Dressed smartly in a suit and ‘Warwick purple’ tie, with an official university pin badge fastened to his lapel, the Vice-Chancellor certainly looks the part of someone who will lead us through these “really quite extraordinary times”.
Looking into the camera he says, with conviction, “as a university, we have worked really hard to connect with government policies and the advice of Public Health England”. But it is time to take “four big new steps” that would ensure our safety and the safety of others ‘over the course of the new few weeks’.
It is important to note that, in comparison to other universities such as Cambridge or Durham, the university was very delayed on issuing a statement regarding the pandemic. Up until this point, we had received very little correspondence from University House about how exactly they had been following government advice.
I had very much anticipated a full-scale closure of the university. But that was not the approach taken by the Vice-Chancellor: “From Friday night (the 20th of March), we are going to suspend all non-critical activities and move to remote and online working”. I agree that this is an essential first step to be taken, but I can’t understand why a full-scale university closure has not be issued.
I can’t understand why a full-scale university closure has not be issued
He goes on to say that “if you are not in that critical worker group please do not come to work”. But, apart from security personnel, it was not made clear who exactly would be considered ‘critical’ to the operations of the university. I found this to be thoughtful in its intentions, but lacking a deeper acknowledgement of the severity of the situation.
He next expressed a commitment “to deliver graduation for our students”. Despite the fact that “there will be no face to face teaching”, the university will move to online teaching and “deliver alternative methods of assessment for the summer period”. I had hoped that the Vice-Chancellor would address those whose living spaces are not suitable working environments. There is a great deal of luxury in having a space to work undisturbed, without any serious obligations or responsibilities. Departments have since outlined a system of mitigating circumstances for such cases, but I would have liked to have seen similar recognition from the Vice-Chancellor in this video.
One thing I did appreciate was his comment about delivering a graduation ceremony. The fact that he considers it “a highlight of our year” demonstrates his willingness to do what it takes to give finalists the recognition they deserve.
This is one of the few times I have felt that the university has treated its members as part of a community and not simply a business
The third step involves protecting jobs. This was handled very well. He promised to continue “to commit to protecting whoever we can, we will not be laying people off”. It was reassuring to know that he intends to protect the extremely hardworking staff and employees of the university. This is one of the few times I have felt that the university has treated its members as part of a community and not simply a business.
Refreshingly, the Vice-Chancellor also asserts a commitment to maintaining the strength of the local community, saying we are “a fantastic resource as a workforce to help around our region, in our towns, cities and communities”. During this time of crisis, it is important to remember to be a “good neighbour” and to “volunteer, please volunteer!” In the comments, one user wrote: “This is Warwick at its best: pulling together in the most challenging of times and with our community, both on-campus and around the world, at the heart of its plans #proudtobeWarwick”. The inclusion of this aspect certainly lifted my spirits, demonstrating the university’s ongoing commitment to the local community and its most vulnerable citizens.
I found this video to be a positive step (or four steps) in the right direction for the university
At the end of the video, the Vice-Chancellor thanked members of the Warwick community for the “great messages of support and encouragement at this time” and promised to return the sentiment to “as many of you as possible”. Then, in what can only be described as a cringy but heartfelt moment, the Vice-Chancellor said “before you know it we’ll be back and when we’re back I can promise you one thing, we are going to have a hell of a party”.
Response to this final statement has been varied to say the least. For some members of the community, it offered a comforting reassurance that things will eventually return to normal. For others, it represented another wildly inappropriate response from the Vice-Chancellor to a serious situation.
I found this video to be a positive step (or four steps) in the right direction for the university and the local community. With over 23,000 views now, it is clear that the Vice-Chancellor still holds a great deal of credibility with the student cohort. In my opinion, so long as there is constant communication between the university and its members, we cannot criticise him for trying to lighten the load.
After all, as one Youtube commenter rightfully said, when that “hell of a party” comes, “drinks are on Stu”.