UNC Fiasco Reveals Truth About Reopening CollegesRoundup
tags: public health, North Carolina, University of North Carolina, colleges and universities, COVID-19
David M. Perry is a journalist and historian. He is senior academic adviser in the history department of the University of Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter.
In April, the interim president of the University of North Carolina announced that he wanted all of UNC campuses to re-open in the fall. In August, the UNC Board of Governors announced their mandate that campuses reopen. Last week they all got their way, with the dorms at UNC re-opening at full capacity and everyone gearing up for at least some in-person classes, despite faculty protests.
Students came back. So did Covid-19. Students started testing positive, with the outbreaks clustered around dorms and fraternity houses. As the intrepid editors of UNC's college paper, The Daily Tar Heel, put it, "we all saw this coming." (The original headline was a bit more colorful but the point remains the same.)
A week after the experiment to see whether college kids could live on campus and keep socially distanced began, it's over. UNC's leadership announced a return to fully remote education and full refunds for students who leave the dorms and go home. UNC-Chapel Hill's chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz told local news he was "surprised at the velocity and magnitude" of the spread of the virus.
In the wake of the UNC fiasco, we have to reckon with the price of failure. Students at Chapel Hill are going home now and they are taking their viral load with them. As a result, to be blunt, more people are going to die. College students can die from Covid-19. They also risk spreading the virus to the people with whom they live and their communities. These deaths and illness will be directly attributable to the decisions of our leaders in the higher education community.
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