Campus in Lockdown:
On the 26th March 2020 the UK government enforced a legal lockdown, in which everyone was asked to stay inside. Following this many students were forced to either move back to their family homes, or to remain in their on-campus accommodation. The lockdown rules slowly lifted over time and it became possible for the students to return to University for September. Due to this, many students moved into accommodation in the hopes that they may have a university experience that is slightly closer to normal. Unfortunately, this was not necessarily the case. We will explore some of the problems that they encountered.
Exhibit 1- Food Parcels
In the Autumn term of 2020, many students returned to their campus accommodation for a well needed change of scenery. Following this the universities predicted an inevitable increase in the spread of Covid 19, as people from different arts of the country were coming together to live in close proximity to one another. Due to this, students were forced to self-isolation if they, or someone in their household, was thought to have coronavirus. Consequently, the students did not have access to the shops and often relied on systems implemented by the university to provide them with food and essentials. Many universities set up systems to cope with this where covid-free volunteers would deliver food to self-isolating students. The packages themselves became controversial following some students posting pictures of their food packages on social media. While most universities had provided a variety of meals/ food options, some had only provided junk food with little to no variation between meals. One student received very little other than pot noodles and crisps, implying that these would be her only options for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire 14-day period. Despite this, some of my friends were put in this position and they were given a generous selection of food for their whole household. It was nice to know on a personal level that lots of people were being looked after by their university, including my lovely friends.
Exhibit 2- phone
Students’ phones became a lifeline in lockdown as many remained on campus contained to their rooms or households. This meant that they did not have access to friends or family that they did not live with. While many students went home for lockdown, many were unable to do this due to travel restrictions or poor circumstances within their home household. On top of this, many first-year students were moving in with strangers. This meant that
there was no guarantee that they would get along with any housemates. These students were left with a very lonely environment that often led to a decline in mental health. For these students, access to social media and video calls were essential for gaining access to loved ones. While I spent much of lockdown with people who I love, it was still very difficult for my access to anyone I did not live with to be restricted. This means I can only imagine what it must have been like for some of my peers who were forced to go through lockdown essentially alone. I know that for one of my friends in particular, her housemates were not nice to her and access to friends and family through her phone got her through the hardest parts of lockdown. Phones also provided access to current events which were incredibly relevant throughout lockdown for both lockdown restriction updates and access to the many social movements that occurred during Coronavirus.
Exhibit 3- Laptop
For students on and off campus laptops were often the only access to lectures and seminars that we were allowed. This made them incredibly vital to our University experience. My course is very reading based and therefore online learning was inconvenient, but possible. Many people have had far more difficult learning experiences if their courses are based around physical learning. For example, people who needed access to art supplies or lab equipment would struggle to get these. Furthermore, many medical students have struggled with gaining basic training. Despite this, I know people who were called up to be front-line hospital staff during the worst parts of the pandemic. This led to students dealing with emotionally distressing encounters before they were necessarily prepared for this. Similarly, if a student did not have access to a laptop during this period, then completing any university work and accessing the lectures would have been very difficult. Many clubs and societies also had to move online and this made laptops essential for meeting new people and joining in with the social aspect of the university experience.
Exhibit 4- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Over the course of the pandemic, I think most members of the public have become very used to using personal protective equipment regularly. PPE includes masks, gloves, visors, aprons and more, but the average person will be most familiar with facemasks. During the pandemic, views on facemasks have differed drastically, but due to government instruction they have been essential for entering any indoor establishment. These include, shops, hospitals, workplaces, etc. Campus was no exception to this rule. Due to lockdown restrictions, I did not go onto campus very often, but when I did it was generally to visit the library to get work done. This meant interacting with the new Covid 19 precautions and adjusting to the change of atmosphere on campus as it was far quieter than usual. There were hand sanitiser pumps at the entrances and arrows on the floor to ensure that everyone was spread out. Similarly, masks had to be worn until you are in your seat. This was strange because while these things weren’t unexpected, they changed the atmosphere of the library as now everyone was concerned about staying safe. These feelings of tension wore off as time went on and everyone became more used to the changes. In many ways this reflected the attitudes towards the pandemic as a whole, as people were slowly adjusting to the new normal.
Exhibit 5- News articles regarding students
Students became the subject of a lot of speculation regarding the increased Covid 19 cases nearing the end of 2020. Young people were easy scapegoats as the rate of Covid 19 cases were higher among ages 0-29. This could be explained by the movement of students into mixed accommodation following government permission. As people from different households, often from different parts of the country, came together, an increase in Covid 19 cases was inevitable. Similarly, I know many people who were given unclear or unreasonable instructions from their universities on how to conduct themselves within their new accommodation. My friend was told to stay within her room for two weeks and not mix with her housemates at all until after this isolation period. This would not only have been incredibly lonely, but also almost impossible as she would be sharing a kitchen and a bathroom with her housemates. This meant that many university households struggled to maintain these rules and therefore Covid 19 cases increased. The media storm that erupted from the increased number of Covid 19 cases largely discussed the students themselves being to blame and suggested that it was due to the students poor behaviour and lack of respect for Covid 19 rules. This meant that many students (especially those who already struggled with their mental health) felt disheartened and abandoned by the government and the society that had turned against them. Morale among students fell even further following this.
Visitor Challenge: If you could have one item that you could not get through lockdown without, what would it be? Please leave a comment we would love to hear your ideas.
 Return to uni in Autumn term 2020
 Gov.uk, “Covid-19 confirmed deaths in England (to 31 December 2020): report” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-reported-sars-cov-2-deaths-in-england/covid-19-confirmed-deaths-in-england-to-31-december-2020-report (accessed 20/04/2021)