VC’s update – student support and campus alert system change

20 August 2021

Hello everyone 

I hope you are all doing ok in lockdown. I know this is has been a tough week for a lot of our community and it's natural to feel a bit of anxiety with the uncertainty at the moment. We still have our students in residences and essential staff working on campus during this time and I thank you for all the incredible work and cooperation. A particular shout out to our Senior Residents, staff and volunteers who have been helping to ensure our students have access to food - well done.  

Even though we've done it before, I know working in lockdown can be challenging at times, particularly if you have young children at home or other carer responsibilities. We are flexible here at ANU so if you are finding work life balance is taking a hit, please chat to your supervisor to put some arrangements in place. I know I can count on you all to do your best and I expect supervisors to be flexible about when people do their work and how they organise their tasks.  

If, even after spreading your work hours around your other responsibilities, you still can't do 100 percent of your normal hours during lockdown, don't worry. Do as much as you can and as long as you are doing at least 70 percent of your normal hours, ANU will consider this to be equivalent to your normal hours and pay you accordingly. You can also find times that better suit you to do your work, if you want to start earlier or work later in the evening to fit work around your life. Please just chat to your supervisor about your circumstances - we want to be able to make this easier for you where we can. I know many of our staff are working at 100 per cent capacity - or it might feel like more! - and we thank you for doing so, please keep going if you can. You can read more about our WFH guidelines here

I know a lot of our students are finding the lockdown challenging and disruptive to their studies, particularly our students in residence who have been subjected to enhanced health orders that has made daily routine quite unpredictable. I've heard from some of you directly, and my colleagues have been telling me your concerns and the issues you face. I know it sucks and I feel for you all. To help we have put together a Student Safety Net Package to relieve some of your study pressures.  

This package includes the implementation of the CRS/CRN grading system for semester two, an extension to the census date to 14 September 2021, more flexibility for students to provide alternative documentation for medical certification, and replacing WN grade with WD until 3 November 2021. I would encourage our students to have a good think about whether they wish to opt for CRS/CRN grading this semester - it may not work for everyone and it can have future consequences if applying at other universities and jobs. Please read through our student package here.

We have also downgraded the alert level for our campus. We will move down to orange - high risk this afternoon and re-evaluate again on Monday. We will only come back to you then if the alert level changes. For most of our community, who have been working and studying remotely since 13 August, there is no real difference to what you need to do. If you are not a residential student or considered an essential staff member - please continue to work and study remotely. We were able to downgrade our alert to high risk as this still recognises that there is transmission within the ACT, but the risk is slightly reduced as most of the community transmission occurred prior to lockdown. This demonstrates the effectiveness of a lockdown and while it can be unsettling, it is necessary right now. We still have to recognise the seriousness of the situation and we should not get complacent so I ask you all to please continue to stay at home unless it is absolutely essential to leave - and you couldn't do it later.   

For our students in residence, they will now be operating under more standard 'stay-at-home' orders. This means they are able to leave their residence for essential reasons only - getting vaccinated, getting tested, grocery shopping, going to essential work or attending medical appointments. They will also continue to live in their 'bubble' model - meaning they can exercise with a buddy from their bubble who shares kitchen and bathroom facilities. This model was designed in consultation with ACT Health and it helps our students in residence maintain some sort of routine. In the event of a close contact in a residence, ACT Health will still impose restrictions on secondary contacts. 

Please make sure you are keeping up to date with our campus updates here.  

Lastly, our friend Dr Graham Walker from the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science took one for the team this afternoon and hosted a family-friendly Friday Afternoon Science show on Zoom. It was great for parents at home trying to keep the kids entertained. I heard Graham did experiments with vacuum cleaner powered marshmallow bazookas and freezing liquid nitrogen. Hopefully we see more of this!  

I hope everyone takes time to reset over the weekend. I will be baking more sourdough. Hang in there everybody - this is tough but we will get through it.  

Brian