Letters to Brian

Over the holidays, the students of the ANU decided to give our new Vice-Chancellor a helping hand, and write letters telling him how they wanted their university to be run. The full collection of these letters is published below.

Your Excellency,
You’ve said before that you want to keep the ANU a small university by Australian standards, with a greater number of students coming from interstate. You have also said that the ANU is close to Ivy League standard, and under your leadership, you hope to make the ANU into a world leading university.
But doesn’t your behaviour contradict these visions? Why spend millions of dollars building new student residences if you intend to keep the ANU small? We’ve just offered more early offers to high school leavers than ever this year, most of whom are from the Canberra region.
As we become more “elite” like the Ivy League, won’t we be making it harder for students from rural towns and state schools to get into the ANU? Shouldn’t we be focusing on improving services for our current students rather than making it harder for future students? I personally don’t want to see the ANU to become the next Harvard where only the richest of the rich or those who got the best marks by going to the best private schools can enter.
I’m worried that your visions for the ANU will be conflicting, and it will be the current minority students who will lose out.
A concerned rural student

Dear Brian,
I’m thirsty. Not thirsty for knowledge, no. The $150 Evidence textbook sitting on my desk next to me is enough knowledge. I’m thirsty for a drink. Each Thursday afternoon, I frequent the bar to catch up with friends and wind down after a long week of law lectures and head scratching.
I’m thirsty for some of your wine, Brian. I’ve been on the waitlist for the Maipenrai Vineyard for two years now, narrowly missing out due to the email notification being filtered to my spam folder.
I dream of this Nobel Prize Pinot Noir. When can we expect to see this wine in cask at ANU Bar? When will the bartenders pour me a glass of this wine that has been making headlines? There’s a shortage of wine being served, and it’s a niche for you to fill.
Albert

Dear Professor Schmidt,
Your recent appointment as Vice-Chancellor brings renewed hope for all who care for the future of the ANU School of Music. The School needs your urgent attention if the ANU is to retain any integrity as an institution which values quality education.
With no instrumental teachers, no symphony orchestra and an extremely fragile staff situation, the ANU no longer offers competitive music degrees by either Australian or international standards. Enrolment is at an all-time low and standards have plummeted lower than even secondary school programs.
This is not just about music. It’s about academic integrity. The appalling treatment of staff and consequent impact on students has demonstrated apathy toward education and a preoccupation with cutting costs.
Professor Schmidt, please make the ANU about quality education, not saving money. Either that, or stop pretending the ANU values learning. What you do to the School of Music will show Australia what your true priorities are.
Matthew Ventura

Dear Vice-Chancellor Schmidt,
Please take the ANU down a path where we not only strive to be excellent, but also be accessible to students across the nation. Implement a Disability Action Plan, and thereby demonstrate the ANU’s commitment to students and staff with disability. Increase the percentage of low SES students at ANU, and thereby demonstrate the ANU’s commitment to being a truly national university by including students from all states and backgrounds.
I love the ANU, and I know you do too. It’s because I love the ANU that I know it can do better, and be better. Carry out your promises to consult students, and listen to them about what they want the ANU to become. Only together can we make the ANU great again!
Yours sincerely,
Tom Kesina – the ANUSA Disabilities Officer

Dear Professor Schmidt,
I am the child of an immigrant and spent a third of my life living in China. You often talk about your desire to make the ANU into an elite university – a desire that ANU students share. However, I fear that, due to financial considerations, you will overlook the current and potential effects on international students at the university.
In 2013 international students comprised 26% of ANU’s student body, and yet they have a higher rate of academic misconduct, are often insular, and have been shown to sometimes falsify the transcripts and English language requirements they use to gain admission to the ANU. I do not wish to slander all international students – by and large, they are each excellent members of the university, but I believe they are generally detrimental to the academic and creative standards that you wish for the ANU, so I implore you to lower international student numbers.
G. G. Bo

Dear Brian Schmidt
I thought leaders weren’t supposed to invest in fossil fuels. I thought leaders would take 82% of students seriously when they voted no to these investments. I thought leaders avoided losing millions of dollars by gambling public money on stranded assets. I thought leaders believed scientific consensus and acted on it. I thought leaders were above profiting from wrecking the planet. I thought leaders listened to the voices of the vulnerable whose lives are endangered by rising sea levels and natural disasters. I thought leaders put principles before profits. I thought leaders prioritised the viability of life on earth. So now you’re VC we want to know: are you a Thought Leader?
Yours truly,
Fossil Free ANU

Dear Brian Schmidt,
It’s with a warming welcome that we, your loyal friends from the fossil fuel industry, offer to you some wisdom we’ve passed down to many VCs: don’t listen to your head, or for that matter your heart. Listen to your Swiss bank account. 2016 is the year we’ll commit to you, if you commit to us. Think of the things we could accomplish: reefs to be dredged, global temperatures to increase, profits to be made. Together, we could rule the universe. This is why we invite you to a Recommitment Ceremony where you can enjoy the sand and sea on a Libyan oil rig. As you once quipped: “it’s easier to sell your wine when you have a Nobel Prize.” The same, one might say, applies to our deep and fruity coal, with its subtle touch of now extinct trees.
With love,
The Minerals Council of Australia

Dear Schmidt,
How are you? I’m fine.
Science has blessed the world with some amazing discoveries (ziplock bags, penicillin, you) and will continue to do so for millennia. On the matter of discipline-targeted funding, there’s no denying the right of the Science faculty to significant portions of the university wallet. But please, my dear Schmidt, don’t thin the blood of our Arts departments. Equations may explain the expanding universe, but painting the stars is done by brush.
I know you’ll do fine, my dear Schmidt. I trust your judgment. You and your sensual, Montanan voice will take us further up the world ladder; just make sure you don’t leave some of us behind.
Faithfully yours,
Callum Florance

Dear Dr Schmidt,
I am very excited to have you as our Vice Chancellor and look forward to the changes and progress that will follow. Below are a few of the changes that I and many other students have thought would benefit the ANU campus.
You should replace mandatory course requirements with assumed or recommended knowledge. With the advent of online learning and personal study, a student should be the one who decides whether they are fit to take a course. Furthermore, with the decrease in lecture attendance and increase in online learning, the current online learning systems (such as Wattle) require a vast re-design both under-the-hood and regarding its interface to further facilitate the increasing demand.
The ANU is a large and vibrant campus, often titled as Australia’s top university, with a large domestic and international community. Within it, a vast number of students are active both day and night. As such there are a number of improvements that could benefit both students and faculty, such as 24-hour coffee shops (the most voted for proposal on Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app) and a 24-hour grocery store, student accessible produce gardens, as well as weekly/monthly farmers markets.
Lastly, we need innovative and world-class on-campus accommodation. For the ANU to be a world-class university, we need world class students/faculty, and often a student’s first interaction with university is their college. There colleges are where at least half of new students’ time is spent, so it makes sense that there be the highest quality of service in these institutions.
Benjamin Maclaren

Ode to Schmidt:
The finest institute in the country we claim to behold
But in two ways we do naught but fold:
The opportunities we have to be sloshed and jolly
Have been foiled by some past leader’s folly
King’s cup in a dark room with only a select few
Blinds drawn, door barred, room hushed, game ensues.
The merriment that follows is far from its potential
But this could be fixed by a man with credentials
If a certain vice chancellor by the name of Schmidt
Would kindly allow us to play games when we drink.
We would certainly buy a bottle of his revered stuff
and put it to good use inside a giant cup.
My second request from Mr Brian
is if we could have on campus some iron
in the form of a see-saw, a slide or a swing
some equipment, it could be pretty much anything
so instead of spending our time between classes
in the library or co-op sitting on our arses
we could swing on a swing or slide down a slide
and I’m sure then in lectures we’d be much less tired.
And so alas I come to the end of my rhyming
in which I know I’ve butchered the timing
But please sir, take heed of my requests
and in history you’ll go down as one of the best.
(please abolish the no drinking games rule and please put some play equipment in on campus)
Caitlin McLeod