Saturday 18 September 2021

University lecturer quits over ‘irresponsible’ Covid rules for returning students

University of Amsterdam buildings

Photo: nl.wikipedia

A lecturer at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has quit because he thinks the relaxation of rules for the upcoming academic year is ‘irresponsible’.

Only students who are fully vaccinated should be allowed back on campus, Matt Cornell, who teaches comparative literature, wrote in an opinion piece for student magazine Folia.

Although universities have restricted the number of students who will be returning to the lecture halls in September, they will no longer have to keep to 1.5m social distance rule.

The university has opted ‘for what is allowed instead of what is responsible, colluding in the scandalous way this cabinet has handled this crisis’, Cornell said.

The students will be required to wear masks but they can take them off in class, a measure which Cornell calls ‘hygiene theatre’ and ‘pathetic’, in view of the risk of contagion via aerosols. The existence of this risk, he noted, was at first denied by the RIVM.

In a reaction, the university said: ‘It is incredibly important after a year and a half of distance learning students can go back to campus. Many students have been struggling with mental problems and feelings of loneliness and isolation. To be present at the university is vital for the quality of education and the wellbeing of students.’

Not dropping the 1.5m rule would have meant a 70% reduction in capacity and a double burden for lecturers, who would have to combine distance and physical teaching, a university spokesperson told Trouw.

The university said it understands the concerns due to the current state of the pandemic, but said it is doing nothing that has not been condoned by the cabinet. ‘It is up to people themselves to say if they agree or not,’ the spokesperson reportedly added. The university would not comment on Cornell’s decision to quit.

Cornell is not the first lecturer to protest against the way universities have handled the pandemic. Last week Femke Nijboer, who teaches at the University of Twente, also made the case for allowing only fully vaccinated students to return to campus and lecture halls.

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