Students who are flatting are expected to sign up to daily wellness checks with Ask Otago. Many students are sceptical about how effective the Uni will be.
In an email circulated yesterday by Andrew Ferguson, Otago Uni's emergency and business continuity coordinator, students were told to register themselves with Ask Otago if they are living independently from caregivers or a residential college. Ferguson said they were doing this because “We want to ensure everyone’s OK.”
In a comment to Critic, Ferguson said that these wellness checks would be in the form of regular phone or email checks on students’ wellbeing, as “For some [students], this could be tough, and they could be alone.”
As students register with Ask Otago, the University will be able to paint a picture of how many students have decided not to go home to family, and how many may be on their own. Ferguson said that this means if Government systems become overloaded, such as Covid-19 reporting systems, the University and Student Health could “provide a backstop to seek out the right support for those in need.”
Some students remain sceptical about how effective this system will be. One questioned how the University of Otago could "genuinely check on my and 15,000 other students' wellbeing every day” and another just said “yikes, no thanks, I have my flatmates for that.”
But these students acknowledged that for those who are living alone, or do not live with people they are close with, it could mean a lot.
One student questioned the stipulation that students who are living at home shouldn’t be registering. “It doesn’t really account for students that might have difficult family relations, ya know?” she said, “[it’s] a bit odd.” Another student pointed out the irony of it taking a pandemic for the University to communicate with students so directly. They said, “Oh, so now you care how we feel about things? Where has this kind of communication with students been when it comes to other important things, like axing entire departments?”
Ferguson said that Ask Otago received “a tremendous response” to the request to register for these checks. Ask Otago are now in the process of sending a survey to all respondents to find out which way students wish to receive these checks. “The University is confident it can resource the delivery of this service as required,” he said.