Dr Michael Lewis and Dr Sinéad Murphy

We Cannot Teach in Masks

by Michael Lewis and Sinéad Murphy Open letter in response to the requirement for staff to wear face-masks while teaching, announced by the Executive Board of Newcastle University on July 22nd 2020 During the last six months, Newcastle University has repeatedly stated that its primary goal is to protect the safety of its staff and students. We respond that the primary goal of a university should be to educate its staff and students. By failing to uphold the value of education, the university is reneging upon its rightful mission. Planned restrictions in response to the Covid virus, on learning conditions and on campus life more generally – restrictions that actually exceed current government dictates – profoundly undermine the prospect of meaningful academic experience at the precise moment when financial crisis and limitations on travel already threaten its viability. We cannot in good conscience simply acquiesce in the repurposing of the university as an institution that valorises safety above education, and bare life in preference to the good life. The Latin origins of the word ‘education’ reveal its role in ‘leading forth’. Never has this role been more vital, especially given that students, and young people more generally, although almost invulnerable to the virus, have arguably paid the highest price for its suppression, and now face a future of economic, social...

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October 2022
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