News You Might Have Missed: Summer Break

Weekly catchup graphic with text 'coronavirus., extreme weather, and an O-Week Overview'

By Helena Burke

The summer break has been a turbulent time for ANU. Before you give your liver a workout this O-Week, get up to date on the news you might have missed.

Coronavirus travel ban

Australia’s China travel-ban, imposed on 1 February to contain the spread of coronavirus, has caused disruption and uncertainty for many members of ANU’s Chinese international student community.  The ban, which was originally planned to end on Saturday, has been extended until 22 February. The Government has not ruled out extending the ban further, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating that it will be reviewed on a weekly basis. Many Students may have to defer Semester 1 if the ban is not lifted in time for them to return before 10 March

ANUSA’s International Students’ Department launched a petition calling for the beginning of semester one to be postponed to help students stranded in China. ANU has maintained that O-Week and the first week of classes will commence as planned.

ANU has offered some alternative study options to affected students. Remote participation is available online until students are able to return to campus, and China has agreed to relax its internet restrictions to enable students to access wattle and Echo360. ANU also claims it will offer summer and winter courses to help those students affected to “catch up” over the breaks.

Students who arrived from China before the travel ban have been told to self-isolate. ANU has stated that it is providing single studio apartments with self-contained kitchens and bathrooms for these students.

On-campus residences have offered little flexibility to international students affected by the coronavirus travel ban. Students are required to continue to pay their rent in full unless they cancel their contract and forfeit their accommodation spot for this semester.

Campus

A number of extreme weather incidents occurred on campus during the break.

Smoke from the 2019/2020 summer bushfires severely impacted air quality throughout Canberra over December and January. On 2 January, Canberra was ranked as having the worst air quality in the world, and the ANU Acton campus was closed due to health and safety concerns from 2-7 January. Three summer courses were also cancelled due to the smoke. Students enrolled in cancelled courses were automatically reimbursed for their course fees. Additional financial compensation for associated costs has also been made available upon request.

ANUSA sold subsidised P2 masks on campus and established a ‘Bushfire Support Bursary’ in partnership with ANU, which offered up to $2000 to students adversely affected by the fires or smoke. Students on Schmidtposting criticised these measures for not going far enough, complaining about a lack of air conditioning and air purification units offered to on-campus students to help deal with the heat and smoke. One student highlighted that “poorer” universities than ANU had provided their students with these resources.

From 20-22 January campus was closed again due to a severe hail storm. Over 80 on-campus buildings were damaged by the hail. Many cars parked on campus belonging to ANU students and faculty members were also severely damaged.

PARSA and ANUSA

The ANU Union officially disbanded on 28 January after 54 years of operation. The Union owned and administered buildings, such as the ANU union, that were at the centre of food, drink, live music, and other entertainment on campus for many years.  A new Union Bar was opened underneath ANU Commons in 2019. However, the venue has failed to meet performance expectations. The Bar is located far from the campus centre, and noise restrictions imposed by Unilodge have restricted its viability as a live music venue. In a statement last November, the Union described its dissolution as a “death of a thousand cuts”. The Union’s assets, including the Bar, have now been transferred to PARSA.

O-Week will commence this Monday. ANUSA’s 2020 theme is “Glimmer”, and PARSA’s is “Summer of ’20”. Events will range from ‘How to Adult’ workshops, to a Mooseheads party, to a group paddleboarding trip. ANUSA’s Friday night party on Fellows Oval will be headlined by artists Cub Sport, Holy Holy and Wafia. 

Halls of residence

In November last year, the Burgmann Residents’ Association announced that its usual O-week Toga Party would not be held for 2020. Financial risks were cited as one of the main reasons for the decision. This year, Wednesday night of O-Week will feature “The WamBam”, an on-campus party hosted by Wamburun Hall.

Canberra

ANU students joined a climate protest in Garema Place on 10 January. The protest was centred on Scott Morrison’s leadership during the bushfire crisis and called for the Government to “fund the firies” and act on the “climate emergency”. The rally was opened and led by 2020 ANUSA Environment Officer and Socialist Alternative member Grace Hill.

The 2020 PARSA President was contacted for comment.