With fall semester in full swing, UNC Asheville remains committed to providing a safe environment for students through the end of the semester.
Student health ambassadors and students working in the dorms say they take COVID-19 protocols very seriously.
As UNC Asheville moves into its sixth week of classes, the unprecedented measures being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 become more of a routine and less of a taboo.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bill Haggard said UNCA is pleased with the very low number of cases reported on campus so far this semester.
“We can’t rest on our laurels,” Haggard said. “We must all remain vigilant in following all protocols. Our best chance at success rests with each individual’s commitment to following protocols.”
The university intends to succeed in carrying on with in-person instruction, activities and campus living through the end of the semester as long as conditions on campus remain safe.
A large part of that success depends on the student body.
“Our best chance at success rests with each individual’s commitment to following protocols,” Haggard said. “Congratulations to our students on a terrific start. Let’s keep up the good
UNCA took several steps to encourage students to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including online and hybrid courses, mask giveaways, hand sanitizer stations and temperature
checks conducted by Student Health Ambassadors.
According to Elena Keller, a student health ambassador and senior health and wellness student, SHA aims to promote a culture of wellbeing through education and support. SHA encourages students to engage in safe behaviors and provides emotional and social support to students.
“The ambassadors work in specialized teams which focus on mental health, racial equity, athletics, fitness, community and civic engagement, among others,” Keller said.
A common assessment among faculty and student health ambassadors asserts that students do a good job at engaging in safe behaviors but the effort needs to continue in order for the
rest of the semester to continue uninterrupted.
“I believe that students are complying with the new measures,” Keller said.
“I think that our campus is unique in that we operate on such a small scale, which I think contributes to our willingness to care for one another. I’m proud of our student body for working together as a community in adopting these new measures.”
Although most COVID-19 prevention measures are being followed very well, a few that seem to be a concern of faculty and the SHA program are social distancing and following directional signs.
“I think everyone from the campus staff to the students are doing a great job and SHA is working really hard to continue the progress. My only stipulation is I just wish that all the students and staff would pay attention to the directional signs especially in areas where a lot of people come through,” said Miracle Okoro, student health ambassador.
UNCA has 3,363 students enrolled this fall according to the university website. On average just under half of UNCA’s undergraduate students live on campus.
The dorms adopted their own set of guidelines in response to COVID-19. Adam Wan, a housing maintenance worker and mass communication student, said residents must limit guest traffic and have even refrain from using elevators unless necessary for carrying
heavy items like furniture or laundry.
“In the study lounges for example, there is a max of four people and if you are in one of the study lounges you must be wearing a mask,” Wan said.
Wan disinfects door handles, elevator buttons, hard surfaces and everything in between on a daily basis in order to maintain a safe environment for residents. Wan said resident advisors also play a large role in the dorms response to COVID-19 and they are under a lot of pressure to be on their A-game this semester, but ultimately the responsibility falls on all residents
to do their part.
“I know people personally that are following everything to a T, especially the RAs. The RAs have been super strict this year,” Wan said.
Dorm conditions remain a major concern for other UNC system schools battling COVID-19 clusters. NC State chose to close all campus dorms but other schools seem reluctant to follow out of fear that returning college students home may result in spreading COVID-19 rather than controlling it.
The state health department advises any student moving home to get tested
and to self-quarantine for 14 days even if the test is negative.
“The unfortunate outcomes at other campuses have only reinforced the importance of compliance by all,” Haggard said. “I’m hoping everyone is paying attention to the negative outcomes of not following the protocols.
I encourage everyone to be committed to safe practices while off campus and while socializing. I also hope that students will find pride in our success so far and that it will motivate folks to want to win this thing.”