By Hannah Farrow 

Content Warning: This article mentions Hazing and Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment 

Bruce Hall administration has made the unforeseen executive decision to shut down the ‘Shadow’ Resident Committee, requesting to “discontinue the Shadow, and associated activities”. In the College administration’s emails obtained by Observer they stated that the ‘Shadow’ Committee threatens the safety of the residential community.  

The ‘Shadow’ at Bruce Hall is a group that initiates social events for students which is designed to “enhance social life of the community”. Established in 1961, Bruce Hall is the oldest undergraduate student accommodation in Australia. The ‘Shadow’ and its associated events are wholly unaffiliated with Bruce Hall administration. 

An ANU spokesperson confirmed this decision.  “Bruce Hall and ANU have asked this unsanctioned group to discontinue and either approach the Hall with events or go through the residents’ committee.”

There is now the discussion of ‘legal’ consequences by the Head of Hall stating how there is the concern of students “find(ing) [themselves] in the position of legal proceedings. I also have my reputation and that of Bruce Hall and ANU to think about in my role as Head of residence.”

The ‘Shadow’ responded to these concerns by including a liability box that must be ticked to participate in events, stating that the ‘Shadow’ are “not liable for your actions”, and you must “agree to take full responsibility for your actions and behave in a responsible manner”. 

The College administration further provided a list of “exclusionary” behaviours ‘Shadow’ events supposedly encouraged through citing the “Cultural change audit and Plan: Bruce Hall, Nous Group 2018”. They further deemed the Committee as participating in “anti-social behaviour and exclusiveness” that generally “[brought] the Hall into disrepute”. 

The administration email quoted an anonymous resident from Bruce Hall who corroborated these concerns. The ‘Shadow’ activities were determined by the resident to be “more likely to encourage excessive drinking and be perceived as ‘cliquey’ or only accepting of people who fit into particular social practices or groups.”

These perceived behaviours acted as a justification for discontinuing the Committee altogether. 

The Observer interviewed a former Bruce resident about their experiences at ‘Shadow’ events, including to comment on the administration’s claims about safety. They stated that “As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I never felt pressure from members of the Shadow or from the Bruce community to drink at such events”, and that they felt “it was clear that attempts were made to prevent SASH incidents, giving residents an option to not be paired with certain individuals in groups for events” at events organised by the ‘Shadow’. 

“The Shadow is a great way for residents to intermingle between different year groups and ex-ressies…you could specify how much you were willing to drink on forms.”

The ‘Shadow’ Committee’s response to the administration email largely disputed the claims. In particular, they highlighted that the suggestions from the Nous report that would help prevent Sexual Assualt/Sexual Harrassment, have not yet been implemented by the Bruce Hall administration.

The Nous report also detailed complaints about the limited pastoral care at Bruce. It found that administrative staff have a “passive or inactive approach to responding to complaints of inappropriate behaviour”.

Students indicated within the review that they “are more likely to rely on friends as well as student leaders for support for incidents” for incidents. 

The same 2018 Nous report as quoted by the administration found that hazing was “not a significant issue at Bruce Hall”. It found instead that they had been “making progress” and “significant efforts have been made to establish a balanced and inclusive calendar of events”. 

The Shadow Committee added that they had taken measures to ensure the safety of residents at their events. These included ensuring events would be at “licensed venues” so that staffers with RSA’s could supervise alcohol consumption and promoted inclusivity through a “50-50 gender parity or a majority of women” in the Committee.

A current Bruce resident stated how this decision was ‘confusing’ and the common consensus is that “there would be no need for Shadow if Bruce didn’t have such strict regulations for events. The Shadow is needed and necessary, and it brings a lot more culture to Bruce.”

They further stated “The head of Shadow bans people who have been reported for SASH whilst they haven’t been banned by Bruce Hall.”

An ANU spokesperson commented that “If any resident has concerns about events at Bruce Hall they should raise these with the head of hall and the ANU Director of Residential Experience. Any resident who has experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or sexual assault at an event is able to safely disclose this to the University, and this disclosure can be provided anonymously. The University also has a wide range of support services for those who need them.”

Support is available:

Canberra Rape Crisis Center 02 6247 2525 (7am–11pm) or 131 444 (after hours)

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

Domestic Violence Crisis Service

Lifeline 13 11 14

ANU Counselling [email protected]

ANU Student Wellbeing  [email protected]

ANUSA Women’s Officer [email protected]

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