The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill over the weekend reported a cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to a fraternity and another cluster linked to a residence hall, the third and fourth such clusters announced by the university since it restarted classes last Monday. A cluster is defined as five or more cases located in close proximity.
The Faculty Executive Committee at Chapel Hill is set to hold a special meeting today to discuss the clusters, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. The chair of the faculty, Mimi V. Chapman, wrote to the UNC System's Board of Governors asking it to give authority to Chapel Hill's chancellor to make decisions about the campus's operating status.
"The presence of clusters should be triggering reconsideration of residential, in-person learning," Chapman wrote. "However, moving to remote instruction cannot be done without your approval."
At Oklahoma State University, a sorority house is under quarantine after 23 members tested positive for COVID, according to The Oklahoman.
Elsewhere in the state, nine football players at the University of Oklahoma tested positive after returning from a break, ESPN reported.
The president of Villanova University, in Pennsylvania, warned students they will be sent home if they do not abide by COVID-related guidelines after hundreds of freshmen gathered for a large outdoor group gathering, Philly Voice reported. Videos showed students failing to abide by social distancing requirements; many were not wearing masks.
Meanwhile, Columbia University and Barnard College both retreated from plans to invite undergraduates back to campus in favor of an all-virtual fall. Columbia president Lee C. Bollinger cited a New York state mandate that students coming from 31 different states self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival as one factor in the decision not to invite undergraduates back to the New York City campus after all.
“While I am supportive of the measures New York State has imposed, and while I have no doubt that we could ensure a safe quarantine period from a public health standpoint, two weeks is a long time to endure isolation, especially for students who will be leaving home for the first time,” Bollinger wrote. “Conditions for all students in quarantine will be austere, to say the least. And, of course, after the quarantine period ends, various restrictions related to social interactions and other forms of gatherings on campus will remain in place, limiting the quality of life for students residing on campus because of the nature of dormitory-style spaces. These two considerations combined are a major part of our decision.”
Columbia and Barnard join a growing list of colleges that have pivoted to online-only falls in recent weeks, but many other institutions are still moving ahead with reopening plans. Middlebury College, in Vermont, is holding firm on plans to reopen over the objections of a group of about 60 employees and local residents, who wrote a letter urging the college to go online-only and raising concerns about aspects of its reopening plans, according to VTDigger.
Seton Hall University, in New Jersey, announced Friday it would open by the end of the month for “reduced-density” in-person instruction and indoor dining after Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order last week allowing in-person instruction at the state’s higher education institutions to resume.
The financial ramifications of the pandemic continue to be felt at colleges throughout the country. MassLive reported that American International College, in Massachusetts, has laid off three tenured faculty members. Five nontenured positions were also cut. The college's chief of staff said the affected tenured faculty members are all associated with one of five degree programs -- biochemistry, chemistry, English, history and political science -- that were slated for elimination earlier this year, about two months prior to the start of the pandemic.