International Smurfit students told in-person attendance mandatory in August. Lecturer has published “this was never the plan”.

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

Modules advertised as in person by the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School were never intended to be taught in person, The University Observer has learned.

According to a timetable given to incoming Masters students studying in Smurfit, which was distributed on the 14th of August has been seen by The University Observer, the module in question was to be delivered via “on Campus face-to-face delivery by rota [of] 3 hours per week over 5 weeks and tutorials 1 hour over 4 weeks”. No listings for “online synchronous (live) delivery” or “additional online asynchronous delivery” existed for the module, despite being an option. All other modules on the students’ timetable had listings in one or both of these categories.

A post by a module coordinator on the Brightspace virtual learning environment, dated as the 3rd September seen by The University Observer stated “Due to Covid-19 this module is primarily delivered remotely utilising Collaborate software. In the course page, you will see a lot of online materials. These include videos which you are to watch in advance of each class”. The post goes on to state “It has come to my attention that students have been informed that this course was being offered face-to-face and not remotely. Given Covid-19, and the health and safety issues surrounding this, this was never the plan from my side...In formal correspondence I noted the course was to be offered remotely and not face-to-face”. Pre-recorded lectures for this module were also shown to The University Observer, and as they were recorded using screen recording software the recording date in June is visible.

It is understood that incoming masters students, including international students, were informed by the school that their physical presence was required, in part or wholly because their modules required physical attendance. UCD provided the documentation necessary for international students to apply for visas, and a letter stating that in-person attendance was required.

Speaking to The University Observer, UCDSU Graduate Officer Carla Gummerson said that business students she has worked with complained about “what they feel is fraudulent and false advertising, essentially”, adding that “[certain students] seemed to be quite happy with the course content, but it was the lies that they feel they were told [that caused them to complain]”. 

“Look, we all know what happened during the summer, management came out with very very optimistic numbers for masters students so I do feel the blame is placed with management in this regard”, Gummerson added. "If Smurfit didn’t come out and tell the students when they knew that the modules... weren't going to be blended in any way shape or form I feel like they should have told the students. Other schools told their students... Although management has come out with the numbers for both undergrad and masters, some schools took that opportunity to say ‘No, look, we’re going to be online’ and told the students, so that they could be prepared for that.

“That lack of common decency that has been shown to international students is a disgrace. I feel very strongly about this, I’ve had I don’t know how many international students who are very upset like I don’t blame them at all, I’m very angry, that they weren’t given the opportunity to make that choice to come here or not to come here and this student that got in touch with me had actually expressed that they had had a letter from UCD to say that physical presence in UCD on campus is required. So they came on that sentence alone... I think that was wrong, I think that sentence should never have been sent out unless they knew for certain. Look it comes down to UCD needing international students, to be honest. That’s the baseline for me".

The University Observer has requested comment from the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School as to how students had been informed in-person attendance was mandatory for classes that module coordinators had been preparing for online-only as early as June, with no plans for face-to-face learning. At the time of publishing, no comment had been provided.