It was revealed on Tuesday, August 27 that the ANU Interhall Council (IHC) will be commencing a strike to coincide with ANU Open Day on August 31.

Involving all of the ANU’s residential halls (Burgmann and Johns in solidarity) and Griffin Hall, the strike aims to highlight issues with the ANU’s management of residential issues. Cited in a letter sent from the IHC to the ANU, the issues include the removal of Deputy Heads of Halls, changes to pastoral care structures, concerns around transparency, and the lack of consultation with students over key residential issues.

“We are trying to make it clear that we think our communities are places worth living in but that we are concerned about the direction the university is taking the communities we love,” said IHC and Bruce Hall President Callum Dargavel.

President of the Wright Hall association of members Jade Lin outlined that “the strike aims to bring these issues to the broader community and… to question the way things are done and hold the University to account.”

In response to the Open Day strike, the ANU has highlighted that it “is committed to giving all its students the highest-quality campus experience.” 

The ANU further outlined that the “Nous Review of ANU residences found a strong and positive culture in residential halls”, additionally describing that “most students have a high level of satisfaction with residential life.” However, they revealed that “the review also identified some areas of improvement.”

In addition to the issuing of a statement, the ANU sent a letter to the Interhall Council on August 28. The letter detailed that it received students’ concerns surrounding pastoral care systems in residences, including the issue of Deputy Heads of Halls, transparency and the level of student consultation on issues concerning the residences.

In response to these concerns, the letter outlined that the University is helping to resolve these concerns through six activities.

The first is the establishment of another student forum on Wednesday, September 11, which will include a “formal response to the issues raised at the first forum.” The response will cover issues such as “pastoral care, consultation and communication, and residence funding and budget transparency.”

Secondly, the University remains committed to the ‘Review of the new Residential model.’ The letter outlined that the review will examine “the Deputy Head role, roles and responsibilities of SRs, RAs and CCs, training and support for student leaders.”

Thirdly, the University is committed to “increasing the channels and opportunities for formal and informal engagement with various members of senior management within the Residential Experience Portfolio and the broader University Senior Management team.”

Fourthly, the ANU committed to improving transparency over how accommodation tariffs are spent, Outlining that “the operational budget for 2020 for each individual ANU Hall and Lodge will be provided to the Residents Committee at relevant residences.”

Fifthly, the University confirms that contracts will be changed from 43 to 45 weeks in 2020.

Lastly, the University commits to the release of individual recommendations of the 2019 Review of ANU Residences response to sexual assault and sexual harassment for each hall.

The action will see the Halls of Residence significantly cut back their engagement with Open Day. Student volunteers will distribute flyers to prospective students and their families, which will detail the grievances held by the students.

Each college will also present banners and displays that provide an opportunity for people to express the areas where the University can do better. Volunteers at each college will wear pink in solidarity with the strike.

The day of action comes in addition to a letter sent by the Presidents of Fenner, Wright, and Wamburun earlier in the year to Professor Calford (Provost), Professor Venville (Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic), Vice-Chancellor Schmidt and Ms Farrelly (Associate Director, Organisational Change). The letter outlined their concerns that the ANU’s removal of Deputy Head of Halls at Fenner, Bruce, Wright and Wamburun, would limit the successful implementation of the Nous Report recommendations.

Women’s co-officers Siang Jin Law and Nupur Apte said that on Open Day the “Women’s Department will be coordinating a series of actions that will convey our frustrations on how the university has consistently let down its students and especially so in the SASH space”. They are hoping that the action “might finally result in some real, substantial change.”

The University commented that “the ANU campus is a place where ideas are explored and contested,” and that “students are welcome to express their views peacefully, lawfully and with respect to others.”

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