Dear University Management,
We are writing to you today to ask for you to take more action regarding the COVID-19 situation currently taking place in the UK, and internationally.
We understand that the University must continue to provide lectures and classes. We also recognise that the Government hasn’t advised Universities to move online, as of yet. However, we believe that lectures and classes can remain effective online, providing a transition that would prevent potentially vulnerable students and staff from feeling as though they must come to campus. Other universities have taken decisive action on this front and the student body expects the University of Bath to do the same.
We are asking you to follow in the footsteps of the prestigious institutions putting student safety first, such as: Bristol, Durham, Queen Mary University of London, Kings’ College London, Edinburgh, Loughborough and the London School of Economics, who have all come up with and communicated to their respective student bodies, plans to offer online classes in lieu of face-to-face ones either currently or in the near future.
You must know at this point that there are confirmed cases in Bath. People are terrified, but mostly confused, and students want to go home to see their families. As students we have had no useful information regarding mitigating circumstances and the feeling is that we could possibly be penalised for going home before borders shut, or for self-isolating if we feel we are vulnerable or have contact with others who are. Students should not have to choose between attending assessments, and their health, or that of their families. We also do not yet know when borders will re-open, and therefore the lack of a clear policy regarding mitigating circumstances procedures on future assessments for those that have travelled abroad to be with their families, puts further anxiety on these international students.
Similarly, we feel it is unfair for the University to force students into risking their health, and thereby the health of those around them who may not be so young or healthy, by having to go to university for lectures, seminars or assessments. It also fails to acknowledge that within the student body there are people who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 symptoms; those with respiratory or heart problems, and for these people coming to campus at this point is essentially taking a risk to their lives. At the end of the day it really should be our choice, this is clearly serious at this point and a large proportion of the student body want to be with their families, not attending classes where there will undoubtedly be transmission, which certainly could make its way to elderly family members over Easter break.
Some department’s responses to the growing concerns amongst students have evidently been lacking, with students complaining extensively to academic representatives. PoLIS, for example, seems to have turned a blind eye to the situation international students face, refusing to understand why some of us would go home despite the University’s decision to not close down. Academic reps and students have had an incredibly hard time dialoguing with their departments which only increases stress and confusion.
Furthermore, placement students both abroad and domestically need advice on next steps. Currently, there is a lack of understanding as to how the current situation will impact their placements.
This situation is of course unprecedented, so it’s understandable the University has taken its time. However, now is the time to act. We are asking you to consider being fully transparent with potential decisions and as flexible as you can possibly be in regards to the student voice right now. People are facing idiosyncratic issues. Many of us don’t feel safe on campus. We want to be with our families. People need to leave the country. We implore you to make sure that the only decision students need to make right now is: where would I feel most comfortable?
The Bath Time Magazine Editorial Team, on behalf of the student body.