By Paddy Henry
With the COVID-19 pandemic to the fore of the global psyche and the public hanging on to every word the media utter on the crisis, social media has become a breeding ground for people spreading false information, intended to frighten the most vulnerable and to spread hysteria. WhatsApp groups have become COVID-19’s personal propaganda department over recent weeks, from voice messages about full lockdown to all sorts of bizarre tales of potential cures and cases. While the collective go-to for information during this time of crisis should be official HSE’s sources along with trusted national and local media, college students have been left in the lurch. Here to help as always, SIN digests all the common queries coming up to help keep you informed and away from the family WhatsApp group chat.
Have students been moved out of student accommodation?
Yes and no. Panic spread among the student body following the forwarding of an emailing to residents of Goldcrest Village, advising them to have their premises vacated by 18th March. Public Health Officials advised that students return home immediately where possible. All students in on–campus accommodation will be refunded accordingly if they have returned home. Plans to move any remining students in Goldcrest Village to neighbouring Corrib Village are underway. Speaking about the accommodation situation, Students’ Union President Clare Austick reaffirmed the line given by the University on the matter, urging people to return home where possible; “The University would have contacted students saying if you can go home, do. Many of them have gone home and those that have will get what they are owed on their deposit and rent back, but this might be a lengthy process”, she said. With regard to the private rental market, each landlord may treat the situation differently and little can be done in this regard. President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó ’hÓghartaigh, praised private landlords who had shown “kindness” to students during this uncertain period and urged others with student tenants to show compassion, stating; “These are challenging times for all our community. Many students have remained in Galway at this time, by necessity. Many have returned home, also by necessity. NUI Galway is mindful of the healthcare, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on all members of our society. We commend the many landlords who have shown remarkable kindness to our students”. He added, “We therefore request that property owners who have our students as tenants in their properties show care, compassion and some flexibility at this time of urgency and need”.
Will teaching resume this semester?
In person, no. The next time the majority of us will see the sweet sight of the Big Yellow Thing will be in early September, when, hopefully, things will be a bit more pleasant than they are at this current stage. All learning has been moved online for the remainder of the semester. For students struggling with online learning due to inadequate facilities in the homeplace, they have been advised to contact their lecturers, who will make the appropriate accommodations to help them in their situation.
Will exams be going ahead?
Traditional end of year in–house exams are off and will be replaced by alternative measures. Speaking to SIN, Students’ Union Vice President for Education Cameron Keighron explained the situation, “There will be no face to face exams this coming exam season. Repeat exams should be going ahead as normal and in-house exams are the preferred option but it depends on the situation. We have a commitment from the University to be flexible during this time”, they said.
Will I be able to graduate?
Any conferrings have been put on the long finger, but, nevertheless, these graduations, which are mainly in medicine and in postgraduate courses, will go ahead sometime in the future when things pick up. Final years will be expected to graduate from their respective courses in the Autumn without a hitch, depending on the situation by then.
Will I be fined for books I have taken out of the library?
If you took a book out of the library before the college closed, the library will waive the fine which will be inevitably be overrun, on account of the University’s closure. You will not accrue penalties relating to the costs of an overdue book during this difficult period. However, if you have an existing fine on a book that was due back to the library, this still stands, although any further costs accrued while the library is closed will be suspended. Any student with concerns on this matter is advised to contact the James Hardiman Library directly.
Is my work placement affected?
Placement is a big part of many courses in NUI Galway. Whether you’re studying Computer Science, Medicine or Journalism, there will be a placement element to your course. Student nurses have been working tirelessly on the front line of the Irish healthcare system, leading the fight against COVID-19. Following criticism levelled at the government due to the voluntary nature of their placements at the beginning of Ireland’s response to the crisis, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, confirmed that student nurses who opt in to help on the frontline will be paid as a healthcare assistant. Both the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association and the USI called for nurses on second and third year placements to be paid and treated as employees during this time of crisis, similar to how nurses on final year placements are treated. With regard to other placements, nursing students not in their final year have been given the option to opt out of their placement block on account of the crisis. The University has confirmed that alternative arrangements will be made for those that choose to opt out. Most other non-nursing related placements have been pulled or are operating on a work from home basis in line with government guidelines.