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July 31, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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VUW (sort of) listens to (some) feedback, may retain Head of Hall roles

After significant backlash against a consultation document proposing changes to Student and Campus Living, released on May 24, VUW have proposed the retention of the Head of Hall position in all but one of the VUW halls of residence.

The original document proposed the removal of Head of Hall roles at all halls, and the disestablishment of University Hall altogether.

In the Final Outcome of Change Process document obtained by Salient, it is proposed that the Head of Hall role will be now be retained at Weir House, Willis Street, Capital, Katharine Jermyn, Joan Stevens, and Boulcott halls.

The role will be significantly restructured, removing the operational and property responsibilities that Heads of Halls currently exercise. Instead, the sole focus for Heads of Halls will be pastoral care and critical incident response.

The document also proposes a new Deputy Head of Hall role for these halls, to provide senior support to the Head of Hall. Either the Head or Deputy Head of Hall “would be located on-site during high risk periods related to pastoral care needs and critical incidents,” although these periods are not defined.

Consequently, in a “fiscally driven” move, the Residential Life Manager in Weir House, Willis Street, Capital, Katharine Jermyn, Joan Stevens, and Boulcott halls will be disestablished, to reflect the shift in the responsibilities to the new Deputy Heads of Halls. The Residential Life Manager previously lived on-site and managed the Residential Advisers (RAs), who are the first point of contact for students.

For a resident of Capital Hall that Salient spoke with, disestablishing the on-site Residential Life Manager role without an on-site Head of Hall “makes no sense.” The resident was concerned that, if a major incident occurs, “there would be nobody senior enough to deal with it immediately, [because] the RAs have no power.”

University Hall provides self-catered accommodation for international and domestic students in 62 houses and flats around the Kelburn campus. University Hall’s RA and Kiwi Mates roles, which aid in pastoral care and support for international students, will be “reviewed for 2018.”

Furthermore, University Hall will operate without a Head of Hall, but will retain the Residential Life Manager role, widening the latter’s responsibilities to include all international students in VUW accommodation.

The practicalities of this “widening” remain unclear. The VUW Postgraduate Student’s Association President, Jordan Anderson, told Salient that the “complete flip” in attitude towards pastoral care between the first proposal document and the Final Outcome document had left VUW rushing to catch up with the reality indicated by the backlash.

Anderson said that this had resulted in a major “lack of detail” in proposals regarding the services provided by University Hall, where some residents were “outraged” by initial proposals.

“PhD students are in the most vulnerable position, […] to even consider destabilising their accomodation was outrageous.”

“The whole thing was driven by money.”

Rainsforth Dix, Student and Campus Living Director, told Salient that final decisions on University Hall have been “postponed,” but those families who already have a tenancy can “remain where they are.” It is unclear on how long VUW will allow PhD students to “remain” in university accommodation.

The Final Outcome document pushes for “focused roles” delivering exceptional student satisfaction. Uncertainties remain as to the purpose of such a change; in the 2017 Halls of Residence Mid-Year Survey Results, 75% of students rated their experience as “very good” or “excellent”.

A Weir House resident that spoke with Salient said that “I honestly can’t see any reason for a change.”

“The support network we have in place works well.”

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