Tragedy at UNC shows dangers facing employees

Sep 01, 2023

A tragic shooting on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday claimed the life of a state employee. Zijie Yan, 38, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences, was gunned down by a student who was later arrested.

The shooting gained national headlines and is another example of the dangers facing state employees on the job each day – from corrections officers to DOT workers to those in DHHS facilities to teachers and professors on our campuses. There are countless stories of workers who put their lives at risk.

Employees at UNC found themselves in harm’s way on Monday and sprang to action. Housekeeping staff, maintenance workers, and faculty members stepped up to keep students safe after the shooting.

The News & Observer highlighted the bravery of Joe Fearrington, a 61-year-old staff member who shepherded students into Phillips Hall and a nearby café when the alarm sounded. He tied a cord to a door that would not lock to secure it.

“You never know what to expect,” Fearrington said. “That’s the world we’re living in.”

SEANC thanks the members of Districts 19 and 25 and all of the employees at UNC for their dedication in the face of danger and all state employees who are at risk on the job daily.