Even in a global pandemic, we students have to fight for ourselves after the No Detriment Policy is voted down
By Natalie Campbell
Image courtesy of Students For a No Detriment Policy
I’ve never seen myself as a campaigner or an activist. I’ve never been someone with especially strong ideologies, political or otherwise. I’ve never really cared for the finer points of philosophy or ethics. What I have been, what I am, is someone who has always tried to stand up for what I believe is right.
I first heard about the Senate’s vote against the No Detriment Policy through group chats. Slowly messages filled with words like ‘apparently’ and ‘supposedly’, as if the people typing them couldn’t quite believe it themselves. Why would the University refuse to support its students during a pandemic? It didn’t make sense and we naïvely chose to believe there had been a mistake. Then, after the announcement was made, there was anger and upset. I felt like my stomach had been hollowed out and tossed away. People were sending messages as quickly as they could type them, and it was impossible to keep up with the outpour of emotions and reasoning people shared. Really, though, everyone’s points boiled down to one thing: the University betrayed our trust at a time when we needed it most.
And so, we students did what we do best, in this digital age, from our bedrooms and homes hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. We organised. Somehow, I was voted in as Chair of our campaign, Students for a No Detriment Policy. It may not be a very catchy name, but it does what it says on the tin. We stand together for a No Detriment Policy that will support students across all schools and courses, undergraduates and postgraduates alike. We are calling for the support that we desperately need to stay afloat as all of our studies become more difficult.
An unintended side effect — but one I am eternally grateful for — of running this campaign is that I, personally, have been contacted by students from across the University who have chosen to share their story with me. Students who have struggled deeply with their mental health due to the isolation, stress and fear they’ve experienced. Students who have lost their jobs and been unable to financially support themselves. Students who are having to study from abroad and are attending seminars at nine or ten o’clock at night. Students who are recovering from Covid-19 and are struggling with the effects of Long Covid. Students who have been caring for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, or sisters who have caught Covid-19. Students who have had to arrange funerals for their family members. All this while still being expected to perform, as if the current global pandemic doesn’t impact their studies.
I am not sure I can be any clearer about this; of course a global pandemic has affected our studies. How could it not? We are working under conditions that would have been inconceivable two years ago. Now is not the time for the University to make decisions based on academic elitism or egotism over the ‘value’ of the degrees it provides. Instead, it should consider our request for a comprehensive No Detriment Policy compassionately and with empathy for all of the students that are currently studying in far less than ideal circumstances.
There is no rulebook for the situation that we find ourselves in. We have never had to work through a global pandemic before and I desperately hope we never will again. However, this gives the University a chance to write the rulebook with care and consideration for current students that will be remembered and reflected by generations of students to come. I hope that when we look back on this time, all members of University staff can stand proudly and say that they did what was right.