Strathclyde University’s mixed messages as students left in the dark over coronavirus planning

Graeme Fleming/University of Strathclyde

By Steven Mair

Strathclyde students are being left uninformed as the university steps up its plans for the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

As of Saturday morning, the university policy is ‘business as usual’ as an email from Vice Principal Scott McGregor stated.

“The University is open as normal and all student services continue to be available for our whole student community; this includes the library, accommodation, and student support facing services.”

But the “open as normal” line is not what students have been hearing from lecturers and other teaching staff.

Many classes have now made attendance optional in sympathetic emails from staff that implore students worried about the pandemic or facing difficulties for whatever reason to not attend and finish the semester online.

And one email, from management lecturer Peter MacInnes, has stated that “all teaching sessions are cancelled for the rest of term…no session on Monday. No tutorials through the week No further face-to-face teaching this semester.”

An unnamed student also claims to have been told by his lecturer that formal teaching will cease by Tuesday morning.

Image result for covid-19 virus
The Covid-19 virus. Credit: USC News/National Institutes of Health

All other universities in Glasgow and the West of Scotland have implemented measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The University of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of the West of Scotland have both halted contact hours and told students to stay away from campus. Glasgow has also cancelled all in-person examinations.

Other universities including Aberdeen, Robert Gordon, King’s College London, Northumbria, Sheffield and Durham have followed suit.

Student Union President Matt Crilly said: “The University hasn’t been proactive in keeping myself or any the Vice Presidents of the Student Union regularly informed as to what actions they are planning on taking and when. It’s unusual for us to be kept in the dark like this. I think it’s time for some real leadership and action, as bold decisions will need to be taken for the next couple of months.

“Understandably, a lot of students are still agitated following the University’s statement, as it doesn’t really say very much. The statement is clearly out of tone with how students are feeling. I would say the University is doing a power of work behind the scenes to prepare for digital learning and assessment. A lot is happening to ensure the institution is equipped and ready for the coming weeks and months.”

Strath Union has already been heavily affected by the pathogen, as Friday’s STAR Awards for Strathclyde volunteers, clubs and societies was postponed just over three hours before they were set to begin.

And the Student Publication Association National Conference in Sheffield – which the Strathclyde Telegraph planned to attend and is up for two awards at the annual ceremony – has suspended the sale of tickets and is also likely to be postponed following the government’s advice to ban ‘mass gatherings’.

The latest Scottish Government figures show 85 people in Scotland have been infected, with one death. 21 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.