A “Failure”: ANU to Bring Back Pastoral Care Role in Halls

Content warning: this article contains mention of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

 

By Sam Wright

ANU has announced it will reintroduce a dedicated pastoral care staff member into residential halls. This year, ANU had elected to remove the pastoral-care focused Deputy Head of Hall role from Bruce, Wright, and Fenner Halls, which Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor (University Experience) Anthony Foley has conceded was a “failure”.

 

The change was first announced at the Residential Forum held on 11 September. This came after significant agitation by students, including at the first Forum and through the Open Day strike. Foley and other University staff at the Forum maintained that the University had always planned to review the Deputy Head-less model. Foley said that ANU “tried an experiment… about pastoral care” in its decision to remove Deputy Heads and that he did not believe there was anyone at the forum who “doesn’t think this was a failure”.

 

Information circulated at the Forum indicated that the University would introduce dedicated pastoral care staff at the three halls in the immediate-term and have a full-time staff member at each hall in 2020. Staff at the Forum did not provide details on what these short and medium-term arrangements would look like, or when they would be brought on, with Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Grady Venville saying the University still needed to “work out how [the pastoral care roles] might best look within the different halls”. However, in a statement provided last week, Foley said there will be “three 0.5 full-time equivalent roles for the remainder of 2019 and three full-time equivalent positions for 2020.” Foley also said that the hiring process for these roles will commence immediately. 

 

These roles may not be called ‘Deputy Heads of Hall’. At the Forum, Venville emphasised that the position will be a “senior staff” role with a “focus on pastoral care”. Foley stressed that in giving feedback on the Deputy head-less model, “people said…it’s not a position we want replaced, it’s a function we want replaced”. 

 

Whether these roles continue beyond 2020 will depend on the recommendations of the University’s review into residential hall pastoral care. Belinda Farrelly the Associate Director for Organisational Change said research into the pastoral models of other universities had been conducted and that the next steps would be formulating a Green paper for the university’s executives by the end of this year and then a white paper for consultation in 2020. 

 

Jade Lin from the Wright Hall Association of Members (WHAM) said that the decision to remove deputy heads “has had a number of implications” and that the “most important of these have been [in dealing with] serious pastoral care incidents” such as sexual assault and sexual harassment. Lin said that the removal of Deputy Heads has meant there is only one senior pastoral care staff member at each hall, and so “if the alleged perpetrator seeks support before the survivor, the survivor cannot really speak with the Head of Hall about issue”. 

 

President of Fenner Hall Residents’ Committee Patrick Doyle said that Fenner’s residents are “happy” about the changes outlined at the forum, but “would still like to see further improvements in the pastoral care system”. 

 

Callum Dargavel, the President of the Bruce Hall Common Room Committee (CRC), said that while they were pleased that the decision was being undone, they found the ANU’s “refusal to acknowledge fault” disappointing. Dargavel also claimed that “student leaders have been picking up the University’s slack”, and said it was “incredibly disappointing and disrespectful.

 

The broader pastoral care system was also extensively discussed at the Forum, with students arguing the University was not fulfilling its promise of a 1:25 Senior resident:resident ratio. Other discussion items included a break-down of spending at residential halls, plans for improved consultation, and the University’s response to the results of the Nous review of sexual assault and sexual harassment at residential halls.

 

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