Petition Launched Lobbying for Return to In-Person Classes
St Andrews Students for In Person Teaching began a petition on the 28th of September, calling for an increase to in-person teaching citing the impact on mental health from online teaching and the loosening coronavirus restrictions from the Scottish Government. As of now, current restrictions at the Universtity allow for tutorials to be conducted in person, while lectures of above 35 people must take place remotely. These restrictions have been in place since the beginning of the academic year, and it is uknown if they will be re-assessed at the start of the second semester. The petition, which ended on October 22nd, states that “the University is not limited through Government regulations with regards to the 35 people limit for in-person classes,” referring to the maximum capacity set by the University for study spaces and lectures. All major Covid restrictions were ended by the Scottish Government in August 2021 but the University restrictions to in-person study remain in place. The petition goes on to assert that many social gatherings without physical distancing have taken place since the loosening of Covid restrictions. Night-clubs, bars, and the Students’ Association building have all re-opened since then and the petition states that “if the Students’ Association believed that this was in any way unsafe, it would not endanger its members and staff by opening its facilities without physical distancing.” The Students’ Association has put on many events over the course of the first semester, drawing large crowds of students without any physical distancing. The petition states that increasing the “35 people” limit would allow for more in-person teaching environments and greater autonomy for individual schools to utilize their study spaces in ways best suited to their needs. The petition also argues that a return to in-person teaching by means of an in- crease in the maximum of people would improve students’ mental health by in- creasing student-teacher interaction. With many students interacting mostly online with lecturers, the students argue that such interaction not only damages the mental health of students by isolating them from their peers, but it also limits the effective- ness of lecturers in teaching a subject. According to the University, 91.2% of students are available for in-person study in St. Andrews, so the majority of students are willing to return if the maximum number of people in a classroom were to be raised. Presidents from the schools of Classics, Modern Languages, Chemistry, Art History, and several others as well as Conveners from the schools of Italian, Arabic and Persian, French, and Comparative Literature offered support for the motion to increase the maximum capacity of study spaces. The petition was publicized on the Facebook page St Andrews Students for In-person Teaching, which asked students to sign their names in support of the petition. It closed on October 22nd. The motion also states that future discussions between the President of the Students’ Association, the Director of Education, and senior levels of the University will focus on the arguments made in the petition for in-person learning. The petition has yet to be updated with all the signatories by students and from various schools of study. It is unclear if the University will re-assess the limit on the maximum capacity of study spaces in the second semester.