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As teaching approaches…

Published: 28th September, 2020

A University of Leicester employee reflects on our good fortune.

As the first teaching term of 2020/21 is about to start, I feel more anxious than I normally feel at this time of the year.

My anxiety mainly originates in the fact that, despite the increasing number of daily new coronavirus cases in the UK and the UK government’s decision to set the alert level set at 4 (out of 5), the University of Leicester’s senior managers do not consider it appropriate to allow individual staff to decide whether or not be involved in face-to-face teaching this Autumn.

Perhaps, their attitude is justified by information about the coronavirus which they have access to and which I do not. My understanding is that minimisng contacts among different households is key to reducing the risk of infection. Moreover, to my knowledge the risk of infection increases when several people spend together a prolonged amount of time in a confined space. The actions of University of Leicester’s senior managers would suggest they think otherwise.

University of Leicester’s senior managers are not worried by the prospect that teaching staff will spend nearly one uninterrupted hour with 15 or plus people from different households inside often inadequately ventilated campus buildings. These managers must have access to confidential documents indicating that Covid-19 will not be able to enter university buildings – maybe, because they have denied it a university swipe card, or because they know that the virus is not much interested in academic debates. For this reason, their view may be that during this pandemic staff and students can safely circulate inside these ‘Covid-secure’ buildings, that we can engage in discussions in classrooms without putting at risk our safety and health.

This tentative hypothesis would also explain why the concerns and health-related preferences of the involved staff do not matter much. Based on the information the University of Leicester senior managers seem to have, those of us who feel uncomfortable with face-to-face teaching activities must appear as the victims of some pre-rational superstition. This is the superstition leading (what they must regard as) irrational creatures like myself to obstinately maintain that the building stock of the campus is penetrable by the virus. Perhaps these senior managers believe me to be in need of enlightenment, to correct my ignorance of the months of hard work their Lockdown Exit Group. Understandably, the University of Leicester senior managers do not regard it as their responsibility to encourage beliefs nurtured by people who deliberate and act under the influence of the pernicious superstition demanding them to stay away from densely populated confined spaces during the current pandemic.

We are very lucky indeed to work in an institution “led” by senior managers with such a unique insight into, and unconventional take on, the current pandemic.