Recently, the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) has been discussing possible contingency plans in the event of partial or full campus closures for the fall semester due to COVID-19. The UNC System may potentially cut budgets up to 50% in the wake of lost revenue from housing, athletics and other on-campus activities.
Faculty and staff may be greatly affected by the cuts, with furloughs and terminations increasingly possible as COVID-19 cases in North Carolina rise daily. Nontenured faculty members are likely to be the most impacted by the layoffs, especially if they are unwilling to teach in-person or hybrid classes.
Simply put, teachers should not be punished for valuing their lives and being uncomfortable with teaching face to face during a global pandemic.
The core academic mission of a university is to provide the best possible education to its students, and without an adequate teaching staff, NC State cannot hold true to this mission.
One cannot expect an ideal working environment when a large portion of the staff is laid off, ultimately resulting in the remaining staff being needlessly overworked. Similarly, one cannot expect an ideal learning environment for students with a diminished staff.
University administration must prioritize the human element of the situation. At the end of the day, instructors are irreplaceable human beings who are contributing to the core academic mission and community of our university. It is needlessly cruel to threaten the economic livelihood of valuable staff, and the BOG has continually shown a lack of consideration for students, faculty and staff as it responds to the pandemic.
On July 23, the BOG voted not to change or refund tuition and fees regardless of any potential institutional changes . This decision solidified that students will pay the same amount of money, whether they are taking advantage of university facilities or not. Students will continue to pay for empty gyms, uneaten dining hall food and vacant residence halls in the event of another campus closure.
While we recognize that all facilities have an inherent upkeep cost, it is unsympathetic to believe that tuition and fees should not change and/or be refunded.
We are not asking for buildings such as Carmichael Gymnasium, Fountain Dining Hall and Talley Student Union to become abandoned city ruins in the wake of COVID-19. However, the housekeeping and continued use of basic utilities such as running water in order to combat mold and other degradations do not cost full tuition and fees, especially if these spaces are already running under minimal operations.
And if we do reach that worst-case scenario where a large portion of staff is laid off, it is even more senseless to expect students to pay full price for a diminished staff. Expecting students to pay full price for limited resources only serves to line the pockets of the existing administration. The logic, aside from incessantly trying to earn a profit during a pandemic, is simply not there.
The BOG’s disregard for student finances and decision to cut members of the faculty and staff in the midst of a global pandemic is disappointing at best. Asking students to pay for largely unused services and laying off faculty for economic gain is rooted in disregard for community.
We ask the UNC BOG to revise their current economic plans in order to protect vulnerable staff and stop the monetary exploitation of students. All instructors at the university level should have employment protections at a time where unemployment is at an all-time high, and all students at the university level should not be expected to pay full fees for largely unused facilities in the case of campus closures.
Students and faculty deserve to feel financially secure and safe, not the opposite.
This unsigned editorial is the opinion of Technician’s editorial board and is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief.