To Open or Not To Open…That is the Question
In a three and a half hour town hall meeting, Abdullah Haroon, member of the Student Council moderated over 850 students who made pleas to senior administration to reopen the campus. They pointed to problems of internet connectivity, a lack of quiet spaces to study at home, financial distress and a poor experience learning online. All in all, they expressed important concerns that clearly posed challenges to their academic progress. Students also asked for more regular communication and felt that their issues were not being addressed.
While most students were in favour of returning back, one student argued vigorously against opening the campus given the impossibility for LUMS to have adequate preparation to test, monitor, distance, and provide other requisite support. He cited lessons LUMS should learn from universities in Singapore and other locations where campus openings had backfired resulting in subsequent closures.
The opinion expressed by the student echoed similar concerns for health and safety that were led by Dr. Ali Khan, Dean of Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences as well as from the recently appointed Director of Campus Health and Safety at LUMS, Dr. Samia Altaf. Dr. Khan’s comments are reiterated in a write-up that appears in Parhlo. Dr. Altaf shared her rich international experience along with her deep understanding of Pakistan’s health system. She also asked students to think more critically about COVID-related data that is currently being misinterpreted and recommended LUMS should remain extremely vigilant to collect its own data. While Dr. Altaf is continuing her needs assessment for campus readiness, she recommended rolling in small batches of students this semester to test the efficacy of LUMS preparedness as it accommodates more students over time.
The newly appointed Provost, Dr. Farhat Haq reminded students to be considerate and kind during these difficult times and expressed her admiration on how committed the faculty and senior leaders had been in grappling with a host of issues. The Vice Chancellor, Dr. Arshad Ahmad also responded to a range of questions highlighting how important decisions regarding critical issues like the summer school, fees, campus opening, online learning and other related decisions required a consensual process of deliberation. He said that “these deliberations have been ongoing with student leaders, faculty and staff representatives, alumni, donors, and trustees who bring important views on what would be best for the university. Everyone must work collaboratively and showcase to Pakistan how we will overcome the challenges in the coming days and weeks”.
The administration reiterated that it benefits no one for the university to remain closed – students, faculty and staff suffer. The administration will, however, provide more frequent updates including answers to specific questions that were raised in a communique that will be released next week.