By Paddy Henry and Oisín Bradley
(@PadraigMacEinri and @OisinBradley)
ALL Higher Education Institutions have been asked to deliver lectures remotely where possible for the next two weeks.
The new measures, designed to try and keep students away from large urban centres to prevent further spreading of Covid-19, will come as a blow to NUI Galway, with the academic year set to formally kick off this Monday.
The advice also includes the suspension of all activities relating to Clubs and Societies
Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced yesterday that Covid-19 levels in Galway were being “closely monitored,” with the county seeing a spike in cases over the past week.
Yesterday, following the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team, Donegal joined Dublin in going into a phase three lockdown.
Universities and Higher Education Institutes in these areas were already required to restrict learning to an online platform in whatever way possible for the duration of their regional lockdowns.
In a statement from the Irish University Association, the body announced that the decision was made in order to limit the travel of students from across the nation in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
“While the safety of staff and students has always been a priority of the new academic year, the focus of the next 2-3 weeks is on limiting the cross country movement of students and avoiding congregation of large groups on campus,” the IUA announced on Friday afternoon.
Universities are being asked to use discretion when deciding between onsite and remote for the scheduling of particular activities and favour remote delivery if feasible during this period.”
On-campus provision will be minimised with priority given to teaching and learning that can only take place on-site, such as lab classes and small group teaching sessions, practical classes and workshops under the new advice.
NUI Galway Student’s Union President Pádraic Toomey expressed his frustration at the decision, it gives the impression of ‘too little, too late.’
“I think it was far too late for this kind of nonsense.”, he told SIN.
“I called Lorna Fitzpatrick (USI President) straight away. I was saying that what needed to be done weeks ago was to make the decision of ‘we’re going online,’ and to tell students not to get accommodation so they don’t come up and lose out.”
“Either that or they needed to re-envision how people are going to spend their time up here. You simply can’t tell people they’re going to be in three hours a week and expect them to not do anything for all the other hours. That’s why we were pushing for social spaces on-campus.”
“But that’s not enough. We need constant events, so students can say ‘no, I’m going to this or that instead of going to a house party. That’s what we need, and I don’t think anyone in the government has taken the balls to decide that yet.
“I think this is just confusing if I’m very honest. This is going to put students in a position where they’re going to be confused on whether they’re here or not. The only thing we can see that that’s different is that club and social activities will be suspended. As far as I can see, that’s the only change,” said the President.
Speaking to SIN, Galway City Councillor Owen Hanley welcomed the government’s firm action on preventing the spread of the virus, but spoke of the need for students rights to be protected.
“It’s good to see action from the Government’s point of view, because staff and students have been very anxious about going back to Universities and campuses for a long time.”, he said.
“Doing it in an ad-hoc basis doesn’t really help anyone. People have already signed leases and signed up to accommodation on the basis of having hours on-campus.
“Right now it’s only two weeks, but if this is on a constant basis over the next two terms, then students need reassurances from both the Universities and the Government that, with any rent or leases that they sign, they will be given supports,” he continued.
While pleased with action being taken, the former NUIG student also claimed that steps could have been taken earlier, “Although it’s good to see action, we could’ve seen this coming a long time. Guidance along this line could’ve come as well,” he commented.
“NUIG and GMIT serve as regional Universities, and there’s always going to be that effect of travelling students, but Galway was always going to have to deal with that.
“We knew that this was something that was going to occur. We need to show flexibility in terms of opening and closing, but what we Students need to know, and needed to know weeks ago, what the situation is with signing leases and moving to Galway. It may be too late, but it still needs to be addressed,” he continued.
SIN; Issue One will be released on all platforms on October 6th. Keep an eye on our socials for more information.