Trinity today cancelled all in-person laboratory practicals for chemical sciences students for the rest of the year due to new coronavirus restrictions.
In an email to students, the School of Chemistry’s Undergraduate Head of Teaching and Learning Eoin Scanlan said that “our on-site practical classes must now be limited to a maximum of two sessions of 1 hour and 45 minutes in duration per day,” and that “all remaining practicals will be cancelled with immediate effect, as it is not feasible to complete those experiments within the allotted timeframes”.
“I know that many of you will be disappointed by this development, and it is with deep regret that the School has reached this decision, however, we are bound by College safety advice”, he added.
HSE restrictions state that spending more than two hours in an indoor space with someone who has the coronavirus will “sometimes” count as a close or casual contact.
Speaking to the University Times, third-year chemistry student and TCDSU Chemistry Convenor Thomas O’Neill said “For me, I don’t see how college thinks this is a logical decision.”
“Some [third-year] students had six practicals left to do which is a huge number considering last year we only had one or two by the time it got cancelled.”
O’Neill also expressed surprise that the decision came at this stage in the coronavirus pandemic, as vaccination efforts accelerate, saying that “it makes it out that image is taking precedence over the value of one’s degree”.
Third-year students will now see only their two best lab reports count towards their grade, which O’Neill admits “helps a bit”.
Library slots were similarly cut to a maximum of an hour and 45 minutes last month, due to updated public health advice.
In a statement to The University Times, Trinity Library Communications Spokesperson Caoimhe Ní Lochlaínn said: “Public Health has advised that ‘if an individual were to develop COVID-19, any person who has spent a cumulative period of more than two hours during a 24 hour period in an enclosed space with that person would be considered a close contact and would be required to self-isolate for 14 days’.”
“In order to minimise this risk, the Library is implementing a revised booking system from Monday 22nd February 2021, that limits readers to 1 hour 45 minutes at a specific workstation.”
“The reader then takes a 15 minutes break outside before moving to their next ‘booking’ which is another workstation elsewhere in the Library. To facilitate the implementation of the change, advance bookings for Tuesday 23rd February onwards will only be possible from 10pm on Monday 22nd February.”