In my short four weeks at ANU, I could never have imagined that by now I would not only have been accepted into a community, but appreciated by one; that I would have developed a stronger sense of worth and identity than I have ever had, or felt that I deserved to have. Or that I would be proud to be a Fenner resident. Another thing I never would have imagined is this being put under threat. This community spirit and sense of home cannot be relocated, recreated, or rebuilt. And I don’t think its worth can be quantified by a dollar symbol. With this in mind, the ANU has two options; to destroy or to preserve. There is no middle ground, and destruction cannot be compensated by a new building. Community, unfortunately in this instance, is more than the people in the building. Fenner has come to be characterized by a unique amalgamation of an intangible community spirit, supported and harbored by the structural features of the building. Underpinning this is a strong institutionalized process that takes the spirit and building to create something that can’t be replicated.
A home with walls painted in humility. A common area furnished by friendship and camaraderie. The bricks laid with a mortar mixed with care, appreciation, and understanding. And a front entrance that once walked through, cannot be exited. Because once a part of Fenner, you are never without a home.
None of these qualities cannot survive without the other, and it is this symbiotic relationship that has fostered my love for ANU. Because ANU is a big place, and overwhelming place and ultimately, it is a lonely place without the existence of Fenner in its current state. The University is great, but it is made greater because of Fenner. It is that simple.
Without Fenner as a residential option, the ANU risks becoming an elitist university. This is particularly evident within the incongruent nature of the university’s aims and the practical measures being implemented to achieve them. It was stated that ANU has traditionally attracted two camps; those that are from Canberra, and those that can afford to move to Canberra. It was also posited that changing this is one of the University’s primary goals. However, as a student with a full study load in a double degree of Law and International Relations and who is completely reliant on parental allowance, the removal of Fenner is detrimental to the continuation of my studies at ANU and is an immediate deterrent to future students due to the raised costs.
Secondary to this is the local Braddon economy. I do not exaggerate when I say that Fenner is keeping Burger Hero, the local corner shop and the kebab store afloat. It is the small businesses that rely on Fenner and the revenue the 500 plus students bring that will hurt if the Fenner community is dismantled in 2018. I believe that if the current plans are to go ahead, a letter of warning and apology needs to be administered to affected businesses and responsibility needs to be taken for future consequences. I don’t believe that Fenner, and by extension ANU, has a duty to these businesses, but I do believe they have a role to play in their continuation.
The fact that Fenner is off campus only enriches the culture and experience. Apart from the added convenience for students, we get the feel of walking off campus and away from university troubles and demands. Moving Fenner onto campus devalue what Fenner can offer as a residential hall unlike any other.
As stated previously, it is all of these values, physical structures, and institutionalized systems that intertwine to form the very fabric that is unmistakably recognized as that of Fenner Hall. A fabric that is stitched with the thread of integrity and detailed by the hands of a legacy. Preserve, don’t destroy.