Edinburgh University say students could be suspended if they’re caught flouting Covid-19 regulations

‘Neither the university nor the police can accept this sort of reckless and immature behaviour, which puts the health and safety of others at risk and wastes police time.’

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 10:04 am
Updated Thursday, 17th September 2020, 5:49 pm

Students at Edinburgh University are at risk of being suspended if they do not adhere to the government’s social distancing regulations.

A final warning has been issued after police were called to university accommodation Pollock Halls and Kincaid's Court on several occasions to breakup gatherings of students who refused to disperse when asked to do so by staff.

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Gavin Douglas, deputy secretary of student experience said: “Neither the university nor the police can accept this sort of reckless and immature behaviour, which puts the health and safety of others at risk and wastes police time.

Edinburgh University. Staff have issued a final warning to students that they risk immediate suspension if found taking part in illegal gatherings - groups of more than 6 people from more than 2 households

"As a University of Edinburgh student you are bound by the University's Code of Student Conduct. Behaving in a way that impairs safety is an offence under the Code.

"The University will take the strongest possible action under the Code if there continues to be illegal gatherings of our students.”

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He confirmed any student taking part in gatherings of more than six people from more than two households, whether on or off campus, risks immediate suspension from the university and exclusion from university accommodation.

Anyone who flouts the current coronavirus rules is at risk of being fined on the spot, according to Police Scotland, who confirm that repeat offences will lead to prosecution.

Mr Douglas added: “As a result of the problems in recent nights, we will be removing all outdoor seating from around the Pollock site.

"We are also ceasing the option to take food away from the John MacIntyre Centre and we will review this position regularly.

“The Covid-19 pandemic requires all of us to make changes to the way we live in order to stop the spread of disease and keep others safe.

"Life for all of us has to be different as a result.

"As the newest members of the University of Edinburgh community, I ask you all to accept your new responsibilities and abide by the rules.”

Student reaction

The action has faced a backlash from students who say this punishment is unfair as the university’s guidelines have been unclear.

Geography student Moya Davies, 21, from Wales says she feels “left in the dark” by the university.

She said: “The university shouldn’t be kicking students out, especially since we haven’t been really given a lot of support by the university in the first place.”

But others agree with the hard-line approach and believe it is needed to protect the public’s health.

Second-year student Miguel Chui, 19, from Edinburgh said: “I completely support the university’s zero-tolerance policy towards students who behave in a manner that puts the community at risk.

"Such an approach is not ‘harsh’ as criticised by many students, but rather necessary for the protection of public health."

The law student also disagrees that the university has been unclear about what students can and cannot do.

He said: “I received an email from the University which referred to the newly published ‘Good Citizen Guide’, under which it states that students who fail to comply with Covid-19 rules may face disciplinary action.

“The guide also provides a mechanism by which students can report persons who act in violation of the guidelines set by the University and Scottish Government.”

Comment from NUS

Matt Crilly, National Union of Students Scotland president, said: “We have a responsibility to follow public health guidance, to keep people safe.

“Universities and colleges have a key role in positively communicating public health guidance to students. We would expect students to be treated fairly, and that institutions should take disciplinary action as a last resort only.”

Ellen MacRae, Students’ Association president, said: “It’s crucial that students take an active role in protecting themselves, other students and staff, as well as the wider Edinburgh community. If students break the current guidelines, this may be in breach of the Student Code of Conduct.

"We want the University to be transparent about its disciplinary processes and carry out all investigations on a case by case basis, with no immediate actions taken and warnings to be issues in the first instance. We are conscious that we don’t want the actions of a few to negatively affect the majority of students who are, indeed, following the guidelines.

She said the Students‘ Association is not there to police students’ action but instead we are educating members on current guidelines.

A police spokeswoman said: "Officers attended Holyrood Park Road in Edinburgh just after midnight on Tuesday, 15 September, following a report of a large gathering of people in the area. On police attendance, the group moved on and no further action was needed."

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