Lecturers vent frustration at Edinburgh University’s Covid-19 response

Many members of staff feel the university is not acting responsibly by operating as normal

Lecturers across a range of academic disciplines have expressed concern at Edinburgh University’s handling of the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Peter Mathieson announced in an email to students and staff yesterday that Edinburgh University is to remain open over the next week, meaning all lectures and classes are to continue as usual. This is in keeping with advice from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who advised that schools and universities in Scotland should remain open while awaiting further notice.

However, staff have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns at the university’s decision, with many students similarly venting frustration on social media.

Among others, a major concern is the extra danger of attending classes immunocompromised and other high-risk staff and students face.

Dr Patrick Theiner, a Senior Teaching Fellow in Politics and International Relations, posted: “Question for my colleagues: who do I write to when I feel deeply uncomfortable about herding 350+ undergraduates into my first post-strike lecture on Monday and don’t trust my university to merely “closely monitor” the situation amid everything else being canceled? #COVID_19uk”

Dr Emma Balkind, a Teaching Fellow in Visual Culture, posted a thread in which she says: “Speaking here as a junior member of staff with course organisation duties for a class of over 100 students and teaching duties of another over 125. As someone who has previously had a prolonged and serious autoimmune reaction to a virus. Close for us!”

Dr Michael Rosie, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology, tweeted: “Riddle me this. Uni say we stay open, business as usual. Uni also says maintain one metre social distance in all gatherings. Uni teaching spaces are routinely overcrowded.”

History Professor Frank Cogliano wrote: “Daughter’s got a p/t job working with the public in Stockholm while she completes her master’s degree. She’s just received an email saying they’re shutting down for at least two weeks in response to #COVID19. All employees will be paid during the shutdown. #howitsdone”

Dr Meryl Kenny, a Senior Lecturer in Gender and Politics, tweeted: “I don’t understand the logic of this timing for universities (schools is another matter). Staff will return from strike, teach for 2-3 weeks during ‘peak’ period, then we will send our wide-ranging international cohort of students home for April & THEN close when no one is here.”

Dr Alan Mackie, a Teaching Fellow at the Moray House School of Education and Sport, raised the issue of what to do about marking attendance if students are concerned about Covid-19 and opt not to attend classes: “I know we’re on strike but should I be marking students as absent on Monday, if teaching goes ahead? I feel like students who have contact with high risk groups would be correct to not come in? Any advice? @ucuedinburgh #EduTwitter #AcademicTwitter”

Rama Saala, Programme Director of MSc Africa & International Development, tweeted highlighting concerns facing international students: “Teachers and support services, our (international) students need our radical kindness, now more than ever. We also need the same from our employers, who should put us and our students first. France did it, Ireland it, what are UK universities waiting for? #AcademicTwitter”

The University of Edinburgh has been approached for comment.