Roper Expects UNC System Campuses to Reopen in Fall

“The UNC System recognizes the needs” of faculty and staff, older students and members of the community with underlying health concerns, said Dr. William Roper, interim president of the UNC System. (File photo)

The interim president of the UNC System said Wednesday that he expects Carolina and the system’s other higher education institutions to reopen classrooms and laboratories in the fall.

“We are working closely with our chancellors to chart a course forward,” Dr. William Roper said in a statement.

Individual institutions would have the autonomy to consider staggered or shortened academic calendars “while others may take action to reduce student density in campus housing and classrooms,” Roper said.

“Our chancellors will have flexibility to determine what local steps they need to take to protect all students, faculty and staff, especially high-risk populations, both on campus and off. They will have the ability to put unique precautions in place.”

In Chapel Hill, the University has not announced specific plans. The campus is closed, all scheduled events through June 30 have been canceled, and both sessions of summer school will be taught remotely. Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said on April 2 that he would announce plans for July and August by May 31.

“For many in the UNC System, digital learning technologies simply cannot be a long-term substitute for the facilities and community that our campuses provide,” Roper said. “The majority of our faculty and students need access to our libraries, labs, classrooms, and medical and agriculture facilities to fully engage with their research, teaching, learning and service work.”

He pointed out that recent data in North Carolina are showing trends that suggest efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 are paying off. He said that by the fall, the state likely would have improved capacity for tracking student exposure and greater access to the tools, materials and supplies that can help minimize the virus’s threat.

“Until a vaccine is developed, many members of our community may not be able to risk teaching or attending in-person classes,” Roper added. “The UNC System recognizes the needs” of faculty and staff, older students and members of the community with underlying health concerns.

“Our steps forward will be contingent on what we discover through ongoing monitoring of infection rates and North Carolina’s testing and treatment capacity. We will continue to follow the advice of the nation’s infectious disease experts and our own experts at UNC Health.

“Our efforts to mitigate the pandemic’s threat have been successful because our actions in March were swift and comprehensive. The continued success of our effort now depends on approaching our next moves forward with caution, optimism and precision.”


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