Eerie scenes at Monash University amid COVID-19 pandemic

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VIDEO BY SHEETAL SINGH

ARTICLE BY LAURA McFADZEAN

Campuses of Australia’s largest university are empty after classes were suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Monash University announced the move hours after the state government declared a state of emergency to try to stop the spread of the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus.

From today, all Monash University lectures will be recorded or live streamed, but practicals, workshops, studios and laboratories have been postponed for the remainder of the week. 

Classes will resume next week, but delivery will be online only.

Attending campus has not been banned, but a mandatory social distance of 1.5 metres between people is being enforced in a bid to stop person-to-person spread of the virus.

Building and Property Department staff this morning implemented social distancing requirements by taping floors with measurements and banning a majority of seats from use in lecture theatres.

Students can no longer sit next to each other in lecture halls. PHOTO: Laura McFadzean
All people on Monash University campuses are expected to comply with the mandatory 1.5 metre social distancing rule. PHOTO: Laura McFadzean
Tape indicating 1.5 metre distances can be found in all high-traffic areas around Clayton campus. PHOTO: Laura McFadzean
Furniture has also been rearranged within physical spaces in accordance with social distancing requirements. PHOTO: Laura McFadzean

Law lecturer Maria O’Sullivan held her first lecture this morning since the drastic measures were brought in. Less than 10 students attended. 

Dr O’Sullivan said a movement to online education will result in a higher workload for teachers and students.

“When you do online classes, it’s not just a matter of talking to a camera, [teachers] have to think about activities to do to facilitate discussion,” Dr O’Sullivan said.

“And in a way, I think students will have to do a lot more work too, such as setting up study groups on WhatsApp,” she said.

“As a long-term measure, you can’t just sit at home on your computer, read a book and then listen to someone talk over PowerPoints.”

Potential online study resources for students will include e-learning software Panopto, Moodle forum discussions and remote conference service Zoom.

A lone student awaits a 10am lecture. PHOTO: Laura McFadzean

After the Federal Government advised against non-essential gatherings of 500 people or more on Saturday, Monash Student Association’s (MSA) O-Fest was cancelled on Sunday night.

MSA representatives and volunteers today dismantled the tents on the Lemon Scented Lawn that took a week to set up.

MSA volunteers disassembled the O-Fest equipment this morning. PHOTO: Laura McFadzean 

The MSA spent six months planning O-Fest, which included O-Fest: After Dark

However, MSA President James McDonald said the health and wellbeing of the public is of utmost concern.

“We understand this news is incredibly disappointing,” Mr McDonald said.

“However, the health and safety of all students is our number one priority and we firmly support the University in this decision.”

Grafali’s café was significantly overstaffed given customers were non-existent.

Employee Liz Zahariev said Campus Centre was an “absolute ghost town” and she was concerned the lack of customers will impact the financial wellbeing of casual staff in the centre.

Grafali’s café was unable to attract its usual customers amid the coronavirus scare. PHOTO: Laura McFadzean

“There’s less revenue for businesses, so less revenue to pass on for employees,” Ms Zahariev said.

Casual employees are at particular risk of financial hardship as, in many cases, they are not entitled to sick leave.

In an email addressed to the student cohort, Monash University Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner detailed other adjustments to Monash’s operations.

They include extended hours of some core buildings, online peer mentoring, deferred graduation dates, altered examination arrangements and cancelled faculty camps.

More information can be found here:  Monash University’s COVID-19 fact sheet