How will UNIL start the spring semester? How does the institution respond to the difficulties experienced by students? Giorgio Zanetti, Vice-Rector in charge of teaching, gives a rather optimistic outlook for the coming months.
How is the start of the new academic year on February 22nd looking?
Giorgio Zanetti: We are going to start the spring semester as we finished the autumn one, that is to say online. The federal regulations leave us no choice today. However, that doesn't mean that the next few months will unfold in the same way.
What does that mean?
The current vaccination campaign is gradually offering increased protection to those at risk, which will relieve the hospitals. We therefore have the right to hope that the health situation in Switzerland will improve. At UNIL, this means that we are ready to resume teaching in a hybrid, or "comodal", mode as soon as we get permission to do so.
Why in hybrid mode, and not entirely in person?
Online courses are suitable for people who are afraid to go on campus, whether for their own health or that of their family and friends. Others, having adapted to the situation, do not plan to live close to UNIL this semester. But there are other situations. The "in person" mode will be embraced by those students who wish and are able to do so, and who will renew contacts on this occasion.
On a practical level, the token system put in place last autumn could therefore be renewed?
If we are allowed to return to in-person teaching, but have to limit the number of students on campus, tokens will be one of the means that can be used.
Are there any plans to close the BCU library?
That is not on the agenda. This winter, the library remained open to students, while the general public could no longer access it. UNIL had in fact pleaded to maintain its partial opening, which depends on the cantonal authorities.
What about the campus restaurants?
Restaurants are allowed to remain open so that the community can take advantage of their offer. However, it must be recognised that these entrepreneurs find themselves in a very difficult situation. It might even be in their economic interest to close down completely. A form of solidarity with their effort is therefore welcome: if you are on campus, think of them!
Nothing changes about access to the buildings?
No. The campus is not closed. Access to the buildings is still possible thanks to the Campus Card. Of course, those present must continue to comply with the sanitary regulations.
The recent results of the survey "How are you doing? "survey show that a majority of the students surveyed say they are affected by the health situation. What does UNIL do?
We perceive suffering among students. The crisis is continuing, which causes discouragement and possibly a loss of sense. The Rectorate is concerned about this. We are doing what we can to act.
There is help available to meet the needs, at all levels. Whether it is psychological support, health-related issues, financial problems or other, sometimes more diffuse aspects, UNIL offers answers on a dedicated website. I would like to stress that we should not feel discouraged from calling for help when a concern does not fit into a specific category. Knock on a door: the faculties and services of UNIL are available. During the spring semester, the Rectorate will continue to adapt the various support offers. We want to keep in touch with the Federation of Student Associations (FAE), in order to develop our responses according to the needs expressed.
Are the diplomas of the "Covid generation" discounted?
Personally, I am convinced that this is not the case at all. The diplomas awarded during the "Covid years" are no less valuable. I say it loud and clear: this idea must not be allowed to take hold. UNIL has maintained its requirements at the same level as in previous years. In addition, the students have had to face unprecedented difficulties, demonstrating autonomy, flexibility and adaptability.
Are there any plans to adapt the support currently offered to teachers?
The measures in place, which are the result of the work of many UNIL departments, will evolve in line with the demands. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the teachers, but also the staff of the faculties and services involved, who have made significant efforts to adapt so that the courses can continue online. I urge the UNIL community to continue to show courage and to dare to believe in a possible improvement. Better prospects are appearing on the horizon of this spring semester and we will exploit them as soon as possible.