“Our cure, to be no more; sad cure!”
– John Milton, Paradise Lost.
There are three major concerns that have been raised against the ANU’s proposed changes to the interhall residential community: The fee increases, the reduction in the number of returners to each College and the centralised allocation process.
All of the changes that have been proposed were formulated without the consultation of the heads of the respective Halls of residence, or the Interhall Council (IHC). It speaks to an alarming disrespect that the ANU has towards its students that at no stage during the planning of these controversial measures was the opinion of the students or their representatives sought in any manner whatsoever.
The boycott is occurring because the people taking part feel that they cannot in good faith tell prospective students to come to: A) a College system that will be made significantly worse off for these changes, and; B) a university that clearly does not value the input or agency of its students.
Residential accommodation fees will increase by 7% for self-catered accommodation and 5% for catered accommodation.
It is claimed that the rise has been made to help meet increased running costs, including building maintenance.
What could happen:
Rising fees seem to be an inescapable sign of the times. As per James Thompson’s open letter to Professors Baker, Hughes-Warrington and Dr Milnes, a majority of university students report living below the poverty line. While potentially unavoidable, these changes will only further serve to highlight the divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of the student body. It is disingenuous for the ANU to claim that they are concerned by the current number of residents from low SES backgrounds, about 1%, to then impose a significant fee increase on College residents.
There will be an ANU-wide shift in the balance of students who will be eligible to return to their College at the beginning of the year. The stated aim at the moment is to have 20% more beds available for new first year students. There will be a selection criteria to determine which returning students are deemed not worthy to return to their former homes.
It is claimed that this shift is designed to increase the number of first year students who are able to experience a College environment
What could happen:
With later year students providing much of a College’s sense of identity, a significant reduction in the amount of returners could lead to a College losing much of its sense of culture and that inexplicable ‘spark’ that makes College life so unique and vibrant.
More worryingly, there are significant pastoral care concerns regarding these changes. The number of Senior Residents within a College will not be able to cope with the sudden influx of 17 and 18 year-olds who are new to responsibility, maturity and alcohol. There are grave fears that instances of alcohol fueled violence and sexual assault will increase from the small number of instances that occur at present without the later year College members there to assist the team of Senior Residents at each College.
Finally there is every chance that, under these changes, students seeking to return after only one year of study will be denied that opportunity and told to rent or to find share-housing. Young people are particularly vulnerable to anxiety and other stress-related mental illnesses. The aforementioned changes increase the possibility of a grave scenario whereby 18-year-old students, who have spent less than a year away from home, will have their entire support network taken away from them and told to find a different place to stay.
The application process for each College will become centralised. Students will specify which College they wish to go to and will then be selected by ballot with no input from the Heads of the respective Colleges and Halls.
The centralised application process has been implemented to promote transparency in the application process and also to promote diversity in gender, degree structure and nationality throughout the Halls.
What will actually happen:
The Colleges will become homogenised and lose that character which makes them unique. If the heads of each respective College do not have the ability to select the students they believe will best contribute to the specific environment at their College, the Colleges will lose their individuality. The promotion of diversity is a cause that is supported amongst those who are boycotting. The issue is that there are better ways to implement an increase in student diversity amongst the Colleges . Due to the lack of consultancy the ANU has had with the relevant representative bodies, no compromise has yet been reached.
Giordano Borzuola is a Woroni Radio Sub-Editor and proud resident of Bruce Hall.