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November 3, 2021

UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum

Hybrid Meeting:
In-Person: School of Social Work Auditorium (Tate-Turner-Kuralt Room 136)

Zoom Remote Meeting:  Connection Details Below

NOTE:  This is a draft agenda and is subject to change without notice.

I. Call to Order & Opening Remarks: Chair Katie Musgrove (9:15 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.)

  • Welcome to Guests & Members of the Press

II. Roundtable with Provost Bob Blouin (9:20 a.m. – 9:40 a.m.)

III. Special Presentations (9:40 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.)

  • University Librarian and Vice Provost Elaine Westbrooks on University Library Budget Cuts
  • Director, Office Emergency Management and Planning Derek Jeter and EHS Professional Justin Miller on Emergency Management Plan and Preparedness

IV. Human Resources Update (10:10 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.)

  • Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Equal Opportunity & Compliance Becci Menghini
  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler

V. Consent Agenda (10:30 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.)

VI. Old Business (10:40 a.m. – 10:50 a.m.)

VII.  New Business (10:50 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.)

  • Upcoming Parliamentarian Role Vacancy

VIII. Special Presentation (11:00 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.)

  • Professor Tara Bohley on Mental Health First Aid Training

IX. Announcements/Questions (11:20-11:30 p.m.)

  • November 20, 2021 Football Game Versus Wofford (Time TBD)-
    • Tickets for Employee Forum delegates and their families (signup for tickets ended October 29th)
    • Employee Forum delegates being recognized on field (details TBD)
  • Vice Chancellor Representatives Meeting- December 9, 2021 at 10:00 AM (Zoom)

X. Adjournment

Zoom Log-In Information

Contact Matt Banks at matt_banks@unc.edu by 8 a.m. Wednesday, November 3rd for log-in and password.

MINUTES

November 3, 2021 Employee Forum meeting minutes

Delegates Attending: L. E. Alexander, Jessy Bongiovanni, Randall Borror, Sharron Bouquin, David Bragg, Rich Brandenburg, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Michael Case, Emma Dehne, Elizabeth DuBose, Phil Edwards, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth, Jaci Field, Stephanie Forman, Adrianne Gibilisco, Chrissie Greenberg, Leah Hefner, Keith Hines, James Holman, Kira Jones, Mary King, Anthony Lindsey, Amber Meads, Arlene Medder, Mandy Melton, Katie Musgrove, Joseph Ormond, Sara Pettaway, Laura Pratt, Kevin Robinson, Kelly Scurlock-Cross, Theresa Silsby, Janice Singletary, Robert Smith III, Antonio Squire, Jake Stallard, James Stamey, Janet Steele, Matthew Teal, Tracy Wetherby Williams, Alice Whiteside, Tracey Wiley, Tyrone Williams, Jacob Womack

Excused Absences: Jen DeNeal, Shayna Hill, Todd Hux, Karen Webster, Danielle Wingler

Chair Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 9:18 a.m. She welcomed Provost Bob Blouin to speak in the Forum’s customary roundtable session. Blouin thanked all who have worked so hard to make this semester a successful one. He noted the shock that all of campus felt upon hearing news of student deaths. He took a moment to acknowledge the feelings of the parents and families of these students, as well as their friends.

Blouin said that the campus was experiencing very positive numbers related to COVID, reflecting those across the state and the country. Numbers of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are all going down as of November 3rd. Orange County has among the lowest density of viral load, a little over 1% for the entire county. Orange County is one of the highest vaccinated counties in the state with 70% of eligible population fully vaccinated and 73% partially vaccinated. He welcomed the extension of vaccines to children aged 5-11 and encouraged all to obtain this vaccination upon the advice of their pediatrician. He encouraged all eligible to obtain booster shots as well, noting the significant data about their value to the patient and those around them.

Blouin was pleased that the campus data shows a percent positivity rating of 0.3%, with between zero and six cases overall on campus over the last 1,104 days. He noted that 94% of faculty, 93% of students, and 86% of staff employees have now attested to their vaccination status. This strong community vaccination rate contributes to a very safe environment for all. He hoped these trends will continue.

Blouin noted President Biden’s federal mandate that all institutions that receive federal contracts must be responsive to a federal mandate of mandatory vaccinations, which should be completed by December 8th to comply. The University receives $160 million through these federal contracts, and it is thus imperative that the campus do its best to comply with this mandate.

The University has sent notices through Human Resources to notify non-compliant individuals of their need to upload the appropriate documentation onto the verification site. The UNC System has not offered guidance yet as to possible disciplinary steps for those who refuse to comply with this timeline. He hoped that all will be appropriately notified by the 12th of November, giving all a chance to get the shots and upload their documentation. More information will be shared about this process as it becomes available.

The spring semester will be here very soon, and the University is looking at possibly adjusting its community standards regarding testing requirements. The University will need to retain its testing structure in the event cases ramp up again.

Blouin added that the University has several leadership positions open and searches underway. Searches for the Provost, the Vice Provost for Enrollment, the Deans of the School of Nursing and the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and the Adams School of Dentistry are all underway in various stages.

Blouin offered to take questions from listeners. David Rogers asked about the federal mandate, given his understanding that federal contractors must comply but that grant recipients are specifically excluded. He asked if every single University employee is working under a federal contract. Blouin responded that the institution has a responsibility to study every contract. He said that administrative, Human Resources and finance personnel support those on a federal contract, making distinctions between employees at the ground level almost impossible. Thus, the University will follow the example of other institutions and take the approach that all employees must receive vaccinations for the University to carry out its work and comply with the mandate properly.

Rogers followed up by noting that it is too cumbersome for the University System to figure out exactly who qualifies as a federal contractor and who would be grant recipients who are excluded from the mandate. Blouin agreed, noting the effort involved to track each of these individuals becomes too cumbersome.

Joe Ormond shared a chat question from Theresa Silsby, who asked whether employees receiving a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine will still be subject to testing requirements. Blouin said that the University is reevaluating its protocols considering current rates of infection and health care experts’ judgment. Officials are beginning to question whether mandatory testing protocols will continue to be useful. This determination regarding the spring semester will be made soon.

A chat question from Arlene Medder asked what the process will look like when an employee has a concern about the vaccination status of a fellow employee. She went on to ask, given that it would probably be too intrusive to ask, should the employee consult the Ombuds office or is there some other venue to discuss their concerns. She added that privacy concerns are key. Blouin acknowledged that the University does not have the right to challenge or ask individuals if they are vaccinated or not. Their responsibility is to attest and to document whether they have been vaccinated. Based on the federal mandate they are subject to disciplinary action within the University if they are not vaccinated. If it comes to the attention of the University that an employee is out of compliance, then an official would approach that person in a confidential manner without revealing the source of that information.

If someone does have a medical or religious exemption, they would still be subject to testing as the alternative to vaccination. The University’s position is to comply and expect compliance with Federal and state laws. However, the University will always try to respect the confidentiality of everyone’s medical record. The University is not encouraging people to tattle on one another. The system in place should be enough to identify those individuals out of compliance, Blouin said. He hoped that a timeline of where and how disciplinary action decisions would occur will be announced in the coming weeks.

Blouin noted that UNC-Chapel Hill is working in concert with the UNC System to develop a harmonious approach to this question. He said that all System institutions will not need to comply with the federal law because not all receive federal contracts.

David Rogers said that upon looking at the University dashboard of COVID events, 901 positive cases are cited since August. He asked what effort has been made to assess the percentage of those 901 people were fully vaccinated at the time of their positive test. Blouin said that the procedure has evolved. Early on, no one was vaccinated. Now, most people who test positive are vaccinated. The good news is that most vaccinated people who test positive are asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic. He noted UNC Health’s finding that nearly all individuals who have passed away from COVID have been unvaccinated. Only those who are immunocompromised have fallen into problems while vaccinated. He concluded that the evidence is locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally clear regarding the vaccines’ power to prevent hospitalization or death from COVID.

Rogers clarified that he is pro-vaccine but said that he opposes the University’s mandate. He cited his support for civil liberties as an ex-Desert Storm infantry veteran. He also believes in social responsibility and thought that anyone who has not received the vaccine and has not been infected with COVID should get the vaccine.

Rogers asked if there was any effort to assess the percentage of the 14% of staff who have not attested have had a natural infection and natural immunity from recovery. He asked if there could be a medical exemption for people in that case. He understood that a great deal of research shows that natural immunity is as strong or stronger than vaccine-induced immunity.

Blouin replied that the Federal mandate speaks only about vaccinations and not natural immunity. He said that University decisionmakers had discussed natural immunity with world-renowned immunization experts. These and other experts have found that the vaccine is far more beneficial than natural immunity at preventing bad outcomes. There is no longer debate in the scientific world as to the relative benefit of vaccination versus natural immunity. The magnitude of difference is around five-fold in favor of vaccination over natural immunity.

Rogers ventured that this information would be a breakthrough as compared to other viruses. He asked whether historic precedent of vaccination and booster immunity has indicated that natural immunity is stronger than vaccine-induced immunity. Blouin said that he is not a biologist, but he understood that effectiveness rates depend on the virus and how it affects the immune system. This virus is new in the human population, with much left to learn about it. Still, the durability of these vaccinations and the reason for booster advocacy is backed up by Israeli research that immunity does wane over time. Booster shots are common for treatment of other virus-borne maladies such as the flu, based on scientific data demonstrating that immune response does change over time, as does one’s ability to respond to infections as one ages. He said that the scientific community will need to let this play out over time to see what must be done long-term to protect ourselves and our communities.

Josh Tucker asked if the University would drop the mask mandate for indoor spaces for employees after the December deadline. Blouin said that the University plans to continue this policy. He recalled discussions with healthcare experts who unanimously advocated continuing the mask requirement as we learn more about the virus. He noted the importance of mask use in classroom spaces.

Blouin recalled that the federal mandate does not apply to undergraduate students, meaning that the University cannot mandate vaccinations for undergraduates. This is the main reason why the University would need to preserve the mask mandate in the spring.

Phil Edwards asked about the online verification system only providing entries for two doses, which seems to exclude those with booster shots. Blouin said that this was correct, that for Federal purposes an employee must only show evidence of attesting being fully vaccinated (two doses of Moderna or Pfizer, one dose of J&J). Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler said that Human Resources will train those in charge of evaluating and validating attestations.

Rogers asked if the specifics of disciplinary action would be made clear prior to deadlines for mandatory vaccination, so that employees can make informed decisions about their personal health. Blouin said that for now the answer is unclear. Butler said that the University is pressing for an answer to this question, but it is not clear when this guidance will be provided. Rogers asked why the University is moving forward with fixed deadlines lacking this knowledge and guidance. Blouin said that the deadlines were set by the Federal Government. The legislation for these mandates is clear, it is just not certain how they will be enforced.

Josh Tucker thought that given the announced deadlines, an employee seeking to comply must obtain the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine that day. He said that complying with these deadlines seem to allow employees only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which he thought has the most side effects and issues. He said that his family has had issues with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Tucker asked if the University would provide communication on this subject soon given his discomfort with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Blouin said that the University has been clear in laying out the dates for vaccinations in prior communications. This notification was meant to allow all to comply with the December 8th deadline and to have a two-week buffer given the buffers required after administration of the Moderna or Pfizer doses. He said that the University has built in a margin of error, and there would be a similar margin of error to allow compliance with the December deadline. The University will work hard to completely comply with the mandate but is likely to provide a little bit of wiggle room if someone is off by a few days. Butler agreed with this statement, given a good faith effort from the employee.

A delegate asked if the notification regarding the vaccinations be sent out in Spanish as well. Butler said that he would pursue this idea following the meeting.

The Chair welcomed Vice Provost Elaine Westbrooks to speak on University Library budget cuts. Westbrooks thanked the Chair for the opportunity to speak. She recalled that in January every University unit was expected to make a cut. The Libraries thus will absorb a $5 million cut to collections. Westbrooks noted that no one wished to make these cuts. She noted difficulties with the exorbitant cost of journals that continues to grow at a rate far outpacing inflation.

Westbrooks said that every researcher, student, and staff member will be impacted one way or another given the depth and breadth of these cuts. She had recently spoken with the Chancellor, the Provost and the Vice Chancellor for Finance and hoped for a new path forward despite these cuts. Westbrooks noted that the Libraries have been protecting collections for years and years at the expense of staff and operating costs. She believed University Libraries could not continue this practice any longer.

Now, University Libraries are faced with tough decisions, which arrive at a tipping point as to the Libraries’ ability to fulfill the University mission. Westbrooks noted that the Library collections are a key part of the campus’ research and academic enterprise and are critical for the research, teaching, and learning of the University. She said that the Libraries might not be able to obtain materials as quickly as in the past but are committed to finding new strategies and methods to carry out this work. She noted the longstanding cooperation of local and peer institutions but said that this problem did not start overnight, and it will not end anytime soon. The University Libraries will need to find permanent sustainable funding but also address issues of exorbitant journal costs.

Arlene Medder asked if interlibrary loan arrangements shore up the collections budget. Westbrooks said that contrary to prior practice, the University is making more requests to interlibrary loan instead of responding to requests for titles from other universities.

Matthew Teal asked whether the University or the UNC System could negotiate prices collectively to try to move prices down. Westbrooks said that this path is not possible as each institution is responsible for its own licenses. Publishers control scientific publishing and essentially set the price for each university independently. The Chair asked what stops institutions from sharing pricing information amongst different library systems. This approach would create more transparency and more equity. Westbrooks said that current licensing arrangements do not allow cooperation with other units to bring down prices.

Westbrooks noted that the licensing model is based on scholars’ need to publish to obtain promotion and tenure. She said that finding solutions in this area demands more than simply finding the right price. She noted that taxpayers are also stakeholders who fund the NSF and the NIH. Universities have a responsibility to make research they produce accessible to the world, and right now this research is locked behind paywalls. She was committed to working on long-term strategies with the Chancellor and the Provost to change this situation. She granted that the University of California System operates very differently, but this is only one System.

The Chair thanked Westbrooks for her remarks. Westbrooks asked listeners to let her know how they have been impacted by these cuts by reaching out to the liaison librarian in their department. She appreciated the opportunity to speak with the Forum.

The Chair welcomed Director of the Office of Emergency Management and Planning Derek Jeter and Emergency Management Coordinator Justin Miller to speak on the University’s new emergency management plan. Jeter thanked all for the chance to speak. He also thanked partners with whom his office worked on these topics. He said the purpose of the day’s presentation is to create awareness around the campus emergency preparedness concept and the program Carolina Ready. He noted computer-based training initiatives and provided an overview of emergency management preparedness.

Emergency management seeks to build a campus culture of preparedness and resilience to reduce the impact of potential hazards and to continue the University’s great mission. Methods to this end include prevention, protection, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. In all these elements, community members will want to do things that contribute to the University mission.

Jeter said that the Emergency Management and Planning office wishes to work collaboratively, collectively, and cooperatively with campus partners. The office works to develop plans, to put these into action, and to execute them during response. He noted that staff are not first responders but play a role in remaining active and preparing to safeguard themselves and others to assist in this effort.

Jeter said that Carolina Ready is a preparedness outreach campaign, collaborative and multi-disciplinary in nature. Emergency Management works closely with UNC Police and Environment, Health, and Safety, among other areas. Carolina Ready will work to ensure employees are informed and are prepared to act by knowing how the University will communicate in the event of emergency or a disaster. This latter task is accomplished through Alert Carolina notifications and other means of sharing updates.

Justin Miller emphasized that employees are first responsible for their own safety. The emergency action plan will give employees the tools to be safe during the immediate impact of an emergency until first responders can come to take control of a scene. Much of this information is available on the www.carolinaready.unc.edu website. He noted also that the group has launched an emergency preparedness training via Carolina Talent, with a corresponding in-person hybrid program as well. Emergency Preparedness has also put together safety guides on sheltering in place and helping those in distress, among other topics. Faculty and staff safety guides are also available. Miller described the new phone application that will notify Public Safety via sending one’s GPS location to the campus 911 center, then connect with the application user.

Jeter and Miller thanked the Forum for the opportunity to speak. The Chair then welcomed Linc Butler, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, to present the Forum’s customary human resources update. Butler wished that he had more information regarding the State budget. The last he had read, negotiations are still ongoing, with the sides still slightly apart. He hoped that the government would agree on a budget soon. Accordingly, he had little definite information about possible salary increases for employees.

Butler noted that OHR has worked to close out Open Enrollment for the State Health plan and other benefits. He praised the Benefits and Leave Administration team for all they had done providing support to faculty and staff as they navigated that process. He reminded listeners that NC Flex Benefits elections take effect on January 1, 2022.

Butler also encouraged listeners to contribute to the Carolina Cares/Carolina Shares Campaign. He noted that UNC-Chapel Hill is currently leading among State agencies. He praised Sherene Jenkins and the Human Resources team for their work administering, publicizing, and organizing drive activities. He encouraged all to donate to the campaign to assist others in need.

Butler noted the Future of Work team’s weekly meetings of highly engaged, highly motivated, and passionate employees representing all levels of the University across campus. The team is studying the remote work flexibility pilot and ways to develop guard rails for additional frameworks in the future. He noted the team is on a very tight timeframe to develop its recommendations. He did not know about extension of this pilot beyond the end of the year.

The Chair echoed Butler’s comments about the quality of the team and the work done these past three sessions. She looked forward to continuing this work and was eager to have the Forum lend its voice to these conversations as well. She offered to forward delegates’ thoughts about this process to the team.

Butler offered to take further questions. Arlene Medder asked what employees can do to get a budget passed. Butler said that being active with legislators [during personal time] is a big way to influence legislators.

Butler then asked Senior Work/Life Manager Jessica Pyjas to speak on upcoming events. Pyjas noted that November is Diabetes Prevention month. She urged employees with questions to consult the Eat Smart/Move More website. She spoke on the University’s year-long program for diabetes prevention, which will begin November 15th.

Pyjas also encouraged employees to take the Mental Health First Aid training that will be offered for the last time this year on November 11th and 23rd. She noted that the University will also offer a Holiday Challenge: Maintain, Don’t Gain course from November 15th through the end of the year. Finally, she invited employees to participate virtually or in person at the Jingle Bell Jog December 3rd.

Pyjas praised the University’s two winners of the Governor’s Awards for Excellence, Dr. Melissa Miller, and Katie Bowler Young, for varying innovations addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chair thanked Pyjas for her updates. She asked for a motion to approve the consent agenda. Laura Pratt asked that the Education & Career Development committee’s report be pulled from the consent agenda, as did Jacob Womack for the Community Service committee. Alice Whiteside made this motion, seconded by Shane Brogan. The motion was approved, and there were no votes in opposition or abstaining.

Pratt noted that the professional development grant applications are now open and will feature applications for domestic travel, although not international travel. Applications are open until 11:59 p.m. November 14th.

The Chair noted that Kevin Robinson will soon leave the University. She said that the Forum will soon have a vacancy in the Parliamentarian role as of December. She invited delegates to consider serving in this position beginning in December. An appointment will be made for the remainder of the term at the December 1st meeting.

The Chair reminded delegates about the November 20th UNC football game against Wofford, at which delegates will be recognized on the field at halftime. She would provide more details on this event and the free tickets associated once these become available.

The Chair noted that the Vice Chancellor representatives’ meeting will take place Thursday, December 9th. She asked delegates to think about comments or questions to add to that discussion.

The Chair requested other committee updates. Shane Brogan said that the Communications & Public Relations committee had prepared the newsletter InTouch for distribution to campus following the Blood Drive December 8th.  He asked delegates to send feedback on a draft.

Jacob Womack reported that the Community Service committee is working on a toy drive for UNC Children’s Hospital patients. He imagined that many donations for the drive will be done remotely through on-line vendors. He asked for volunteers to host drop off boxes to contact him. He noted that the Blood Drive will indeed occur December 8th at Fetzer Gymnasium. Arlene Medder noted that the Carolina Community Garden had held its first meeting in a while. She reported that the Garden had received a $6,000 grant for the next five years.

Antonio Squire said that Matthew Teal had spoken with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee to discuss possible plans for a Forum sustainability committee. The Chair reported that the UNC System Staff Assembly will take up the Forum’s alternative holidays resolution in November.

There was no further report from the Membership & Assignments, Personnel Issues, Recognition & Awards, or Rules committees.

Laura Pratt noted that the UNC System Staff Assembly had recently elected a new Chair from the NC School of Science and Math to a two-year term. She said the November meeting of the group had featured UNC System Vice President for Human Resources Matt Brody and had been very productive.

Pratt said that the Transportation & Parking Advisory committee had not met recently. There was no report from Carolina Peer Support Collaborative representatives.

Phil Edwards noted developments with the University’s Policy Review committee related to working with community members. There was no report from Student Stores Advisory committee representatives. David Bragg and Evan Marsh are the new representatives to that committee.

The Chair invited Professor Tara Bohley to speak on the University’s Mental Health First Aid training. Bohley noted that the program has run for six years at UNC-Chapel Hill, training over 3,000 people. The federal grants associated with the program will soon end, leading to a wrap up of this work. However, recent events associated with deaths of students have led to a critical need for these services to continue. The team has applied for continued funding which Bohley felt confident would be approved.

Bohley said that Mental Health First Aid training is like CPR and regular first aid training in that assistance is offered to a person who might be having early signs and symptoms of a developing problem related to their mental health or substance use. The training is designed to help the layperson who may find themselves faced with an individual in crisis.

Bohley noted that across the span of our lifetimes over half of all Americans will meet the diagnosis of a mental health condition or substance use disorder. People between the ages of 14 to 25 are most vulnerable to developing a mental health problem, with half of these in a higher education setting. The quicker that intervention occurs, the better. Bohley added that the more people understand, are aware of signs and symptoms, and can help a person get connected to the right type of help, the better the chances are that person will receive the necessary help and have better outcomes.

Secondly, stigma about mental health disorders and internalized stigma provide obstacles to treatment. Additionally, around 40% of people who meet the criteria for a mental health disorder or substance use disorder are not receiving appropriate treatment. People who do not get help or who do not seek out support for themselves frequently get worse. These people miss class/work and stop maintaining their responsibilities, impacting families and communities.

Untreated mental health conditions can lead to severe and chronic mental health conditions. A person with a severe mental illness lives on average twenty-five years less than a person who does not have such illness. Bohley also mentioned that by far most people who die by suicide have an untreated mental health condition. People with severe mental health illnesses are also eleven times more likely to be victims of violence.

The final reason Mental Health First Aid is necessary is that when people do not know what to do, they fear making the problem worse. They then do nothing, which indeed makes the problem worse. Training people to notice how and when to intervene or just express empathy would really make a difference.

Mental Health First Aid trains people in the risk factors and warning signals of the more common mental health conditions. The training provides participants a five-step action plan to deal with these situations. Also, participants receive a large list of resources, information, and referrals to provide people with more information to help themselves if they are not interested in professional treatment just yet.

Mental Health First Aid is a crisis intervention, not a treatment. The training is in a sweet spot of opportunity allowing a trainee to recognize something different about a person and provide resources to help if necessary. Bohley said that Mental Health First Aid must offer hope, as mental illness and substance abuse disorders are not life sentences. People do recover.

The more a person identifies that they need help or that they are struggling, the more opportunities that person can seek resources, and in turn the more likely they are to achieve recovery and lead fulfilling lives. There was a question in the chat as to how trainees could renew their status. Trainees will need to take a 30-minute online course to recertify.

Bohley hoped that the University would see fit to fund the program for the future. She was gratified that the program was included in planning for the upcoming mental health summit. She said that staff employees are the front lines of interaction with the public and students, saying that a culture shift for this effort must be enacted. She added in response to a question that first responders have made many requests for Mental Health First Aid training recently. She noted many innovative approaches to including this training in departmental protocols.

In the absence of further discussion, Arlene Medder moved to adjourn, seconded by Laura Pratt. In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

 

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