On Monday 17th August, Vice-Chancellor Ian Young announced plans for a new $53 million residential student building, aiming to house an extra 500 students in on campus accommodation, with construction hopefully finished by the end of 2017.
Emphasising affordability, Young stated that the new residence would be self catered, with multiple communal self-service kitchens that would help provide a social atmosphere echoing that of a traditional residential hall.
It is to be built on the corners of Clunies Ross St, Dickson Rd and Daley Road, and will be “architectural statement – high class accommodation designed for the future.”
“The new residence will be built on an unutilized part of the ANU campus, and will be one of the cheapest forms of accommodation at the ANU”, Young expressed, acknowledging an awareness of the high costs of living that students have to deal with.
Ben Gill, ANUSA President, stated that the “price will be in between that of current offerings – more expensive than B&G or Fenner, but less than a catered college.”
With the ability to live on campus a valued aspect of the student experience, and one that often draws students to the ANU, demand for affordable on campus student accommodation is high. 5000 students currently live in student accommodation and Prof. Young stated that student input, consulted mainly in 2014, had shown that traditional residential halls were the most desired form of new accommodation.
This consultation included “looking at type, layouts, and student requirements”, expressed Gill, “however, at this stage this particular building was not in the pipeline and as such this was more of an information exercise.”
Vice President of ANUSA, James Waugh, said that although the consultation was ‘brisk’, options discussed were wide, and included “discussion about features and aspects such as how big the room should be.”
Many students have raised concerns about the new building being managed by Unilodge, which currently manages 4 student accommodation buildings, alluding to less community engagement, as well as citing high ratios of residents to pastoral care officers creating issues with access and fluidity of mental health services, however Gill stated that this wouldn’t be the case.
“The pastoral care will be on par to other Daley Road Colleges, which is around 30 students per pastoral carer”, he said, although an ANU spokesperson stated, “the University is yet to determine the details of how the new hall will operate or how leadership positions will be decided.”
Samuel Guthrie, former Unilodge Residential Committee (ResCom) President and SR, stated that in his experience, Unilodge at ANU management’s commercial structure unfortunately did not always show interest in the wellbeing of residents.
“Leaders of the community who should be tasked with supporting residents are stuck managing finances, achieving KPIs, and ensuring customer satisfaction. “
“From attempting to force SRs to complete functions such as cleaning the bicycle sheds and organising the keys to entirely ignoring issues of mental health, I have seen management toe lines that nauseated me.”
Current President of the Unilodge ResCom, Rory Jay, addressed concerns of lack of engagement within Unilodge buildings.
“The architecture of the buildings does mean residents can live privately within the community if they wish, but a lot of successful efforts are made from our leadership team, management and residents to get as many people engaging with the community as possible.”
“Ultimately, our living style does offer freedom of choice, where residents can engage in the community, but not feel pressured when they don’t want to.”
As the University does not have the intake numbers for 2017, an ANU spokesperson said that they would be unable to comment on the rates of returners and new admissions for that year.