VC’s Update – 2021 plans for campus

4 December 2020

Hi everyone,

This week, I wanted to start my blog with an update on our plans for returning to campus in 2021 as I've been receiving a lot of questions about what this looks like and what it means for everyone in our community. I'll do my best to set my clear expectations, but like most things in 2020, I know our approach will need to be flexible and Colleges, Schools and Service Divisions will need to help guide how this return looks so it works at the local level.

2020 has taught us many lessons - but for me, the ones that stand out are the importance of community and the role of flexibility in the way we each work or study. Our mission is to be a place which brings people from across Australia together - the ANU melting pot - and we've created an unparalleled campus experience for both staff and students alike. We have research, administrative and teaching excellence working in tandem and I can hand on heart say that my son has had as good an experience here at ANU as I saw undergraduates have at Harvard - and as an academic and Vice-Chancellor, I've also worked with the world's best researchers and outstanding professional staff right here on our campus.  

But to make sure our ANU experience remains distinct, we need to return to campus in 2021, as far as is possible in a COVID safe way. We need to reactivate and reinvigorate our campus and welcome back colleagues and students - some of whom never been here before, or haven't been on campus since March. How this looks will be determined by your local area, and there are many factors involved, from office or teaching spaces available under the COVID-guidelines, to ensuring those that cannot return (due to health, travel restrictions or other reasons) can continue to remain connected. For our teachers and students, we'll continue to deliver hybrid courses as not everyone can return just yet - but we will expect face-to-face learning integrated into course offerings where it is safe and possible to do so. For our research staff, domestic fieldwork is possible to resume and labs have reopened.

We've also learnt a lot about flexibility and working remotely and how this can work for teams and individuals. In my office, some of my team is still working remotely, while others are behind their desk full-time. I'm still doing about one day at home a week - but this is a constant conversation between me and my team about what works. I know some members of our staff community will require flexibility and I encourage supervisors to have open conversations about how to make this work for your respective teams, while being able to deliver BAU priorities, and return as many colleagues to campus as possible for the start of the academic year.

To assist with contact tracing as part of an enlivened, COVID-normal campus, we've also partnered with the ACT Government on the 'Check in CBR' app. For those on campus, you'll notice QR codes are currently being rolled out. You'll be able to scan a code when you enter a new building or change floors. Scanning the QR code is quick and easy - and your contact details are already pre-loaded when you sign up. Please make sure you "check-in" when you travel around campus so if we do see an outbreak of suspected COVID cases, we can swiftly identify and contact staff and students. Importantly, good contact tracing will make it easier to keep the campus open in the event of new COVID cases. You can download and read more about the app here.

In exciting news, the 2020 Eureka Prizes were announced in late November, and Associate Professor Steve Madden and his colleagues from The University of Sydney have been awarded the Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia. In addition, Professor Michelle Coote and Professor Sarah Legge were among the finalists for the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research and the Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research respectively. Congratulations Steve, Michelle and Sarah for being recognised in this prestigious program!

This week also marks the half-way point of the #16daysofactivism campaign - which is focused on eliminating sexual violence in our society; and specifically in our community, providing education and training. This is a cause very close to my heart - and it remains one of the most important roles I can play in my community, and also challenging parts of my job as Vice-Chancellor. We know that in our society, sexual violence continues to affect many people. I encourage anyone who may experience sexual violence, or know colleagues, friends or peers, to seek support from the range of community services available to you or our ANU support services, or access the ex-gratia leave entitlements. You do not have to do this alone - we will support you and care for you when you need it.

Finally, I wanted to finish this blog with a nice story from our student community. During the last week of November, the Alumni Relations team ran a series of Graduation "book-a-duck" sessions for graduating students to collect their Etta duck memorabilia. It was great to see more than 700 students collect their duck. I'm hoping to see many of these students again return in February for our Grand Graduation celebration and celebrate this important milestone.

Enjoy the weekend, we are almost to the end of the year! I need to mow the vineyard!