Ulster University boss personally responds to staff union’s vote of ‘no confidence’ in him

Ulster University’s vice-chancellor has personally responded to a vote of no confidence in him, sparked by some staff’s fears about the risk of Covid-19.

By Adam Kula
Friday, 17th September 2021, 3:42 pm
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 3:55 pm
Prof Paul Bartholomew
Prof Paul Bartholomew

Paul Bartholomew was responding to a vote taken at a meeting of University and College Union members on Wednesday.

The union said its members had “grave concerns” about “the decision to prematurely return to full face-to-face teaching, without adequate social distancing, and with no plans to reduce student numbers in rooms”.

Those present at the meeting passed the following motion: “ In the light of the above concerns, this branch does not have confidence in the vice-chancellor and leadership of Ulster University to protect the safety of students, staff or the broader community.”

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The union then issued an open letter, which it said had been signed by 120-or-so members, stating “anxiety and stress levels” are running high and demanding “a safer approach to the start of this teaching semester”.

Today Prof Bartholomew (a former radiographer) said: “Since June, teaching staff have been able to apply to deliver their lectures online, and associate deans have worked hard to process these requests whilst balancing the need to ensure we maintain our commitment to students for face-to-face contact hours...

“A wide range of safety measures have been deployed; face masks are required by everyone on campus and we have reminded students to respect that this is a workplace for 2,500 dedicated staff.”

He added that despite planning for a physical return for many months, “some individuals may still feel apprehensive” – but that “appropriate support” will be given to all who are “clinically vulnerable”.

His message concluded: “The health and safety of our colleagues, students and the wider community remains our priority and as we have throughout the pandemic, we remain fully flexible, agile and responsive to the demands of the very latest public health guidance.”

The university also listed the following anti-Covid measures:

Sanitising stations are in place throughout campuses;

Perspex screens are in place at reception areas;

Enhanced cleaning continues across all areas “using a highly-protective and persistent decontamination system”;

One-way systems are in place with strict limits on the numbers using lifts;

Both “mechanical and natural ventilation is optimised” across campuses;

Pop-up vaccination centres are available to staff, students, and the wider community

LFD testing remains continually available to all staff and students throughout the semester and free tests can be accessed at all of our campuses;

And “we are asking that staff and students keep their distance at all times and when moving around campus”.

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