On the 18th of March, Bruce Hall residents held an unsanctioned party without the approval of the hall, known as a ‘Shadow’ event. Though an unofficial staple of Bruce culture, the event did not go to plan. Instances of unsafe drinking, ambulances being called, and reported hazing have attracted significant attention in subsequent weeks. 

Several rumours, often inaccurate, have spread throughout the University in the event’s fallout. ANU and Bruce have both made statements denouncing Shadow, disciplining students, and distancing themselves from the events.

This article will not explicitly detail what transpired that Monday night. Instead, Woroni examines Bruce Hall’s historic administrative approach towards such Shadow-enabled events. 

What is Shadow?

Shadow is the name given to an unofficial, student-led, event organising group at Bruce Hall. The ‘Shadow Committee’, which is composed mostly of second year residents, holds semi-frequent parties open to all residents.  

It has no links to either student or Hall leadership. 

Because Bruce Hall does not formally recognise Shadow, its events are not subject to the same requirements or organising processes that the hall’s official events are. Instead, Shadow events are held and organised by students informally, without any oversight of the Hall.  

What transpired on 18 March?

The Shadow event at which the incident occurred can be understood as an annual occurrence. Beforehand, participants were asked to sign a form acknowledging that they knew drinking would be an integral part of the night. It was also advertised as an opt-in event. 

It began in the evening at Bruce, where first-year residents were split into small groups, each led by an older student. 

Woroni understands that experiences of the night varied amongst participants, especially during the group events. 

Problems began to arise when large numbers of residents – predominantly first years – became highly intoxicated, very quickly. Some allege this was due to peer-pressure, unsafe drinking games, and a lack of sober supervisors.

Reportedly, later-year Bruce residents were forced to step in to manage the out-of-control event. Some relatively sober junior residents were instructed to watch over their incapacitated peers due to a shortage of first-aid and alcohol safety trained organisers. 

Eventually, ambulances were called. Woroni understands that no students were transported to hospital. 

One of the most storied aspects of the night was the alleged use of a defibrillator. Woroni has been assured by multiple residents present at the event that it was taken out as a precaution, and was not used.

How have Bruce and ANU managed Shadow?

In many ways, the Shadow event was an exhibit of reckless student behaviour. 

Though the results were highly unfortunate, with many Bruce residents reporting to feel unsafe or intimidated, students allege Bruce administration is no stranger to incidents of this kind. 

As mentioned, Shadow has a long history at Bruce, as do their events. 

Many residents within the hall allege that the hall’s admin is fully aware of Shadow, knows what it does, and knows how its events are organised. 

For many students, it is their belief that hall’s administration has over time developed something akin to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regards to the organisation. 

In the past, Shadow events have prompted a degree of controversy, leading the organisation to face harsh public denouncements and promises of action by Bruce and the ANU. 

In 2022, following a spate of SASH incidents at Shadow events, Bruce and the ANU “asked this unsanctioned group to discontinue.” At the time, the Shadow Resident Committee was found to encourage “anti-social behaviour and exclusiveness” such as “excessive drinking [that was] perceived as ‘cliquey’ or only accepting of people who fit into particular social practices or groups.”

An ANU spokesperson confirmed that the event “was not organised or supported by the ANU.”

They emphasised that “the university actively educates all students…on the risks of excess drinking.”

What next?

It is unclear what the future of Shadow will be. In their statement to Woroni, the University maintained that “the ANU has taken appropriate disciplinary measures against the organisers.” 

Some Bruce Hall residents expressed concern that allowing Shadow to continue unsanctioned could lead to repeats of this event in the future. 

The organisation has to exist “in the shadows”, students say, because of the Hall’s refusal to recognise it. However, if the organisation operates without the formal approval of the Hall, the events will continue without proper safeguards, increasing risk to students’ wellbeing.

Some residents expressed anger towards Bruce Hall and the University, questioning why students are the only ones to face consequences for Shadow’s shortcomings, despite their belief that Bruce and the ANU have been aware of these issues for years.

One Bruce resident suggested to Woroni that if the Hall or the University were to permit Shadow, further unfortunate events could be avoided in the future.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.