Durham University has announced in an email to students that “all non-essential large University-organised gatherings – in Durham and elsewhere – are to cease” as a precaution against Coronavirus.
This includes cancelling all college formals and large Wider Student Experience events, although decisions over post-offer visit days is yet to be taken.
In the email, Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), also addressed the financial implications for students on this decision: “We recognise that you may have already made financial commitments to these events (e.g. paying for tickets or travel) and the University will be considering the appropriate approach to refunding costs already incurred.”
The University’s counselling service, disability support, and other services will, as it stands, continue to operate until the end of term at least. The university have also confirmed that the Bill Bryson Library will remain open.
Students living in college have been advised that they can return home after tomorrow, but Cook said that “We advise that you take all your possessions home with you if this is possible. This is to allow for greater flexibility in the event of future changes, particularly any Government decision to close educational institutions as has happened in other countries.”
Several other events across the University have also been formally cancelled. This includes Squashed Mango Theatre Company’s performance of ‘It felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now’ in the Assembly Rooms Theatre (17th and 18th March), Foot of the Hill Theatre Company’s ‘And Then There Were None’ in St. Mary’s College (14th and 15th March) the ECO DU Climate Strike (13th March), the inaugural MLAC Ball (19th March), and the History Society Conference (14th March).
The Durham UCU also announced on Twitter that picket lines on final day of fourteen days of industrial action will be called off.
Other events have not announced cancellations, but have taken some precautions. For example, the Bede Film Soc will not offer viewers the option of pic’n’mix during their showing of Knives Out.
These cancellations come after announcements today that Durham University will cease all face-to-face contact hours for the final week of Epiphany term, replacing as many as possible with digital alternatives.
Among staff, the announcement that classes will need to be taught digitally has been met with some trepidation. One striking member of staff tweeted “I have a 9 am tutorial on Monday and somehow expected to be trained to run an online tutorial?… I’m on strike tomorrow! They always expect us to use our weekends for free! A little heads up next time @durham_uni”.
At the time of writing, there have been 460 confirmed cases in the UK, with 387 in England, 36 in Scotland, 18 in Northern Ireland and 19 in Wales. Eight people have died.
While there are currently 15 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the north east, there is just one in County Durham.
This news comes after the Irish government announced the close of all schools, universities and colleges until 29th March.
Image: Maddie Flisher