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Student who spoke to Press & Journal contacted by University Vice-Principal

George Taylor, who spoke critically of the University’s handling of Covid situation to P&J, was asked to explain his comments to Vice-Principal

By: Anttoni Numminen

The article in question and Ruth Taylor, VP for Education

Photograph: Screengrab from P&J and BBC NE

4th-year student George Taylor who recently spoke to the Press and Journal (P&J) about the University’s handling of Covid-19, received an email from Vice-Principal Ruth Taylor, asking him to explain his comments.

The article in the P&J concerned the University of Aberdeen’s handling of Covid-19 and its messaging to students, which in recent days has come under attack from students and staff alike.

Last week UoA warned students that breaking Covid guidelines would result in “robust action” including fines and possibly expulsion. It also said it was “in contact with landlords” so they could report breaches to the University.

George Taylor criticised University management for delivering “mixed messages”. However, the day the article was published, Taylor was contacted via his university email by the University’s Vice-Principal for Education, Ruth Taylor.

The physics student said it was “definitely strange” and “quite scary that they've picked my name out from the article and searched through student records to find me.”

Asked how he responded when he received the email, Taylor said he was ‘surprised given the speed of the response’ from University management.

“It's actually quite disturbing to think that press is monitored so vigilantly by the uni when students speak up like this.”

Speaking to the Gaudie, The Vice-Principal for Education said she wanted to ’reach out to the student first-hand to get some more information and look into the concerns.’

“My motivation was to understand the issues so that we could look at how we might address them.”

However, she didn’t answer the Gaudie’s question about whether it is common practice for senior management to contact students who speak to the press.

“My motivation was to understand the issues so that we could look at how we might address them.” - Ruth Taylor

In the email, the University mandarin says: “As the person responsible for the Education of our students at university-level, I wanted to check in with you about the P&J article in which you are quoted (I believe it is you as you are our only George Taylor as far as I can see!)

“It is worrying for me that you feel that we are delivering ‘mixed messages’ and wondered if you’d be willing to elaborate so that I can understand exactly what the issue is. We are working really hard to deliver clear messages but if any of our messaging is creating anxiety or is not clear, then we want to know this and do something about it […]

“My motivation in contacting you is to make sure that we are supporting and communicating with students well. If you’d be willing to either have a quick conversation with me, or reply to this email, I would be hugely grateful.”

Taylor, who thought the email “smacked of urgency and panic from uni administration”, said he would take up the VP's invitation to have a conversation ‘to provide more detail.'