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Edinburgh student suffers kidney damage after contracting Covid while at university

A petition has been made to challenge the way the university treats disabled students who cannot attend classes after Kerry Rush, a disabled non-binary postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, claims they contracted Covid from attending compulsory classes in March.

In March, Rush experienced Covid symptoms. They decided to self-isolate and requested permission to continue their studies via distance-learning. This request was rejected on the basis that Rush was required to provide a positive Covid test. This was before April, when testing was made available to members of the public showing symptoms. Rush was informed that unless they could provide evidence, they would be made to do additional work to compensate for classes and assessments missed.

They have since been experiencing severe long-term Covid symptoms. This means going in and out of the hospital to this day due to deterioration of their kidney function, which was found to be due to an underlying kidney disease they had not known about. By June, their kidney function was at 20%. A Crowdfunder was created to raise money for their hospital funds and a carer.

Kerry Rush said the damage caused by Covid led to “a number of new conditions, some of which are still being investigated”. When Rush missed their final course presentation a day after seeking medical attention after collapsing in their home, they “emailed [their] tutor as soon as possible explaining the situation”. However, the university told them they would need to do remedial work for this, without making them exempt from, or providing them with alternatives for, the assessment. Rush claims that students experiencing technical issues were made exempt from this assignment, whereas their acute kidney disease was not considered enough for exemption.

Kerry Rush states that: “Four years at Edinburgh University and it still baffles me that nothing has changed, at least not in my department of study, which makes it an active choice to perpetuate discriminatory practice. Disabled students are still treated as an inconvenience and given extra work labelled ‘remedial work’ when a class is inaccessible and therefore cannot be attended. I am still frequently misgendered despite having spoken one to one and as a group with both staff and students. I encouraged the department to engage in trans awareness training and to my knowledge, only one member of CPASS teaching staff attended, which is obscene when you consider it is the teaching staff delivering a module on Difference and Diversity.”

A petition has been made to challenge the way the university is ‘punishing’ Kerry Rush. It states that “the university has treated Kerry as a problem student rather than a person deserving of care and safeguarding, and that within our institution disabled, trans, and non-binary people are treated as second-class.

“What the university is doing to Kerry is exemplary of the university’s indifference and outright disdain for minority staff and students. We are asking the University of Edinburgh to acknowledge its repeated wrongdoings, and to take tangible action in order to prevent this from happening to any student ever again”. The petition then lists seven points of action for the university, including ‘concrete policies against ableism’ and a ‘formal apology.’

The university has suggested that Rush take a year out. A university spokesperson said: “The safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is the main priority for the university. We are committed to providing a positive academic experience for all of our students, and encourage anyone who is encountering difficulties to make these known to us. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the university has followed Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland advice at all times.”

Image: Artist CL Gamble

By Shin Woo Kim

Editor-in-Chief

Shinwoo (they/them) is a former News Editor. They identify as a Marxist-Leninist, and have written for Voices, News and Opinion and more recently for TV & Film.