Students' Return to Gillings: Fall 2020
Last Updated July 29, 2020
Where can I find latest information on COVID-19-related decisions for Gillings and the University?
Check the Gillings Coronavirus Information Portal for latest Gillings-related information. See especially the “Resources for Students, Faculty and Staff” section.
When is orientation, and what will it consist of?
The Gillings School orientation will be held from August 4 to August 7. You can find more information about the orientation schedule on the Gillings School Welcome Events page.
Will any portion of orientation be in-person or will it all be online?
The Gillings School New Student Orientation will be online.
Will orientation be recorded for students who cannot participate in real time?
Almost all Gillings School orientation sessions will be recorded and available here Departmental and concentration sessions may be recorded, please check with your program director or concentration lead directly.
How can I register for orientation?
Please see the website for Orientation with the registration link sph.unc.edu/students/schoolwide-welcome/.
How many classes will be held as hybrid or mask-to-mask?
A small percentage of Gillings School classes will be face to face/hybrid (FH); instruction mode is visible and searchable on ConnectCarolina.
What will in-class group work look like in a socially distanced classroom?
There are several options. Group work could include activities like gallery walks. Groups may use shared documents on laptops to work on something together. It is also possible to use Zoom breakout rooms for groups to work together (even with students who are online). Poll Everywhere may also be an option. Ultimately, group work interactions will be unique to the class and instructor.
Where can I find information about how my classes will be offered (online, hybrid, mask-to-mask)?
Instruction mode is listed via your course schedule in ConnectCarolina.
I have heard that some online classes may be synchronous and others asynchronous. How will Gillings online classes be held?
This will be unique to each course to account for the unique circumstances of instructors, students and content. All online courses will be scheduled with a time slot, during which it would be expected that any synchronous work (Zoom meetings) would happen. Some courses may have more self-guided modules than others. You’ll want to read your syllabus carefully and stay in good communication with your instructor.
Will all lectures be recorded?
We are encouraging faculty to record all synchronous sessions (and are upgrading classrooms to facilitate this in all rooms). Recordings may have a delay before they are posted and this could mean you’d get information a bit late. Once posted, recordings will be available for the duration of the semester. Best practice will be to attend classes during the time slot, whether in the classroom or via Zoom.
How will instructors and TAs be able to replicate a whiteboard in an online class?
We’ve been working on this and have a recommendation for our faculty on how to use a tablet and stylus to write on the whiteboard in Zoom. We will have guidelines to maximize the effectiveness of this method. Individual instructors and departments will be making decisions on how to utilize this recommendation.
For HyFlex classes, if we opt into the remote learning option at the start, will we be able to switch to in-person later in the semester?
This may be possible. This will happen only if the instructor approves (since you can indicate your choice in ConnectCarolina now and it cannot be changed) and if there is an available in person seat based on the room capacity for 6′ distancing (as we can never go over the room capacity).
How will Gillings faculty address the lack of personal interaction, cultural immersion, and networking in a remote learning environment?
There is a large body of resources showing that courses designed for an online format are just as, if not more, effective than in-person courses. For months now, our faculty have had access to instructional designers, a technical team, and a number of online resources and trainings to help them build quality and highly effective online courses.
We understand the need for personal interaction to better facilitate cultural immersion and networking. Student Affairs is working diligently on a Virtual Engagement [web]page that will allow students the opportunity to participate in networking events, webinars, concentration-specific lectures and health and wellness events. We are building a robust calendar of events for the fall. There will be more information to come in the Fall Newsletter.
How will professors increase engagement and accountability among students?
If you’re finding your instructor is setting things up in a way that’s hindering your learning, please reach out to your instructor/TA/academic coordinator about the issue. There are certainly approaches to increase engagement, including breakout rooms and polls and there is written and shared guidance on the KeepTeaching website for instructors, which includes to pausing lectures to check Q&A, chat, and engage with students to increase the quality of interactions in Zoom sessions.
Will the fact that instructors must wear masks affect lecture quality?
Instructors are required to wear masks. We’re working actively to ensure we have the best possible audio quality that accommodates masks – and have even been testing and updating the audio systems in many rooms.
Why were Comprehensive Exam dates not changes due to the new start date of August 10?
The Comp Exam Committee considered all options when the move up date for the Fall was announced. We weighed the pros and cons of moving up the exam date, and not impacting too much on the start of the semester, and making sure we could get the logistics of the testing and grading done. After those discussions, we believe that keeping the original dates was the best option.
Will there be any academic relief if a student becomes ill with COVID-19 and cannot attend class or complete work for an extended period of time?
We are still waiting on information from the University, similar to the emergency grading policies that were implemented in the spring semester that provided options for extended time. Please make sure you communicate directly with your assigned Academic Coordinator (who is your primary academic advisor) and your instructor if you have any unanswered questions.
How will study spaces in Gillings and the Health Sciences Library be set up safely?
The atrium and other common areas in our School will be set up with appropriate 6′ distancing in place. This should be similar around campus.
Will Health Sciences Library hours be altered?
The Health Sciences Library plan can be found at library.unc.edu/covid-19-updates/.
Will students be able to sit at table or outside their building with people they live with (housemates or roommates)?
We expect everyone to maintain at least 6ft distancing as it will be impossible to determine who lives together. Adherence to the distancing expectations will help prevent concerns, confusion or anxiety of others.
Will we still be able to study in the building after hours?
Students will be able to stay late as long as the physical distancing is maintained. Security is on site 24/7 at this time. One Card access will continue to be active from 7am until 11pm.
What protocols will we follow during face-to-face classes and in Gillings buildings to protect our own and each other’s health in the time of COVID-19?
We are taking every precaution to keep students, staff and faculty members safe at Gillings and to assure that no group is adversely affected. We are examining all recommendations with an equity lens. We are working resolutely and systematically to make the school as safe as possible. Safety in a pandemic is everyone’s job. A Gillings infrastructure task force is working through details now, both to fulfil and to extend protocols released by the University. We are adopting evidence-based CDC recommendations to return to work (or class) safely, and we are meeting or exceeding UNC’s Community Standards. Very briefly, though, we are planning the following:
- One-way passage through Gillings buildings and stairwells (including designated entrance and exit doors);
- An additional 15 minutes (for a total of 30 minutes) between classes for physical distancing and sanitation;
- Limited people in classrooms or meeting space (with 6 feet between people);
- Virtual meetings and events, whenever possible;
- Requirement for all people to wear masks at all times in Gillings buildings unless they are in a private office alone with the door closed;
- Having students, staff and faculty wipe down tables, seats, podiums and other surfaces they use throughout Gillings buildings and classrooms before and after use (cleaning supplies will be available);
- Frequent cleaning of “high touch” surfaces (door handles, railings, faucets, drinking fountains) and bathrooms several times a day. We have invested in machinery to facilitate more thorough, efficient disinfection of Gillings buildings each weeknight.
Will students be required to have a negative COVID-19 test before coming onto campus?
There is no requirement for testing before coming to campus. As stated on the Carolina Together webpage, “testing every member of our community could create a false sense of security. The CDC does not recommend widespread, asymptomatic testing, and instead recommends that all individuals take preventative measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
What is the protocol if a student or professor is found to be COVID-19 positive?
UNC has released guidance on this. It can be found on the Carolina Together webpage.
At what point will Gillings revert to all online instruction or make use of an “off-ramp”?
The decision to revert to all online lies with the Board of Governors for the ten-campus UNC-System. It is possible that the Board of Governors may permit individual universities within the UNC System to make decisions about reverting to all online classes depending on local conditions, but they have not granted that permission as of this date (7/23/20). If the UNC System permits UNC-Chapel Hill to make its own decision about holding in-person versus online classes, that decision is made by the Chancellor. The Gillings School cannot operate independently of the University; we are part of the University.
How will safety protocols (like wearing masks, sanitizing spaces, and washing hands) be enforced?
UNC -Chapel Hill has asked students, faculty and staff to commit to community standards: https://carolinatogether.unc.edu/community-standards-3-2/. People not abiding by these standards may be asked to leave classes and buildings. Students are asked to sign an affidavit committing to these standards before returning to campus. We, at Gillings, are also seeking permission to develop such an affidavit for our faculty and staff.
Will temperatures be checked prior to entering the building?
UNC is not implementing temperature testing at building entry but is providing thermometers for students to check prior to departing for campus each day.
In the case of an emergency (i.e. fire drill, tornado, etc), will there be a system in place for safe evacuation?
We asked this question of our internal experts on preparedness & disaster response. Their recommendation is to deal with the most urgent emergency situation first. In this case, we would evacuate for a fire or weather emergency as we normally do, wearing masks and employing physical distancing as able.
Where can I find information about public transportation updates?
Please see the Town of Chapel Hill website for Chapel Hill Transit updates.
Go Triangle has also posted updates on their website.
Where can I find UNC-specific parking and transit updates?
Please see move.unc.edu/news/covid-19/.
Will the showers at Gillings still be open for use?
Yes. The showers, located in the basement of Rosenau Hall, will still be first come, first served. Day lockers will be available to store bags or other supplies during the day. See more on the Gillings School facilities webpage
Will there be stickers and other signage for maintaining the correct distance?
Yes, there will be floor signs outside of restrooms, entrances, and classrooms clearly indicating appropriate spacing.
Can a new international student take courses remotely in their country after obtaining an F-1 visa?
We are awating on guidance regarding what is allowable for new incoming international students, as the SEVP Guidance that we have reverted back to (Spring and Summer exception) was intended for returning international students. International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) will be sending out clarifications once they have more information. Please make sure you complete the In-Person Attendance Confirmation form ISSS has sent incoming international students, so they know what your plan is for the Fall semester.
Are there any updates on graduate student funding (TA/RA) for international students who are unable to enter the US this Fall?
We are waiting on guidance from the university; they are working to see if there can be an exception process to allow students who are abroad to request an exception to be a TA/RA.
How is the school protecting the facilities staff?
We have ensured that the facilities staff are compensated to maximum that our HR policies allow, including some additional pay earlier in spring and plus extra pay for any eligible overtime. Housekeeping staff receive fresh gloves as needed and at least one surgical mask each week; follow guidance on UNC’s Carolina Together website. Many in housekeeping have adjusted hours to help keep them safe. Housekeeping staff complete specialized Environmental Health and Safety training. All members of the Gillings community are strongly encouraged to complete this safety training as well.
What are we doing to protect the health of other faculty and staff?
We are working with faculty and staff in a variety of ways:
- Faculty are in discussions with department chairs to determine the best teaching format option for each course. Some faculty will request an accommodation based on their high-risk health status per CDC guidelines. Other accommodations may be requested as well. We are working with faculty, like students, to be flexible, adaptable, and kind/compassionate with special requests as much as possible.
- We are reducing the overall number of staff who are in our buildings at any one time. Staff whose work can be done from home are likely to have permission to do so, consistent with university guidance.
- Staff who need to be onsite will have staggered scheduled and/or will work from home some days and onsite other days.
- For the most part, meetings will be held virtually unless there are special circumstances.
Where can I view the breakdown of student fees?
See more info about the breakdown of fees on the Cashier’s website.
Will Gillings be offering any additional financial support to help students with potential new costs related to online learning?
We expect all UNC students to have a laptop but recognize that is a hardship for some students, as is a broadband connection if they need to learn from home. There is no targeted technology program but there are student emergency relief funds available at the university and school levels. In addition, some of the internet providers have been offering special deals to reduce costs for broadband.
I have been hired as a TA in fall. Will I be able to teach or do my TA work remotely if I have underlying health conditions or am uncomfortable teaching face-to-face?
Those with an underlying health condition may request an accommodation with Accessibility Resources and Services. Those seeking an accommodation for other reasons may request permission from the lead instructor to meet your TA responsibilities remotely. We have advised faculty to be flexible and to accommodate such requests where feasible. If your lead faculty employer denies your request for an accommodation and you feel this decision is unfair, please contact your program director or department chair. US laws and tax regulations make it very difficult for students working internationally as RAs and TAs to be paid for such work. Latest guidance is available at UNC Global.
I have been hired as an RA in a lab. What protocols are in place to protect my health?
UNC Research has extensive set of safety protocols and guidance that have been put in place. As part of that guidance, each Principal Investigator has developed a lab safety plan unique to their labs as part of the university’s process for the resumption of research. We recommend that you review this document carefully with your supervisor. Department chairs and the Gillings Research Unit review and approve all lab safety protocols.
I have been hired as an RA in a lab. I have underlying health conditions that put me at greater risk for COVID-19. What are my options?
Individuals who have been instructed to return to on-site work and wish to request a disability accommodation (e.g., for disabilities that place individuals at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19) should contact the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been hired as an RA, but not in a lab. Will I be able to work from home?
Those with underlying health conditions may request an accommodation with Accessibility Resources and Services. Those seeking an accommodation for other reasons should talk with your supervisor about your needs. We have advised faculty supervisors/employers to be flexible and to accommodate such requests where feasible. If your supervisor denies your request to work from home and you feel this decision is unfair, you should contact your department chair.
Where can I find TA resources?
Instructors and TAs have the KeepTeaching website available to them. It provides many materials and trainings to help them adjust courses for this unprecedented time.
Will Gillings student organizations have an opportunity to virtually promote their organization to new students?
Yes. We are planning a virtual student activities fair this fall. Information will be given to new presidents from Natiaya Neal.