The ANU has paused classes this week in order to remain ahead of the curve when responding to the continually evolving COVID-19 situation, characterising it as the single greatest challenge that the university has faced since its inception.
At the moment, the ANU’s highest priority during the pandemic is preventing community transmission. This means that their main goal is working to ensure the safety and health of students and staff, as well as ensuring that students are able to continue their studies during this difficult time. On Wednesday, it was announced that in order to prevent community transmission, the physical campus will be closed from Thursday 26 March and all classes will be moved online. While many specific aspects of the ANU’s response to COVID-19 are yet to be resolved, they have adopted a broad policy of ‘generosity and flexibility’.
The ANU has emphasised the danger of relying on unverified sources during this pandemic, urging students that all information regarding ANU’s response to COVID-19 should be sourced from the ANU itself, student media or ANUSA.
Beyond the obvious priorities of lessening the impacts of COVID 19, ANU has further established student wellbeing as a priority moving forwards. Creating plans to ensure the mental health of students was key to this. Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Grady Venville, notes that a wellbeing group has been focusing on ways to keep students engaged and happy. ANU Counseling services will also be continuing appointments and meetings through Zoom.
Financial wellbeing emerges as another priority. Travel bursaries have been given to those students stranded overseas. While future financial support for students is still being discussed, and will take some time to resolve, the ANU still aims to be generous and flexible.
More information surrounding these issues is expected to emerge following this week’s teaching pause.
Continuity in teaching also remains a high priority for the ANU, with a primary goal of keeping the university open as long as people are safe and healthy. This is especially important for students about to graduate, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor highlights that while there ‘might be a small group of students’ who find themselves unable to graduate this will not be a reality for most students. To help aid prospective graduates, intensive courses are being considered if necessary.
While the University is required by federal law to maintain a census date, the ANU is looking at adjusting policy to account for the virus’ impact.
Overall, the ANU emphasised that the safety and health of all people on ANU campus requires all students and staff to be extremely careful in adhering to social distancing measures and continuing to practice good hygiene.