23 August 2021

ANU students, teachers call for week's reprieve as lockdown in residences takes its toll

| Dominic Giannini
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Australian National University, students

ANU, The Street Theatre. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Thousands of students and teachers at the Australian National University (ANU) are calling for the university to implement an immediate teaching break as the number of close contacts on campus continues to grow.

There are more than 500 students subject to advanced stay at home orders across residences on campus, meaning residents are confined to floor bubbles and their rooms within that bubble.

Student and senior resident at Garran Hall Derrick Appel said the situation is arguably more dangerous than the first lockdown last year, and it is making it difficult for students to focus on study, deadlines and exams when they are close or casual contacts.

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Mr Appel said it was “unacceptable” that ANU had not brought in 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,” he said.

“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.

“I have seen personally the extra load that has been placed on residents and the massive impact quarantine has had. It is always going to be very hard to focus on anything during quarantine.”

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An ANU spokesperson said the representatives were meeting with students to hear their views, and the university is preparing a support package with measures to assist students whose studies have been disrupted.

“As always, ANU will be as compassionate and flexible as possible with our students who are facing difficulties,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Appel’s change.org petition garnered 2800 signatures in six hours and had more than 4460 signatures as of Thursday afternoon (19 August).

He has since gained the support of the National Tertiary Education Union and the ACT branch of the National Union of Students.

ANU volunteers

Volunteers at ANU have prepared more than 2000 emergency packs for students confined to their residences on campus. Photo: ANU.

Residents have banded together to try to keep their spirits up in lockdown, including blasting music throughout the hall and taking requests from students over social media.

Students have also begun sharing TikToks of their experiences and organising online gaming sessions to keep people engaged.

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Volunteers have also banded together to support those isolating or subject to enhanced stay at home orders within the ANU residence by packing emergency food parcels and essential items packs.

More than 2000 parcels have already been packed by scores of volunteers at the university.

*CORRECTION: The original article cited Mr Appel’s petition saying the university should move in line with teaching breaks announced at CIT and the University of Canberra. UC has since clarified that it is not on a teaching break but that some units requiring face to face interaction have paused during the transitionary period.

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Do other occupations get a reprieve under this proposal, or is only the cotton wool variety

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