UNC-Chapel Hill students call on university leaders to adopt stricter COVID-19 protocols

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, September 3, 2021
UNC-Chapel Hill students call for stricter COVID-19 protocols
A spokesperson for UNC-Chapel Hill called the student-led meeting calling for stricter COVID-19 protocol on campus a "publicity stunt."

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Several student-led organizations are calling for stricter COVID-19 protocol across UNC-Chapel Hill's campus as the pandemic rages on, but university officials never showed up.

Nearly an hour ahead of the meeting's scheduled start time, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz sent an email to student body president Lamar Richards writing, "You have misrepresented this meeting to the university campus and me. You slammed my administration, which reveals you are more interested in generating publicity."

Inside boardroom 3102 of the student union, the meeting was called to order and invited campus leadership didn't show up.

"As I look at the empty seats, of where university officials should be listening to the students, our most central stakeholders at the university. It means showing up when you disagree," said Richards.

Opening remarks from Richards and other campus community members expressed concern about the university's handling of COVID-19 on campus.

"Every day students have this concern. They go to class not knowing what's going to happen. I think lack of transparency adds further stress on students," said student body Vice President Collyn Smith.

Students are urging the university to adopt five demands:

  • Mandate vaccines for the campus community
  • Implement COVID-19 testing at least once a week
  • An outdoor mask mandate
  • A virtual or hybrid option for classes
  • An increase in COVID-19 testing sites.

There was some opposition that took the floor Friday afternoon too; one speaker, a former UNC faculty member, a tuition paying parent and a physician -- downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic. He urged the student group to put the number of deaths into context, saying that the vast majority of them were people who were immunocompromised.

"My gripe to what's going on is we have a lot of opinions. A lot of people telling you about the science. Yet, they won't give you a bibliography - research and data they're basing their opinion," said the parent.

The rest of the speakers spoke about their frustrations with a lack of transparency from the university when it comes to cases, contact tracing, and university policies.

UNC-Chapel Hill spokesperson Joanne Peters Denny released this statement to ABC11:

"Today's student government press conference grossly misrepresented the University's detailed, multi-layered safety plans that were designed based on the advice of our top infectious disease faculty, public health experts, the Orange County Health Department and the input of our campus. The Chancellor values student input and will continue to work directly with student leaders in the best interest of the campus, but he will not participate in publicity stunts."

Students unanimously voted to send the five recommendations to university leadership Friday evening.