By Edward Crowson, Deputy Opinion Editor
The Vice-Chancellor is right to argue that University students who seriously break Covid guidelines should face swift disciplinary action.
This statement, along with recent government guidance and the implementation of the ‘rule of six’, means that rule-breaking University students will have a hard time avoiding disciplinary action.
These policies are both understandable and necessary. As students, we have no right to be exempt from rules that are there to keep the wider community safe. If anything, we should be monitored even more closely due to the potential risk we pose of spreading the virus around the country.
Clearly, the threat of disciplinary actions by Universities for those who break Covid-19 related rules is needed if we ever hope to prevent Universities from becoming the ‘care homes of the second wave’, as a spokesperson for the Academics’ Union UCU put it.
If university campuses became the new epicentres of infections, everyone would suffer. Students would be forced to isolate, further eroding our university experience.
University staff and their loved ones’ health would be put at risk. And the local businesses, who heavily rely on the University for survival, could cease to exist.
Disciplining students appears to be the only way the University can uphold its role as a responsible institution in the midst of a pandemic.
Despite this, the University should also be practical. It is now widely accepted that student life will have to change, with the incoming first years perhaps being the most affected.
The University should provide first year students with an experience that prevents them from wanting to break any new Covid -19 related rules
Measures taken to protect first years, such as ‘social bubbles’, will allow the University to closely monitor their behaviour. This greater scrutiny will aid the University to suppress any rule breaking, increasing the likelihood of first years being disciplined.
Therefore, it seems only fair that the University should provide first year students with an experience that prevents them from wanting to break any new Covid -19 related rules.
An essential part of this would be for the University to provide funding and support for JCRs. Currently, JCRs are funded by a one-time fifty-pound payment that is taken from the initial rent of the new students.
A boost in funds from the University would enable JCRs to expand on their increasingly important role of entertaining first years beyond the initial Welcome Week, whilst encouraging students to adhere to social distancing in their bubbles.
The wellbeing of students remains an integral responsibility of the University
Additionally, the SU should perhaps organise for there to be more socially distanced spaces and activities where students can come together to enjoy their University experience.
These spaces would reduce disruption to student life whilst incentivising students to adhere to University regulations and the Government’s new ‘rule of six’.
Along with the social aspect of a socially distanced University experience, the wellbeing of students remains an integral responsibility of the University.
The National Union of Students has warned that many returning students face ‘anxiety, isolation and loneliness’ because of the new restrictions.
If the University is going to implement any form of discipline for students, it is only fair that it also ensures that its wellbeing services are adequate for what I’m sure will be a very stressful year for both returning and new students.
After all, it’s not realistic to think students will isolate themselves away from their peers if the University isn’t going to ensure their isolation is enjoyable and well-supported.
Featured Image: Epigram / Filiz Gurer
Do you think students should be disciplined for breaking social distancing rules?