Dr Ann Marie Mealey, Senior Teaching Fellow and Ethicist – Leeds Trinity University and co-chair of one of LCI’s partners, Leeds Citizens.

Ann Marie reflects on the impact of Covid-19 in universities and specifically asks what does a person-centred approach look like in practice in our faith-based universities struggling to stay open at the moment? Ann Marie’s reflections are relevant to other faith-based organisations. 

Here’s an extract of Ann Marie’s blog, which can be read in full here

The central premise of this blog is to emphasise that at this time the dignity of the human person is paramount in relation to what we put in place to support our students and how we relate to them and treat them at this challenging time. In the incarnation we find the most amazing example of God-made-flesh and dwelling amongst us. This means that the human is sacred, special, unique, worthy of irrevocable dignity. This is theological of course but, put differently, institutions built on
the Christian faith must put relationship and the dignity of the human person at the heart of their response to supporting students in teaching and learning throughout the COVID-19 crisis. This will require creativity, listening, dialogue with everyone -those of faith and none – dialogue with our competitors, and, most of all, deep dialogue with our students. We need to see more than ever before that this now a sacred task, requiring skill and a delicate understanding of how and in what new ways our moral compass is guiding us to respond, to teach, to be and to react to our vocation as educators.

“Social justice work does not stop just because we are on lock-down”

This moral compass is not confined only to the walls of the academy and the students. In this period of ‘lock-down’, there are ways that universities can still live out their civic roles even in a time of crisis. One way is to be virtually present in meetings in the communities where they are located at time crucial time. The work of Leeds Citizens– a subsidiary of Citizens UK – is an example of how Leeds Trinity University is still trying to support the city of Leeds during this difficult time. Social justice work does not stop just because we are on lock-down; the quest to create conditions in which all can succeed and flourish continues – even more so now that we are on lock down in different homes – some rich, some poor – some with internet, and some with not enough food in the fridge or isolated and alone.

We have to remember that a university that has ‘the person’ at its centre must not exclude the persons living in its surrounding areas. Now is an opportunity to embrace the civic and moral role of the university and extend our skills to the communities in which we live by offering freely what we know and what we do best as we try to find new ways of living, shopping, surviving, working and worshipping.

In this period of lock down Leeds Citizens and Citizens UK are taking action for the common good in a variety of ways including:

  • Campaigning for key workers like carers, supermarket workers, and hospital cleaners receive the real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour (£10.75 per hour in London).
  • Working with schools and education partners to persuade supermarkets and Government to ensure no child on free school meals goes hungry if schools close.
  • Lobbying the Mayor of London to speak out for those migrants for whom a loss of income could jeopardise their immigration claim.
  • Brokering links between Facebook and faith leaders to provide additional online support to Facebook for those believers who cannot attend their place of worship at this time.

Leeds Trinity University – a founding member of Leeds Citizens – is part of these discussions and is supporting this work at this difficult time. I can’t help but feel this is a time when ‘love thy neighbour’ is taking on a new meaning – the implications of which will become evident only in the aftermath of this crisis.

Anne Marie’s blog can be read in full here.