Cardiff students start petition against new ‘draconian’ Covid-19 policies

‘I’m constantly anxious’

Many Cardiff University students are enraged by the university’s new Covid-19 policies, complaining of unnecessary surveillance, unfair control and intimidation tactics, leading them to create and push a petition to scrap the rules.

On Monday February 15th, students received an email from Cardiff University’s Vice Chancellor, who informed them of the rules and responsibilities expected of students when they return to Cardiff.

One of the rules stated that “gatherings of more than four residents should not happen in communal areas including kitchens” and students within a designated household such as university flat accommodation have a “collective responsibility for behaviour within their shared communal spaces”.

Image: Email sent to Cardiff University students from the Vice Chancellor [Source: Overheard at Cardiff Facebook page]

Another rule that enraged students was: “If you fail to report a breach of the rules you will be deemed collectively responsible with those who host parties”.

The Vice Chancellor also wrote that ID checks are being reintroduced at university residences and that students who have returned and have no symptoms are expected to get tested every week to check for Covid-19.

Are these rules draconian?

One student took to Overheard at Cardiff University’s Facebook page to claim that this email was an example of “pretty draconian stuff from a Vice Chancellor that is dispassionate, out of touch and unaccountable”, proceeding to state: “The VC’s a complete joke. Unworthy of his £225k pay cheque. About time he’s held to account…”.

Angry students have formed an online petition to scrap these “unjust” policies. The petition’s page says: “Cardiff University Residences introduced an array of new COVID-19 student regulations that seek to unfairly intimidate and control the day-to-day lives of students in University Halls”.

Image: Petition started by Cardiff University students to scrap the unjust Covid-19 student policies put in place

Students have likened halls to a prison

One student took to Cardiff Confessions to share their thoughts on these new regulations. The student likened the living environment to a prison, saying: “New security cameras are installed every week and they take logs/check times we leave/enter the flat with our keycards and question us on what we were doing”.

Image: Cardiff University student complains of the new regulations in Cardiff Confessions Facebook post

The student who lives at Talybont South, one of Cardiff University’s residence halls, went on to state: “Worst of all, even though I live in a flat with eight people, I’ve not been told that only four people are allowed in the kitchen at a time, and if even five people are in the kitchen at once, we will get a fine and a university warning”.

Over 70 other students commented on this post, with one adding “the scaremongering tactics they use when something happens is downright criminal. We are all just sick of feeling like we’ve come to uni and are now being punished for it.”

Security aren’t wearing masks and are yelling at students

We reached out to the Cardiff students who are living in the halls which have been victim to these new regulations. Several students told us that most residences staff, housekeepers and security don’t wear masks when entering flats, however if a student fails to get a mask during a fire alarm they are “yelled at”.

Other students were afraid to ask security for help because “all I’ve seen them do is yell at and harass students”, with other students complaining of security staff swearing at students. One student told The Cardiff Tab: “I’m constantly anxious I’m breaking some small Covid rule that idk ab [about] and I’ll get evicted”.

One fresher claimed that residences were “placing CCTV on certain houses they see as ‘trouble’, while ignoring other houses”, and another went on to claim students were being tracked by ID cards, adding: “They tracked when we are using our keycards to go in/out. They really told us they did this”.

A spokesperson for Cardiff University told the Cardiff Tab, “we are confident that the University teams are doing their utmost to support our students during this time, and carrying out their duties in a professional, caring and customer focused manner.  Any student who feels that these standards are not being met should report their concerns via their Residences Management Team so that these can be investigated further.”

‘Cardiff University’s approach to education and treatment of students is broken’

The Cardiff Tab spoke to James Wallice, the man behind the petition and Candidate for VP Education at Cardiff University.

James told The Cardiff Tab: “Cardiff University’s approach to education and treatment of students is broken”, going on to say that the new rules for residence halls are “ludicrously shameful and unjustified” and that they “simply seek to single out and create suspicion and mistrust amongst Cardiff’s student population”.

Image: James, Candidate for VP Education

“The Vice Chancellor is free to go home to his comfortable house, whilst us students are quite literally being policed in our own kitchens”, James added.

Have universities learned from the Manchester ‘fencing-in’ shambles?

This is not the first time we have seen tighter security rules implemented at university residences throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. In November of 2020, Manchester University students protested the implementation of fences to keep students in their halls. The students eventually tore down the fences after feeling imprisoned and distressed.

It appears that universities have not learned from this debacle, and will continue to implement strict regulations, leaving students feeling like they are being controlled and imprisoned. Trying to complete university during a pandemic is difficult enough, without feeling like your university is against you too.

A Cardiff University spokesperson explained that the university aimed to address concerns in an email sent out to students today.

Lockdowns have been difficult for most in society, however students are being treated like children when, in most cases, they are abiding by the rules. Additional and often unnecessary rules are being put in place that are making students feel fenced in, with several from Cardiff’s residence halls complaining of security staff’s behaviour and unfair treatment. Students hope that the petition will evoke change from the university’s senior members, to recognise that students deserve to be treated fairly.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• We spoke to Cardiff’s international students on life in the current lockdown

• ‘No second chances’ Swansea University warns students breaking Covid rules

• A ‘love letter’ to Cardiff students: Cardiff Grad writes six-page complaint to University