SR Selection Draws Bruce Community Backlash

Skanda Panditharatne and Adeline Tinessia

The Bruce Hall Common Room Committee (CRC) has publicly criticised the Bruce administration’s selection of next year’s SRs, citing “significant community backlash”. Separate letters have been sent from the CRC to the Bruce administration, Bruce residents, and to the wider ANU community. These letters take serious issue with the makeup of the new SR team, and negative results of a survey distributed to residents by a group of Bruce students.

The letters emphasise a lack of ethnocultural and queer* representation, lack of experience in the SRs chosen, and prioritising candidates who would police rules rather than engage in pastoral care. Concerns were also raised that candidates who have shown suitability via community engagement were left out without explanation, and that candidates who have raised concerns about Bruce Hall were turned down because they were difficult to work with.

While the CRC noted that they did not believe that the administration had intended to alienate the community, the letters demonstrate a serious breakdown in trust between the Bruce community and administration over the issue. “Members of next year’s leadership team … are worried admin will revoke their scholarship positions if they speak out about the selection process, or … drug and alcohol policy” the CRC claimed. They went on to argue that unwillingness to speak out goes further: “Many residents, especially first years, also think that their returner applications will be denied if they speak out against admin,” says the letter to Bruce Hall administration.

The letter to Administration also expressed concern about community consultation, stating that “the opinions of the student representative[s] on the panel were not listened to nor taken into account in the final selection process”. An ANU spokesman, speaking on behalf of Bruce Hall, said the three residents on the panel “made an important contribution to the selection process and their views were taken into account”. However, a senior member of the Bruce community with insight into the selection process said that there were genuine issues with consultation. “The biggest problem was that it seemed to us that [the Bruce administration] had taken it upon themselves to not consult with the student representatives properly … they didn’t talk about the final team [with student representatives] before it was released”.

The results of the survey showed that Bruce residents are unhappy with the direction in which Bruce Hall is going. Just “2% expressed positive opinions on this score,” according to the CRC letter to the Bruce admin. The CRC was also concerned that the negativity would reduce the number of Bruce residents returning to the hall next year. “Almost one in two of those who would have returned at the beginning of the year are now either not returning, or are considering not doing so.”

There was also concern about the appointment of three first years as SRs. The CRC’s letter to Bruce noted that “regardless of the quality of those selected, the cultural expectations of our college in regard to later year SRs will make it extremely difficult for these SRs to do their job properly.” This was also echoed by a senior member of the Bruce Hall community, “I think that [first year SRs] need a lot of support … there’s a community expectation that SRs be later years.”

In the most recent Bruce Hall weekly newsletter, Head of Hall Katrina Boyd and Deputy Head Samantha Schofield wrote: “This week we have engaged in constructive conversations with outgoing president Matt Bowes and incoming President Max Moffat regarding the concerns raised by CRC on behalf of the community… as always, we encourage feedback from our community.”

Bruce Hall Administration referred Observer’s enquiries to an ANU spokesperson, who issued the following statement:

All positions were decided purely on merit and took into account the scholarship conditions. Bruce Hall student residents were represented by three members on the selection committee. They made an important contribution to the selection process and their views were taken into account with any final decisions. At all stages the selection process was fair to all candidates.

Corrected to clarify that the survey was not distributed by the CRC.