“It is vital that we host these receptions”
1 september 2020
Hi there, Anna Ivert, President of Uppsala Union of Engineering and Science Students, UTN, which is behind several of the welcome receptions for new students. Welcome receptions are currently being hosted for new students of science and technology, organised by the union or other sections within science and engineering. Most will continue until 6 September.
Welcome receptions are in full swing – how’s it going?
“It’s going well! The new students we call “Reccarna” seem to be enjoying themselves, and their mentors are happy to finally be back on campus. Sure, things aren’t going exactly as we planned, but we’re taking things one day at a time.”
How have you ensured compliance with restrictions in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19?
“We have provided training for our 800 mentors, so they know what they need to think about when it comes to limit the risk of spreading infection. During the welcome activities, they are responsible for informing the new students about handwashing and using hand sanitiser, avoiding crowding and social distancing. Normally, some of the activities are held in the small rooms and classrooms at Ångström and the Information Technology Centre. But now, restrictions mean that no more than 50 people can be present in one room and no more than 50 percent of the room’s capacity can be used. We have spread the classes over several classrooms, each with their own supervising mentor. During the dining events, students must be spread out so each chair is an arm’s length from the other. In a bid to avoid crowding, we have also advised students to avoid bringing their own food that needs to be heated up.”
What orders have you been giving for other activities and areas? The reception tent outside of Ångström?
“Some events require team registrations, such as the volleyball tournament. And when we divide people into groups for outdoor activities, we try to stick to the 50-person limit as best we can. As for our festival taking place over the last weekend of August, the classes have been allocated times where they are allowed to be on the festival site. We have created separate entrances and exits, and are keeping track of how many people are on site at the same time.
“Some of our events will have over 50 participants, but these are private events such as the pub sessions in the reception tent, meaning more people may participate. In these cases, we follow the appropriate rules for pub or restaurant activities, such as operating table service and spreading out the seating arrangement. It'll be kind of like in the nations and local restaurants and bars. But there will be no moving around or mingling – people will have to sit at the tables in their own groups. We also have staff who will make sure that people don’t move closer together or change tables. If you can’t follow these rules, you will be told to leave.”
Are you taking extra measures to make sure corridor traffic and entering and exiting buildings run smoothly?
“We are unable to take full responsibility, as far as corridor traffic is concerned. However, during our events we will do our best to make sure corridors aren’t crowded. We will also tell people to use the entrance closest to them when entering lecture halls.”
So the mentors have a lot of responsibility here?
“Exactly. They have a great duty to keep an eye on things and this also applies to the events where mentors and sections come together. There will always be private parties, but we need to discourage these somehow and make sure the new students try to avoid hosting them indoors where social distancing is tricky. Instead it’s better to go to a park and hang out. The mentors also need to think about their own actions and share the right information with new students. After all, the new students pay a lot of attention to what their mentors say.”
So, how do you feel about the coming semester and your work and support with Covid-19 issues?
“It looks like we will have to spend a lot more time monitoring studies, and make sure that courses maintain a high quality; that examinations are conducted properly and that new students are given a good start for their studies so they don’t find themselves thrown into something that doesn’t work. We are making sure our students know that we are available and they can contact us if they need any help. I also think it’s vital for us to host these welcome receptions, so they are able to meet some of their course mates and develop a sense of community so they can manage their studies, meet groups in their classes and study together.
“As for UTN, we will have a great responsibility to be quick off the mark and spread information about any new directives that may be issued. And that our activities are well-managed, of course. We send out an email newsletter, our student union paper, a Facebook group and Slack for those who are active in the union. We will also try to have a section on the website that contains the latest information from the University. Normally we also have an on-campus presence and offer coffee sessions as a way to spread information and talk to people. But obviously this is harder now. So we are constantly trying to find ways to improve how we communicate with the students.”