By Ciéra Cree
During the last academic year, we went into lockdown due to the impact of COVID-19. Inevitably, this had an adverse effect on our studies. Because our studies were impacted and we were to evacuate, the ‘no detriment policy’ was put into place. This was to ensure that the marks we achieved for the university year would not be impacted by the circumstances. The policy went into action after most of our lectures and seminars had ended, with the few that remained moving to take place online.
Undoubtedly, university staff all over the country have been doing their best to create a “new normal” for us. It’s in the nation’s best interests for studies to resume as smoothly as possible, and it’s truly amazing what has been done by the commitment of staff to their students. This cannot be overlooked, but this “new normal” still isn’t normal for us. It’s not what we signed up for, and the pandemic is not over.
Last year, as mentioned, the no detriment policy came into impact right before students were due to finish classes and produce their final assignments. It was put in place to assure students that their efforts throughout the academic year would not go to waste. As a first year student at the time, with none of my marks counting towards the final degree, the impact of COVID could only do so much. This year, however, many of us from that year group will now be entering our second year, and our marks will actually count.
Students need the no detriment policy now more than ever before. As opposed to a few lingering weeks, we’ll have a full year of content to learn this time. Although teaching may be resuming, the pandemic does not pause for our education. The pandemic does not care about our mental health. The pandemic has not ended. It is the responsibility of those capable to re-enact this policy.
Wearing masks in a classroom distanced from your peers is not the same as normal teaching. Learning online is not what everyone signed up for. If all of us students felt that we were best suited for online teaching, we would have opted to study a degree from home through somewhere such as Open University.
It’s important to note that COVID-19 will have impacted people’s friends and families. An acquaintance of mine passed away after contracting the virus and I can’t begin to imagine how their friends will be feeling trying to continue to do their work among the still evident threat of the virus looming. Yes, we have safety measures. Yes, we are going to do our best to be sensible. But no amount of being sensible is going to take away from the fact that students are going to be impacted by the way that society is suffering around them.
Last year, Student Services at ARU were extremely busy, which made booking a slot with their Wellbeing Team difficult. With face-to-face appointments currently (and understandably) being unavailable with them until further notice, students will not have someone professional that they can talk to, in person, about the mental and emotional health problems which they may be facing due to the pandemic. The Wellbeing Team is still going to be accessible via telephone and Zoom call, which is great. But, in a situation where people may feel isolated and alone, a telephone call or virtual meeting really isn’t the same.
It’s the best that can be done in our current time, which is something that myself as well as countless others are sure to be more than grateful for. But, I feel that as students going through not only the regular stresses of people our age such as studies, managing a full or part-time job, and personal struggles, that having one less thing to worry about would benefit us, as well as our performance, greatly.
The no detriment policy isn’t a way to get students out of doing their work. If it were to apply again, we would still have to complete our assignments and pass our modules for it to take effect. If students are going to use it as an excuse to scrape a pass and reap the benefits of a safety net, that will be a reflection of them and their work ethic. However, for the majority of us, we just want to do our best and we see the work that we produce as a showcase of who we are and what we can do.
We are not in a position where we can be the best that we can be. There is nothing wrong with that. But, the pressure of trying to continue as “normal” among everything doesn’t feel right. We are hardworking, innovative and talented people who deserve to do and achieve great things, and we made a choice to invest our time, effort and money into our education to be where we are today.
I believe that the no detriment policy should still apply this year. If you agree, I humbly request that you share this article via your social media accounts and tag the following people so that we can gain some traction:
A special thanks to Dan at Clefton Cohort for looking over this article prior to publication.