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Hundreds of students (and zero staff) disciplined due to COVID-19 violations

AUSA pushes back at University for levying fines at students during pandemic

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Photo by Aedan Brennan

A recent investigation by The Gaudie has found that 315 students were disciplined by the University for breaches of COVID protocols between April 2020 and June 2022. Penalties included fines up to £250, written warnings, and in some cases, the removal of students from university accommodation. By contrast, zero staff members were disciplined during the same time period. Most violations took place in University accommodation and featured social distancing breaches.

After an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in September 2020, the University warned students of ‘robust action’ including expulsion from campus if protocols were violated, leading to backlash by students on social media and in the press.

In the same email, UoA informed students that University administration had asked private landlords to report violations of COVID regulations by their tenants to the university. It is unclear how many disciplinary actions resulted from these requests.

As a Guardian analysis indicates, the majority of disciplinary actions taken by the University appear to be from the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year. As of 24 November 2020, the University had disciplined 215 students and levied fines totalling £32,250. This figure represents 68% of the 315 students which were disciplined during the entire pandemic.

A University spokesperson responded to The Gaudie’s findings, commenting: ‘The expectations of all our community during the COVID-19 pandemic were made clear through the Covid Campus Pledge which followed Scottish Government guidance.’

'All reports of breaches of COVID protocols were reviewed and action taken as required. We are not aware of any staff reported for such breaches but were a case to have been raised the appropriate staffing policy would have applied in line with the Covid Campus Pledge and standard HR procedures as can be viewed on the University website.

AUSA has criticised the University's use of fines during the pandemic. President Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo told The Gaudie: 'It’s very disappointing that so many students got fined. We strongly believe that fines should be used as a last resort; they are the worst way of punishment and disproportionately affect students from lower social-economic backgrounds. We have successfully lobbied the University to move away from fining students.'

According to a University spokesperson, fines were used to assist students affected by the pandemic, although the type of assistance was not specified. They commented, 'Any student issued with a fine had also previously been issued with a warning as a first step regarding behaviour. All fines collected were used to provide support to students impacted by Covid-19.'

According to the FOI request, no students were ultimately suspended or expelled due to COVID-19 violations.


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