Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, sent the following message to University staff and students today (24 February 2021):
"Dear students and colleagues,
Two things stood out at the University of Iceland this week. Firstly, we welcomed a very positive development as public health restrictions were relaxed, providing additional scope for our work here at the University of Iceland. Secondly, a powerful earthquake swarm began on Wednesday morning on the Reykjanes peninsula, which naturally caused fear and anxiety for a lot of people.
To address the pandemic first, we here in Iceland are in a unique position as the European country with the least coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants. These numbers cover the last two weeks. Among other factors, this is thanks to our united efforts to respect the rules set by the public health authorities. I urge you all to keep going now.
It is important to fully familiarise yourself with the latest regulation from the Minister of Health and what it means for universities. I would also like to draw your attention, dear students, to the fact that University of Iceland faculties, study programmes and individual members of teaching staff are responsible for organising teaching on the basis of this regulation.
The significant seismic activity that we experienced this week highlighted once more the importance of well-educated specialists in the earth sciences for us as a nation. Our scientists have pointed out that the release of tension in the Earth's crust on Reykjanes peninsula, which has built up over the decades, may increase the risk of further earthquakes close to the capital area. Buildings here in Iceland are generally built to withstand earthquakes such as those that occurred on the Reykjanes peninsula. But we may have to take action to make sure our surroundings are safe. We want to encourage everyone to think about their workspace with this in mind. For example, do not keep heavy objects on top shelves. In particular, we should check shelves and cupboards where chemicals are stored, as well as making sure that gas cylinders are firmly secured. I urge you all to read the Department of Civil Protection's instructions on how to respond to an earthquake. I would also like to remind you all of the psychological services available at the University, if anyone is experiencing anxiety due to the events of this week.
I have previously said that knowledge is the currency of the future and this is certainly key to the Digital University Day that will take place tomorrow, on Saturday. People will have the opportunity to explore the programmes on offer at all Icelandic universities through hundreds of live online meetings. A huge amount of work has gone into preparing for this event over the last few weeks and a lot of students and staff members have contributed. Many of them will be giving presentations on study programmes and field questions in open online meetings tomorrow. I would like to express my wholehearted gratitude for this vital work. This Digital University Day is an experimental measure due to COVID-19, but it also represents new and exciting possibilities for people to explore their options for higher education irrespective of where they are in the country. I wish you all luck on this important day tomorrow.
We will also be broadcasting a live talk show tomorrow, which has been given the title Science plainly put. A number of scholars from the University will be in the Aula to discuss their work and research, as well as an informal chat about their interests.
I encourage you all to watch and thanks to everyone involved in this project.
Dear students and colleagues, A busy weekend lies ahead for many of us, but I ask you to take care and focus on the positive.
Have a good weekend.
Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector