Students at the University of Auckland say they are terrified people in classes up to 300 are expected to return to campus next week despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Following Prime Minister Jacinda Arderns’ announcement that Auckland would remain at the coronavirus 2.5 alert level until at least Monday, the University of Auckland outlined its post-September 21 teaching plan.
It stated that all teaching activities would be held on campus for courses with less than 300 students.
Lectures for classes with more than 300 students will be held online only.
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The university said exams would start again on campus and normal seating arrangements would see students physically distanced.
Students who are unable to take an exam due to illness or unforeseen circumstances may apply compassionate consideration at a cost of $ 50.
A number of students contacted stuff and talked online about their concerns.
Third-year law student Sam Meyerhoff said he wanted to return but said there was no way to social distance.
He was most concerned about six of his classes, which had just under 300 students. They were usually crowded and people often struggled to find a place, he said.
He did not believe that the university had taken into account the safety of the students or that they had been consulted.
One student, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were horrified by the decision.
We as students are not able to make a difference and worry too much about attending lectures, tests and exams in person.
Students also launched a petition to restore learning and assessments fully online, which collected nearly 6,000 signatures. Although no resolution came from this.
Another student, who is in her sophomore year, said the university had not heard the concerns.
While we understand that learning on campus would be beneficial to our education and while we understand that collection boundaries do not extend to educational facilities, we do not believe the university should take the risk.
While online learning is not the same, it is safer given the current circumstances.
Associated University of Auckland professor Jan Eldridge said she could understand why the students had concerns, and she did too.
Eldridge said she could understand the importance of returning to campus teaching, but moving around campus and teaching three different classes meant everyone would move around a lot of people.
She said staff were not asked for their views on the university decision.
It is natural to be scared and if people are afraid of the good because we will try to keep each other safe.
Interim President of the University of Auckland Student Association (AUSA) Emma Rogers said there was a divide between students who wanted to return and those who did not.
However, there was more of a push for the university to move to a flexible approach and allow students to decide whether they needed to be on campus or not.
Science and engineering students mostly wanted to return to campus because of the way they teach, Rogers said.
A University of Auckland spokeswoman said the curriculum would continue even if Auckland remains at level 2.5.
We sought and received advice from our student associations which indicated that many students wanted to return to classes and were concerned that they had had limited time on campus this year.
In particular, student representatives indicated that the practical components of the courses were very important to resume on campus.
The spokesman said its facilities would allow safe social distance for 300 students or less.
The University would not consider waiving a fee for students applying for compassionate consideration.
Auckland University of Technology said teaching would resume after a mid-semester break on September 21st.
For the rest of the year, whether Auckland is at the 2.5, 2 or 1 readiness level, online, on campus or a combination of both teaching styles will be determined by each faculty.
The exams will be off for the rest of the year, an AUT spokeswoman said.
Faculties will decide on any exam that is absolutely necessary to meet the requirements of professional enrollment or when there is another equally strong reason to hold them.
A physical distance of one meter remains necessary when possible.
A Massey University spokeswoman said she is also providing online and in-person learning whenever possible.
The decision earlier this year to stay in online lectures was taken to ensure students had minimal disruption if New Zealand experienced additional Covid-19 cases and blockchain measures.
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