“Where y’all goin?”
Every post starts this way, occasionally with more question marks tacked on the end. The locations and times change—one photo is at Little Fraternity Court during a football game day, apparent from the beer pong table and the Carolina blue polo shirt-khaki shorts uniform of almost everyone pictured.
Another is on the corner of Franklin and Henderson streets, where a group stands outside in a line—the account speculates that they’re headed to Down Time, a local basement bar—with a “party bus” in the road with its doors open and blue and purple lights twinkling through.
The latest post, which was shared two days ago but that has since been deleted, had more than 17,000 views and 200 comments on Friday morning. The video was a recording of another phone, playing a video from Snapchat with a January 23, 2021 timestamp. The Snapchat was taken in a dark room with colorful lights, where a crowd could be heard singing along to Pitbull’s 2009 hit, “Hotel Room Service.” Several faces were totally visible, while more people stood in the background of the party. The packed room of maskless partiers looked like it should be from a year ago, pre-pandemic, but it was allegedly just a few days old. (It’s unclear why the post was removed, but the INDY took screenshots before it came down.)
The Instagram account @whereyallgoin_unc begs a simple question: Where ARE y’all goin’, in the middle of a global pandemic, after almost a year in quarantine, after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faced fallout last autumn for their botched reopening?
For some UNC students, the answer seems to be, “Wherever we feel like,” often with masks out of sight or used as chinstraps, and in several apparent cases, partying like it’s 1999 (and not, you know, after COVID-19 killed more than 430,000 people in the United States in the last year).
The account, which first posted on August 16 of last year, now has more than 3,300 followers with only 23 posts. The last six (including the deleted post) were shared in January 2021. The account includes the link to report student violations to the university and a reminder that anonymous submissions are allowed.
Four people in the latest post had allegedly been identified by the account, as well as the Snapchat user whose full name is visible. The Where Y’all Goin’ account and other Instagram users tagged them by their handles—all of them have either changed their account name or deleted their accounts.
Comments run the gamut of possible reactions.
“I pity the people who have made partying so integral to their personality/life that they’ll risk anything, even the lives and comfort of others, for nights of temporary joy and happiness,” one user writes.
“What is this account really contributing?” asks another. Lots of people tag the university and its Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz’s official accounts.
Carolina’s fall semester made headlines after the university’s roadmap came to a screeching halt and students were forced out of dorms and into remote learning after only one week.
Guskiewicz says he is aware of the videos and that the university police and local authorities are working to verify the video dates and locations. Still, he says he is optimistic about the spring semester, but that people “have to remain vigilant.”
“Our UNC-Chapel Hill Police Department, they are working closely with Chapel Hill and Carrboro Police Departments to patrol in the evenings, specifically on the weekends, to try to enforce those standards,” Guskiewicz told the INDY during a press conference. “These are not just University standards but as you well know, these are statewide mandates regarding gathering so we’re working hard on it. I’ve been very pleased with what’s happening on campus.”
He attributes this to the routine testing plan: off-campus students are tested for COVID-19 once a week, with on-campus students being tested twice a week. The school has also stepped up its consequences: Guskiewicz says that any students who violate the community standards could be disenrolled.
The university dashboard reports that 455 COVID-19 cases have been reported in January. The positivity rate for on-campus testing is just below one percent, which is significantly lower than the statewide average. There has only been one reported cluster since the beginning of 2021; the dashboard shows that seven people tested positive in Carmichael residence hall.
In spite of this, Where Y’all Goin’ makes it clear that students aren’t just staying home, a reality corroborated by the INDY’s own direct, on-the-ground observations of groups of mask-free students roving Chapel Hill.
The Where Y’all Goin’ account is run by seniors at the university. The account admin says they have received various threats on Instagram—most say they’ll report them to the school, but others include sexually explicit photos or tell the admins to kill themselves. Some have threatened lawsuits.
“Honestly it’s not really fazing us,” an account admin (who wished to remain anonymous, citing the threats) told the INDY. “It should be taken seriously, but we knew what we got ourselves into.”
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