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Why students deserve better during this pandemic

6 mins read

As I was continuing on as normal with my studies for a third year, I happened to one day glance upon social media to find a lot of comments about students during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. This just happened to be as the news reported that cases were spiking amongst young people, particularly here in Scotland.

That weekend, we were all told to avoid going out to any hospitality venues like bars, pubs and restaurants. We were also told no house parties. Upon further investigation, it turned out that every single student, including mature and PhD students were included in this.

Despite the fact that most of us work incredibly hard, wear face coverings practically everywhere, and are more likely to socially distance, we were still demonised that day. We still are demonised, to this day.

In fact, the most recent news showed that students in Pollock Halls of Residence at the University of Edinburgh had received stale, out of date junk food as unprepared universities across the UK became resting grounds for thousands and thousands of students.

The reason for this demonization? Comments on social media suggest that we love to party, love to have a drink, and therefore we are the problem. But that’s not quite the full picture.

Brig approached a few students and former students about this situation.

The first person wishes to remain anonymous, but had the following to say:

“There are no booking slots available for supermarket deliveries, because certain older folks are already panicking & filling them up.

“We aren’t all lucky enough to have our parents on hand to deliver food parcels instead. Some students fought to get a place at a prestigious university without them. Others are 5,000 miles away from their family, hence why they are in halls. 

“All they’re asking for is nutritious, filling food, that’s worth the £8,000 spent on Pollock Halls.”

You might realise who tends to live in catered accommodation: disabled students that are unable to prepare hot meals for themselves without assistance. So when they’re presented with nothing but a stale, white bread sandwich and mouldy apple, it is actually quite s**ty

“All you’re doing is falling for the mainstream rhetoric that is looking for someone to blame during the pandemic: young people. Be smarter than that.”

Ryan White, a graduate said: “It is outrageous that students are being demonised in this time of crisis. These are the future doctors, nurses, engineers etc.

“They are being imprisoned unfairly. These students need help, not imprisonment. What we are seeing is proof that these students are not valued.”

Iman Mackenzie, a third year student added: “Students can’t all be stuffed into one category.

“Saying that we’re all the same is ignorant and dangerous. It’s creating a stigma that is making student life even more difficult. We’re people too and our age doesn’t determine who we are.”

Other students appear to resonate with these comments.

Unfortunately, what we are seeing is a demonization of young people, at a time when universities were adamant that teaching would take place this year. And some universities promised a hybrid style of teaching, both online and face-to-face

The result is that students from the UK and international destinations travelled and congregated to their respective campuses, into student accommodation as normal. Shortly afterwards, cases began to rise exponentially.

The University and College Union (UCU) has warned universities across the UK that face-to-face teaching, and bringing students into student accommodation would result in an increase in cases. Universities have ignored this warning.

Universities across Scotland implemented new measures in a bid to reduce coronavirus cases on campus. Such measures included installing hand sanitiser stations. Measures that the UCU has called “hygiene theatre”

University management teams, including at the University of Stirling have a duty to put student wellbeing and safety at the forefront of their work. It does not appear that this is happening here.

Empirical evidence across all social media platforms suggests that older generations are blaming students for this exponential rise in cases. However, it should be noted that students and young people are likely to be working hospitality and retail jobs.

These jobs are under threat, due to a lack of consumer spending which is resulting in decreased revenue for these businesses.

What’s more, anyone that works retail and hospitality is often aware of angry or defiant customers, making their jobs difficult. In this case, customers who refuse to wear face coverings.

So the question is: why are these people blaming students for the rise in cases? Student workers are following health and safety guidelines like they are trained to. Meanwhile it is a personal choice on visiting shops, pubs, bars and restaurants.

It is clear that students deserve better. Universities need to switch to online teaching, and provide more support to self isolating students. Management has a job, here. Whether it is doing that job is another story.

Feature image credit: Pexels

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PhD - Environmental Science. Aspiring research scientist. Like to blog things science, and how it affects us.

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