By Rebecca Zhong
Unilodge has announced that it will be changing its Student Leadership Model for 2020. The changes will see UniLodge residences move from having a combination of Senior Residents (SRs) and Residential Advisors (RAs) to SRs only, with an increase from 66 SRs to 95 for next year.
Currently, RAs are responsible for after-hours duties such as responding to noise complaints, while SRs engage with residents, provide pastoral support, and run community activities. The 2020 changes will combine these roles, creating SRs which will more closely resemble the SR positions at other residential halls. In the email announcement to residents, Unilodge stated that the changes will also see a 1:25 SR:resident ratio.
A University Spokesperson told Observer that these changes follow consultation with Unilodge residents “about what they saw as the most appropriate level of pastoral care,” with residents expressing that “they would prefer to have additional SRs instead of RAs”.
Alongside additional responsibilities, UniLodge SRs will be paid a scholarship of 80% of the cost of a ‘Studio Long’ room, a significant increase from the current 40% scholarship offered to them. According to an ANU spokesperson, this “brings the rate much closer to those in other ANU residences”. Currently, the scholarship rate paid to SRs at other self-catered ANU residential halls is 100% of the cost of a room. Nicholas Tulloch, a current SR at UniLodge, told Observer that he believes “the 80% scholarship should only be temporary while budgets are aligned”, and that “the only equitable scholarship rate would be an increase to 100%”.
An in-house counsellor will also be introduced at the Unilodge residences, along with a second Community Coordinator at Wamburun Hall, which is administered by Unilodge. According to UniLodge Residents’ Committee President Ingrid Fisher, the on-site counsellor for UniLodge residents will be available for 4 hours on one day each week, although she added that “this could change depending on demand and uptake”. Unilodge Residential Life Manager, Casey White, told Observer that “[Unilodge] will monitor the program and review periodically for its effectiveness,” and “may incorporate similar initiatives as part of the overall student living program” if the trial proves to be successful.
According to an email sent to to Unilodge residents, the changes will be in place for 2020 only. In 2021, the UniLodge residences will move to a new pastoral care model flowing from consultation on the pastoral care white paper, to be released next year.
Fisher and Adam Grossenbacher (President of Wamburun Hall residents’ committee) both attribute the incoming changes to the active role played by students who campaigned for the University to address their concerns regarding pastoral care this year. This included the Open Day strike and ‘Do Better ANU’ campaigns, led by the Interhall Council (IHC), ANUSA and the Women’s Department, in addition to a strong student presence at Residential forums. In a letter from the IHC to University administrative staff prior to the strike, students leaders voiced concerns about inadequate pastoral care models that placed “unfair strain” on student leaders at residential halls. The University had announced that it would be introducing additional full-time pastoral care staff at Bruce, Wright and Fenner at a residential hall forum in September.
Fisher believes that “after the Open Day strike … ANU started to see the value in student consultation a lot more”. Fisher said that she, in addition to Unilodge and Wamburun’s SRs and RAs had been asked for feedback on a move to the duty-SR model after the strike, and that the University “has listened to this”.
Tulloch said that the increase in SRs at UniLodge residences is an “overall positive step forward”, and “will assist with developing far better relationships with residents and help relieve some of the strain that I and many others have felt this year and in the past”. He told Observer that he currently acts as SR to “around forty-five people”, which has made it “infeasible …to attempt to develop a deep connection and understanding of my residents and truly cater to their needs”.
Grossenbacher said that while it is “difficult to quantify the immeasurable impact SRs have towards our community,” he believes that the 2020 scholarship rate is one that is “fair for our community”. However, he emphasised that Wamburun will go into 2020 without a Deputy Head of Hall or similar full-time pastoral care staff member. He expects that this will leave Wamburun “disadvantaged when compared to other halls”. Nevertheless, he remains optimistic, stating that “Should [Wamburun’s] 2020 leadership teams continue to advocate for equal pastoral care models, I believe it is possible.”
Tulloch is hopeful that the increase in scholarship rate and SR numbers will “introduce a different culture of pastoral care” at UniLodge, in part by “relieving financial strains… which have previously forced Senior Residents to seek additional jobs to afford rent”. Grossenbacher echoed this sentiment, stating that he believes these changes will allow the pastoral care team at Wamburun to “actually [be] supported and appropriately compensated”.
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