CANCEL FACE-TO-FACE TEACHING, MEETINGS AND NON-ESSENTIAL SERVICES AT NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

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PETITION TO CANCEL FACE-TO-FACE TEACHING, MEETINGS AND NON-ESSENTIAL SERVICES AT NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY IN THE INTERESTS OF THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF STAFF, STUDENTS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC

BACKGROUND

Newcastle University announced on Friday 13 March, 2020 that it would remain open and continue with all normal activities, including face-to-face teaching until the scheduled semester break on 27 March, 2020. To justify this decision, despite the public health emergency and the high death rate amongst those who contract the C-19 virus, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Chris Day, Professor of Medicine, cited the advice of Public Health England, that “no higher education should close in response to a suspected (or confirmed) COVID-19 case unless advised to do so by Public Health England” in support of this decision. The World Health Organization has cast doubt on the UK’s approach to developing “herd immunity”, and it is at odds with the approach taken by most other nations in Europe.

 

Newcastle University has a total population of circa 32,000 students and staff, moving to and from a city-centre campus covering an area of approximately 1 square kilometre in area, daily.

 

UNESCO reports that ‘as of 13 March, 61 countries . . . have announced or implemented . . . university closures.’ European countries, including but not limited to Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain, Estonia, Czech Republic, Norway, Malta, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Albania, Denmark and Iceland have announced the closure of all universities. Unlike the UK, none of these countries has privatised their university system.

 

In the North East region, Durham University and Northumbria University have announced that they have cancelled face-to-face provision from 16 March.

 

PETITION:

We note the increased risk of spread of coronavirus in areas of high population density where people meet face-to-face in enclosed spaces, and where the number of individuals encountered is high.

 

We note therefore the disproportionate and unacceptable risk to teaching, professional services and estates colleagues who are in close contact daily with high numbers of students in lecture theatres, offices and halls. We also note that the decision to maintain face-to-face teaching provision priorities university income over the health of staff, students and their loved ones, including those in high-risk categories. We note that staff are particularly vulnerable in these circumstances.

 

We call on Newcastle University Council to meet its responsibilities to the health and safety of staff and students, and its wider civic duty to the people of Newcastle and the North East during this public health emergency, and instruct the vice-chancellor

to cancel face-to-face teaching, meetings and non-essential services at Newcastle University immediately.