A Mighty Cluster
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
I write when I am happy, write when I am sad, write when stressed and you better believe I write when I am flipping mad. Yesterday, I did something I may regret in the future... I wrote a letter to the Chancellor, President and Board of Governors of my kid's school. Full disclosure, I also work there, so if I am suddenly unemployed, you will know why.
Just two weeks ago, we dropped our one and only child off at college for his freshman year. If you read any of my previous posts, you know I was uncomfortable about dropping him off, yet did so, as I had hoped contingency plans upon contingency plans were put in place. Like most parents, I dreamed of the day I would drop my child off at college for his Freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My child worked his butt off getting a coveted spot in the highly ranked and competitive school. In my dreams, my child would instantaneously bond with his roommate, we would connect and become best friends with the kids parents by laughing, and finding out our commonalities over a cup of coffee. The year was going to be amazing. That is until I woke up and realized it was still 2020 and my son's freshman year wasn't going as planned. His roommate canceled his housing days before move in. We were given 45 minutes to move in and unloaded in record speed. By the time we emptied the car, it was time to leave. No tearful goodbyes ensued. My dream didn't include us wearing masks or me sweating profusely either. We didn't meet his RA, his suite mates, or other parents.
Despite all of that, we had the hope and confidence that all of those in the governing body of the university had the best and the brightest medical, scientific and logistical masterminds guiding the university for a successful semester. We were told that the university would have cases. We were assured there were plans in place. That all fell through the cracks the moment we received word this past Monday that UNC at Chapel Hill would go 100% virtual and in what university officials call "de-densification" of their campus. TWO WEEKS. To translate in people speak - the students are getting kicked out and campus is closing. Before campus opened, 37 cases cropped up of athletes and staff and the school still opened. Athletes, International students and for those that who don't have reliable internet or could prove there was a hardship at home could stay, only if you could prove. The University would employ a formal review process. The communication didn't say how long the process would be and we were out of time. As primary caregiver to a parent who needs a little more attention than before, I am unwilling to bring my child home. At least not yet. While the safety of my mother is paramount, so is the safety of my child, and of course my husband and me.
The Fall 2020 semester started with hope, quickly unfolded as a shit storm and has settled in as a Mighty Cluster and we are only 2 weeks in! Within moments of the "De-Densification" announcement, I, along with a friend and fellow parent went to work. It took 3 days to secure an AirBnB for our kids. Do I think it is irresponsible sending 4 freshmen to a stylish AirBnB dubbed as a "Cool Crib", a credit card, and a car with a full tank of gas for 12 days? Probably. It is a million times more irresponsible for university officials to open a college campus during a Pandemic without requiring students to quarantine and not take a Covid-19 test all before stepping foot on the campus. Idiotic students having parties and carrying on as if there wasn't a pandemic is akin to throwing gasoline into a fire. I place more blame on the arrogance of the governing body of the university, of thinking they could do this with out adequate testing and requiring students to quarantine prior to their arrival on campus, like we did in our home. They played Russian Roulette with everyone's safety.
So as my husband and I drive to Chapel Hill later today to collect his things and say goodbye to his Freshman dreams of living on campus, the ones university officials dangled in front of him like a carrot, I remain incensed and thoroughly heartbroken for my child and the other families going through what we are. My hope is that students and families will not be cavalier and think Covid-19 is only the flu - tell that to the families of the 175,000+ people who have died. As for university officials - they need to check egos at the door, admit to the mistakes they made, get their shit together and come up with a more comprehensive plan that requires all students, faculty and staff to quarantine and test before they allow anyone to set foot on campus. FFS, we are counting on you.
If you would like to read what I sent, it is below:
In response to the de-densification of UNC Chapel Hill Campus, I am contacting you as a member of the Carolina staff and a parent of a freshman in the undergraduate program. At Carolina, my job is to manage and implement educational programs, and in that capacity, anticipate the numerous "what ifs" and develop alternate arrangements. As such, I understand and appreciate the countless hours put forth for students to experience resident life on campus for Fall 2020. While I had many concerns before moving my child into the dorms, I remained hopeful and believed in all that was put in place for the semester. It goes without saying that students who didn't abide by the social distancing norms and ignore university rules made a tenuous situation exponentially worse. In hindsight, it has become abundantly clear the Carolina Together Roadmap did not do enough. As an employee and concerned parent, I am baffled why critical steps aimed at reducing the spread of the virus were not put in place. Additionally, the lack of university oversight and consideration since the de-densification "plan" was announced, not only leaves me disheartened, I am infuriated.
It is unconscionable that the entire university governing body, the state, and the medical and scientific advisors, all of whom were involved in the Carolina Together Roadmap did not require all students to quarantine and take a Covid-19 test prior to a student's arrival. I specifically reached out to the housing department with my concerns, as two of the eight students assigned in my child's suite reside in Florida and Texas, two states with unimaginable outbreaks. I was told that no testing or quarantining was required. UNC Chapel Hill is one of the most prominent public institutions, with world class and scientific and medical professionals, why was this not implemented?
Since Monday’s announcement of shifting to 100% remote and instituting the "de-densification" of campus, families had to make difficult decisions of either bringing their child home and risk being exposed or scramble to make temporary housing arrangements to quarantine off campus. I had no other choice but to choose the latter. Being considered “at risk” as well as caring for an aging parent undergoing intensive cancer treatments, three days and umpteem hours later, I was able to secure temporary housing for my child. It is a shame that the university didn't offer students and families short term solutions by either allowing students to extend housing through a 14 day quarantine period or providing resources for temporary housing. The haphazard and inconsistent communications and operations during the depopulating of residence halls has been less than desirable. This morning, as I read the announcement that all students in affected dorms will be tested, I grew further annoyed, as testing of all residents should have been implemented IMMEDIATELY after the clusters were identified, instead an entire week has gone by. I worry about those students and their families who've already left campus.
It is unfortunate that the Chancellor, President, the board of governors and those that served in an advisory capacity squandered a unique opportunity to showcase the essence of Carolina, the countless actions and considerations that make University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill so special. Instead, the entire Carolina community was let down.