering will be installed where practical.
Dining tables and chairs will be sanitized after each use and restrooms will be cleaned hourly. Because we are limited in the amount of people we can seat and serve with physical distancing measures in place, we are exploring additional dining options including food trucks, meal delivery services and dedicated pick-up stations.
Testing, contact tracing and Campus Health/Counseling and Psychological Services
UNC Health, Campus Health, the health department and our infectious disease team have robust testing capabilities when indicated, reflecting state-of-the-art practices to limit virus spread.
Campus Health, CAPS, telehealth services and UNC Hospitals will be open and available to provide outstanding, state-of-the-art care, if needed.
Looking ahead and building our community together
This announcement is just the start of our communications about your return to Carolina. In the near future, look for additional information about move-in, guidance for returning to the workplace and additional details about campus operations.
I know there is a lot on your minds, and we will do everything possible to provide answers to the many questions you may have over the next few months. During this time, we must all prepare for some inconveniences and adopt the community standards and behaviors that will help ensure a safe Carolina campus. Thanks for your commitment to this important responsibility in helping us build our community together as we carry out the mission of our great university.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz