Decrease the risk of spread of COVID-19 at Stellenbosch University

Decrease the risk of spread of COVID-19 at Stellenbosch University

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,000!
At 1,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!
Zurab Janelidze started this petition to Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University is in the process of formulating further communication regarding the continuation of Teaching and Learning activities on campus in the 1st Semester of 2021. There are indications that this may contain regulations that may put pressure on lecturers and students to engage in face-to-face interaction with each other beyond the level with which they are comfortable in the current context of the pandemic. In fact, the first step towards this was already made in a communication of 19 January from the Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) of Stellenbosch University that included statements such as "The ICBC held an extraordinary meeting on 18 January to urgently reconsider the way forward this year..." and "we plan to have face-to-face sessions this year to the fullest extent possible within the constraints of COVID-19 (smaller classes in suitable venues)." It does not take much scientific expertise to know that the more face-to-face interactions take place on campus, the higher the health risk will be for both students and lecturers. No matter what precautions are taken, it is impossible to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus in lecture halls to 0%. Furthermore, the value of masked face-to-face interaction in teaching and learning is dubious when there is an opportunity for live-streamed, interactive and rich online teaching and learning where students and lecturers can exchange information and ideas as they do in class, without experiencing the stress of getting infected if somebody sneezes or coughs.

This petition proposes for the university to include in the regulations to be adopted a proviso guaranteeing that lecturers, tutors and students cannot be forced by immediate or upper management into face-to-face contact in any component of the delivery of any module in the first semester of 2021. This means that if a lecturer wishes to conduct all teaching online, from the space of his home with a reliable internet connection, she or he should be allowed to do so, and if a student wishes not to part-take in a face-to-face learning opportunity or assessment, she or he should be offered an alternative online opportunity (except in the few cases where this is impossible, such as lab work, which could be deferred to later in the year). The rule can be reassessed based on the development of the virus at the start of the second semester, after sufficient consultation with staff and students. 

We, the undersigned, are lecturers and students or their family members and friends, who care for the health of lecturers and students at Stellenbosch University as well as that of their families. We believe that by adopting the principle suggested above, the spread of the virus at Stellenbosch University campus will be minimized as the students start returning to campus in the first semester of 2021. It will also help to ensure the emotional well-being of students and staff, and will enable the lecturing staff to prepare urgently and adequately for a pedagogically sound teaching programme, instead of having to rush into a new round of crisis mode adaptations when the inevitable consequences of a premature return to contact teaching play out a couple of weeks or so into the term.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,000!
At 1,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!