University of Auckland goes back on plan to have students return to campus

Author
Jake McKee,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Sep 2020, 4:40PM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

University of Auckland goes back on plan to have students return to campus

Author
Jake McKee,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Sep 2020, 4:40PM

Auckland University is going back on its plan to get its students on campus next week.

It's reversed part of its decision to operate classes of up-to 300 people, which it had planned for the final weeks of Semester 2 - starting on Monday.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield had queried the decision when questioned by NZME at the September 16 1pm press conference, and the university announced on Thursday morning it would go back online for the next fortnight.

More than 100 students had individually contacted NZME about going back to campus. Most were concerned and scared.

In an email to staff, Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater said learning will remain online until October 2, "regardless of alert levels".

She said Bloomfield's comments indicated Education Ministry guidance did not apply to Auckland's Level 2.5.

"This has created a degree of confusion," Freshwater said. She added the confusion was "adding somewhat to the level of anxiety".

"This obviously has immediate implications for the University's plans to resume on-campus teaching after themed-Semester break."

Freshwater said the two-week period is to ensure certainty for staff and students, while the situation is clarified.

She says the university had taken a "careful and considered approach to balance the health and well-being of our staff and students". Freshwater said the decision was based on current Government guidelines and feedback that students wanted to be back on campus.

Most students that contacted NZME disputed, labelling the decision "insane", "ridiculous", and "unfair". They cited health concerns for immunocompromised or high-risk people in their households and worry about being around so many people while there was still community transmission.

Auckland University Student's Association said its communications with the University had not "been properly heard" and "misrepresented what we have been advocating for".

It called for classes, tests and exams to remain online, remove fees for compassionate consideration and aegrotat applications, and to apply a universal "grade bump" for Semester 2, as it had for Semester 1.

"We've had countless meetings with the University pushing all of these points," AUSA said.

Freshwater realised Thursday's decision was very late notice and that teaching would have to be rethought for the first two weeks. "I am hopeful that this next two-week review period will provide the opportunity to prepare our response and to communicate as early as possible our intentions for the period beyond 2 October."

text by Jake McKee Cagney