By Ava Pukatch
All UNC students were required to agree to COVID-19 Community Standards before enrolling in the spring semester. They had to agree to wear masks and avoid large gatherings. However, after UNC’s men’s basketball team defeated Duke last weekend, hundreds flocked to Franklin Street to celebrate.
Now, UNC officials say more than 300 people have been reported to the Office of Student Conduct since Saturday night for violating the agreement. The university has not said if they’ll face repercussions.
Meanwhile, some people in town are asking how the crowd was allowed to be on Franklin Street in the first place.
Carolina Connection’s Ava Pukatch talked with Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger about that.
AVA PUKATCH: All UNC students were required to agree to COVID-19 community standards to enroll in the semester. That included wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.
Now, UNC officials say more than 300 people have been reported to the Office of Student conduct for violating the agreement since Saturday night. The university has not said if they’ll face repercussions.
Meanwhile, some people in town are asking how the crowd was allowed to be on Franklin Street in the first place. Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger is with us now to discuss that. Mayor, thank you for joining me!
PAM HEMMINGER: Hello!
PUKATCH: So obviously on Saturday, after the UNC-Duke game, UNC students rushed Franklin Street. Did Chapel Hill police department expect people to rush in at the event of a win?
HEMMINGER: So, we were hoping they would not, but we did plan for it in case they did, and we planned with our partners at UNC, we had some of their forces available too. We called in extra officers just in case.
We’d had a pretty good response from students not piling onto Franklin Street during Halloween, so we were hopeful with the messaging that they would take it seriously, and not come out during a pandemic to celebrate — that we understand things are different now. We can’t put people at risk.
PUKATCH: And so what are you hoping happens with the university and the students who were there?
HEMMINGER: That there are real consequences. We’ve been working with them since August, on being transparent with their process of what those consequences entail. They did tell us that it’s on an individual case by case basis.
Trying to figure out what works to deter behavior is more of interest to us than what the actual penalties are, if the penalties do deter behavior. But we want them to be held accountable, we want there to be consequences, but mostly we want them not to do these things, and to take the pandemic seriously.
PUKATCH: And so, how does this event, sort of, impact the Chapel Hill community? Especially with the working population since a lot of these students are frequenting the restaurants on Franklin Street, and they’re getting haircuts, they’re attending and going to grocery stores with people who are working there and were not part of the event but are now being impacted.
HEMMINGER: People are frightened. They’re frightened that this was a super spreader event, and it wasn’t all students, it was, you know. Most of our students are being really good members of the community and working with us, I mean they’re helping identify other students who are not working with us, to keep the whole community safe.
But, if you attend an event like this you are putting other people in the community at risk, and it’s about keeping the most vulnerable people safe from risk. There’s no excuse — no celebration is worth someone else’s health.
PUKATCH: Lastly, what are you hoping will change to prevent something like this happening again for the March 6th UNC-Duke game at home.
HEMMINGER : Trying to find a different way for students to celebrate. I think if we can offer something different, that will help, instead of the first thought being, ‘oh we won, let’s rush Franklin Street,’ that there’s gotta be a safer, better way to celebrate, whether it’s coming outside on your own balcony or yard or wherever it is and not gathering but — we’ll see. We’ll find a way to celebrate but not at the expense of putting people at health risk.
PUKATCH: Well, thank you so much for your time this morning, I hope you have a great rest of your day.
HEMMINGER: Thank you, thank you, you stay safe.