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Southampton UCU – motion on returning to campus and our comms with UEB

We have today (30/9) sent the below email to UEB, following overwhelming support of our motion discussed at the recent EGM.  You can read the full motion at the bottom of the thread.


Dear UEB

On Friday 24th September, UCU organised an EGM to discuss the back to campus teaching plans. This was in response to a large number of concerns raised by our members about the COVID mitigations being proposed by the University. UCU drafted a motion in the meeting, which outlined the main areas of concern and set out some clear expectations from the University. This motion was then voted on via survey monkey. There was overwhelming support from members to accept the motion (77% for, 13% against, 10% abstain). The motion is attached.

We hope it is clear from this motion that large numbers of teaching staff are very uncomfortable with the University’s position on masks, physical distancing and ventilation. Induction events which have taken place this week have shown that there is not the level of compliance on mask wearing we would hope to see, and staff taking part in those events are reporting overcrowding in rooms which are ‘stuffy’. We are deeply concerned that the survey of all rooms to be used this semester has not yet been completed. Timetabling has been under enormous pressure and many staff have not yet received their correct timetable so they are unable to check their rooms for suitability. In the final days of preparation before teaching staff are coming to campus, all of this feels very chaotic and does not reflect the ‘careful planning’ which university communications state has been taking place over the summer.

As things stand, without the University addressing the concerns outlined in this motion, UCU cannot endorse the University’s plans. We request a response from UEB which can be shared with members at your earliest convenience.




Southampton UCU notes:

  1. The high rate of Covid-19 infections across the country
  2. The low vaccination rates of people between 18-24
  3. The increased risk of transmission as a result of the highly contagious Delta variant
  4. That, although covid-19 rarely kills young adults, ‘about 10% of infected people at any age can develop long covid’ (BMJ, 2021).
  5. The lack of robust covid mitigation measures recommended by the government in educational settings

Southampton UCU also notes:

  1. The University of Southampton’s commitment to continuing with its saliva testing programme
  2. Its guidance for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) staff, which has been publicised
  3. The willingness of many line managers to conduct individual risk assessments for vulnerable staff that request them
  4. Its commitment to support students who test positive and need to self-isolate.

However, this branch believes that the measures the University has put in place are not sufficient to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff and students and the wider community.

This branch calls on the University to immediately agree to implement the following safeguards for the 2021-22 academic year, which have been formulated with reference to the Independent SAGE report and research published in the BMJ, and following numerous expressions of concern from members and reps:

  1. Clinically extremely vulnerable staff, or staff living with or caring for clinically extremely vulnerable people, must be allowed to work/teach from home, without detriment, for the 2021-22 academic year.
  1. No staff member with concerns about the safety of their working environment should be compelled to work on-site until the University has satisfactorily addressed their concerns.
  1. Southampton UCU have not seen detailed data about ventilation in classrooms, despite numerous requests. Our H&S representatives need to urgently be supplied with quantitative data on each room cleared for teaching and shared occupancy.
  1. If anyone feels that a room is not well-ventilated, they should be able to ask for it to be checked by Estates. UCU asks the university to provide portable CO2 monitors so colleagues can check rooms which may be unsafe and to regularly monitor ventilation in rooms.
  1. Mask wearing should be mandatory in teaching spaces and other indoor shared spaces, and crowded outdoor areas, except for those with medical exemptions. Sufficient spare masks should be readily available. The University must ensure its communications around mask wearing are clear and consistent.
  1. Clear guidance must be issued immediately to staff about what happens if a student or staff member in a class tests positive. If a staff member has to isolate, or care for isolating people, or they have numerous students in their class isolating, they must be allowed to switch to online.
  2. The University must commit to an active public campaign to encourage vaccinations and weekly testing for staff and students, and share anonymised data gathered through vaccination surveys with unions.
  1. Maintain social distancing by lowering room capacity where necessary to allow 1m+ to remain in place.
  1. Ensure all managers are aware that a blended model of teaching is permissible in order to reduce the number of students and staff on campus at any given time.
  1. If a member of staff feels a classroom situation is unsafe; e.g. students are refusing to wear masks, the number of students exceeds the listed room capacity, or the ventilation is poor (windows will not open, for example), they should cancel the class and reschedule it online.

This branch resolves to:

  1. Continue to engage with the University in improving the working conditions for all staff during the pandemic
  2. To inform SUSU of UCU’s branch position and seek support for the recommendations outlined above
  3. Support members if they use their rights under Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996
  4. Provide caseworker support for members who challenge the safety of their teaching environment
  5. Refuse to endorse the return to campus plans until these issues are addressed

Proposer: Lucy Watson

Seconder: Claire Le Foll

For:                        77%

Against:                13%

Abstain:               10%


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