University of Canterbury students launch petition to close school as coronavirus fears grow

Students at the University of Canterbury have started a petition to close the university, and move all classes online to protect their wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

University of Canterbury Source: Online Change Org petition

Earlier today, Massey University announced it will be moving all classes online from next Monday, while University of Auckland officials said they are suspending all classes for next week to allow staff to plan and prepare for potential longer term closures.

The online petition, started by UC student Molly Thomas, quickly garnered over 1000 signatures in the first hours it was up.

As of today, there are two confirmed coronavirus cases in Christchurch and 39 in total around New Zealand.

The University of Canterbury has announced it is reorganising its teaching timetable in order to reduce class sizes, and to offer many larger lectures online. Its announcement explained the uni intends to keep teaching and researching as normally as possible, for as long as possible.

But the petition is calling for a complete closure.

“So many students are not attending their classes right now, for various reasons, but it all comes back to the fact that there is an ongoing, widespread pandemic. They are not listening to us,” writes Ms Thomas.

Universities roll out online teaching amid coronavirus pandemic

The petition asks UC to follow the steps of Massey and Auckland University.

“We cannot continue going on with lectures, tutorials, labs, tests and exams, simply waiting for a student to test positive. The university needs to take preventative measures. It needs to close,” said Ms Thomas.

Professor Catherine Moran, assistant vice-chancellor at UC ,today said the university is taking a calm, balanced and organised approach. She said they want to give the students a sense of “normalcy” and keep to normal routines as much as possible.

“Most of our students want to successfully complete their studies and of course we’re taking every precaution. Many of our large lectures will be offered online while maintaining small group labs, tutorials and workshops,” said Ms Moran.

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There are now 39 confirmed cases in New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

“It is important to give the students a sense of normalcy with BAU, in-person, on-campus options while we can, particularly for consistency, social and wellbeing reasons. Being isolated away from friends and loved ones is difficult, so our strong preference is to keep to regular routines as long as possible.”

She said if Government advice changes and they need to do things differently, they will.

Physical distancing, hand-sanitiser stations, and other Ministry of Health-recommended preventative measures are in place in the university’s libraries, dining halls and other shared student spaces over UC campuses.

“Our health advice remains: stay at home if you’re unwell, wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and reduce physical contact. If they are well, students should attend class as usual,” said Ms Moran.