Cambridge SU launched their petition in support of all "non-essential teaching to be moved online" on WednesdayLouis ashworth

Cambridge Student’s Union (SU) have launched a petition for all “non-essential in-person teaching to be moved online” following advice released on Tuesday (13/10) by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) about universities.

The pledge was announced in an email sent out to students on Wednesday (14/10), following revelations that the SAGE had warned the government months ago about the need to move all non-essential in-person teaching online in order to slow the rate of Covid-19infection.

In the email, Cambridge SU stated that they had been “asking the university to do this for the last two months, and they have refused”.

The pledge, signed by 47 signatories at the time of publication, states: “I believe that as a community of students we must take responsibility for safety where the Collegiate University has failed”, and that a move to online teaching “would represent a responsible approach to the changing rate of infection and the increased risk of transmission that comes with students taking up residence once again”.

In a Facebook post on October 15th, Cambridge SU also acknowledged that “many people in the university [are] feeling lonely and isolated in the pandemic, and that is why more needs to be done to facilitate safe in-person socialising among students - which is happening regardless of college regulations”.

In response to these concerns, Cambridge SU announced that they are working with the University and Colleges to help provide “opportunities to socialise outside of academic settings”.

Speaking to Varsity, Cambridge SU said: “The position of Cambridge SU to support moving non-essential in-person teaching online is in line with not only the advice of SAGE, UCU and the NUS, but also with the reality of the current situation.”

The SU highlighted the recent lockdown of 223 students in Homerton, “with more lockdowns likely as cases increase”, as evidence for “the need for a managed transition to online teaching as default.”

They continued to stress that “Face-to-face teaching will be increasingly disrupted for everyone as students are required to isolate and either miss out on their teaching or suffer the chaos of teaching arrangements changing haphazardly to reflect the situation.” The SU in their comment to Varsity urged the University to “take responsibility by supporting this provision and acknowledging that this is now both necessary and inevitable across the board.”

When questioned about their prioritising of student welfare, with many students frustrated at the lack of in-person teaching, the SU told Varsity: “We share students’ anger and believe they should not have been put in this situation in the first place... our top priority as an SU is to prioritise student wellbeing by minimising and mitigating the disruption of COVID-19 as much as possible.”


Mountain View

223 students in Homerton West House accommodation told to isolate following 18 positive cases

The SU highlighted their work with J/MCRs in demanding that “Colleges, Departments, and the University facilitate safe socialising and working/studying by offering adequate space and provisions, as is their responsibility”, as evidence for their advocacy on behalf of students.

The SU’s petition follows 18 new cases being reported at Homerton West House on Friday (16/10), which led to 223 students across 11 households being told to isolate for 14 days.

From 5th to 11th October, the University reported a total of 34 individual cases (from both staff and students) of confirmed Covid-19; 12 were identified via pooled asymptomatic testing, and 22 via symptomatic testing. Of the students tested for asymptomatic cases of Covid-19, a total of 0.3 percent tested positive.

Cambridgeshire is currently at “Tier 1” restriction level, with a “Medium” Local COVID Alert Level, meaning there is a ban on gatherings of more than six people (with some exceptions) as well as a 10:00pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants.

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