Wednesday, 15 July 2020
Letter in Response to Campus Reopening Plan from UCD Students’ Union
Dear Prof. Rogers and Prof. Dooley,
We are contacting you in relation to correspondence issued to students on the 8 July 2020 about the re-opening of campus and subsequent media interviews. The Welfare Officer also contacted Prof. Rogers on the following day (last Thursday) and yesterday received a reply that failed to address any of the specific concerns raised in the initial correspondence. The Registrar also referenced the Union having representation on the Orientation Advisory Group and Reopening Campus Working Group, despite the fact that the proportion of lectures which will be returning to campus is not part of the remit of either committee. UCD Students’ Union has been made aware of a number of programmes that have issued timetables to students that seem to be completely at odds with the information provided to students. For instance, Professional Masters in Social Work students have been informed that only four hours of lectures per week will take place on campus prior to placement in trimester two. This equates to 20% of class time on campus.
In an interview with RTÉ news, Prof. Dooley stated in no unclear terms that ‘students will be able to attend between 40 and 60% of their classes if they’re an undergraduate… and students at graduate level will be able to attend between 75 and 100% of the classes that they would normally have attended’. The above have shown these blanket statements to be inaccurate for some programmes.
Students will be making significant financial decisions over the next number of days based on the information provided to them by the University. Entering into rental agreements, applying for student loans and registering for programmes can cost students tens of thousands of euros on a yearly basis. These students need and deserve accurate information about their programmes enabling them to make informed decisions. International students particularly will be making decisions on whether to take the risk to travel from their home countries to take up accommodation in or near UCD in order to resume their studies.
The questions included in the email to the Registrar were as follows. We consider this to be a matter of urgency for students and request that information be provided to the union as soon as possible.
To what extent were trade unions consulted when the reopening plan was considered? Which members of staff had been made aware of the reopening plans prior to the email being sent out yesterday?
What public health advice has led UMT to determine that 40-60% of lectures (undergraduate) will be able to take place on campus and 75% to 100% for graduate students? What level of engagement has the Dept. of Health had in the drafting of the reopening plan?
What provisions will be made for immunocompromised staff and students when campus reopens? As mentioned in yesterday's email, hybrid learning will be made available for students who cannot attend lectures in person. Can you please clarify what that will mean in a practical sense for students and staff with underlying health conditions?
To what extent have individual colleges and schools indicated that they will be able to cater for 40-60% of classes to be delivered in person? Have any schools stated that they will not be able to adhere to this proportion?
Are there any estimations for how many students are to be expected to be physically present on campus per day?
Since sending those questions we learned of the following remarks made to RTÉ news:
‘Frank Jones of IFUT has told RTÉ News that the union, despite being in talks with the university about reopening, has "no idea" as to how the figures were arrived at.’
‘We don't know what they mean and we don't know what public health concerns were considered’.
The Union is extremely concerned that trade union representatives were not consulted when the targets for reopening campus to students were formulated. That workers on campus are expected to return to the extensive level proposed, when their representatives were not part of the decision-making process is a complete abdication of responsibility to the welfare of University employees. How does the University Management Team justify their decision to not consult IFUT on the proportion of classes that will take place on campus?
Where there is a huge degree of variance between the reopening plans for the University of Limerick and UCD, the Union questions a) the accuracy of the 40-60% and 75-100% figures or b) the degree of adherence to public health guidelines. Can the UMT explain how it is the case that two HEIs have generated completely different reopening plans in line with HSE advise?
We are requesting an urgent meeting either the Registrar or Deputy Registrar to discuss these concerns which are of huge significance to students, particularly the most vulnerable members of the University community.
Conor Anderson, Hannah Bryson, Ruairí Power, Leighton Gray, Carla Gummerson, Sarah Mickalek
UCD Students’ Union