Geography students demand UoM introduce no-detriment policy for this year

‘The current policies in place are completely unacceptable to support students’

A group of student representatives from the University of Manchester’s geography department demand that UoM introduce a no-detriment policy for this academic year.

They have written an open letter calling on the uni to acknowledge that the current policies in place are “completely unacceptable to support students’ studies and that there needs to be a new support policy put in place for students.”

The aim of the letter is to “develop effective policies for all courses and as such, this is an issue not just for our course, but for all courses.”

Rosie Gebbie, one of the authors of the open letter, told The Manchester Tab: “Ultimately we want a policy that recognises the impact of the pandemic on our ability to perform academically, to effectively to mitigate such impacts through a blanket cover that does not discriminate against any student; this would be true acknowledgment from the university that every single student has been impacted by the pandemic, and that they wish to support us all.”

The students were inspired to write the letter due to not only personal experiences, but also after having seen multiple posts on student social media groups of students struggling.

The geography students have backing from student action group SAFER and the letter is in the form of an open document, so that any student can add their signature.

Rosie Gebbie said: “The lack of policy to protect our grades feels like a dis-acknowledgment of the very real impacts this pandemic is having on us on a day-to-day basis.

“This letter was written to explain to the staff of UoM just how much our mental health and wellbeing has been, and is still being impacted.”

The letter opens by referencing the university’s “six key values”, and goes on to say: “In this letter, we appeal specifically to the value of humanity: At Manchester, ‘we embrace and celebrate difference, respect and support each other, and act with integrity to benefit society and the environment by transforming and enriching lives’.

“Furthermore, the priorities as outlined by the university includes wellbeing as a key priority. These are the words of our university. Let us put words into action.”

Millie Shepard, another student who contributed to the letter, said: “Whilst we speak through this letter as geography students, we believe that our message resonates with every single student at UoM.

“We feel this is necessary now, not only to protect the hard work that we have all put in over the last few years but also to safeguard us against the multiple effects of the on-going pandemic. We want to be proud of our degrees, and to get the grade we know we deserve.”

The letter refers back to lockdown in March 2020, in which a no-disadvantage policy was offered to students by UoM and how despite once more being in lockdown, “such a policy has not been implemented”.

Student Louise Greenfield said: “Leadership staff need to acknowledge that learning has been negatively effected by the pandemic. Learning remotely is more difficult, time-consuming and stressful.

“There is no enjoyment left in learning at UoM, instead it has been replaced by stress and anxiety. A policy needs to be implemented to protect our grades and motivation to learn.”

Another co-author Adam Warren said: “This is just another example of the university not considering the wider implications of their decisions on students – we have seen it time and time again especially more recently with the fences and rent strikes.”

Another geography student told The Manchester Tab how the geography department has been doing its best to support the school’s students, however don’t have the authority to make significant changes to policies and therefore help all students. Subsequently the letter hopes to reach higher levels of university authority.

The students conclude the letter by saying: “We want the chance to enjoy our university studies again, protect our mental health and wellbeing and know that these unprecedented times will not inhibit our ability to achieve.”

The letter was sent to Fiona Smyth, the Vice Dean for teaching and learning at UoM and she responded by asking to set up a meeting to discuss everything mentioned within the letter.

So far, the letter has been signed by 294 students in total. You can sign the letter here.

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