bristol uni social distancing house party

It’s official: Bristol Uni bans freshers from having one night stands in halls

Sharking is out for 2020/21

From September the whole Bristol Uni experience will change, with “Living Circles”, no house parties, no “sleepovers”, and fines of up to £800 for any student breaking Covid-19 guidelines, both at Uni and in the community.

Two months ago, Bristol announced that all lectures from September 2020 will be online, and there will be small group face-to-face teaching. They also announced the extension of teaching hours until 8pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.

With the pandemic still raging, this is everything we know about what Bristol Uni will be like in September.

Students will be restricted to their Living Circles

Students will be in “Living Circles” (more widely known as “bubbles”) which could be made up of just one flat, multiple flats, or even a whole floor. Although the University hopes for a maximum of 12-15 students per Living Circle, they say a small number of the Circles could be larger.

Students will still be able to socialise outdoors, but with social distancing (via Google Maps)

When freshers arrive, they will be instructed to social distance from their Living Circle for the first two weeks, after which they will only be allowed to socialise with those people without social distancing.

Students will be grouped as usual via their accommodation preferences form, and not by course as some have suggested.

A limit of 12-15 students will be possible in the halls that are split into individual flats, such as Orchard Heights, however questions arise in the case of Wills Hall, for example, where there are floors of up to forty students sharing only one kitchen (although catered halls will offer a takeaway service only).

Additionally, although ResiLife will still be working directly with students, the University says “most” of the wellbeing support will be delivered online, raising questions about whether digital support will be enough, given the significantly reduced opportunities to meet others in person.

One night stands now banned in halls

You will not be able to bring strangers back to your room, unless “flatcest” is your thing. Or maybe it should be “CircleCest” now?

Regardless, the University unequivocally states: “You will not be allowed to have anyone other than those in your living circle inside your flat.”

They are also clear that if you do meet with others outside of your Living Circle, you must do so only outside of your accommodation while following social distancing guidelines.

However, serious questions arise around the enforcement of these rules, and The Bristol Tab sought clarification from the University as to how they would ensure the guidelines are not breached by lustful students.

Aside from the regular rounds that University Security makes in the evenings, and the Senior Residents on duty in halls, it is unclear how the University intends to enforce the rules.

They say they plan on adopting a “proactive” approach, meaning they will expect and encourage students to take responsibility for the health and safety of those around them, including making “flatmate agreements” when they arrive, and detailed signage.

When asked by The Bristol Tab whether the University will expect Chief and Senior Residents to enforce the rules, we were told that their role is “not to monitor student behaviour”, but rather “to develop supportive communities and plan and deliver activities and events”.

Therefore, the University is putting the onus on students to follow the rules, leaving questions about who will enforce them, should students decide to ignore them.

Uni will fine you up to £800 if you break the rules

The University is very clear that they expect students to follow the rules given the seriousness of the situation.

In the recently updated Student Disciplinary Regulations, there is no specific mention of coronavirus or any specific rules in that regard.

However, the University told The Bristol Tab: “We are committed to taking disciplinary action against any student found to be in breach of the rules, or behaving in ways that do not align with our shared values, including being mindful of our university and city communities.

“Unacceptable behavior may lead to fines being issued under student disciplinary regulations.”

In multiple emails sent to students during the pandemic, fines of up to £800 were threatened if students were found to have broken social distancing rules, which is classed as taking “action likely to cause injury or impair safety”.

The rules still apply if you’re in private accommodation

The University says that it will expect students living off-campus to follow government and local guidelines.

They said: “We follow up all complaints about student behaviour in the local community and these can result in student discipline investigations. We also liaise with the local police to follow up breaches and inappropriate behaviour.”

The University’s disciplinary regulations still apply to students living off campus, and private accommodation falls under “any other site associated with the University”.

Careful – The Noise Pages are listening…

Numerous complaints have already been made by The Noise Pages, a website which documents disturbances allegedly caused by students in the local Bristol community, and given the coronavirus rules and regulations, eviction will theoretically be much easier if consistent noise complaints are logged early in tenancies.

However, enforcement will rely on local police and reports from neighbours, meaning that it will be much harder for the University to ensure that guidelines are followed.

Additionally, The Noise Pages has said that they have not yet been told whether Operation Beech will continue, which was a joint Bristol-UWE funded effort to patrol student-heavy areas, monitoring for disturbances.

Expect your laptop to become your best mate

As we approach the new academic year, it is clear that the University experience will be very different.

Students will be restricted to their Living Circles, and most welcome events will take place virtually.

The Freshers Fair will also be online, and in-person society activities will have number caps and social distancing requirements in order to limit the spread of coronavirus in the community.

This year will certainly be different to any other University experience, and the University said that it is doing all it can to create the “best” and “safest” environment for students and staff, and emphasised the seriousness of the situation that we will be facing from next month.

So house parties and one night stands are a thing of the past for this year’s freshers, and only time will tell whether the sacrifices made by students and staff will be enough to protect the entire Bristol community from another outbreak.

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