By Ciéra Cree
Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. No slander towards ARU is intended, only gratitude and the desire to be the best that we can be.
You may remember me as the writer of two prior pieces on this topic, Why No Detriment Should Still Apply (2020) and NO DETRIMENT POLICY: WHERE ARE YOU? (2021). I am highly grateful to the staff and students who have listened to and shared my voice so far, but the conversation is not yet over.
As I write this it is the end of September 2021, around a year since I released my first publication about the topic of the No Detriment Policy. “No Detriment” is a policy that is put into place to assist the performance of students among unforeseen difficult circumstances. The policy does this by taking into account the circumstance that students were positioned in when calculating their final academic grades, pushing their achieved grade up to that of a combined or historical average.
In March 2020, when the pandemic was first soaring, the policy was triggered right before students were due to finish classes and produce their final assignments. Then, in the following academic year (2020-21), the policy was triggered again in consideration of the fact that the world had still not returned to a reasonable “normal”.
Back in July 2021 the so-called “freedom day” was announced, nuanced by a lifting of various restrictions and many people choosing to abandon wearing masks for any longer. The COVID-19 vaccines have also been rolled out on a large scale, offering its takers some protection and comfort from the world around them which has been turned upside down now for almost two years.
The reason for writing this third edition of my No Detriment trilogy is that I strongly believe that the No Detriment Policy should still be applied. Yes, we now have vaccines. Yes, the grip of restrictions has loosened. And yes, the general rules surrounding masks and distancing have become less harsh. But the truth of the matter is that the virus has not ceased to exist and, if anything, it is evolving. New variants of the virus are being discovered from all over the world on a relatively frequent basis, and according to sources, these different strains may even be failing to show up as positives when people issue swab tests.
With vaccines that aren’t 100% effective, new variants that can get past their protection, and the colder months of the year waiting just around the corner, I believe that there is far too much uncertainty to be saying that the pandemic is ending. And with all of this uncertainty about the state of the world and our safety, how can students be expected to perform at their best?
One point arising from staff when I last questioned why the policy remained inactive was the fear of the integrity of ARU’s degrees depleting. To this, I responded by stating that the way a university supports and protects its students is ultimately what matters the most to students, both current and prospective, which is something that I still stand by. We, as a student collective, are here at university because we want to better ourselves and our future. The majority of us did not apply to embark on this journey with the knowledge that the pandemic would hit (hence, it is still unforeseen), but we are trying our best to go on as if the world is not in crisis around us. As someone who was in their first year at Anglia Ruskin when the pandemic hit, every single year of my degree has been affected by the virus. My “university experience”, in a sense, has been ruined.
The care and consideration taken by ARU so far to protect their students have been admirable. From the sanitiser stations to one-way systems and study preferences that can be altered to a student’s choice as to whether to study in person or online, I and many others are grateful for the effort and time put in to make things the best that they can currently be. None of what I am saying comes from a place lacking gratitude, but rather from a place of wanting to uphold the standards of care that ARU should and can be known for.
We want to be the best that we can be but to do that we need maximum support. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, the pandemic does not stop considering our mental health. Although ARU’s Wellbeing Services have been incredible with their support, it remains true that such services are vastly overrun. Many students are left on waiting lists or feel unable to ask for help at all due to availability for counselling being scarce. Implementing the No Detriment Policy again would provide all students with an umbrella of support which would assist in relieving some study-related stresses.
The pandemic also does not pause for our education. When applying for an extension to deadlines I personally believe that the impact of COVID-19 should still be enough of a reason. We are surrounded by negative news, recovering from vaccine after-effects, and we do not know whether a new variant or regulation could be sprung on us tomorrow. And in some cases, for international students, we still may not know if and when we can safely travel home.
We deserve the No Detriment Policy in its active state. The pandemic has not ended but we are here trying to learn, paying the same fees as we would do if everything was face-to-face. This is not optimal for performing well, and even if many students may be performing well despite the circumstances, implementing a safety net that some people do not end up using is better than not having the assistance there at all.
This is the students’ voice. We need to be heard.