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Coronavirus: UCy physics department wants unjabbed students to stay home

The University of Cyprus

The University of Cyprus physics department wants stricter protection from the coronavirus in the new school year, disagreeing with the senate’s decision to allow unvaccinated students and staff in classes.

In a statement signed by its chairman on Friday, the department stressed that no decision has been made that departed from the senate’s position concerning attendance during the winter semester.

However, in an informal meeting on August 27, attended by eight of the 14 faculty members, there was unanimous disagreement with the senate’s decision to allow unvaccinated students and staff attend class with a SafePass.

That was followed by an official meeting on September 1 in the presence of 12 faculty members and one student representative. During that meeting, it was decided by majority vote to ask the senate to change its decision.

“The physics department board expresses concern over the safety of the faculty and administrative staff, graduate teaching assistants, and students, after the senate decision, which permits the physical presence of unvaccinated students and faculty in classes.”

The department requested permission from the rector to put stricter measures in place to better safeguard faculty and students by only allowing vaccinated students and staff or those who had the virus in the past six months, access classrooms, labs, and common areas.

Unvaccinated students will follow classes from home.

The department asked the rector to attend their next meeting on Wednesday to discuss the matter further.

Unlike UCy, the Limassol-based University of Technology (Tepak), has decided not to allow unvaccinated students physically attend classes. The same applies to faculty.

Responding to criticism, Tepak rector Panayiotis Zaphiriou said there was no question of discrimination.

Zaphiriou said a university is very different from a business.

“Students are in classrooms for the entire day. They take three to four classes a day with different audiences. Students move from hall to hall and comes into contact with different people throughout the day,” Zaphiriou said.

He said spreading the virus would be very easy, especially with the Delta variant, and tracing the contacts difficult.

“Tepak has 400 classes a week. To exercise proper checks in such a situation is very difficult since it would entail using half the administrative staff with the risk of not doing it right,” he said at the time.

He said the senate had sought legal advice before the decision, knowing there would be reactions. Experts said it had every right to do so since students were given a choice.

Until last May, he said, students were being taught online. Those who have not vaccinated will continue to work in the same way as the past one and a half year.

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