USI urge colleges to support students as pandemic worsens

USI President urges institutions that “no students can be left behind” when providing all students with apt support in the upcoming assessment period

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has called for third level institutions to support students in the upcoming lockdown, stating that “no students can be left behind”.  

As assessment period dawns upon students nationwide, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick, wrote to colleges, reminding institutions that students must not be faced with unnecessary stress and hardship this exam period.

In the wake of the recent announcement of Level Five restrictions made by the Irish government today, USI has moved to assure students of their plan to implement policies to mitigate any possible educational disadvantage that might occur due to the new level of restrictions in Ireland. 

Fitzpatrick said: “Like the rest of the population, students are extremely anxious about the worsening pandemic while trying to finalise important assessments and study for exams.”

“In some instances, students are facing into assessments without access to the library or good internet connections, while others are isolating or restricting their movements due to the pandemic and therefore can’t access vital on-campus services, even if they are open,” she continued. 

In an online survey carried out by the Irish Examiner, it was revealed that 70% of respondents described the state of their mental health as ‘anxious’, while 60% said they felt left ‘uncertain’. A further 34% of respondents described their current mental condition as ‘sad’, and 28% described themselves as ‘pessimistic’, with about one-quarter describing themselves as ‘fearful’ during this period of time.

Fitzpatrick spoke to the efforts made by institutions last spring to “extend deadlines, [to] remove academic and financial penalties on repeat assessment, [as well as their efforts made to] provide flexibility to their boards of examiners”, and urged colleges to do the same this time. 

While acknowledging the importance of this, Fitzpatrick also made it clear that this should be done on a case by case basis, as there are “many different forms of alternative assessment and so there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that can be applied equally across all institutions”.

The main concern expressed by USI is been the impact of the measures to curb the number of Covid-19 cases on students in Ireland, especially during a busy assessment period.

It is unquestionable that the pandemic is having a “huge impact on students’ and other young people’s mental health”, as Fitzpatrick pointed out, and this is why she has urged everyone “to work together to ensure that what can be done to alleviate the situation is being done”.

Earlier today on Twitter, the USI Equality Officer Marie Lyons also acknowledged the importance of providing help to students during this period, with particular reference to students from diverse and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. She wrote that “ in light of further restrictions we cannot forget these students, we must continue to support and mitigate against any educational disadvantage for these and all students”.