What students need to know: UNCC releases plans for spring semester

Here’s how UNCC plans to handle fall semester as schools grapple with COVID clusters

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UNC Charlotte released its plans Monday for the upcoming spring semester. It will consist of in-person and remote learning.

Freshmen and students in programs who must meet face-to-face on campus will continue with in-person classes. Classes that begin online in January will continue until March 28.

Spring Break will be from March 29 until April 3. After that, all classes will resume online until the end of the semester on May 5.

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April 30 will be a day of remembrance to mark the 2019 deadly shooting on campus. No classes will be held that day.

Students at UNC-Chapel Hill only made it through one week of classes before the university had to shift to remote learning. There have been four clusters of COVID-19 cases reported on the campus since students moved on Aug. 3.

East Carolina University has also reported a cluster of cases at its Gateway Residence Hall and campus police have already shut down 20 student parties the first weekend after students returned. Despite the new cases, the school’s interim chancellor said they’re proceeding with in-person instruction.

At North Carolina State University, a cluster of cases has been reported at off-campus housing.

ECU, NC State and UNC have already started their semesters, but closer to home in the Queen City, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is set to begin classes on Sept. 7.

Here’s how UNCC plans to handle fall semester as schools grapple with COVID clusters

Many local parents and students are pushing for UNCC to shift to remote learning over concerns about whether we will see the same thing happen when the Niners go back to class.

Channel 9 took those concerns straight to UNCC and we are committed to finding the answers to your questions. Below are some frequently asked questions from students and parents. Reporter Tina Terry pushed for the answers from university leaders.

Q: At this point, please provide the number of students who have reached out asking to get out of their housing contracts?

A: Since Aug. 17, we have received 40 cancellations and are at 87% occupancy now.

Q: Student government officials reaffirmed their desire to have remote learning this Fall. You have said that the decision is in the hands of the UNC System and that you are simply following their guidance, but is there a push being made by the university to ask the UNC System to consider going mobile/virtual now?

A: We are working closely with local public health officials and the UNC System to continually assess the situation.

Q: Since Chapel Hill’s announcement Monday, have any student safety changes been made to housing plans, or have any general university changes been made related to COVID-19? Can you please list them?

A: We have a robust back-to-campus plan in place that follows safety and health protocols of public health. To help address students and families concerns, we have offered the opportunity to cancel housing with no financial penalties up until Aug. 21.

Q: You have discouraged students from holding large gatherings and you have said those gatherings would be considered a violation of the student code and could lead to criminal charges as well. How do you/UNCC Police plan to enforce this….especially off campus?

A: First, it begins with setting the community standards and helping our students understand those expectations along with their consequences. This fall, our entire campus community will complete a daily Niner Health Check and we are asking all students, faculty and staff to commit to the #NinersPledge to keep themselves, others and the community safe. Most students want an in-person college experience and the way to preserve that is to follow the safety protocols and community standards the University has outlined.

For those that do not follow those community standards, there will be consequences. Any gathering on campus will be immediately dispersed. We have a long standing relationship of collaborating with CMPD to support our students. They are aware of our expectations, and will call as needed with incidents involving our students. We also encourage and expect our students to report dangerous behavior to us. They can do so anonymously through our LiveSafe App.

The university tweeted Monday night it will stick with in-person instruction despite clusters popping up at other schools.

In a statement, UNCC said it is “guided by the directives of the UNC System.” The university also said it is “working tirelessly to prepare for the start of on-campus classes on Sept. 7″ and that it will “continue to prioritize making decisions grounded in facts and informed by the guidance of public health experts.”

Members of UNCC’s student government association sent a letter to administrators asking them for a sit down meeting to listen to their pitch for virtual learning this fall.

“We’re at the point where we need to pull the plug on this, think of the safety of the public and transition to online learning at this time,” said Dick Beekman, vice chairman for the student government at UNCC.

Officials have said UNC-System guidance calls for institutions other than Chapel Hill to proceed as planned with on campus instruction.

“I don’t see how we’ll end up being magically any different that Chapel Hill or any of the other schools that are experiencing outbreaks,” Beekman said.

UNCC has reported 4 cases of COVID-19 on campus -- an increase of two from the week before.

The number includes “faculty, staff or students who have known, confirmed cases of COVID-19, have been present on campus in the previous two weeks”

Sophomore Tatiyana Larson said she doesn’t want to be on UNCC’s campus if COVID-19 cases start multiplying.

“I think it’s inevitable that something is going to happen,” Larson said.

She supports the letter that student government sent to administrators.

“I definitely think it’s in the students’ best interest to have classes online and not be on campus full time,” she said.

Beekman said he hopes UNCC students will be more cautious after seeing what happened at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“This is our opportunity to step up as students and follow those guidelines,” Beekman said.

Lots of safety measures have already been put into place on campus.

One, which could prove difficult for students, asks that they refrain from throwing big college parties and gatherings.

Outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people and inside gatherings of more than 10 are prohibited under the governor’s order.

School officials said any one breaking that order will have violated the code of student responsibility and could face misdemeanor charges.

Larson told us that she doesn’t believe students will pay attention to the rules.

“I’ve heard many students talking and they’re still planning on having their little kick backs or parties with each other and they just don’t listen,” she said. “So just first hand ... from what I’ve heard I don’t believe that.”

We asked how officials will enforce the rules. They said any gathering on campus will be immediately dispersed. Off campus, they said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department will be called as needed with any violations of the order.

Finally, they said they want students to report their peers if they witness large parties or behavior that could spread the virus.

Despite the extra safety measures, some students are still pushing for virtual learning.

Members of the student government said they are waiting to hear back from administrators about the letter they sent.

UNC System President Peter Hans released the following statement:

“The decision to adapt operations applies to UNC-Chapel Hill only, because no other UNC System institution has reported information, at this time, that would lead to similar modifications.”

Mecklenburg County Health officials sent Channel 9 the following statement:

“We know that there will be cases among students and faculty due to the contagiousness of COVID-19 and the increased number of people on campus. The plans need to provide the University the ability to mitigate and manage these cases as they occur and to limit the risk to students, faculty and our community. Mecklenburg County Public Health continues to work with UNC Charlotte as they develop and modify their plans to bring students safely back to campus in early September.”

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