Residential Experience – ED Talk, October 8, Brian Kenyon Student Space

This talk focused around the on-campus residential experience for students.

ANU Students joined ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Young; Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington; Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience), Professor Richard Baker; and guest moderator PhD candidate (National Institute for Mental Health Research), Brad Carron-Arthur.

Professor Young

We have been around the university, talking to students and alumni about the residential experience at ANU. Many people have said what a wonderful experience it is, and that living on campus offers a great opportunity. We have about 5000 residents.

However, we are faced with challenges. Firstly we aren’t able to offer enough accommodation – only about a third of students are able to live here. This year we had to turn away 1600 students who wanted to live on campus but we did not have the space.

Other issues include the fact that many of the halls of residence are starting to approach the end of their lives now. It is very expensive for the university to maintain and bring them up to modern standards. We are faced with massive renovation costs or we will have to rebuild them.

We are looking for the best model to replace them

We are asking how we could go from 5000 to 8000 students living on campus. We are looking at styles of accommodation and the social side as well, how communities develop. We are seeking student input into what this could look like.

Question: Shifts in the demographics have changed the needs and character of the residences over the years. We have more first years now. Will the university ever reconsider how many residential advisors (RA) they have in the halls?

  • Professor Ian Young: We haven’t looked at changing the model for the lodges, but we could certainly look at that. We need to see if they can be designed to accommodate that. The lodges are designed for people with more independent living. In those residences it is not desirable to have too many first years. Our key issue though is that we desperately need to build new space to have more on offer.
  • Professor Richard Baker: We will have a 1 – 25 ratio for SA5. Each floor is designed around pods of 25 people so the SR ratio is going to be built into the physical layout. We also need to have a workable returners policy, and we are working through the best way to do that. We encourage students to move from a catered hall in their first year to a self-catered hall for the second year then to a group house in their 3rd or 4thyears. We are also looking for ways to keep involving students in their colleges once they leave. For instance there is the issue of sport and who can play for the hall teams. This brings up the rights of former students and plays into inter-hall rivalry. We are looking at how the new hall will affect sports.
  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: Many people are concerned about their rugby team. If the residence loses people the sport can suffer. It is important to rethink that sport structure so that people can participate once they leave.

Student comment: Older students encouraged to go on to rent. In a lot of ways the older year groups set the culture for the hall or college. There is increased pressure on the teams. If you don’t have support structures in place it can be harmful. The Senior Residents or Resident’s Advisors take on too much. At the same time, they will be confronted with pretty severe circumstances every so often. Taking away their support structures is a problem.

  • Professor Richard Baker: We have very high return rates. The changes we made this year lead to a reduction from around 72% returning to 66% of our students returning – this is still a remarkably high figure. One of our strengths is that later year students do stay on and take up leadership roles. We offer post-graduate and graduate wings. There is a pattern of people staying in the same hall but moving from undergraduate to graduate self catered wings. We need to get feedback from you on what works best. We do provide for older students to be academic mentors. We have some who ultimately become heads of halls.

Question: What is being done to help low SES students live in residential halls? How many equity scholarships are available?

  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: There is a range of bursaries available. We have assistance for people once they have started, and after they have started as well. We want as many people to know about these as possible. There is also emergency assistance for people who need that. We offer $46 million a year in different kinds of scholarships. In terms of these, domestic undergraduate scholarships are the most accommodated. International graduate students, have the least. We are now looking at the groups and what the gaps are.People often are not aware that equity scholarships are available or do not want to have them on transcripts. For this reason, we prefer to name them after people rather than naming them as equity support.

Question: We have questions around the Union Court new residence. Will it have the same standards as traditional halls, what will be done here?

  • Professor Ian Young: We have released the general concept plans for union court. A full blown project is being developed, with a new library. All sorts of things. The idea is to bring a critical mass of people into the area. One or two student residences will bring 700 students here.The university hasn’t defined what the model will be. It will be designed with input from students. We will look at the ratio of SRs. We are also looking at the price points – so that they are not out of reach—$200 rather than $500.

Question: The idea of putting colleges in University Avenue and Union Court led to feedback that this would change the nature of the area. A concern was that it will be the resident’s space, not “our” space. That it will change the feel.

  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: By having the ground floor as retail or whatever then we expect to get away from that. This place is presently quiet and possibly dangerous, students are sometimes fearful. The design principle is that activities will be going on that affect everybody.The other group that has been missed out is married students and graduates, they are among the least catered for. We are conscious that some groups are getting zero access to accommodation. Union Court will help to address that.

Question: Are there plans for the south area of the university, near the Menzies Library and Graduate House. Would we put more residences there?

  • Professor Ian Young: Planning is very difficult in those locations due to restrictions about height—buildings must not visible from the lake. This means that we can’t build things there. There are other reasons too, there are native grasslands and historic buildings. It is a very difficult part of campus to work with. Yes it is underutilised.
  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: We are working with the NCA to allow more scope on this part of the campus. The restrictions are such that at one point, some of the weatherboards had to be rebuilt in the same format for historical reasons. They are fiercely protected. We also want to keep the beautiful places, so that we preserve the most important part of the university for everybody.
  • Professor Richard Baker: Our intention is to focus activity in Union Court.
  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: Some students like activity and noise. It is actually desirable. So we aim to have a lot of choice, ranges, some quieter, some more active.
  • Professor Ian Young: We found that a lot of people seem to be wedded to where they are. At Toad Hall, they wanted it to stay graduate. At Fenner Hall, we suggested that we move people back onto campus and use the site for something else, but no, they wanted to stay there.We are also aware that a critical factor is the emotional attachment to the residences and what is involved with that. Therefore, change needs to be handled sensitively. For example at Bruce Hall, everyone loves the dining hall. This is one of our challenges – to capture these factors and transfer them into the new environment.

Question: Is there a clear policy about sexual harassment. I think that this is not clear at a lot of residences. It has occurred, and people have not known how to deal with it.

  • Professor Richard Baker: Yes, it is on the ANU website – there is a clear process. We provide support. It is intrinsic to all Senior Resident training. It is actually front and centre of the training. We could always do more to publicise that. We are working with the ANUSA women’s officer to get the word out. At ANU, we publicise that we have a problem, and that we are looking for solutions to make the campus as safe as we can. We first need to understand the nature of the problem. We need people to give information, and for the environment to encourage reporting. International students may not be aware or feel able to report it. There are structures in place for dealing for these situations.
  • Professor Ian Young: People need to step up – males need to have a role to say this is not acceptable and to intervene if they see it happening.

Question: A Senior Resident told me that they may report it, but then they don’t get debriefing. They don’t know what happens next. Also, is there a way to contest decisions made with head of halls?

  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: We take it very seriously and if it happens we deal with it. If you feel that natural justice wasn’t taken please contact Paul Newitt, and counselling as well.
  • Professor Richard Baker: University responds quickly and seriously to allegations. We will do whatever we can to deal with these situations.
  • Professor Ian Young: We really need to be able to encourage people to report incidents so we can address them. If people don’t report them, it is not possible for us to respond. I have confidence in Richard and Marnie to handle these situations appropriately.
  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: Richard and I are working with halls to say that people must speak out against harassment. We want everyone to encourage this positive environment.

Comment: The hall where I lived was not is equipped to handle mental health first aid. This needs to be included in the orientation for SRs. The managers also need to know how to handle these things. They don’t know where to go. What should come next after ‘are you OK’? What do we say?

  • Professor Richard Baker: ANU has been rolling out mental health first aid training. We will keep doing that. There are groups of students getting that training. We need people to be calling out – are you OK, developing this culture.  I have seen extraordinary leadership in this this year—ANU student initiatives. But there is more we can do in this space.

Question: O Week involves a huge effort for the halls. Now all of the domestic students get involved. ANUSA also. We are finding that events on campus are consistently clashing with hall events and college events.

  • Professor Richard Baker: There are university run events as well. I would say let’s look at it. Get the people together to talk about it. We should be having those discussions now. At the moment though, we don’t know who the Residential Hall O Week coordinators will be as they haven’t been appointed yet.
  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: Another issue is safety. The message here is that safe drinking is fine. We need to make O Week enjoyable for diverse groups so that everybody feels welcome.
  • Student: I think potentially an advantage is that residential halls are conveying what is on. This can be a major issue. O week directors will be announced soon. We need a collective calendar where people can see what is going on. Perhaps that is potentially an option to look at.

Comment: Earlier we mentioned inaccessibility of older halls. Some are not easy to get around if you have a disability.

  • Professor Ian Young: We address those things where we can. There is not a lot we can do without major refurbishment. Some people may need physical assistance.
  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: One of our biggest issues is lift shafts. In some it is not possible to improve it in these buildings with renovation. We would be better off building a new building and incorporating those elements. I would ask you to support us – accessibility is an important agenda.
  • Professor Ian Young – Once SA5 is built it will meet modern standards, we will preferentially place disabled people there if there are no other options.

Question: When was the last time all of campus accessibility audit of the whole campus was undertaken?

  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: I will need to take that on notice, and will feed the information back through the ANUSA representative.

Question: What is the time frame for the redevelopment of the accommodation?

  • Professor Ian Young: It is probably a ten year process, but please don’t hold me to it. We have held a session with University Council looking at this. It will cost lots of money, but we think we have a model to do it now. We are very concerned to see that we get it right. There are risks to manage here. We are looking at putting up a Position Paper in the first half of next year. We are determining which halls will be refurbished, which replaced and so forth. Some are Heritage listed – Toad Hall for instance, and University House.

It will take a while, for instance, SA5 won’t be ready until 2017.

  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington: The take away message is that we are committed to doing this.








Updated:  12 October 2015/ Responsible Officer:  Executive Director Administration & Planning/ Page Contact:  SCAPA