This afternoon, university presidents from institutions across the country took the “unusual decision” to email students addressing the coronavirus pandemic that has put much of the world on lockdown.

After explaining a three- step approach to stopping the spread and contraction of Covid-19, the university presidents conceded that “Scientific and public health advice tells us that it will take some time before COVID-19 can be contained.” But the group urges students to play their part. “There are close to a quarter of a million students in Irish Higher Education and we are in a strong position to reduce the spread of the virus by acting collectively.”

The email went on to say that “As a student, you are in a unique position. You are being taught online in many cases and do not have to come into work as many others have to do. All these precautions mean little if you do not stay away from crowds.”

While true with respect to education, many students still face working with the general workforce in order to pay increasing rent prices from universities across the country. This is despite all students being off campus, and those living on campus returning to their family homes.

The email reiterated the advice of the HSE, asking students to use social distancing when in public and to limit social interactions with “large crowds”. While the statement focuses primarily on reinforcing the message sent out by government and health officials, the university presidents did encourage “small gatherings” as long as such events follow the distancing recommendations of the health services.

The email continued in its’ positive tone, asking students to contact each other over phone, making sure that no one is left feeling isolated among college communities. Furthering on their point of interaction, they have encouraged students to take action within their communities in helping out older neighbours with shopping and outdoor chores.

The University Presidents have noted that the only reputable information will come from health authority and government websites and their respective social media accounts.

The closing message was one of poignancy and optimism, asking us to take care and find humanity and meaning in these challenging times.

All Irish schools and universities are currently closed until at least March 29th. The government-sanctioned closure has prompted UCD, among other third level institutions, to begin teaching and learning through online systems. UCD is due to return from mid-term on March 23rd, with the remainder of the academic term to be completed “at a distance” (online) for most students.

More to follow…

 

Luke Murphy – Reporter