With the announcement that UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University are changing their plans for in-person instruction, UNC Charlotte students, faculty and staff are pushing for virtual learning.
On Aug. 17, UNC Charlotte sent a NinerNotice informing students that UNC Charlotte will “proceed as planned with on-campus instruction.”
In response, SGA sent a letter to the UNC Charlotte administration requesting a meeting to discuss moving to virtual learning. SGA has opposed on-campus instruction since May, when they had a virtual meeting with administrators and proposed an alternate plan for the fall semester.
According to Dick Beekman, an SGA member, “It [UNC Charlotte’s plan] all hinges on student responsibility and students doing the right thing...I truly do believe that the vast majority of students are committed to doing the right thing. However, there’s this minority that feel entitled or arrogant enough to live their own life as they see fit, regardless of the safety implications of their actions.”
Student leaders have lobbied to change the current return to school plan. However, Beekman believes that “the school has just completely ignored those concerns and moved forward with their plan regardless.”
Madeline Ferguson, a junior at UNC Charlotte, has created a petition on change.org for UNC Charlotte to switch to online classes. In an “open letter to UNCC,” she says, “I am writing this letter as a cry for help; to ask my university to call off in-person classes for the sake of my peers, my professors, the entirety of the staff.”
As reported by news editor Megan Bird on Aug. 15, a class-action lawsuit aimed to prevent UNC System member institutions from forcing its employees to work in unfavorable working conditions.
UNC System President Peter Hans sent a statement to UNC System chancellors about student behavior. The statement discourages large off-campus gatherings, stating “Off-campus gatherings by students pose the most significant risk to your residential communities and your university’s ability to continue in-person classes.”
Dr. John Cox, director of Holocast, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies and lead plaintiff in the class-action suit, said in an email that the statement is “laying the groundwork--further--to blame students for the idiocy and recklessness of the ‘adult’ administrators.”
“A common response from the University whenever concerns get raised is ‘well that’s out of our hands, that’s in the Board of Governors’ hands,’” said Beekman. “and while that’s true, it should be noted that when the Board of Governors took away that decision-making process, they in no way, shape or form significantly impacted or changed any of the 17 university plans for reopening this fall.”
He added “for the majority of the summer, while [student leaders’] concerns were being raised, the decision-making process was still in the hands of UNC Charlotte, and they failed to act on those [student leaders’] concerns.”
A meeting was eventually scheduled to hear the concerns of SGA. Beekman said, “I am encouraged by the meeting, and urge all students to trust in Gaber’s leadership as she continues to look out for our best interests.”
A message was sent from Chancellor Gaber on Aug. 20, asking for patience during the coming days. The administration is also extending the deadline for canceling housing contracts without penalty to Friday, Aug. 28, and the deadline for fall charges to Tuesday, Sept. 1.