by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
UNC Chapel Hill recently made the decision to move all undergraduate courses online. In his recent research brief, JLF’s Dominic Coletti writes:
When UNC-CH officials decided to continue with the university reopening plan, they (and everybody else) knew that bringing students back on campus without testing would lead to COVID-19 cases and perhaps clusters. The fact is that while some college students (particularly those who are in at-risk groups) are symptomatic carriers of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the vast majority of college students won’t show symptoms. As a result, unless a school tests every single student on campus right before students move in, there’s no way to avoid an initial cluster.
The university leadership quickly blamed the spread of COVID-19 on campus on irresponsible students. Coletti explains:
UNC System President Peter Hans (among many others) blames students. “This hard work is being undermined by a very small number of students behaving irresponsibly off campus, which unfairly punishes the vast majority of their classmates who are following the rules,“ Hans said on August 20.
But Coletti doesn’t buy this argument. He believes this was an oversight of the university. Coletti writes:
Instead of evaluating a worst-case or even realistic scenario, they envisioned the most ideal scenario. When that was predictably shattered, it seems the administrators panicked. They didn’t wait to see if their contact tracing and containment worked. They didn’t think of alternative de-densification measures (e.g., allowing students to break housing contracts penalty-free without mandating all students leave). In-person instruction at UNC-CH might still be possible had UNC-CH’s administration taken responsibility and made strides to fix the problems that were apparent. Instead, they shut it all down.
Read the full research brief here. Read Carolina Journal’s recent coverage of the story here. Watch JLF’s experts discuss UNC-CH’s and NCSU’s transition to online learning here.