Wright Hall’s returners process has seen two thirds of accommodation offers for 2021 given to first year students. Lachlan Ballard, Wright Hall President, is “extremely devastated” and “disgusted” about this outcome. He also noted that a number of high contributing, highly valued residents were denied a returner contract for next year.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the ANU’s first year accommodation guarantee, has meant that many on campus students have not received returner contracts at their current residence. This has been the case particularly at catered residences, where ANU sees the highest demand from applicants. Around 200 students applied to return to Wright in 2021, yet the ANU gave out only 111 offers to return. Wright’s current COVID capacity is 315 (reduced from 428), meaning that 204 – almost two thirds – of Wright accommodation offers for next year are being held open for 2021 first years.
Wright is a new Hall, first opening in 2018. Ballard comments that “many of the current residents have worked tirelessly over the last few years to build Wright’s culture”. Ballard highlights the continuity of Wright’s culture is dependent on strong returners, who are needed to set the tone and lead the incoming first years. He fears that Wright’s culture will be gutted by the ANU denying so many returner applicants. Ballard raised further concerns that rejection of so many returner applications contradicts ANU’s continued defence that building a residential culture is an effective response to reducing rates of sexual violence on campus.
Ballard also notes the loss of residents in senior leadership roles. This includes SRs who have performed life saving work this year. This loss lead to speculation that the returners process was randomised. However, when asked whether the returner contracts for ANU Accommodation were determined by some form of randomised or ‘lottery’ system, an ANU Spokesperson clarified that “the Residential Heads based their selection on your involvement in the community in 2020, the diversity of the community for 2021 and any particular needs to return”.
An ANU spokesperson explained that the reduced returner rates for 2021 were caused by a combination of “high demand of returner applicants”, “high demand from first year guaranteed students” and “reduced occupancy levels in our on campus residences” due to COVID-19. However, they clarified that the vast majority of returners were given an offer for on campus accommodation, but that it was not necessarily at their current residence. During the returners application process, the ANU allowed residents to select three accommodation preferences, in order to “maximise the opportunity for returners to live in on-campus accommodation for 2021”. Thus, returner applications indicating only one preference for on campus accommodation were the only ones who did not receive an offer.
They also clarified that pre-COVID, 60% of on-campus residents returned, whereas roughly 50% per cent of students will be returners for 2021. They framed this as an “impressive outcome, given the complex and acute challenges we face as a consequence of the global pandemic, as well as demonstrating the University’s commitment to accommodating as many first-year and returning residents as we can and ensuring cultural continuity in our residences.”
In terms of whether more returners spots will open up when some Year 12s eventually decline their offers, an ANU spokesperson clarified that they have currently over-offered returner places in the belief that some Year 12 applicants will decline or later withdraw their offers. The ANU has also allocated sufficient space for the September and December rounds of Year 12 offers. However, if more people withdraw or decline their offer, the extra spots will then be offered to returner applicants who previously missed out.