Documents obtained under the Official Information Act have raised questions around the university’s consultation with students and the Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) in forming its COVID-19 policies.
An email from the university claimed it had informally consulted with students and the AUSA regarding on-campus and online learning.
The majority of information that aided the university’s response was shown to be qualitative, including consultative forums with students, some of whom were said to “express a desire” for returning to campus for practical components of their courses.
From this, the university took the view that students preferred returning to campus as soon as possible, despite AUSA’s student survey showing that only 10% of students felt comfortable returning to in-person classes under Alert Level 2.
The university’s plans were ultimately disrupted by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield making it clear that universities were not exempt from Level 2 guidelines on mass gatherings. Learning activities subsequently remained online until Auckland returned to Alert Level 1.
Some signs point to the AUSA having a say in decisions around how to operate at each alert level. In a Google document outlining the university’s approach to learning at different COVID-19 alert levels, it was detailed that exams would be conducted over 24 hours at Alert Level 4.
However, acting AUSA President Emma Rogers commented “Take this out – I wouldn’t commit to 24 hours” regarding this policy.
The university’s current approach, listed on its website, does not include 24 hour exams under Level 4, and only states that exams would be conducted online. This may mean the AUSA was successful in changing this policy.
Earlier this semester, the AUSA criticised the university’s COVID-19 response, saying that it had misrepresented what AUSA advocated for and has not adopted AUSA recommendations, such as preparing for exams to be held online and applying a universal grade bump policy for Semester Two.