What it’s really like at UNC-Chapel Hill right now

BY OLIVIA ROJAS, CN+R Intern
Posted 8/21/20

CHAPEL HILL — Less than a week. All it took was less than a week for four COVID-19 clusters to rise and spread around UNC.

As a sophomore student who decided to come back to campus, I’m not …

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What it’s really like at UNC-Chapel Hill right now

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Posted

CHAPEL HILL — Less than a week. All it took was less than a week for four COVID-19 clusters to rise and spread around UNC.

As a sophomore student who decided to come back to campus, I’m not surprised by the recent events from the university, but I’m definitely disappointed.

Students, staff, faculty and residents surrounding the campus all called on the university to go remote for months now. The university ignored recommendations from the Orange County Public Health Department to hold classes remotely for at least five weeks and have at-risk students in on-campus housing only. They moved forward with housing plans that were deemed the highest-risk by the Center for Disease Control. Worries about Greek Life and large off-campus gatherings were voiced again and again. Yet, it was maintained that everything was going to be fine.

Yes, I know I had the choice to go back.

However, I made the decision to head back to campus because I wanted that sense of independence and I wanted to focus on school in my school’s own environment. Even though I knew it was not going to be 100% back to normal, the university continued to assert that this concept was feasible with their roadmap.

When I was on campus during these past two weeks, I saw that the community standards were broken plenty of times. Carolina Housing had guidelines for the fall which said: “Non-residents and campus residents assigned to another building are not permitted in your residence hall.” How was that going to get enforced? Let me tell you — it wasn’t. I saw students on south campus, an area where the majority of first-years live, at night in party clothes with rumors swirling that fraternities were hosting parties. For the most part, everyone wore facial coverings, but from time to time there were those who didn’t.

I understand that students need to be held accountable for their actions and take personal responsibility, but, as The Daily Tar Heel said in a now-viral editorial, we all saw this coming.

A lot of people feel hurt and betrayed right now. Some are confused on what the next step is, or they’re canceling their housing and going home. Personally, I’m pretty sure that I’m heading home sometime soon.

My heart breaks for the first-years — including my own sister — and those who did uphold the standards. A college experience should not have been dangled in front of students and then ripped away like that. Not to mention, the anxiety of the fast spreading COVID-19 clusters appearing in your living space. There is too much time, effort and money that goes into this experience for it just to be a trial run — a one-week trial run. Better to be safe than sorry.

On Aug. 17, the University of North Carolina System President Peter Hans issued a statement about UNC’s announcement where he wrote that students need to take “personal responsibility” and enforce those community standards for a successful semester and public health.

“Each campus is different, and I expect situations to evolve differently,” he wrote. “In any circumstance, we will be grounded by reliable public health data and prevailing local health conditions. I will continue to stay in close contact with our chancellors and fully support their efforts to fulfill our core educational mission in safe learning environments.”

Here’s the thing: I don’t think every campus is different. A cluster has now surfaced at East Carolina University, and there are concerns about COVID-19 information at North Carolina State University. If anything, UNC’s experience with reopening needs to be a warning and a wakeup call for the UNC system. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, a global public health crisis. There’s nothing different about that.

As for us Tar Heels, we’re going to get through this and we’re going to go back when it is completely safe to do so.

Olivia Rojas, a News + Record intern and UNC sophomore, is from Sanford.

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