LSE students launch petition for online study until Coronavirus Contained

By Jeffrey Wang and Cindy Ren

A Change.org petition made on 5 March is requesting that LSE cancel all on-campus classes and revert to online education until the spread of Coronavirus is under control.

The petition, created by ‘JQ’ and titled “Petition for Online Teaching in LSE under COVID-19 Threat” has reached over 901 co-signers as of 6 March 2020. The petition was started after The World Health Organization raised the danger posed by Coronavirus to the highest possible risk-level. This was followed by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warning that a Covid-19 epidemic in the UK is “likely”. There are currently 163 infected, 25 of whom are in London, and two dead patient in the United Kingdom alone, with numbers continuing to rise.

The petition states: “We are a group of students who wish to contribute our efforts to stop COVID-19 from the total outbreak in the UK. We have already known that the Coronavirus is a highly contagious epidemic disease that caused over 90,000 confirmed cases and 3,000 deaths. Up to 5/3/2020, there are 115 confirmed cases in the UK, and some of them are really close to the LSE campus. What we can do now is avoid gatherings so that the virus will not spread from person to person. And luckily in LSE, we already an have online teaching and meeting system that enable us to study from home. If you also want permission to study online, please sign in this petition, and your voice could be heard by the LSE community.”

The Beaver talked to several students about the petition. Frank Jin, a First Year BSc Management student, suggested that “the school should allow us to have classes online and not record our attendance. Otherwise, the Coronavirus may spread at LSE and students will be forced to choose between health and their attendance record”. He further mentions that under current LSE attendance rules, those who hold a T4 visa could have their visa revoked if they miss two consecutive classes. Mary Ma, a First Year BSc Social Anthropology, said that “The school has a responsibility to uphold the health of its students” and pointed out that Italy has already ordered the closing of all of its universities and developed online learning curricula.

The petition has exploded on WeChat, a popular messaging app for overseas Chinese students, and is circulating within student groups and on public moments posts. Captions above petition posts on WeChat include “Quite a few colleagues were coughing in my seminar class, and some of them just returned to London from reading week. I’m really concerned”, and “I take public transport to school every day, but it’s dangerous to do so under the current circumstances.”

The Beaver reached out to the China Development Society. Eddie Sun, president of the CDS stated: “I believe that the petition was first initiated after seeing a petition from KCL, a university right next to LSE with one confirmed case of COVID-19. Comparing these two petitions, I think that the LSE one is not clearly structured, but I do understand that the main idea is to have classes online to avoid large gatherings. This is especially important for classes where attendance is compulsory. I believe that a petition as such would draw the attention of the head of school and the administrative staff. Concrete actions must take place since LSE is located at the centre of a megacity like London.”

An LSE spokesperson issued this statement in response to the coronavirus outbreak: “The safety and wellbeing of our community is of the utmost importance. We are continuing to monitor closely and proactively follow advice and guidance from Public Health England and the World Health Organisation. We are ready to put in place additional precautionary measures, should the need arise, to keep the LSE and wider community safe and well. This includes enabling students to attend classes virtually while planning alternative arrangements for the Summer Term assessment and exam period, if necessary.”

The link to the petition can be found at: http://chng.it/zZJGPyt78t

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