Petition for ANU Teaching Break So Far Unsuccessful
By Sharlotte Thou
A petition calling for an “immediate teaching break in response to the Canberra COVID-19 outbreak” was launched by ANU student Derrick Appel on 17 August 2021. The petition cites five reasons for the proposed one week teaching break.
“1. A large number of students have been severely negatively impacted by lockdowns, quarantine, stress and reduced ability to work.
2. This situation is arguably more dangerous than any the ANU has been in before. Students cannot focus on academic study, deadlines and exams when they are being told they are close contacts or casual contacts, or being forced to step up into a much bigger leadership role than they anticipated.
3. The ANU’s response to the prospect of a teaching break is unacceptable – this has nothing to do with adjusting the online learning. This is about student wellbeing, and fairness in light of understandably large amounts of academic disruptions.
4. The university has yet to provide a reason why it should not announce a teaching break. Moving everything along by one week will allow students and staff to readjust and refocus, without any disruptions to academic integrity or reputation.
5. CIT and UC have both announced teaching breaks – why hasn’t the ANU?”
Senior Resident Lilu McMahon said she was unable to “adequately prepare for [her] classes and exams given her hugely increased workload” and has “witnessed first-hand the extreme stress and anxiety” ANU students are experiencing.
“ANU have done it before and could do it again, if they chose to prioritise student wellbeing”, she said.
The teaching break, implemented in Semester one 2020, was intended for the university to have time to make the appropriate transition to online learning. The petitioners and advocates for this new teaching break have made it clear that this is a policy to protect and promote student welfare.
Students took their thoughts onto ANU Schmidtposting. One said the “lockdown has taken a toll like nothing else” and they “needed time to fix the mess [they] had to deal with”. Another said they were unable to join their tutorials due to poor on-campus internet and called for a teaching break to fix these issues.
However, this view is not shared by all students, with some hoping for the semester to continue as planned . Posts on ANU Confessions stated a teaching break will “place pressure on the second half of semester” and make the “semester longer than necessary”. Others said that university work was “the only thing they could do to keep [themselves] self-occupied and active”.
Appel told Observer he is aware of “how complicated the whole process is” and appreciates the policy’s overwhelming support. He said, “with every additional signature, the ANU is made aware of how important this issue is to students”.
ANUSA President Madhumitha Jangaraja stated on ANU Schmidtposting the push for a teaching break has so far been unsuccessful. The university believes “different groups of students will be disadvantaged by this decision and have communicated this to the university, including those who are overseas, those who are international students and have carer responsibilities”, and those that have signed the petition are characterised as “only representing the views of some students rather than the majority”. She said this decision will be appealed by ANUSA and PARSA.
At the time of publishing 1.3 thousand students voted in a poll put out by Jangaraja that a “pause in teaching would benefit me” and 62 voted “a pause in teaching would disadvantage me”.
At the time of publishing, the petition has 4909 signatures.
Graphics by Joseph Oh
Want to get involved? You can write articles, photograph, livestream or do web support. We’re also looking for someone to yell “extra!” outside Davey Lodge at 1AM. Apply today!