Like all residential halls, Burgmann College – my college – has its own culture, sense of community, and reputation. It’s renowned as a predominantly arts/law college with students mainly coming from the private schools of Sydney’s North Shore or Melbourne’s inner east.
But when the college announced that its first-year intake for this year would include more students outside the Sydney/Melbourne/Law demographic, I had mixed feelings. ‘More rural science students, like me’, I figured. Diversity can’t be a bad thing, surely?
But then I thought back to my first year, where I struggled to fit in amongst people of an entirely different demographic. Not having many people study my subjects, I found it hard to get a study support network around me, and on an emotional level, I felt that I couldn’t relate to those who had a very different schooling experience to me. It’s just a totally different world.
ANU has already seen what can happen when students feel isolated from the rest of the student population. In the last edition of Woroni we saw that some international students recognise they have “a higher rate of academic misconduct, are often insular, and have been shown to sometimes falsify the transcripts and English language requirements they use to gain admission to ANU”.
The problem is so severe, in fact, that every ANUSA ticket in the last few elections has focused on addressing the engagement and integration of international and otherwise estranged students into the rest of the ANU student body.
When you are disconnected from people around you, everything becomes an effort. You stop going out, stop playing sport, even group work makes you anxious. Your uni experience becomes simply awkward. You begin to resent your peers and university, until you become so depressed and twisted that university becomes a lonely nightmare.
ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt has said on more than one occasion that he wishes for ANU to have more students from interstate, especially those from rural areas. He’s also expressed his desire for ANU to be the “Ivy League” of Australia.
With a vision which sees ANU become more elite however, as university fees and entry mark requirements increase, are we really doing the best thing by these students, throwing them into an unsupportive environment, just for the sake of diversity?
Imagine an ANU where the fees are so large that only those from privileged backgrounds can attend. An ANU where the ATAR entry requirements are so high that only those that attended the best high schools can enrol. Imagine an ANU where the only ‘diverse’ students we have are the select few lucky enough to be on a full scholarship to come here.
Whilst I want ANU to be a prestigious and world-leading university, I also don’t want “diversity” to be nothing more than dumping our students into a hostile world without a lifeline.