As we come to the end of the first week since we had to limit University operations and move online as much as possible, my thoughts are with those whose families and friends have been directly affected by Coronavirus, or those who remain separated from their families. This is a remarkably hard time for lots of people, and it means that for many it is simply not possible to work in anything like their normal way, or with their characteristic pace.
We are all adjusting to new patterns of work, socialisation and leisure. A message received from a colleague only this morning struck a chord: "In ordinary times, walking or cycling into work on a beautiful morning such as this is uplifting – I’m missing that experience".
Even in lock-down, people are developing interesting and creative ways to keep the work of the University going.
Despite having closed its doors for Easter Term, the ADC Theatre is continuing to provide as many opportunities in theatre to as many students as possible. It has launched ADC Online, a season of virtual student-led theatrical content, and has an open call for applications for proposals.
Teachers at the University of Cambridge Primary School have been sending their students videos every day. The School has set its students some fun challenges – including asking them to contribute lyrics to a school anthem. I am told that the students have risen wonderfully to the challenge.
With the weekend upon us, you may wish to know that the University’s Sports Service is posting articles with advice for individuals and families about how to keep fit while staying at home – including this recent one, about online running communities.
The University and Colleges appreciate the difficulties and real anxiety that COVID-19 is causing to students with regard to rent. I want to be clear that students who have left residence because of COVID-19, and as a result are now unable to return to Cambridge, and who therefore through no fault of their own need to break or suspend their rental agreements with the University or the Colleges for the Easter Term (April-June) and beyond, will of course NOT have to pay rent for any of that period during which they have vacated their accommodation. As landlords, the University and Colleges will be providing further details via their FAQs webpages.
The University announced on 18 March that, as part of the management of the COVID-19 outbreak, no in-person Congregations will take place until further notice. This will affect graduation ceremonies scheduled for the rest of this academic year.
Congregations have a central place in the life of the University and the Colleges. They matter because they bring our community together, and also because that is where so much of our Collegiate University business is formalised – not least the award of degrees.
During this period, we are putting in place exceptional measures that will allow the University to continue conferring degrees. Students who meet the requirements of their course would be able to graduate in absentia.
Some of the correspondence from students who would have graduated this weekend reminds me that, while it is important to allow the conferment of degrees in absence, people have a strong attachment to our ceremonies themselves. We do not want students, their guests or their Colleges to miss out on a quintessentially Cambridge experience. So the University and the Colleges are together considering appropriate ways of celebrating students’ achievement once it is practical and safe to do so. We will be communicating about this in the future, and College Praelectors will be providing advice shortly.
The first COVID-19 patients in Cambridge were this week entered into the national RECOVERY trial, which aims to determine, as rapidly as possible, which treatments are effective for treating COVID-19. Cambridge University Hospital, the Royal Papworth Hospital and other regional Health Trusts are recruiting more patients to assist in the efforts to improve treatment.
Many people across the University have continued to offer support to our local and national health services in countless ways – including medical students signing up to the NHS Taskforce.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those across our community who continue to use our dedicated email address (email@example.com) with offers of support for local and national health services. We are receiving a large number of donations of PPE equipment, and we now have a process in place that enable us to store them and send them to our hospital. At the moment, the hospital is particularly in need of Masks (FFP2 and FFP3), visors, reusable goggles and protective glasses. No more gloves are needed at this stage. If you can help, please continue to use the University’s dedicated webpage as that will ensure that we can provide a coordinated ongoing response.
A word of thanks
Unless there are urgent developments over the weekend, you can expect me to be back in touch next week.
I am grateful to those of you who have responded to these daily messages. I am the first to acknowledge that they may not answer all your questions or address all your worries – they could not possibly do so. I do hope they are informative, and at least able to direct you to the places where some of those answers can be found.
If these messages achieve one thing, I hope it is to let you all know that you are not alone in this crisis, and that there are many of us working hard on your behalf. In turn, your own feedback is confirmation that we are all members of a large, generous and caring Collegiate University community.
By way of sign-off, I am pleased to share a short video showing what some of us across the University have been up to over this past week of domestic lockdown.
With best wishes,
Prof Stephen J Toope
University resources for mental health and wellbeing:
Remote working: stay safe online
The National Cyber Security Centre reports that email scams relating to the coronavirus situation are now being seen.
Please treat unexpected messages with caution, even if they appear to be from someone you know.
Find out more about how to spot suspicious emails and what to do about them on the UIS website.