TAs to be asked to clean personal touchpoints only

Teaching assistants raised concerns after some were told they would be asked to clean classrooms amid Covid-19

College is to advise teaching assistants that they will only be asked to clean parts of classrooms that they have personally touched, as opposed to entire rooms. 

Some teaching assistants had raised concerns last week after they were told that they would be asked to clean classrooms in which tutorials are held, and that they would be permitted to ask students to help with the cleaning.

It is understood that communication will be issued to teaching assistants in the coming days to clarify cleaning procedures.

Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Gisèle Scanlon has confirmed that each student will be responsible for the cleaning and sanitising of their own individual workspaces following talks with Provost Patrick Prendergast and Dean of Graduate Studies Professor Martine Smith. 

Speaking to Trinity News, Scanlon stated: “I raised cleaning regimes with the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Provost at phased resumption last week after several TAs had emailed me, and it was agreed that teaching spaces have been configured in line with the directive issued by the Higher Education Authority [HEA] to ensure a two-metre distancing between teaching staff and students.”

She continued: “Both the Provost and the Dean of Graduate Studies reassured me that TAs will take responsibility for wiping down the ‘touch points’ that they have made contact with themselves; the surface of a desk, a chair, a keyboard, the tops of a podium.”

“TAs will not be required to clean areas where students have been sitting but will be asked to remind students to wipe down their own surfaces,” Scanlon said.

Some TAs previously reported that they had been informed that this cleaning would be their responsibility, with no remuneration for the extra time or risks incurred. 

A TA from the School of English expressed concern regarding the precarious position of casual staff: “I didn’t do a PhD to become a cleaner. I didn’t do a PhD to be a casual worker without a contract. I didn’t do a PhD to put my life at risk for an institution whose prime concern seems to be money and not the well-being of its staff.”

TA concerns regarding contracted hours, sick pay and terms of employment still remain unresolved. 

Guidance from the Department of Education on the return of on-site activity for further and higher education outlines that “new protocols” will be needed for campus and classroom cleaning services.

These include twice-daily cleaning of surfaces such as “table tops, work equipment, door handles and handrails implement thorough and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces”.

Áine Heary

Áine Heary is a Copy Editor at Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister student of English Literature and Modern Irish.