Many senior “leaders” of UK universities continue to insist on returning to face to face teaching and upon peddling the myth of a “covid safe” campus when the science tells us there is no such thing. A particularly horrific consequence of this absence of real leadership in their institutions is that some members have felt compelled to take action of their own in a bid to protect colleagues and students. They should not ever be placed in this position (see: https://punkacademic.net/2020/09/08/say-no-to-onsite-teaching-being-the-university-in-a-time-of-crisis)
The senior leaders of our institutions must step up immediately! They need to take those Difficult Decisions they cite when justifying the levels of their own eye-watering pay. The Covid-19 pandemic is literally a matter of life and death, and of Long Covid effects we still don’t fully understand.
So, VCs, and other senior leaders: the buck stops with you. If you sign off on plans that ignore the science and concerns raised by experts such as those at Independent Sage (and even by SAGE) you are FAILING.
It is not enough to cite “government guidance” publicly, when we know that privately you, like the rest of us, can see how inadequate, slow, and stumbling that guidance is. It is quite clear from the mess in March that we cannot rely on this government to respond adequately or quickly to protect our lives and health. Too many universities prolonged face to face contact on campus in teaching rooms and student services. Immediately following that time we saw many workers and students fall ill (and yes, die) who worked in institutions that insisted staff “fought to the end”. That cannot be allowed to happen again as we head into a new term, or as in Scotland where new terms have already begun.
If in doubt, our senior leaders should examine and get to grips with the now extensive empirical evidence from the US, where college leaders have presided over a dangerous mess we urgently need to avoid here (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/college-coronavirus-outbreaks/616069/).
There is still time. And, if the mortality and morbidity associated with exacerbating a worldwide pandemic don’t motivate our senior leaders… might the spectre of being held responsible motivate them a little at least?
Face to face teaching is not safe yet. There is no “covid safe” campus. Only a grim covid campus calculus of how many deaths for which university leaders hope they will be able to avoid the blame.
There will be Inquiries.