A statement from SCM's General Council in response to the student living situation under COVID-19.
Given recent news of COVID-19 outbreaks in student accommodation at 30 universities, SCM feels it is important to bring to attention the situation students are facing as they return to university.
University is a formative experience in the lives of students. Yet, given the current situation, students this year will not have the experience they would hope for. Students, who were instructed to return to university, have now been told in most cases that their teaching will take place entirely online, and that societies will also be unable to meet in person.
Government ministers and newspapers have repeatedly patronised and blamed students throughout the pandemic. In Scotland, students have been warned against going to pubs under threat of expulsion from their universities, despite pubs being generally open, and at universities suffering coronavirus outbreaks, students have been required to remain in their accommodation regardless of whether they displayed symptoms, which has prevented them buying necessary food or toiletries.
SCM supports the need for general lockdown measures, but believes the likelihood of outbreaks in university towns could have been foreseen and mitigated by measures such as a staggered return for students, a more effective track and trace system, or simply not requiring them to return to university in person where their course has no required practical element. We believe that denying students the ability to leave their flats even to go to the supermarket is inhumane. We believe that treating students differently from other members of the population is unfair, especially for first year students who have left behind support networks to attend university and need the opportunity to build new connections.
SCM welcomes the government’s promise that students will be able to return home for Christmas, and hopes the government and universities will work together to find a way to make this viable, and to ensure the student experience at university can be improved quickly.
Written by Patrick Ramsey, on behalf of SCM's General Council.