Today we have written to the Vice-Chancellor and Chair of Council the following letter. We have done so aligning with the national UCU position, and in light of Independent SAGE recommendations to Universities (28th September) and of the latest developments relating to the pandemic both in HE and across the country as a whole.
Letter to Vice-Chancellor
Dear Trevor, cc Jo Williams
In light of alarming and growing outbreaks across (~50) UK university campuses, of the rapidly deteriorating national situation and the confirmation of positive cases registered amongst Keele students, Keele UCU urges the University to stop the delivery of in-situ teaching.
As recommended by Independent SAGE (28th September), universities should “immediately … transfer all teaching and learning online by default; [and] make essential in-person teaching and learning (e.g. components of laboratory or practice-based courses) contingent on the regular testing of students and staff”. Moreover, we call on the university to implement all of the five key recommendations designed by Independent SAGE for HE.
Several institutions have publicly announced a move to on-line teaching-learning and we urge Keele to follow in order to ensure the safety of its students and staff and the local community – concerns are mounting amongst the confirmed positive cases and their contacts. Without an “extensive well-functioning testing programme” as Independent SAGE calls it (which includes prevention, protection and early-warning systems), Keele risks fuelling high transmissions in its early days of term.
It is crucial to act now and respond to rising levels of infection (nationally and locally); the University is at risk of dealing with multiple crises: managing transmission of the virus; outbreaks; student and staff welfare; supporting students affected by COVID-19; managing relations (and risks of irrevocable reputational damage) with the wider local community as a consequence of rising infection rates.
You showed decisive leadership in March when you moved to online learning. We ask for another act of resolute and timely leadership to ensure the safety of both staff and students.
We look forward to your response,