Lister Residence will likely see a complete overhaul in the next year, if a plan by Residence Services is put into action.
Last Monday, the university went public with its decision to implement major staffing changes in Lister, as well as restricting alcohol to private student rooms. Lister employees, currently jointly employed by the LHSA and Residence Services, will work solely for Residence Services.
Additionally three of the four Lister towers will be reserved for first-year students starting September 2013, leaving Schäffer for other residents.
The news came as an apparent shock to student organizations, who allegedly received no consultation or communication from the university that such changes were coming.
“I was informed that I would need to attend a meeting, and my executive was invited, last Friday,” said Eric Martin, president of the Lister Hall Students’ Association (LHSA).
“(The university) would not reveal the nature of the meeting ... so 10:30 Monday morning, me and a couple of my executive walked in, and were completely blindsided.”
The changes will fundamentally affect the LHSA, raising concerns that the student association faces an uncertain and possibly bleak future.
“We were just told that we had 46 employees that may no longer be ours,” Martin said.
“They’ve been given new positions with Residence Services, and essentially should everyone decide to stay with Residence Services, the LHSA now consists of myself and five staff (as employees).”
The university explained in its news release that the staffing changes were intended to eliminate a potential conflict of interest that may exist for LHSA staff currently serving two employers. However, Martin said he had high hopes that the LHSA executive and Residence Services could work together to provide a safe, inclusive environment for residents.
“I want every single one of our residences to live in a safe, welcoming environment,” Martin said.
“So for (the university) to think that this is the only option ... it’s disheartening to think we couldn’t have worked towards that goal together.”
In a Q&A released alongside the university’s news release, the U of A states that they have, “in good faith,” consulted with students about the staffing changes more than once in the past few years, and adds that they intend to talk to the Students’ Union and the LHSA, among others, to get student input.
However, Students’ Union President Colten Yamagishi does not put much merit in that intention.
“If they haven’t done (consultation) up until this point already, I don’t see how we can believe that they’re going to follow up,” he said.
“It’s very evident that they’ve tried to purposefully bypass us in this discussion ... it was made clear to us in the meetings we had that the reason they didn’t ask us about this was because they knew we were going to oppose it.”
Yamagishi said that the Dean of Students, Frank Robinson, mentioned the recommendation for no drinking in Lister common areas during a meeting in January — but only in passing.
“(He) asked me what I thought about it, and I said I thought it was a terrible idea, and that was the last we talked about it,” Yamagishi said.
“Anytime (the university) brings something up to us, they consider that consultation. They don’t make an effort to find common ground or to come to an agreement. If they truly cared about the best interest of students, they need to listen to us.”
Yamagishi added that, although according to the university, the changes are approved and “set in stone,” the SU will be actively fighting for consultation.
“I’m really upset over it — that they would even think that the Students’ Union would just roll over and die on this issue,” he said.
“The SU will not back down until an agreement is made between all the major stakeholders.”
Martin added that he is one hundred per cent with the SU on getting the changes reversed, although he is open to a more diplomatic solution.
“Ideally, I would like to work with the university over the next six months, or year or however long it takes so that we can try to come up with something that would be mutually beneficial for the LHSA, for Residence Services, and for everyone who lives in Lister.”
University administration was not immediately available for comment.
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