Since students returned to their second homes in cities where they attend university, there has unsurprisingly been a rise in COVID-19 cases. Along with other factors, England has now entered ‘Lockdown 2.0’. However, over the last few days reports have emerged regarding the University of Manchester erecting £11,000 worth of fencing around student halls to prevent non-residence from entering the premises.
Such actions sparked protests and upset amongst the student community, so much so that the University of Nottingham released a statement condoning the move. The brief statement, from the elected student union officers concluded with the ‘your welfare is our priority’. The comments come after the university has set up two COVID-19 testing centres on University Park and Jubilee campus and is working hard to establish welfare connections and extending deadlines in the most stress-free manor.
Although there have been various horror stories about catered halls on Nottingham’s campus, it seems that the university is continuing to attempt to adapt to the ‘new normal’. Whilst stories of students not receiving the correct food and being subject to their rooms is awful and should not be happening, as the end of term creeps closer and Christmas approaches, it seems that the university is attempting to become adept to the current climate. Through working with the local community in ways such as extending the university hopper bus service route to relive pressure from other public transport, and trying to make education seem as normal as possible with limited disruption, the university seems to be striving to make this work.
The way university institutions handle external crises is so important to address. In the wake of the winter months and the latest lockdown, there has been suggestions that universities may face a ‘mental health’ crisis. As contact hours become few and far between, spotting physical signs that an individual may feel suicidal becomes harder and, particularly in times of isolation; mental health is extremely important.
It is now time for universities, including those in Nottingham to work on building even better communities and connections between students to prevent any potentially horrible consequences. In Nottingham, the David Ross gym are streaming free live workouts regularly to get people active, societies are resorting back to quizzes on zoom and facilities such as libraries and teaching spaces, remain open to allow students to get out of the house.
For everyone, including universities, adapting to a life dominated by coronavirus has been challenging yet there are clear right and wrong ways of handling such problems and, as the winter approaches, it seems now is an essential time to get the approach right.