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Concerns Over UCD “Overpromising” With Campus Reopening Plan

On Wednesday evening an e-mail was circulated to UCD students setting out the college’s plan for
reopening in September. It stated that UCD students will have a mix of “online, blended and face-to-
face classes,” however its expectation that 40-60% of undergraduate teaching will take place on
campus has been met with some concern.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) told RTE news that it fears that UCD may be
“overpromising” students with this estimation of 40-60%. Concern has been expressed by IFUT
members with regards to the questions this promise leaves unanswered, such as how public health
guidelines (i.e. mask-wearing) will be enforced; how students on campus but not in class will be
managed; and how vulnerable staff and students will be accommodated. When contacted for
comment by The Tribune, Frank Jones, Deputy General Secretary IFUT, had the following to say:
“It is my view that health and safety concerns and safe return to on-campus teaching are too serious
to become matters that Universities compete with each other on. IFUT don’t understand how the ’40-
60%’ figures were arrived at; these figures certainly were not the product of our engagement with
UCD management.”

The aforementioned UCD email said that UCD had prepared a number of “teaching scenarios” for
the Autumn trimester, in line with national and public health COVID-19 guidelines, designed to
maximise “face to face engagement between students and lecturers”. Professor Mark Rogers,
Registrar and Deputy President encouraged students to “spend as much time as possible on
campus” in order to “experience the benefits of personal interaction and engagement” with fellow
students and faculty.

UCDSU Welfare Officer, Ruairí Power, has penned an open letter in response to UCD’s e-mail
announcement in which he voices the concerns of student and staff members, particularly those
with disabilities and underlying health conditions, about the proportion of classes set to take place
on campus. In his letter, Power points to the lack of detailed guidance for vulnerable staff and
students and questions the extent to which trade unions were consulted and public health advice
followed when coming up with this figure. He also seeks clarification on a number of details, such as
which UCD schools had confirmed they would be able to comply with the 40-60% number and how
many students are expected to be physically present on campus each day.

UCD is one of the first Irish universities to set out any kind of “plan” for reopening next semester,
although the University of Limerick has estimated it will only have 20% of students on campus at any
one time.

Sadhbh O’Muirí – Reporter