On-campus students voiced their concerns regarding the ANU’s management of student accommodations at a forum held on Monday night.
Cuts to pastoral care, a lack of administrative accountability and consultation with students, and increases to accommodation tariffs and contracts emerged as the most significant areas of concern.
Dozens of residents from many of ANU’s halls attended the hour-long event. The forum was an opportunity for students to voice their opinions on a series of decisions made by the ANU relating to the management of on-campus accommodation.
Pastoral care was a central point of discussion. Issues raised included the removal of the Deputy Head of Hall position at halls, as well as the disproportionate senior resident to student ratio.
The limited response to last year’s Review of ANU Residences’ Response to Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment was an area of strong opposition from students, as was the underrepresentation and insufficient acknowledgment of the needs of international students.
Fiscal and administrative transparency were also themes around which students raised concerns, with many students voicing dissatisfaction with the level of information currently provided to them.
These concerns were paired with a criticism that residents were left out of discussions surrounding increases to contract length. A decision, according to students present at the forum, allowed the university to increase residential contracts by two weeks without the direct consultation of students.
ANU representatives in attendance included Chief Operating Officer Chris Grange, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Grady Venville, and Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor (University Experience) Professor Tony Foley. Their response to the queries and criticisms of students was broad given the number of issues raised, yet acknowledged both the significance of the problems presented and the importance of student involvement in solving them.
Mr Grange made commitments to expand transparency measures and update pastoral care models. Though, according to Mr Grange, the increases to the length of residential contracts were not able to be revised. A further forum to discuss the concerns of residents in more depth is slated to occur within the next three weeks.
The forum comes after a letter obtained by Woroni was sent to the Bruce Hall community by Mr Grange in November 2018. The letter outlined that the “residents of the Halls will be invited to provide feedback and be consulted” as part of a review of the “proposed staffing structures for the new Bruce Hall.” A “similar structure [was] also proposed for Wright Hall.”
It was acknowledged by Mr Grange in the letter, that the review “need[ed] to be done before the University finalises the tariffs for 2020,” and that he “imagine[d] the review will, therefore, take place towards the end of semester 1, 2019.” After being questioned on the discrepancy between the proposed date of the review and the forum itself, Mr Grange ensured that any future commitments would be honoured.