On July 23 2012, the University of Alberta announced a slew of significant changes to the operation of Lister residences. The original U of A press release can be found here. Among the changes are the implementation of dry floors across all Lister residence halls (with alcohol consumption being limited to dorm rooms), the limitation of Lister classic residence halls to first-year and transfer students and the elimination of elected student representative positions within the Lister Hall Students’ Association (LHSA).
The Students’ Union has released several documents, including a “Frequently Asked Questions” page on its website and a press release entitled “No Consultation – University of Alberta Lister Residence Changes.”
The press releases from the University of Alberta and the Students’ Union differ markedly in tone, and already, there appears to be a noticeable uproar from both current and former Lister residents regarding the changes. A quick glance at the Facebook comments on the U of A press release page allows readers a glimpse into personal stories from these current students and alumni.
This is a complex issue, and there are probably dozens of important questions that merit thorough responses from the University of Alberta. Far from being an exhaustive list, here are some questions, outlined by The Wanderer Online, that the university should answer in detail:
– Why is it that these changes were implemented in the summer, rather than in the fall, when the student presence on campus is much stronger? Over what period of time were these plans developed?
– The University of Alberta prides itself on collegiality, where consultation amongst its diverse student and staff population is paramount. If this is true, then why is it that “students were not provided with an opportunity to respond to this proposal,” according to the Students’ Union?
– Elected student representatives in Lister residences are assumed to have earned the trust of their peers. This trust is confirmed through a democratic election. If these elected roles are eliminated, then do the student staff that report directly and solely to the University of Alberta serve with an equal level of trust from their peers?
– Under what circumstances, if any, is the university willing to reverse the list of changes?
– In its press release, the university writes “A first-year residence program will be implemented in full.” What will this program consist of (in terms of the number of students, staff, professors, etc.)? Will any students be in their upper-level years? How will these numbers compare to the amount of upper-year students residing in Lister towers in years past?
– In its “Questions and Answers” page, the university states “Yes, there is demand [for a first-year residence], and there is an increase in demand from students looking to live in an academic cohort with peers in similar classes. In addition, the U of A guarantees residence to a number of different groups, including international students.” What methodologies were used to measure student and parent demand for these changes, and what were the statistical results?
It is hoped that the University of Alberta will publicize the statistical data behind these changes, considering their magnitude.
STUDENTS’ COUNCIL ON JULY 24
Of course, these are only several of the relevant questions to the Lister residence changes. With a meeting of Students’ Council taking place at 6 pm on Tuesday July 24 in University Hall, it is worth attending in order to voice concerns and pose questions to the SU executives (namely, the President Colten Yamagishi and the Vice-President Student Life Saadiq Sumar) during question period.