The ANU has released the findings of a review into the Division of Residential and Campus Communities commissioned by Richard Baker, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Student Experience, in July this year.

In response to structural and budgetary changes at the ANU, the report recommends various measures including the abolition of the Director and General Manager at DRCC, as well as all Heads and Deputy Heads of Hall, replacing them with new centralised positions. It also recommends aligning or even merging the residential selection and university admissions processes and bringing responsibility for residential accommodation under Student Services.

The review team was made up of two members external to the ANU and one ANU staff member not part of the area in question, consistent with standard practice. They were Gail White, Academic Registrar at the University of Newcastle, Brendan Mosely, Director of Campus Life at the University of Auckland, and Dr Paula Newitt, an Associate Dean at the ANU. The team consulted with members of the Executive, staff and student representatives.

Of the fifteen recommendations, the disestablishing of the Head and Deputy Head positions is likely to be the most controversial. The report suggests centralising the role into one Residential Manager position, citing overlap of duties and inconsistency in approach across residences. It also contends that the workload doesn’t justify both positions. Building on that recommendation, the report supports the idea of Academic Reference Groups to assist each Residential Manager with academic and community duties.

Professor Baker told Woroni that he didn’t know what the response would be like from the ANU community, and said it was “a complex review with strong opinions.”

In recommendation one, the review also asks a big question about the role and future of residential accommodation at the ANU. It recommends articulating a clear long-term strategy in order to determine the nature of the residences going forward and how they contribute to the experience of the entire ANU.

Woroni has been informed that the contents of the report caused significant emotional distress among some of the staff who could be affected, all of whom had a chance to speak with the university before the report was made public. We approached several relevant staff for comment but none were prepared to do so.

The report emphasises the effectiveness of student accommodation as the priority of the review, calling any budgetary savings a “secondary benefit.” Nevertheless, the report arrives in a climate of significant cost cutting university-wide. The university has not calculated how much money these changes would save.

Students and staff may question the significant changes recommended considering the “overwhelmingly and impressively positive” feedback about the status quo.

Professor Baker called on students to contribute to the process, saying that the university wants to “continue to provide the highest quality experience” in residential accommodation and students should be a part of that. He has apologised for the timing but wanted to gauge opinion before students leave campus for the year.

The university has stressed these are only “recommendations and not ANU policy in any way” and that they are not “bound to adopt them.” A series of consultation forums for both students and staff will commence this coming Monday 11 November. For the students who will have difficulty attending a forum due to exams, it is recommended they email feedback to suggestions@anu.edu.au. Students can register for the forums here. Any who aren’t residents of the halls, which have designated forums, are encouraged to attend the session at the Fenner School.

The full report can be found here.