UNC defends decision to continue Old Well tradition despite COVID-19 surge

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A tradition at a North Carolina university has come under scrutiny after pictures the school posted on social media showed hundreds of students gathered at a campus landmark waiting to get a drink of water in the midst of a COVID-19 surge.

Pictures posted to Twitter by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed a line of students approaching the Old Well on Wednesday waiting to get a drink and a picture. According to tradition, students who drink from the fountain at the well on the first day of classes will get good grades for the entire school year. It was first reported by The News & Observer of Raleigh.

The tradition was canceled last year because of the pandemic. The resumption brought a thread of negative reactions.



"Tradition aside, you couldn't just find a couple paper cups for this? In the middle of the fourth wave of a global pandemic?" said one response.

"It would have been a great idea to put this tradition on hold," said another response.

According to the newspaper, the university issued a statement saying it had consulted with public health experts who agreed it was OK to proceed with the tradition since there is little to no evidence of surface transmission of the coronavirus. Students that chose to participate were encouraged to wear a mask while waiting in line and university ambassadors were on hand to support physical distancing.

UNC has also said 87-percent of its students self reported that they were fully vaccinated prior to the start of the school year.

Prior to resuming the tradition this year, UNC-Chapel Hill reported a COVID-19 cluster last week. The school's dashboard also showed 146 students and employees have tested positive for the virus since August.
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