On Feb. 25, Chancellor Gaber delivered her first State of the University Address to the Student Government Senate. In this address, Gaber discussed the University's plans for the fall 2021 semester, the coronavirus vaccine, the recent state mandates regarding COVID-19, graduation in May, a possible spike in COVID-19 cases in April, UNC Charlotte's image as a research university and the new strategic plan.
Chancellor Gaber addressed the past few semesters' hardships and her excitement about in-person classes beginning. She said the University is hoping to model the fall 2021 semester after the fall 2019 semester rather than the fall 2020 semester.
Decisions regarding the fall 2021 semester largely depend on vaccination progress.
In a conversation with one of the senate members, Gaber mentioned that UNC Charlotte has applied to be a vaccination site but has not heard back.
"We strongly encourage everyone to get a vaccine," Gaber said. However, the University is currently not mandating the vaccine.
Starting Feb. 26 at 5 p.m., the State reduced the requirements for some COVID-19 restrictions. The requirements are outlined on the NC Gov. Roy Cooper website. Gaber stated that she read a memorandum draft about the athletics department allowing more people into events for spring sports.
As far as May graduation, Gaber said that the University is considering holding a football stadium ceremony, although this is not confirmed yet. She noted that under state guidelines, the stadium could be filled to 30% capacity. Whereas in the past, graduates were allowed to invite 20 or more people each, now they may be limited to two or three. Gaber added that this in-person ceremony would mean the University would not provide a virtual component as they did in December 2020. Gaber also mentioned that some other universities have decided to continue with virtual graduation this May.
"With our team, I'd ask them to look at the virtual and look at what it would look like to do a face-to-face, and we're optimistic that we can do this in the football stadium if we do three or four different ceremonies," said Gaber.
Gaber discussed the potential for a possible spike in COVID-19 cases in April, and that the University is keeping an eye out for this and will plan accordingly if necessary.
"There is a prediction that in April, there could be a spike due to the increase of the variants coming through," said Gaber. "If we have to think about things at that time, we will, but we are trying to continue to sort of roll with this and make sure that we can meet your needs and your family's needs."
She discussed how other UNC schools are considered research one while UNC Charlotte is considered a research two university. Gaber stated that some of the faculty are interested in moving to a research one and that this would take place over a five to seven-year period. Gaber also mentioned that there is a possibility of a grant if the University were to move to a research one stage.
Gaber discussed the new strategic plan, which is being developed to help guide the University over the next ten or so years. The planning committee is made up of 22 members, and they have released two updates since the planning has begun, one on Dec. 9, 2020, and the other on Feb. 9. Student Body President Tahlieah Sampson has been involved in strategic planning. The planning committee has sent out emails about receiving student and faculty feedback for this plan.
"It has been a difficult past several semesters," said Gaber. "I appreciate your patience, and understanding, and willingness to work with us. Obviously, we are not able to control the pandemic, but the student body as a whole has done remarkably well, and we are really proud of how everybody has done in terms of minimizing the spread on campus."