Hipster man with red and black checked shirt sitting on a white bench.

The Blue Bus is Callin' Us, Driver, Where You Taken' Us

‘O! I can feel the cold earth upon me — the daisies growing over me — O for this quiet — it will be my first.’

We now know the fate of ANU Bar and the ANU Union. 52 years of students deciding what they want has come crashing down in a noxious cloud of asbestos and corporate authoritarianism. God’s has gone, and their decision to settle was ominous for the Union in the long run.

So, The End circles campus, slowly engulfing it. What’s next?

The dust will settle; it always does. For the first time, since they were flamboyantly painted, the bar’s seats will be allowed to creak in peace. The chatter of friends will no longer sweeten the creek’s air. The Refectory’s floor will be clean at 6pm. And the students will head back to their tutorials and Mooseheads.

With its closure, ANU Bar and the rest of the Union were replaced with a ‘Braddon style’ decking. Braddon’s shit, I know, I’m from Fenner Hall – I live next door. No bar goes off like our under-resourced Warren, even if it’s not allowed to serve spirits. Braddon’s a mix of young professionals and fledgeling, lost adults both too risk-averse to leave Canberra and too old to dance like nobody’s watching. Newly-minted DFAT employees searching for the most freshly pressed almond milk, closest hitching post for their fixie-bike, and an answer to whether their dream of saving the Barrier Reef is going to be accomplished by rubber stamping another coal mine.  In Braddon, they’re squeezing everyone in – lots of new residents, no neighbours though.

It’s a bit Flat, it’s a bit White.

A conglomerate of forces calling time on our ANU has ringed the ANU Bar’s death knell. An Instagramming generation trapped between a neoliberal government and an accountant-driven university.

Give me a rock and a hard place any day.

On every metric, the ANU stood top. Top of the rankings, with an out-of-class culture and relatively high contact hours. We turned down the rotating door method of the University of Melbourne, the UNSW’s queue-inducing light rail connections, and the UQ’s architectural glitz and glamour.

Squat, Soviet bungalows, small class sizes all situated on a leafy green campus. We’re the public-school kid receiving the perfect ATAR in a room of private school kids. We did the same, but we did it better.

Today is too warm to be so nostalgic, and I have too much to do. I should probably get back to studying. However, I’ve spent the last half an hour slipping into the serenity of Sullivan’s Creek, staring at something very far away.

I can’t stop thinking about a shitty green couch. It was a relic of the days when I had no siblings, and my parents hadn’t fully mastered the art of adulthood. We used to eat on it, sit there far too late on school nights, jump and cavort until I inevitably hurt my undeveloped body. Persistently there, consistently shitty, forever in the most sepia-toned of vignettes. Pay rises, more kids, and the creaks of age called the curtain on this Act in the King House. The mis-en-scène – that seminal couch – had to go; it offered nothing but memories, and we needed some Italian leather. I cried a lot, kicked a little, possibly bit – I could be a real shit at times. I may have made some sage arguments; I can’t have been older than six– how apt could they really have been?

When the day came, I hugged it, gripped every corner, cushion and cloth until the knuckles on my little hands were white.  But after some time, all that was left were four whitewashed-walls and a little boy hugging a green seat cushion; every other bit, down to the detritus down the sides of the couch had been binned.  That day The End came for me. Definitiveness has a way of tainting memories; you can’t save the page from the spilt ink. We forget how permanent change is in the ferocious passage of time. Forget to spend another day on the shitty green couch.

A biting, Canberra breeze takes me back to the fact this is probably it. Our End this time.

Our chance is over, ‘Deal with it dickheads’ was as close as we got to negotiations or a facilitated discussion. At least the Acadz bouncer assures you it will be for the best when he turns you away. Fake hope is hope of a kind. We can’t drag ourselves back to Mr Wolf, our Thursday night is over. We’ll just have to loiter in a building site for the next couple of years.

Now it’s time for ReUnion Court. Time to turn around, run backwards and join the others in Australian Higher Education’s race to the bottom.  

Does it make it any better if we think we’re going forward?

I hope the avocado in your $20 lunch is perfectly ripe, your chardonnay a palate-watering seven degrees Celsius and your parking spot closer to Copland. Only then might you be able to enjoy this new university you won’t be able to afford.