Warwick students are divided on the return to campus during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey by The Boar.
410 Warwick students responded to the survey, which was conducted between 26 August and 3 September, the respondents included undergraduate and postgraduate students.
218 students said that they feel safe with the prospect of returning to campus, with a further 128 answering that they feel “somewhat” safe. 16% of students surveyed said that they do not feel safe about returning to campus.
First-year students were the most likely group to feel safe about returning to campus, with 8% of first year students stating that they feel unsafe. Every other year group had at least double the proportion of students answering that they felt unsafe about returning to campus.
Respondents expressed their view for both sides. One student remarked: “I feel safe returning to campus, University lecture halls and seminar rooms have the ability to provide for social distancing. The problem, I believe, is with transportation to and from campus.”
Another commented: “I don’t fully understand what is going to happen when we return, however I find it hard to believe that we will be safe unless everything is online.”
There was no clear majority on whether lectures should remain online for the entire academic year. 38% of students believed that they should remain online only, while 39% said that they should not.
There was also a high proportion of respondents, 23% who were currently unsure. The University first confirmed on 17 June that all classes larger than 25 students will be delivered online during the first term.
There was more agreement on whether seminars should be moved online for Term 1, with 67% of students answering that they should stay in-person. 21% of those surveyed said that they should be moved online.
The Warwick branch of the University and College Union (UCU) called for the majority of teaching to be moved online, after they outlined six factors which they said showed that the reopening of campus was unsafe.
Last week, Warwick Students’ Union (SU) also announced a demand for all Term 1 teaching to be moved online, as part of their “Protect Our People” campaign.
Education Officer Megan Clarke confirmed that students could not be consulted on the SU’s decision to make the demand, as “SU bylaws mean we cannot run All Student Votes (ASV) outside term time”.
67% of students answered that seminars should stay in-person. 21% of those surveyed said that they should be moved online
An open letter has since been released, contesting the SU’s demand to the University to adopt online teaching in Term 1.
The students who organised the open letter began a campaign called “Put Warwick Students First”, opposing the SU’s demand.
The University has made changes to campus life for the next academic year, including requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear a face covering when inside, among others.
Reusable face coverings and thermometers will be given to all staff and students by the University.
Of those surveyed, 54% said they were aware of the changes made and Covid-19 rules implemented by the University. 38% said they were aware of some but not all. 8% said they were not aware of the changes and new rules implemented.
Warwick students who responded in the survey were divided over whether the changes implemented by the University would be enough to prevent a serious outbreak of Covid-19 on campus.
A quarter of respondents said they believe the changes made would be enough to prevent a serious outbreak. 34% said they did not believe the changes would be enough and 41% said they were unsure.
When respondents explained their answers, many had fears of students not following the rules and concerns that students would attend house parties off campus.
One respondent said: “No matter what measures the university introduces, students (particularly freshers) will not want to relinquish their social lives once they are back with friends.
“I already know for a fact there are huge parties being planned off campus. Additionally with so many people on campus having to travel between different buildings, there won’t be any practical way of stopping a spread,” they added.
Another added: “I think it may limit the spread but I don’t think students will completely follow it which will make it ineffective plus I think students will continue to socialise and party in spite of the restrictions due to being in close proximity.”
Another respondent added: “Issue of transport to and from campus from Leamington/Coventry – safety measures on campus are good but seem counterproductive considering the huge amount of people on each bus in and out of university daily.”
“As long as people stick to the rules” and “students are low risk” were common explanations from students who believed that the rules implemented by the University would be enough to prevent a serious outbreak of Covid-19 on campus.
One respondent believed the measures implemented by Warwick would be “more than enough” and added that “young people don’t get it and certainly don’t die or get seriously ill from it, very unnecessary measures which will make university life less enjoyable”.
Another said: “I honestly think the rules are a bit too harsh.”
“People will have house parties and freshers absolutely won’t socialise with just the hall they’re living with”
One student, who answered “unsure”, said: “I think if everyone follows those rules and limits their time on campus/interaction with others, we would be like any other city in the UK and hence prevent an outbreak, especially if people are vigilant about test and trace.
“I think Warwick has done an amazing job to allow testing on campus, and enforcing masks and one way systems everywhere is great. The issue is, students won’t follow this all the time. On campus when studying, sure I’ll wear a mask.
“But then I’ll get the bus back to Leam and see all my friends and we probably won’t wear masks, people will have house parties and freshers absolutely won’t socialise with just the hall they’re living with, because unfortunately we’re human in desperate need of social contact, especially after being trapped inside without seeing anyone for so long.”
The Boar asked the University how it plans to enforce the rules of face coverings in indoor buildings and no visitors in halls of residence. A spokesperson said: “The University is committed to protecting students and staff, and has introduced a range of measures to reduce the risks associated with Covid-19. As a community, all staff and students can and should play their part in supporting University and local public health measures.
“Wilfully and repeatedly not supporting the measures could result in the use of our usual disciplinary procedures.”
The Boar’s survey also asked students if there are other safety measures that they would like to see the University enforce.
Some comments suggested regular testing on campus. One respondent said: “I think they should make everyone quarantine for 2 weeks on arrival and then suggest people go home less as that will be spreading things.”
The University’s own Test and Trace service has been in operation since 9 September. Students and staff can complete a self-swab test on campus, if they think they have symptoms of Covid-19.
Within the first week of operation, the service did identify an individual who tested positive for Covid-19 and had used the Sports and Wellness Hub, which was subsequently closed overnight for deep cleaning. A handful of respondents suggested adding more buses for students living off campus in Leamington and Coventry.
A spokesperson for Stagecoach told The Boar: “We have been working very closely with the University over the summer so that students can get onto campus safely. Working together has allowed the University to factor in student travel requirements when designing the timing of lectures and seminars as well as giving us an indication of when people will be travelling.”