‘Welfare is disregarded’: Councillors call for online-only learning at Lancaster Uni

Lancaster Uni is ‘unnecessarily risking the health of both staff and students’

Labour City Councillors Jack O’Dwyer-Henry and Katie Whearty have sent an open letter to Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andy Schofield, calling for increased provisions for students during the surge of coronavirus cases across the country, and Lancashire in particular.

In the letter, the Councillors outline that they feel all learning should take place online: “The current plans to resume in-person teaching is irresponsible, unnecessarily risking the health of both staff and students.”

Following this, O’Dwyer-Henry and Whearty call out Lancaster University for not providing routine COVID testing for asymptomatic students – they explain that universities such as Nottingham, Cambridge and Portsmouth have already employed asymptomatic testing programmes.

O’Dwyer-Henry and Whearty have criticised the university as being “irresponsible”

Regarding those students who may have chosen not to return to Lancaster for the time being, the Councillors are calling on Lancaster University, as the largest student landlord in the city, to support them and allow any cancellations or deferrals of tenancies that may occur as a result of students’ health concerns.

Shining a light on the adverse effects of the pandemic to the mental health of young people, the open letter also asks Lancaster Uni to commit to increase spending on student mental health support; they critique the current student support system as being underfunded (despite the rising number of counselling referrals at Lancaster Uni over the past three years).

Speaking to The Tab Lancaster, Cllr Katie Whearty said: “University management should not put students’ health at risk just so they can collect as much tuition fees and rent off us as possible. This is the situation I find myself in, in which I made the decision not to return to my university accommodation for first term due to a health condition that increases my vulnerability. Yet I still find myself paying an extortionate rent for a flat I can’t even live in. I know I’m not the only one in this situation. This is what happens when universities are run like businesses – students’ welfare is disregarded.”

Jack O’Dwyer-Henry and Katie Whearty’s open letter can be found here.

(Featured image credit: University and Scotforth Rural Ward Labour City Councillors’ Facebook)

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