B&G Residents Dismayed by “Twisted” Eagle Rock Coverage
This story contains mention of sexual harassment.
Burton and Garran Hall has been thrust into the spotlight in the past fortnight, with national news organisations reporting on the now-infamous ‘Eagle Rock’ incident. This coverage has been to the dismay, and often the exclusion, of students, as news organisations focus on the ‘political correctness’ debate, at times neglecting to contact all parties, or making biased requests for information.
B&G’s ‘Eagle Drop’ tradition “has been around since the 90s”, according to B&G Member’s Assocation (BAGMA) President Anya Bonan. When the song ‘Eagle Rock’ plays, according to the tradition, male students drop their pants and female students remove their shirts, and students dance in a circle. “Many students found this to be extremely body positive and liberating,” says Bonan. However B&G resident Emily Jones wrote in Woroni, last year that she had been trapped by a circle of men and made to feel uncomfortable and objectified. After this came to light, BAGMA held an open meeting, and eventually decided to add some restrictions to the tradition, such as providing a warning, and not playing the song at events with other colleges. Jones wrote a follow-up article in Woroni earlier this year, expressing satisfaction with the college’s response but dismay at a continuing culture of objectification on campus. This sparked a flurry of media interest in the incident and the response. The Canberra Times wrote “ANU college bans song to stop male students dropping their pants”, while the Daily Mail went with “Classic song ‘Eagle Rock’ to be BANNED at an Australian university”. Jones has also been contacted by The New York Times.
Furthermore, one Daily Mail reporter contacted multiple B&G residents directly via Facebook. The journalist, rather than asking for facts or context around the issue, requested video footage of the tradition “showing it all as a bit of fun”. This request reflects the tone of the Daily Mail’s article, which opens, “A university dorm is looking to ban the song ‘Eagle Rock’ from events after a student complained”. Bonan called this “completely inappropriate”, and at the time asked students to direct media to herself or the Head of Hall. The Daily Mail did not respond to Observer‘s multiple requests for comment.
Bonan expressed dismay at this coverage.“It’s disappointing that they chose to focus on a supposed ban,” she said, “rather than us addressing an issue.” She said that while there was “always going to be backlash” with any change to a tradition, she believed most residents were content with the new policies. Bonan said that while Fairfax did contact ANU and/or B&G for comment, she believed they were only given “two or three hours to respond”, which was inadequate given the Hall’s comments had to go through ANU Media. To her knowledge, other news outlets running these “twisted” accounts did not even do this. “It seems like they didn’t want to hear from us,” she said. Jones echoed this sentiment, saying that only The Hack and 2XX FM asked for her side. “Fairfax seemed to contact everyone else, even Daddy Cool, but didn’t reach out to me.”
Jones said that the level of attention was unexpected, but also that the news outlets missed an opportunity to discuss a “systemic problem”. “I was left feeling very disappointed … for women generally,” she said, and argued the media “should have taken a different path, which may have lead to real, positive change.” She emphasised that while she had been happy with the Hall’s response to this particular incident, “these actions in no way tackle the toxic culture within ANU’s residential colleges.”
Bonan stressed that the incident was not reflective of B&G’s culture or even of the Eagle Rock tradition. “We don’t have a culture of making people feel uncomfortable,” she said, explaining that while Jones’ experience came as a surprise, her feelings were valid and no resident should be made to feel intimidated. She called the negative coverage “a shame”, given how hard BAGMA had worked, adding, “I hope it doesn’t affect people coming to B&G.”
This is not the first time that ANU news has drawn national attention, from papers interested in ‘political correctness’ on campus. Last month, The Australian ran a front-page piece about Alex Joske’s resignation from Woroni. The article featured comments from Joske, student Nick Blood, and Editor-in-Chief Bronte McHenry, as well as references to Facebook posts and comments, and similarly focused on the nature of free speech on campus, while being light on details or context of the events which occurred.