Students Scramble to Find Alternatives Following On-Campus Event Ban

By Brandon How

All on-campus events run by clubs and societies are set to be cancelled, after the University’s ban on “non-essential public and social gatherings” came into effect on Monday. Students responsible for managing cancellations and organising alternative events have described their experience of the situation as stressful and frustrating. The ban, which was announced on Friday, is a social-distancing measure intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

On Monday, ANUSA released a statement on their Facebook page, clarifying the impact of the ban on clubs and societies. No clubs will be allowed to run events on campus until at least 20 June. They are also discouraged from making “concrete plans for events” for next semester, at least “until there is further clarification on the ban”. All clubs will have their ‘Functions On Campus’ forms for any planned events rescinded. This effectively leaves them without an on-campus venue.

ANUSA Club Chair Jacob Howland clarified in an email to clubs that this did not technically prohibit the running of off-campus events. He added, however, that organisers should heed the “advice provided by the University”. 

ANU did not provide prior warning to students who had organised events before the University’s announcement of the ban. Matilda Hatcher, who was set to co-direct the ANU Shakespeare Society’s production of ‘Twelfth Night’ in May, has expressed feeling “unsettled and distressed” as a result of the ban. She further claimed that “a large proportion” of the ANU cultural community is “greatly upset” and has felt “completely blindsided” by this decision. 

No interhall events already planned by the Interhall Arts Committee (IAC) or Interhall Sports Organisation (ISO) will be running this semester. On Monday, IAC announced on their Facebook page that it was trying to postpone Big Night Out and Dance Night until Semester 2. They stressed that there was “by no means a guarantee” that the events wouldn’t be cancelled altogether. They are, however, “working on converting some…events to a completely online format”.

Internal hall events have mostly been cancelled, although Residents’ Committees are attempting to create new events to comply with the University’s guidelines. According to a University announcement yesterday afternoon, “social and academic support events and activities” would be able to continue in halls, albeit “reformatted…so that they have smaller numbers (25 people or less)”, or, “in some cases” offered online instead. The National Association of Australian University Colleges has been in contact with some Residents’ Committees to suggest alternative events, ranging from online e-sports events, to interhall pen pals.

The President of the Wright Hall Member’s Association, Lachie Ballard, stated that the situation had taken a personal toll on him “both emotionally and mentally” and that he “can’t help but dwell on the disappointment that is being shared not only across all residences, but the entire ANU community”. The President of the Ursula Hall Residents’ Committee, Sanjana Ramesh Kumar, said the situation had “taken its toll on Senior Residents, my Residents’ Committee, other leaders within the Hall and general residents”. She went on to praise the ANU Interhall Council, describing it as “an excellent support network for student leaders in these trying times”.

Griffin Hall, Unilodge, and Wamburun Hall are issuing refunds to students who had purchased tickets to their cancelled Commencement events, which were to occur this week. Griffin Hall Members’ Association President Keny Arcangeli has confirmed that, despite the cancellation of events, the Griffin Hall on-campus common room “remains open and accessible to members”. 

Also among the affected events are those relating to student governance. The ANUSA OGM and Education Committee meeting were both cancelled. Next Wednesday’s Student Representative Council meeting will be conducted over the Zoom video conferencing platform. Students will still be able to spectate by using the meeting ID, which will be posted on the meeting’s Facebook event page “shortly prior” to commencement. This Friday’s Clubs Council meeting has been postponed until Week 6 and will also take place over Zoom.

ANU has today announced via an email to staff and students that the teaching of all coursework will “pause” for the week of 23 March. According to the email, this will allow the University to finalize remote learning, bring students who are studying overseas home, and set up work at home arrangements for staff. While the mid semester break will go forward as planned, an extra week will be added to the second term to make up for lost time, with teaching concluding on 5 June.

Both ANU Sport and Club Lime have continued business as usual, including their daily group fitness classes.

Students can access mental health support on this issue via ANU Crisis Support Line on +61 1300 050 327, or via SMS Text message service on +61 488 884 170. Sessions with ANU counselling can also be held online via Zoom. 


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