Students Hired as Interim ‘Duty SRs’ at ANU Residences
By Lottie Twyford
Due to a significant reduction of students on campus in light of COVID-19, ANU residential halls have hired interim ‘Duty Officers’ to fulfil vacant positions and “support the smooth running of the hall during the period of campus closure”.
The University’s Residence Information page states that “all residences will have a minimum ratio of 1:25 Senior Residents to residents”. Interim Duty Officers have been hired to ensure that residential halls meet this requirement.
The new interim roles are closer to that of a ‘Duty Officer’ than Senior Resident. This means that their duties are focused less on pastoral care, and more on duties like enforcing social distancing measures, responding to lockouts and noise complaints, performing routine checks of the building, and evacuating the Hall in the event of a fire alarm.
An ANU spokesperson told Observer that “the hiring of duty officers has involved formal expressions of interest and interviews to ensure alignment of expectations and capabilities.” The spokesperson added that ANU “has also undertaken targeted recruitment of SRs,” with students already acting in other leadership positions approached to take on the duty officer role.
According to a University spokesperson these students will be part of a “consultative process … to determine a fair allocation of tasks and remuneration for roles”.
The spokesperson said that scholarships will be “consistent with usual arrangements” for residential hall positions that are paid scholarships, and that the University has “also considered the need to pay additional casual hours.”
A statement from the Interhall Council stated that “ANU interim duty officers have helped maintain safety across campus for our residents”. Furthermore, the IHC expressed that it is pleased with ANU’s response in providing “adequate training and appropriate support for our student leaders”.
Students appointed to interim roles began their duties within a short period of time, raising concerns as to whether they have received the appropriate training required to perform the role.
The University spokesperson has explained that training for Interim Officers covers “working with vulnerable people, COVID-19 and social distancing, critical incident reporting and procedures, first aid, fire evacuation, and effective helping via ANU Counselling.” A component of training for the Interim Officer roles has also been delivered by the ANU Respectful Relationships Unit.
According to Wright Hall SR Bianca Nicotra, current SRs have continued to perform pastoral care duties online, which she sees as being “the most important aspect” of the SR role. However, she also stated that, although all those hired “are very capable”, the role should have been restricted to those in their second year or upwards. She explained that because of the turbulent beginning to the year, first years would probably not have “a clear understanding of what the role entails”.
An email sent out to Wright Hall students on 31 March stated that these positions are interim and “will operate for the duration of the period between now and when campus resumes usual operations”. Lachlan Ballard, who is the President of the Wright Hall Association of Members, confirmed shortly after the announcement that Wright Hall has hired a number of students still living at the Hall to perform the role of ‘Duty Warden”.
Ballard said that due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, he expected that interim officers will be required to assist with “ensuring social distancing rules are being complied with, bringing food to students who are isolating and assisting in implementing any future precautionary measures”.
At the time, Ballard said that the move to hire Interim Officers was “slightly concerning given that the duty role can involve responding to issues around mental health,” and hoped that “those being engaged to perform the duty role do receive at the very least, some initial mental health training”.
Nicotra told Observer that ANU’s campus is currently a “controlled environment”, and one which is “very different to usual”. Common rooms have been closed, with residents restricted to only using spaces and amenities like bathrooms and microwaves, as well as visiting dining halls to collect pre-packaged food. A large number of residents have left the residential halls, with the University urging students to leave campus if it was safe for them to do so last month.
Graphics for this article were created by Charlie Thaxter.
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