Orange County, N.C. — On Saturday night, hundreds of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students and fans flooded Franklin Street after the basketball team beat Duke University. It’s a famous UNC-Chapel Hill tradition for students to celebrate a win against rival Duke.
“I haven’t seen that many people it so long. It was definitely wild,” said Hannah Willcox, the general manager for Sup Dogs.
Willcox said she anticipated it happening, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Freshman, sophomores … they’re going to want to rush Franklin Street. They’re going to want to party like they’ve seen so many people do before,” she said.
On Sunday, UNC-Chapel Hill leaders said in a letter that they had received hundreds of student conduct complaints connected to the celebration on Franklin Street.
“Those leads will be evaluated, and students found to have violated our COVID-19 Community Standards will be subject to developmental or disciplinary action,” said school leaders in a statement.
The town of Chapel Hill and Orange County have spent months trying to keep coronavirus numbers low.
“We meet all the time talking about how to do this together and keeping people safe, and we still want our businesses to survive the pandemic, and you can only do that by having safe practices because people need to feel safe going to the business and [the] business needs to have safe practices,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger.
“It was so upsetting,” added Hemminger. “We’ve worked so hard together. We’ve been messaging together. We’ve been working together…[we] had students sign a pledge.”
Hemminger said that, while some people might say they understand why students and fans celebrated, it wasn’t OK during the pandemic.
“It’s not OK to let our guard down right now. We’re so close to the light at the end of the tunnel. The numbers are just starting to come down from the holidays. We’ve got to stay vigilant. We see the light. We just need to keep on that path towards it. Events like this just take us backwards.”
“We need to sacrifice these experiences so we can get through the pandemic,” said Willcox. “It’s just kind of frustrating for businesses who have been following the rules and are doing the best [they can] to make sure Chapel Hill was safe.”
Sunday was the last day for students to move back on campus for spring semester. School leaders said that, despite complaints about the incident, in-person undergraduate classes will continue on Monday as planned. However, faculty will be allowed to stay with remote instruction on Monday and begin in-person learning on Feb. 17.