UNC students: Are you ready to return to campus? The administration says yes.

UNC students: Are you ready to return to campus? The administration says yes.

- in COVID-19, Higher Ed, News, Top Story

With UNC System schools looking ahead to the spring semester, tensions over COVID-19 planning and the question of returning more students to campus have have intensified between students, staff, faculty and administrators.

While most of the system’s 17 schools kept students on campus for the fall semester, the largest schools — N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University — sent students home after just a week of classes.

Using COVID statistics from individual school dashboards, county data and information released by school administrations and faculty groups, we are taking a look this week at the toll of the pandemic and the future of on-campus learning in the next semester.

(Numbers are current as of Dec. 11)

1,588 — Number of positive COVID-19 tests at East Carolina University since March 1; this is the largest number of total confirmed infections at any UNC System school. At ECU, there were large parties and students gatherings on and off campus when students returned in the fall, sparking multiple clusters of infections in dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses.

1,513 — Number of positive tests at UNC-Chapel Hill since March 1; the administration ignored a warning from the Orange County Public Health Director and opened the campus to on-campus living in the fall. UNC did not alert students, staff, faculty or the wider community to the department’s objection

1,426 — Number of positive tests at N.C. State University since March 1; N.C. State is the largest UNC System school by student population

162 — Number of UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and instructors who have signed a letter urging administrators to abandon plans to increase the number of in-person classes and the number of students living on campus in the spring

5,800 — Estimated number of students in residence halls at UNC-Chapel Hill at the beginning of the fall semester

1,000 — Estimated number of students who received permission to remain on campus in residence halls during the fall semester because of extraordinary need

3,500  — Estimated number of students that who could live in residence halls at UNC-Chapel Hill in the spring semester, according to comments from UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin at a Dec. 4 Faculty Council and employee forum; administrators also said they feel confident they won’t need to send most students home if there are clusters of infection in the spring

20 — Percentage of courses UNC-Chapel Hill administrators want to see held in person during the spring semester, according to comments at the December 4 meeting

3 — Number of planned COVID-19 testing sites at UNC-Chapel Hill in the coming semester; COVID-19 testing was not mandatory last semester. Administrators said they believed those who tested negative could have a false sense of security. This semester testing will be required for those living on campus in dormitories. The goal will be to provide test results within 48 hours.

14 — Number of UNC System campuses that avoided sending residential students home during the fall semester; despite large variances in population size, residential population and social structures at the schools, UNC System officials and administrators at schools have repeatedly cited the success of those schools as proof most UNC schools should be able to succeed in returning students to campuses.