By Sharlotte Thou 

ANUSA President Madhumitha Janagaraja announced on ANU Schmidtposting on Tuesday afternoon that the proposed one week teaching pause will not go ahead. This comes a week after the change.org petition – which has 5186 signatures at the time of publication – was launched.

Janagaraja cited an “absence of support” from decision makers and both academic and professional staff. She stated ANUSA will “continue to fight to ensure academic accommodations and welfare support for students”.

An ANU spokesperson told Observer ANU understands “how difficult the current situation is for many of our students”. After “careful consideration” the University believes the Student Safety Net Package is the best way “to take some of the pressure off students” while maintaining the quality of academic programs.

The Student Safety Net Package was passed by the academic board on Friday 20 August. Students are now able to opt into the CRS/CRN grading system for Semester 2, Winter and Spring Sessions in 2021, in the same way they were able to in 2020. It also allows students to submit a personal statement explaining their circumstances in lieu of the medical certificate usually required for special consideration claims and extensions. The census date has been moved from 31 August to 14 September, and WN grades (drop course with failure) have been replaced by WD grades (drop course without academic failure).

The University advises students to “carefully consider their circumstances” before requesting a CRS/CRN grade, as these grades can have “significant unintended impacts” such as negatively impacting professional accreditation and making applicants ineligible for academic programs and scholarships.

The spokesperson said ANU was aware of the petition and “appreciated [the petitioners’] strong views and good intentions”. The University believes “there is a strong counterargument” that a pause will disadvantage students, “particularly if it means further disruption to their plans and their work and care arrangements”. 

ANU is additionally aware that for some students “study is an important source of connection and continuity” and believes the support package “strikes the best possible balance”. 

PARSA President Eve Walker said the decision was “incredibly disappoint[ing]” and seemed like a “disingenuous response to legitimate student concerns”. She criticised the University for telling ANUSA and PARSA “they did not know what students want” and for instructing them “not to talk about the petition…because it did not hold any validity”.

Walker acknowledged the value of the Student Safety Net Package but believes the “CRS/CRN grading system should not be one of the main supports available to students”, as it “heavily discriminates towards coursework students” and could potentially limit their ability to apply for postgraduate study.

She implores students who experience difficulties to “apply for extensions”, and “to follow up with the relevant PARSA and ANUSA representatives” if permission is not granted by course convenors.

ANU student Derrick Appel, who organised the petition, thanked petitioners and applauded the advocacy efforts of student associations, NUS ACT and the NTEU ACT division. He said he “did not understand why the university executive dismissed [the petition] so easily” and hopes the University executive “will be more forthcoming about student concerns when supporting students through future crises”.

Graphics by Joseph Oh

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