Students living in University of Alberta residences are reporting a new set of inspections following allegations of unsanitary living conditions in HUB Mall, but Residence Services is claiming the inspections have been in place for years.
Notices of “quarterly health and safety” inspections started appearing on the doors of residences in mid-February, and residents are claiming they’ve never seen the inspections until recently.
But Doug Dawson, executive director of Ancillary Services, said the inspections have always been in place, with a one-year hiatus leading up to February 2012 due to staffing issues.
The inspections occur in all residences except Campus St. Jean, Lister and Michener Park. They involve a thorough review of the entire unit, Dawson said, as opposed to typical check-in and check-out inspections, which focus on the student’s bedroom. In addition, they’re meant to occur every three months.
“It says they’re quarterly, but I’ve lived on campus for the last eight years and I’ve never had anything like this before,” said student Mildred Lau, a resident in East Campus Village for the past three years.
A Gateway article published on Feb. 15 outlined various unsanitary conditions affecting students living in HUB Mall, and included criticism from students on the inspections of units.
Lau said she received a notice of inspection for her East Campus Village unit on Feb. 15.
Part of the quarterly health and safety inspection notice states: “Living in an unsanitary and unsafe condition is against University Community Standards and therefore is considered a breach of lease, which may lead to termination of tenancy.”
Dawson dismissed claims that the inspections were related to the allegations.
“The relationship to the story, I’m sorry, is coincidental,” he said.
But Chelsea Butler, a two-year resident of East Campus Village, said it would be a “pretty wild coincidence” if that were the case.
“Especially for them to call it quarterly when it’s never happened before,” she added. “It seemed like they were sending a message that they were taking it more seriously now.”
Butler also received a quarterly health and safety inspection notice in late February, her first one in the two years she’s lived in East Campus Village.
The report Butler received following the inspection was thorough, she noted, including a recommendation to clean the inside of her oven.
“I’m glad they are starting to do it, because it’ll be a good way for them to avoid the conditions that are happening in HUB,” Butler said.
When asked about long-term residents who claimed never having undergone the inspection, Dawson said the issue was likely due to a name change, although he was unsure of any previous names.
Student Miranda Woofenden said she’s kept all of her notices from Residence Services throughout her five years of living in HUB Mall, and was unable to find any notice that matched the description of the quarterly health and safety inspection.
The first time Woofenden heard of the inspection was when she received a notice of her own in late February. Regardless of its goal, Woofenden doesn’t believe the inspections will be of any use.
“As it stands, I don’t think these inspections serve much of a purpose, and will be irrelevant until (Residence Services) takes the initiative to enforce and standardize their expectations in terms of cleanliness and procedures and consequences,” Woofenden said.
But Residence Services is always looking for ways to improve the student experience, Dawson said, noting there’s an “urgent” need for the university and student residents to co-operate.
“We do need students to get the right information in terms of cleanliness and keeping their units tidy. It makes it difficult,” Dawson said. “We don’t want a program of entering these suites every week. That’s in nobody’s best interest.”
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