Brookes students sit in on uni Covid-19 meetings for more transparency

An open letter of demands was sent to the Vice Chancellor

An open letter has been sent to the Vice Chancellor expressing concerns from Brookes students that the uni is not doing enough in the wake of coronavirus, and asks for a student to sit in on any coronavirus related uni meetings.

The open letter, written by Sean Keeley, Chair of the Student Council, addresses student complaints about the lack of urgency Brookes has in regards to coronavirus, despite having one confirmed case, and their reluctance to close.

In response, the student council had an emergency meeting this morning to discuss what can be done to put students at ease.

The letter, addressed to Alistair Fitt, comes after a statement released yesterday by him and Student Union President, Harry Bower. It includes a list of questions and requests that have been compiled from the comments made by students on the overheard page, and emails that have been sent to Union members over the past 24 hours.

The letter, in full, says: “Dear Professor Fitt, I am writing to you as the Chair of the Student Council on behalf of the Brookes Union Student Council. Following an emergency meeting of the Student Council held on Monday 16th of March 2020, we have formulated this letter that we wish the University to strongly consider in its response to the ongoing situation, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Whilst there is no doubt that the University is taking the outbreak of COVID-19 seriously, and that we do we trust the University is able to make swift and decisive action to ensure the safety of students – I am sure you will understand the nervousness among students given the rumours circulating on social media and the press. 

“It is right for there to be a student seat on the COVID-19 group hosted by the University to respond to this current issue. We have full faith in Harry Bower, the President of the Students’ Union to represent students effectively to the University on this matter. 

“We can all agree that students are right to be concerned and have the right to know about any decisions that affect their wellbeing and health. 

“It is very clear that a significant number of students are fearful of entering the campus citing fears of endangering their health and safety and that of those around them. 

“Furthermore, It is becoming increasingly clear that the student body feels they ought to receive more information on the University’s response – we believe at this time more detailed communications with more content are important so that students can make decisions. Would the University be able to confirm its actions via an official statement or email to all students? We would like to request clarification on the following issues:

“Has the University already, or will it start intensifying campus cleaning on all sites? Has the University conducted a detailed risk assessment addressing a possible need for closing the institution? Is the university able to give any indication of what level of risk it reasonably believes a student to be in whilst attending lectures and conducting normal activity? Will the University address concerns around students who are fearful of attending lectures and why the University is not closed. Is the University able to confirm its position on students who are self-isolating and the effects this will have on deadlines, placements, exceptional circumstances and exams and the processes involved. Has the University considered students who may need to self-isolate as a precautionary measure due to underlying health conditions. Has the University considered students who may need to self-isolate as a precautionary measure due to having caring responsibilities. Has the University set aside any property to use as self-isolation areas or storage of contaminated materials.”

The letter then goes on to request “immediate intensification of campus cleaning, extending to door handles, push plates, banisters and other surfaces likely to harbour virus spores, regular inspections of soap dispensers in toilets, immediate cessation of mandatory attendance in lectures where legally possible and introduction of any reasonable adjustments, a daily student update on the situation even if there is little or nothing to report” and “that student preference is strongly considered in forward action where possible.”

The letter has been sent to the Vice Chancellor as of 11:10 am today. Oxford Brookes University have been contacted for comment.