Letter to my students (and your families) - Nessa Cronin (staff)

2 November 2020

Hi everyone,

We are now finished with Week 5 of your lectures in what is a very different university environment this year. Well done to you all in getting to this half-way point, it’s been some year so far hasn’t it?...

First of all, this is hard, really, really hard. Some days though have felt more like just surviving with covid, rather than living with it. The Leaving Cert was, well, let’s not go there again, fresher’s week didn’t really happen, and there was nowhere really for you all to go to hang out safely and meet your old friends, or try to make new ones, this semester. This has been an extraordinary year for all of us, but your generation has been particularly hard hit by the invisible wrecking-ball that is Covid-19.

Living through a global pandemic is not a whole lot of fun but when you take the long view of human history, we’ve been through difficult times before and I’m sure we’ll get through this one too – the main thing is to try as much as we can to get through it together, and to help each other along the way. Sometimes just a chat, or a virtual tea hangout with friends, might be the thing that makes living through a tough day that little bit easier…

I know that some of you have very little space at home to yourselves, and some of you may be living between homes, dividing time between parents and households, caring for a much-loved relative (sibling, parent, grandparent, your own children), living with strangers in student accommodation, or sharing bedrooms in direct provision centres while trying to learn through a global pandemic.

Many of you access university classes on your phones with limited data, don’t have laptops, reliable wifi, or paper to print off materials to read when your eyes get tired from screen time. Many of you have to share 1 laptop per family, and that includes your mum or dad who may also need that laptop for work, and a sibling who may need it for secondary school. Some of you have to drive somewhere to get a signal for your phones and sit in a carpark hoping your signal doesn’t hang forever so you access what you need. And in the most difficult of circumstances, some of you may have experienced a serious illness, or a death, in your family in recent months.

As your university lecturer I’m really, really sorry you have to go through all of that right now, without all of the usual supports that would be there in non-Covid times. We won’t have our chats in the corridors before class, we won’t have our face to face meetings in my office where you’ll tell me about your worries and concerns that are impeding your ability to concentrate on your coursework. I miss your laughter, your bright smiles and the great questions that you throw at me from time to time in seminars – all of which make for the best of what learning is supposed to be all about. This is a really hard year to be a young person in Ireland.

So, remember that I’ll always be your ally. When people complain about the younger generation, I will remind them that you are the main demographic that worked through the last lockdown because you had part-time jobs in factories, supermarkets, shops and filling stations to pay what will be the highest student fees in Europe once Brexit happens. You also worked in the service industries, restaurants, hotels, ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ pubs to help pay for your student accommodation. You prepare and deliver food, clean toilets, collect trolleys, wipe down shopping baskets, clean panes of glass on freezer doors, restock the pasta and rice aisles, and generally do a lot of the high touch-point physical contact work in public spaces across the country. Just as with the 1918 flu pandemic, the Covid-19 low-touch economy is a luxury for those who can afford not to get their hands dirty. Many of your friends are also trainee nurses, public health specialists and doctors, working long hours, extra shifts with no breaks, with challenging pay and conditions. I hope our government remembers and acknowledges their work and the sacrifices they have made in the future.

In my classes we will discuss the importance of language and the distinction between ‘rhetoric’ and ‘reality’. We will examine the rhetoric of the Dáil with the poetry of Panti Bliss and Felispeaks. Don’t let people off the hook when numbers and statistics are given to argue that your demographic is to blame for the spread of the virus. This is a once-in-a-century, global pandemic that demands an all-of-society approach to an all-of-society problem. Getting or spreading the virus cannot just be individualised. Division and blame is not an effective management strategy and will not get us through this. Co-ordination and co-operation are needed right now, and in that order.

Dividing up communities by age or vulnerabilities is not a strategy for what we celebrate in Ireland as a ‘meitheal’ approach, together we are stronger yes, but only if we plan properly to leave nobody behind. Being locked down is hard, but do try to keep your hearts and minds (and your books!) open.

Until then, stay safe, and stay kind to yourselves and to each other. And don’t forget to do your reading for next week! Nessa.

Musical tribute to Grace, David and Mary – Professor Rhodri Ceredig (retired staff)

I arrived in Galway in 2008 and luckily met Grace Timlin in the Physiology Department who introduced me to traditional Irish fiddle music. Having now retired, I occasionally meet Grace in Galway sessions. During lockdown, I have spent some time playing my fiddle but also the viola. The viola sound is more mellow than the fiddle and so to try and ease the stress that you all must have been enduring during lockdown, I've recorded three little pieces on the viola.

 Listen here > Musical tribute - Rhodri Ceredig

  1. The first is a Welsh Traditional air/song called Ffarwel i (Farewell to) Aberystwyth. This I dedicate to the memory of former NUIG staff member Prof David Williams. I went to primary and secondary schools in Aberystwyth with David and we played violin together in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales.
  2. The second piece is called "Little Bird" by Tim Edey, who's originally from England but now resident in Donegal.
  3. The third tune is a Scottish tune called "Farewell to Whisk(e)y"; this is often played in sessions as a jig, but it's also a nice air.

I would also like to dedicate these little pieces to the memory of Mary McPartlan who recently passed away. It was always a pleasure to meet Mary at the lunchtime Arts in Action concerts on campus and we all miss her tremendously.

 

'Big thanks to Ray O'Connor' - a message of thanks from Sinéad Hayes (staff)

Big thanks to Ray O'Connor (Technician in Anatomy) for heading a great team of volunteers coordinating the PPE efforts to nursing homes in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

 

'They were extremely helpful in accommodating me' - a message of thanks to the Disability Support Service and Dr Eva Szegezdi from Eoghan Gibbins-Cloney (student)

Before anything else, I would like to say that my experience at NUIG has been positive and very impactful in my life. I began studying at NUIG in September of 2019, enrolled in a one year postgraduate course. The personnel in the DSS office along with my course coordinator were extremely helpful in accommodating me in any way I needed.

In light of recent global events, I am very impressed with the organization of NUIG and its adaptability to the current situation. We were required to vacate the lab in the Lambe Institute in March (just three months into the semester) and I returned home to Cork after leaving Goldcrest Village accommodation, which I was also advised to vacate. Nevertheless, I was able to finish the semester at home, submit my assignments and take part in presentations with limited impediment. In fact, our project coordinator, Dr. Eva Szegezdi, has facilitated for the class to take part in an online course in statistical analysis software ‘R’, which we will hopefully receive a certificate upon completion of the course on top of our postgraduate Masters.

 

'Invaluable technical support from our colleague, Shauna' - a message of thanks from Mary Liddy (staff)

I would like to acknowledge the invaluable technical support I received during the Covid crisis from a colleague in Registry, Shauna Prenga, Manager of the Student Registry Helpdesk.  Without her assistance at a very early stage of lockdown my ability to work effectively from home and to communicate with prospective students and colleagues would have been severely impacted.  Shauna, who previously worked in ISS, has brought a wealth of technical expertise to our Registry team.  She shares this expertise in a most generous and professional way at all times and when I discovered difficulties with my home PC on Friday 13th March, the first day on which the university was officially shut down, I felt frustrated and anxious, knowing that the problems I was experiencing would require the insights of a technically minded person who was able to grasp the difficulties I was describing.  This person was Shauna Prenga! When I emailed her, outlining no fewer than three technical problems I required advice on,  Shauna came to the rescue, not just by providing verbal instruction but by actually calling to my home by arrangement the following day and working her magic.  I want to add that Shauna lives on the other side of the city from me and has family responsibilities.  She arrived at my house at 3pm on Saturday 14th March fully equipped with face masks, protective gloves and hand disinfectant and issuing a strong reminder that we had to observe the social distancing norms in the house.  I was only too happy to comply, needless to say.  For the next forty-five minutes Shauna attended to my PC and the problems I had been experiencing were resolved miraculously by the treatment she applied. 

Shauna has been of invaluable assistance to me in particular and to the staff of Registry in general throughout this crisis and has been instrumental in facilitating us with the means to work efficiently from home.

Well done, Shauna!

 

'Sally went above and beyond her duty' - thank you note from Máirín Ní Fhátharta (staff)

I would like to thank Sally Connolly in the HR Office who went above and beyond her duty to ensure that I (and my colleagues) could work productively from home with access to all enterprise applications so that all queries could be dealt with and every HR Office deadline met.  She did this with patience, kindness and helpfulness and has been available practically around the clock since the closure to assist whenever any of us had any IT issues. 

The staff in ISS have also been of great help.

 

Buíochas ó chroí leis na haistritheoirí - nóta buíochais ó John Caulfield (foireann)

Gabhaim buíochas ó chroí lenár gcomhghleacaithe sa tSeirbhís Aistriúcháin a d'oibrigh go crua, go tapa agus gan mórán rabhaidh - go minic lasmuigh de na gnáthuaireanta oibre - le cinntiú go rabhamar in ann eolas tábhachtach faoin gcoróinvíreas a scaipeadh sa dá theanga. Táim go mór faoi chomaoin acu as a gcuid oibre, dúthrachta agus foighne!

 

Thanks, dear colleagues - Mary Dempsey (staff)

Dear colleagues, a heartfelt thanks to everyone for supporting our students and each other through the past few months of home working and learning. We should be proud! We have found ways to build community remotely. My thoughts are with you all, and I am looking forward to seeing you all on campus again.