The coronavirus continues its streak of upending life around the world. On March 14th, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a State of Emergency that went into effect this morning at 8:00 a.m. Following Italy’s lead, most non-essential services and businesses will be suspended, if they are not already. Residents are being told they should only leave their homes to work if they cannot do so remotely, for food, or for other essential purposes such as assisting the elderly or those in need.
Spain has also employed drones to patrol the streets, similar to those containment methods utilized by China. Operated by municipal police, these drones inform citizens to return to their homes and respect the health officials recommended quarantine procedures.
Video courtesy of El Mundo.
The problem for university students extends beyond the borders however. Across the globe, IE students who traveled against the government’s recommendations have found themselves stranded trying to return to their home countries as many nations follow suit, closing their borders and going into various levels of lockdown. Those students marooned are facing big problems with transportation and accommodation as busses, trains, and hotels shut down.
The university seems somewhat powerless to help. In an email forwarded to our editorial team – not posted due to security issues – IE encourages students to contact their country’s embassies for assistance and direction. Beyond that, there isn’t much the university can do for those abroad. There is hope though; many students living abroad have offered there homes to those stranded in a sign of solidarity.
Nonetheless, just as some governments, IE looks to be straining slightly under the situation. Reports of online classes dropping, technical issues, and trolling are not uncommon. Late Sunday evening, IEU’s President Santiago Iñiguez emailed students to give his praise and ask for their continued patience and support as the university weathers the storm. “I hereby thank our students for their constructive support and suggestions. I also ask them to remain in constant contact with their program directors so as to let them know of any personal needs. We aim to be in direct contact with all our students and assist them in the best possible way during these very challenging times.”
In an effort to further ease the strain on students, IE has taken additional actions. Following an afternoon meeting on Friday the 13th between Vice Rector of Student Affairs Miguel Larrañaga, Director of IEU Athletics and Student Relations Juan Barrio, and the five presidential candidates for this year’s election, it was concluded that elections should be postponed. Another meeting has been scheduled for April 1st between the candidates and administration to readdress the matter. The Vice Rector released this statement (linked below) earlier today. At this point in time, as campaigning has not begun, official teams and their candidates are not being released to the public. As stated, a joint-statement by the candidates and the Red Administration is expected soon.
The decision would seem inevitable though. The university has managed to hold online classes, but an online election with fully digital campaigns and debates may be too much for it to handle. That’s not to mention student’s attention to the election. To paraphrase one candidate during the meeting, “students don’t care about a f*cking student election when it’s the end of the world.”
In an over-the-phone interview, Madrid Community Development Officer Virginia Demichelis likewise felt it was the best course of action. “I think its way better to have elections in person” she stated, and emphasized the importance of person-to-person communication with the student voters. Demichelis noted that to maintain fair and equal elections, the Red Administration has not yet been given a list of the candidates or their teams.
The postponement would mean the current SG would retain its duties until a new student government is formed – potentially all the way through September. However, the scope and purpose of the current SG has changed dramatically to accommodate the COVID-19 Crisis. Demichelis explained how she and Segovia Academics Officer Matteo “took the reigns” of the SG, as Student President Umberto seems unavailable in the US. “Its really hard to reach [Umberto] ’cause its a lot of time difference.” The new, loose structure hopes to adapt to the online changes, and hopes to provide students with feedback channels through instagram about their experiences. Viriginia also stated how the SG is attempting to provide coordination between offices, particularly international mobility. She herself has a New York internship that is now possibly in jeopardy with the no-fly and quarantine effects, and understands students struggles.
Regarding the Spring Ball, Demichelis stated the Red Administration made the right call to postpone it as well, despite student criticism. The Community Development Officer likewise offered her support to the next administration in running freshers week, before ending the call with these closing remarks: “I would like everyone to keep calm – to try to follow as maximum as possible the classes online… So yeah, stay home, stay safe, and make sure to … keep up your schoolwork.”
Editorial Note: Featured Image courtesy of Newsweek.