UNIVERSITY of Limerick President Professor Kerstin Mey has accompanied Gardaí on visits to off-campus housing estates to remind students to follow public health guidelines and stop the spread of Covid-19.
As students made a return to learning this week, members of the University’s senior leadership have engaged in nightly walking tours with local Gardaí.
A UL spokesman said the initiative was “to engage with students, educate them about public health guidelines and to stress a co-operative approach in protecting the community surrounding the campus in light of the situation with Covid-19.
“Through a community liaison committee, UL has developed a response plan to ensure that new and returning students can live and learn as safely as possible in the context of Covid-19.
“UL has allocated further resources to An Garda Síochána to increase its capacity to undertake community engagement activity over the course of the coming weeks.“
This involves student union representatives, engaging with students to educate them on following the public health guidelines.
President Mey said her participation in the nightly tours was to “show a shared responsibility for community welfare through direct visibility with Gardaí who are out in the normal course of their work”.
“We are hoping that our presence will help with the message that for students, behaviour in the general community is directly linked to their status as a UL student,” she said.
Prof Mey said it was vital that students take responsibility for their actions, follow the public health guidelines, limit their social contacts and stay safe”.
“We are fully aware that this situation is difficult for students in what should have been one of the most exciting weeks of their lives – but they must follow the advice and heed the warnings, or they risk putting the people they love and the wider community at risk by their actions.”
Limerick Garda Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche welcomed the assistance of UL in helping to engage, educate and encourage the community.
“We now need everyone to double down on the tremendous efforts they have made here in Limerick.
“While you may feel safe at home and think it’s okay to have friends over or have a party, you are putting your health, their health and everyone you come into contact with afterwards at risk,” he added.
There has been a leaflet drop around campus and student union representatives are also working on “a parallel daytime education and advice operation“ to assist with student queries and to meet students living in local accommodation.
The government stated last Friday that all higher education institutions move to the enhanced public health protection measures, while the vast majority of academic delivery has moved online.
Lab work and workshops as well as some essential tutorials are taking place on the UL campus as scheduled.
However, UL students are being advised not to travel to Limerick if their full programme is due to be delivered online over the next two weeks.
“All social and club activities on campus have been suspended until further notice,” added a spokesman.
According to UL, action can be taken against students through the code of conduct who, by breaching public health guidelines, may be considered to have engaged in conduct that is harmful to others.
“There is no set sanction within the code of conduct for any offence but penalties allowed within the code of conduct include monetary, academic, suspension and expulsion.“
“Students have a responsibility to their wider community to follow government and institutional guidelines,” the spokesman added.