The University’s response to recent yo-yoing between alert levels has not come under scrutiny from students. This is a far-cry from the student reaction during the first Covid outbreak.
Critic spoke to Andrew Ferguson, the University’s Emergency and Business Continuity Coordinator, about the Uni’s response to last week’s transition to alert level two. Andrew said preparation commenced around 9:30pm Saturday night, half an hour after the Prime Minister’s live announcement, with staff working all weekend to allow the transition. It is unclear if any staff missed out on Electric Ave to stay and do their duties.
Level two, and the social distancing required, caused overall lecture theatre capacity to drop from 8,000 to 2,000 seats, said Stephen Willis, Chief Operating Officer at the University. That required significant timetabling changes. Furniture was moved all over campus to ensure social distancing. Audio-visual equipment needed to be set up. E-mails were written and sent out en-masse.
According to Andrew, every department sets their own plans for each alert level, but they all need to deliver online teaching within 24 hours. However, these plans are not set in stone. “They must be constantly revised and updated as the Ministry of Health and/or Tertiary Education Commission guidelines change,” he said. They also change as “lessons are learnt.”
The plans are then reviewed by the University’s Health and Safety team to ensure they meet the requirements. Stephen said that “a significant amount of effort is required” with every change in alert level, making transition days (like last Monday) necessary.
With any change in alert level comes a rise in stress and anxiety. Ferguson said that “additional resources are provided as and when demand requires” to Student Health.
Students did not have many opinions about the Uni’s response this year. Nobody expressed feelings of confusion, and while people were “gutted that lectures are online,” the transition to level two went smoothly.
It’s almost like we’ve been through this before.