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Apology email - Dr Helen McCarthy - 13/01/21

Response issued to ITV - Thursday 14 January 2021

In light of the incident, Dr McCarthy was asked to stand down by the Head of School as Chair of the School’s undergraduate Extenuating Circumstances Committee, as we recognise the importance of retaining student confidence in that procedure. Dr McCarthy is no longer involved in extenuating circumstances considerations.

Email sent to all students on BI3354 Advanced Anatomy on behalf of Dr Helen McCarthy - Wednesday 13 January 2021

Dear students,

Many of you will have seen the recent media coverage in relation to my private comments.

Much of the coverage and related social media commentary is based on an edited video of a private conversation that was never intended to be shared publicly or intended to cause offence at a particularly difficult and stressful time for you all. I regret if my comments caused any offence to those students, in particular, who chose not to attend the live teaching session that day.

I apologise if some students felt offended by my statement as it appeared in the edited video, it was certainly not my intention to cause any hurt to anyone.

However, I do feel that it’s necessary to correct what has been inaccurately reported. I did not state that students were ‘idiots for wanting a Safety Net Policy’; those that have viewed the recording, will recognise this.

Whilst I regret the way I articulated my frustrations, I believe that non-attendance of lectures does have a negative impact on your learning, as you miss out on precious teaching time.

I also recognise that many of you are deeply frustrated with the current situation, and you are perfectly entitled to call for additional safety net measures to be put in place, but lectures are not necessarily the right forum to raise such concerns.

Fundamentally, I want you all to benefit from all the engagement and learning opportunities available to you – especially given the challenging learning environment that you’re experiencing. I understand the University has now reviewed its safety net policy in light of concerns expressed by students and will be outlining changes shortly.

With regards to comments I made regarding exam format, a longer time availability does not lead to a better exam performance, quite the contrary, and it can cause undue stress to students. This is why the duration of this year’s ‘open book’ exam is in line with the pre-2020 years, with an extra hour added to the three-hour exam to allow for downloading/uploading exam time.

Those that know me will understand that many of the comments that have resulted from the media coverage do not reflect my personal commitment to your education and wellbeing.

This has been a difficult time for both staff and students, and it is unfortunate that this private conversation has been taken out of context and made public in this way.

I fully empathise with those students that have understandably been upset by this media report, and I apologise if, like me, you were hurt by this article.

I don’t intend to make any further comment, but I am always happy to discuss concerns directly with my students.

I want to reassure you that I remain absolutely committed and determined to do everything possible I can to support your studies.

Very best wishes

Statement issued 12 January 2021

We are aware of these comments. Such comments do not represent the official view of the University or the School and we apologise for any offence that has been caused. We are currently reviewing the policy and support that makes up the University approach to safety net. In the meantime we would encourage any student who is experiencing difficulties with their studies to access the support and advice that is available at both School and University level. We are investigating, and it would be inappropriate to comment further until our investigations have concluded.