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Shipping Packages Back to the Sender

Or: the University’s (very poor) response to students travelling back home

By Rory Buccheri

Image courtesy of Bill Harrison

When opening my emails about a month ago, I was happy to find out the University had plans in place for students wanting to go back home for the holidays. The original email announced the opening of a Covid-19 test centre specifically for students, allowing them to get tested before travelling.

Little did I know that the safety of going back home, according to the university’s provisions, does not apply to the entirety of the student population. It is only two weeks ago that a longer, clearer email, told me, an international student, that the University will not provide for my coming back home safely.

There is evidence for an overall common sense on the university’s side: get tested, isolate whenever necessary and, when travelling, protect yourself and others.

Now, my question is a very simple one: could this common sense have not been applied to making sure that all students can safely travel back to their respective homes?

If your home is within the UK, the testing centre will be open for 10 days, until the 11th of December. On asking if access to testing can happen on a later date for those who aren’t travelling until later, the university’s advice is to ‘pick an earlier date’. Great advice: let me tell you why it’s useless.

Not everyone can depend on that deadline to leave Aberdeen. Personally, travelling home before the 15th would have cost me twice my monthly rent. I, as a student, cannot afford that. It is only normal that students like me will end up making arrangements for different dates because of personal issues or financial possibilities. The university should be prepared for that.

If your home is abroad, chances are your country will require an RCP test. Which, as the email sent last week kindly informs us, the university will not make available as part of the testing. If you happen to be travelling to one of those countries who require an RCP test, or if you want to do it for your peace of mind and the safety of those around you, well, you are more than welcome to buy one for the prize of £120 to £180 on selected pharmacies’ websites.

Though I recognise the effort on behalf of the university in handling the Covid-19 crisis as an educational institution, I wonder if they have forgotten their role in relation to their students, who look up to it as a body capable of ensuring their safety, both physical and mental.

The way the university is handling the travelling back of students to their homes is appalling and unacceptable.

Sadly, this is not the first time they have handled matters quite poorly. I’d like to remind you how a simple food package to those isolated in Hillhead was first given to the students at a price (and not even a cheap one).

Now, if money is the problem – a possibility I am ready to accept – I wonder why Principal George Boyne believes it is ‘inappropriate’ for the university to demand £119,000 back from ex-principal Sir Ian Diamond, when these funds can clearly serve a very practical purpose, especially in times of hardship like these.

Let me ask you: leaving a vast number of students attempting and struggling to safely travel back home without any security, is it not inappropriate too?


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