University of Limerick President Professor Kerstin Mey has taken to the streets with local gardai in off-campus housing estates to remind students to follow public health guidelines.
As students make a return to learning this week, members of UL’s senior leadership have engaged in nightly walking tours of local residential estates in conjunction with An Garda Síochána.
This is being done to engage with students, educate them about public health guidelines and to stress a co-operative approach in protecting the community surrounding the campus in light of the situation with COVID-19.
Through its community liaison committee, UL has developed a community response plan with the gardai to ensure that new and returning students can live and learn as safely as possible in the context of COVID-19.
A co-ordinated plan of engagement and education has been adapted to ensure that UL staff and gardai work together to reach as many students as possible who live on campus and off campus.
UL has allocated further resources to An Garda Síochána to increase its capacity to undertake community engagement activity over the course of the coming weeks.
Student union representatives are also engaging with students both on and off campus to educate them on following the public health guidelines.
“Our presence is to show a shared responsibility for community welfare through direct visibility with gardai who are out in the normal course of their work,” explained UL President Professor Kerstin Mey.
“We are hoping that our presence will help with the message that for students, behaviour in the general community is directly linked to their status as a UL student.
“UL takes its civic responsibilities very seriously and has worked with gardai, community representatives and the University’s representative body, UL Student Life, to try and reinforce the message that everyone must take responsibility for their actions.
“The safety of staff and students has always been a priority and it is vital that students take responsibility for their actions, follow the public health guidelines, limit their social contacts and stay safe.
“We are fully aware that this situation is difficult for students in what should have been one of the most exciting weeks of their lives – but they must follow the advice and heed the warnings, or they risk putting the people they love and the wider community at risk by their actions,” she added.
“Above all else, UL is a community comprising of many stakeholders who work, learn and reside together in many different ways. As a community, UL views its relationship with its neighbours as a key component of how it maintains its community responsibilities,” added Professor Mey.
Chief Superintendent for the Limerick Garda Division Gerard Roche said: “The assistance of UL to help us engage, educate and encourage the community is welcomed. In supporting the COVID-19 public health guidelines, we need everyone to double down on the tremendous efforts they have made here in Limerick.
“We need everyone to limit the contact they have with each other. Whilst you may feel safe at home and think it’s ok to have friends over or have a party, you are putting your health, their health and everyone you come into contact with afterwards at risk. It is vital that you continue to play your part by limiting contact with others - this will save lives,” Chief Supt Roche added.
Student union representatives are working on a parallel daytime education and advice operation to assist with student queries and to meet students living in local accommodation.
UL Student Life and the Postgraduate Student Union engaged in a substantial leaflet drop and meet and greet exercise last Sunday with the message of ‘Protect the Pack’, a reference to the union mascot and the need to take personal responsibility for individual and public health.
A significant amount of planning has gone into establishing a safe environment to ensure University of Limerick students can access campus as part of the coming academic year.
Following the request by government on Friday that all higher education institutions move to the enhanced public health protection measures applied to Dublin-based HEIs recently, UL has made changes to its on-campus schedule.
The safety of staff and students has always been a priority in the preparations for a return to campus.
The vast majority of academic delivery has moved online, with the exception of labs and workshops and some essential tutorials which will take place on campus as scheduled.
UL students are being advised not to travel to Limerick if their full programme is due to be delivered online over the next two weeks and all social and club activities on campus have been suspended until further notice.
A COVID-19 Student Charter has been developed between UL, LIT and MIC to protect students and staff in each of the institutions and to make clear to students their personal responsibility in this global pandemic environment. Students at UL are subject to a Code of Conduct.
Action can be taken against students through the code of conduct who, by breaching public health guidelines, may be considered to have engaged in conduct that is harmful to others. There is no set sanction within the code of conduct for any offence but penalties allowed within the code of conduct include monetary, academic, suspension and expulsion.
Students have a responsibility to their wider community to follow government and institutional guidelines.