Administration in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion sent a letter to the university’s Roadmap Implementation Taskforce on July 23 saying that their concerns and recommendations have not been considered, despite reaching out to leadership on multiple occasions. The taskforce is in charge of creating the school’s protocol for bringing students back to campus.

“During the last few months, our advice and recommendations have not been sought in any meaningful way and the times we have initiated discussion, what we have said has gone wholly ignored,” the letter states. “There is irony in this treatment and lack of inclusion and it certainly does not demonstrate our ‘values in action.'”

The letter, obtained by the INDY, asks that the university’s chief diversity officer be part of the Roadmap Taskforce, and be allowed to vote on decisions about the coming school year. They also ask that the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council get regular updates from scientists about the latest COVID-19 protection measures.

For students and their families, they ask the taskforce to reduce the number of students in dining and residence halls, make sure that all students have access to Wifi and other resources, whether they’re on or off-campus, and demonstrate the “typical day” in the life of a UNC student taking classes on campus. They also asked that the school’s coronavirus website, Carolina Together, be adjusted so information is easier to access.

“We recognize that no one intentionally sets out to create disparities, but often leaders are simply unaware that it is happening or how to avoid it,” they write. 

The letter is signed by Anderson-Thompkins and Education & Operations Senior Director Gretchen Bellamy, but they say their concerns are expressed on behalf of the University Office for Diversity & Inclusion, and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.

The sentiments expressed in the letter are by no means isolated. On July 17, the Commission on Campus Equality & Student Equity sent a list of recommendations to the taskforce, including a request for a day simulation and lending laptops and Internet to off-campus students. 

The university announced July 20 that students had to sign an “acknowledgment” that they would follow community guidelines as a condition of their enrollment. The document requires students to say they understand the risk of returning to campus.

“Despite the public health measures taken by the University and governmental authorities, there is no definitive way to prevent or eliminate the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in non-University clinical or other experiential learning environments that are located off-campus,” it reads. “This means that the inherent risks and uncertainties relating to COVID-19 could disrupt your on-campus experience, including closure or restrictions on access to campus facilities, modification to instruction and other campus services, and potential adverse impacts on your academic progress.”

With four days left before students begin moving back to campus, Vice-Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin appeared at the Chapel Hill Town Council Zoom meeting Wednesday night to answer questions from councilmembers and the public.

In the meeting, Blouin clarified several concerns that have been brought up repeatedly—sort of.

Fraternities and sororities will have to submit a plan to the Orange County Health Department for how they will address the pandemic, but the university has limited jurisdiction over the fraternity houses (except for disbanding the organization, or other punishments that Blouin said were severe.)

Students will be subject to repercussions that may include being removed from classes if they do not follow the school’s community standards, but the issues will not be brought to Honor Court—instead, faculty, RAs, and volunteer “positive reinforcement” will be responsible for asking students to wear masks and social distance, depending on the setting.

The reopening team is planning to “reprogram the students” to adhere to social responsibility and follow guidelines, comparing their marketing plans to those used for smoking, or wearing seatbelts. This includes PR videos of students wearing masks, “mask of the week” shootouts on social media, and “unboxing” videos of the Care Kit that will be provided to students.

The university has plans to take off-ramps if needed, although the decision can’t be reached without the approval of the Board of Governors and the system president. The Daily Tar Heel also reported Tuesday that students, staff, and faculty would not be required to submit to a COVID-19 test before returning to campus.

Every student and resident that spoke in the meeting expressed concern with the current university plans, with several calling the forward movement “terrifying.”

“I just want you all to know that you don’t actually have to do this,” graduate student Lindsay Ayling said. “We’ve been hearing some rhetoric from city council members that you have no choice, or that the university has no choice. That you have to embark on a course of action that you know is going to get people killed. In history, which is the subject I study at UNC, one of the guiding moral emphases behind the study of history is that we try to educate people that they do not need to knowingly embark on a course of action that is going to kill people, and you actually can refuse orders. So please remember that.”

You can read the full letter to the Roadmap Implementation Taskforce below.

Office for Diversity and Inclusion to Roadmap Implementation 072320 by Sara Elizabeth on Scribd

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One reply on “UNC-Chapel Hill’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion Say They Weren’t Included in Reopening Plans”

  1. So pleased to reconnect with Indy Week formerly The independent Weekly. This is a critical time and it has crept up so suddenly, and the folks who live and work in Chapel Hill but are not with the University need to pay attention! I am an alumna, my husband an alumni also, but we do not always keep up as much as we ought. So, I am grateful this publication still continues!

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