The penalties have caused an uproar amongst students, many of whom are trying to make friends in the first years of their university education. Many students have noted that the financial penalty has increased the difficulty of meeting new people on campus, leading to increased anxiety and loneliness levels.
An analysis carried out by The Guardian has reported that students at the University of Nottingham have paid more than one third of the overall distribution of fines. However, many universities have not put their statistics forward, indicating the ambiguity of the figures.
Many universities have additionally employed outside security companies to scour out students breaking coronavirus laws. In particular, The University of Newcastle has employed former bouncers and doormen as ‘Covid Marshalls’ many of whom have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Students from the University of Nottingham have paid more than one third of the overall distribution of fines.
University students in Newcastle have commented on their experiences regarding coronavirus fines and the behaviour of the Northumbria Police and the 'Covid Marshalls' when issuing penalties. Sascha Pollock, a second year student studying Politics and History, mentioned the officers' “aggression” when she received a fine for taking her bins out during her 10 day quarantine. Pollock made it clear to the officers that the bins were on her property.
Other Newcastle and Northumbria students have also come forward concerning their encounters with the ‘Covid Marshalls.’ There have been reports that officers have demanded female students' private phone numbers, threatening police action if there is no compliance. Further reports note that marshalls have consistently entered houses searching through students' beds and wardrobes. Officers are required to film all interactions continuously, however, many students have mentioned the turning off of cameras during these invasions.
There are reports of officers demanding female students' private phone numbers, threatening with police action if there is no compliance.
For most students, a loan is needed in order to pay the £9,000 per annum tuition fee, in addition to this, many are having to withdraw secondary loans in order to pay for the fines that are being financially endorsed by their university. This increased number of loans will eventually have to be paid back to the government, who will make financial gains as a result of the students' losses.
Many students and their families are questioning the morality surrounding these “extortionate” and “unjust” fines. Larissa Kennedy, the president of the National Union of Students, said: “It is absolutely unacceptable that universities have felt it necessary to issue obscene fines and harsh punishments”, adding that these universities should be providing care packages with food, household products, wellbeing materials and general necessities at no extra cost.”
Immy Oliver-Beckett and Chloe Lewin
Featured Image: Alex Gervas