“… And as we all know, Fenner is renowned for the best flat-white on Northbourne Ave.” Brian Schmidt’s dramatic announcement is met with roaring applause at Fenner Hall’s Commencement. Brian’s attendance and speech had every Fenner resident glowing, we felt special. No other Vice Chancellor has paid such attention to our often-overlooked, off-campus gem. This attention and friendship was especially exciting, considering his off-hand sass directed at UniLodge.
A few short weeks later, Schmidt makes another applause-worthy announcement. “I don’t want to come out with any surprises! I want to consult with the student leaders, and have absolutely no surprises.” Confusingly, this statement immediately preceded the exciting surprise that Fenner will be demolished and its residents moved to SA5, where there has been no guarantee of a café (that we know of) and hence no chance to make Schimdt those Northbourne flat-whites he loves so much. Oh, and the building is a UniLodge – or managed by UniLodge at least.
Importantly, however, Schmidt promised to consult with the student leaders. This consultation is probably why he decided to announce that Fenner residents “don’t care who change their light bulbs”. Many residents struggled to pinpoint the exact student leader that was consulted on this point. Any respectable Fenner resident knows that the maintenance team, with beloved frontrunner Bruce, and the cleaning team, with ‘banterous,’ ‘Fumba’* enthusiast manager Priscilla, are vital components of the Fenner community. There doesn’t seem to be many actual light bulbs in Fenner rooms, but in any case it seems that residents are pretty sure they’d rather Bruce be changing them rather than an at times, perhaps impersonal UniLodge employee. No Fenner resident seems to know which student leader Brian consulted about demolishing the building, either, but surely Schmidt was true to his word on this point.
Brian Schmidt is, after all, a friend of Fenner. All residents know that his espoused connection with the community at Commencement had no ulterior motive, so Fenner decided to hear him out on some cold hard facts about the benefits of moving to SA5. Schmidt explained that Fenner was an old building, and that ANU has to spend “tens of millions of dollars” on repairs! This really stopped Fenner residents in their tracks; 10 million dollars is a huge amount to spend, especially when the ANU already owes from the loan they took out to build the 53 million dollar SA5! ANU also doesn’t want to keep pooling money into Fenner as the land is leased. This puzzled residents, seeing as ANU is happy to sell their assets to investors and eventually ‘buy them back’, effectively creating another lease situation.
The facts about the expensive maintenance bills definitely convinced Fenner residents to accept the move to SA5, and even applaud the $50 rent increase that will be experienced every week. It’s all worth it for the ANU to save on those maintenance bills; who doesn’t love being a bit frugal after all!
There is also a small issue about the 1500 bed spill over from the 2016 accommodation guarantee, and the fact that moving Fenner residents to SA5 will reduce the number of beds created from approximately 1060 to 560.
However, we are all sure that the ANU has an in-depth strategic plan all mapped out. It is slightly concerning that the strategic plan doesn’t involve any information about when/where other new residential halls will be built (for those 1500 beds in demand), how Fenner will keep their culture in SA5 without any of the same physical aspects (including the café), how Schmidt expects college life to remain affordable for low SES students etc. etc. but I guess that makes the future all the more exciting and surprising!
*Fumba = Fenner Zumba