Almost half of Durham students have ignored Covid-19 rules, poll finds

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A survey of Durham students has revealed that around 45% of students
ignored Covid-19 regulations in order to see friends, family or a partner.

The survey, carried out by Durham Polling, surveyed 207 Durham students from 5-17th October on their experience of Covid-19 at Durham.

Around a third of students rated their satisfaction with the University’s Covid-19 policy as “poor”, with a similar proportion saying the policy has been “good” or “excellent”.

About one in five students rated their experience with online learning negatively, with half saying their experience with online learning has been positive.

The news comes after Durham University and College Union (DUCU), which represents academics and support staff, sent a letter to Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge asking for an extension to the pause to face-to-face teaching that was in place for the first week of term.

In the letter, they asked that the pause be extended to the end of the month for all modules that can be feasibly taught online.

Sara Uckelman, Communications Officer for DUCU, told Palatinate: “We desire that the VC will help Durham University show the same sort of leadership in the sector that we showed in March, when the decision was made to move teaching online in advance of a directive from the government to do so.”

Over 1000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed among Durham students and staff since the start of term. The majority of households in the accommodation of University, St. Mary’s, Collingwood and Hatfield Colleges have been isolating.

University and Josephine Butler Colleges have announced that their bars will be open to those living out of college, as many college bars face financial pressure as a result of isolating freshers.

Anyone caught breaking Covid-19 rules or mixing households in the University College bar will be banned from the bar for at least two weeks.

Durham is currently under “Tier 2” restrictions, meaning socialising with other households or people outside your social bubble is only permitted in an outdoor space.

Those under Tier 2 restrictions can also only socialise in a group of up to six people. Hospitality venues in Durham such as bars and restaurants have been placed under a curfew and must close by 10pm.

If I was told the true risk of being a Frep this year, I would never have done it. I did it to help the Freshers, not police social-distancing and catch Covid-19.

Collingwood Frep

Last week, the University announced it would take “swift and decisive action” against students who fail to follow Covid-19 regulations.

For a first time offence the University will adopt an ‘engage, explain and encourage response’ where students will be asked to explain the risks of their behaviour and encouraged to observe Covid-19 regulations. For cases in which the response has been judged ineffective, the University will employ a graded ‘yellow, amber, red’ response system.

A yellow warning signifies a first time, low level breach and will be issued by the student’s college. Second time or more serious breaches will result in an amber warning which will result in a formal warning being added to the student’s record. These warnings may be accompanied by further sanctions including a fine of up to £500 or community service of up to 75 hours.

Further breaches will be issued with a red warning and sanctions could include expulsion from the University.

Some colleges were prompted to move freshers’ week activities online after reports of freshers mixing households. The University College Senior Student, Ferdinand Schultz, said he received “multiple reports” from other colleges that University College freshers were spotted in their premises during freshers’ week.

Just a week after freshers’ week, students living at St Mary’s and Collingwood Colleges were told not to leave their campus for seven days other than for campus held activities organised by the University or in-person teaching, after 50 positive cases of Covid-19 were confirmed at each college.

A freshers’ representative (‘frep’) at St. Mary’s College, who helped freshers move in, told Palatinate: “The freps were only informed of the positive case [of a frep] at the very last minute, a day after the test result had been confirmed.

“It is clear as a member of the team that there has been a conscious need to keep the case under wraps […] the team as a whole felt that their safety and the safety of the freshers were not prioritised”.

A frep at Collingwood College said: “If I was told the true risk of being a Frep this year, I would never have done it”. On volunteering, the frep noted: “I did it to help the Freshers, not police social-distancing and catch Covid-19”.

Representatives at Collingwood College declined to comment, and St. Mary’s representatives have been contacted for comment.

Pro-Vice Chancellor Jeremy Cook said: “We have been actively monitoring coronavirus case numbers across the University community throughout the pandemic and have implemented a range of carefully considered, progressive measures to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.”

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