Back in person, but not for long

By Max Kendix &

A college formal has been cancelled and module leaders have been sending mass emails about hybrid seminars as Durham students have yet again faced a Covid-19 spike and the accompanying compulsory isolation.

Last week, hundreds tested positive on the University’s LFTs. But following Government advice and anticipating yesterday’s scrapping of Plan B restrictions, the University confirmed its ‘soft start’ to Michaelmas Term would end after the scheduled two weeks. This is the first week of Epiphany with all teaching back in-person; however, with many isolating, the return has in reality been partial.

A St. Mary’s College formal dinner on Tuesday was cancelled due to the number of isolating students in college putting pressure on catering staff. An email from Professor Maggi Dawn, Principal at St Mary’s, explained that the kitchen staff had to provide three meals a day in the Dining Hall alongside preparing a large number of individually packaged meals for delivery to those in isolation: “There are simply not enough hours in the day to cover three daily meals, several cartloads of individually packaged meals, and a College Formal.”

Durham will still mandate masks are worn indoors in all university buildings

Meanwhile, module leaders have been inundated yet again with emails from students concerned about missing contact hours in isolation.

One email noted: “Not surprisingly my inbox is filling up with messages of various students having tested positive”. After outlining how to attend a specially arranged online seminar, the Professor urged students: “I would appeal to your conscience not to abuse this”.

Other modules have encouraged isolating students to take part in ‘hybrid’ seminars, where a sophisticated ‘owl’ video technology is used to show students the in-person seminar room and focus on the person currently speaking. Despite the lifting of the law on masks yesterday, Durham will still mandate they are worn indoors in all University buildings.

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