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Documents support admin claims of Lister problems

Despite public denial from Students’ Union, Lister incident reports reveal serious health and safety concerns with residence culture

April Hudson, News Editor
Katelyn Hoffart, Staff Reporter
Sep 05, 2012

Documents The Gateway obtained through a freedom of information act request have revealed serious health and safety concerns in Lister Residence at the University of Alberta.

The university imposed a number of changes in Lister over the summer, changing three of the four halls to first-year residences for 2013, making changes to the staffing structure and changing their alcohol policy to eliminate drinking in public spaces.

The university gave the Students’ Union a list of documents pertaining to the health and safety concerns leading to these changes. One document contained a list of video descriptions ranging from “seemingly fun but harmless social activities” to “high-risk and dangerous acts.”

Some of the acts laid out in the descriptions, ranging from the mid ‘00s to last year, include a Floor Coordinator and a student vomiting on each other, collecting it in a pitcher, and having a third student drink it.

One act describes a student having his pelvic area lit on fire. Others include residents publicly urinating on each other, a Floor Coordinator having his anal region waxed with duct tape; a student drinking a mixture of urine, beer and toilet water; drinking cups of urine; stripping and also a false arrest — which led to an eviction and 100 hours of community service.

Reports often stemmed from tower competitions, which also include events where residents sit outside on an ice rink during winter nights.

“(The university) really stretched what happened in a lot of the activities. So for one thing, (they’re saying) students will have to go sit outside on the ice and are forced to sit there overnight and freeze — but actually the hours are pretty reasonable that they do it, and no one’s forced to be out there,” Students’ Union President Colten Yamagishi said. “I’m sure if these things were things that people didn’t enjoy they wouldn’t do them.”

Yamagishi added that in a residence as large as Lister, which houses 1,800 students, issues are going to arise.

“We don’t necessarily deny that there’s things that could be improved in Lister, but definitely we haven’t seen anything that should give (the university) the right to break their own bylaws … There’s nothing happening now that hasn’t been happening for the last 50 years,” he said. “I just don’t understand where this concern is coming from.”

The Students’ Union received the package of documents from the university in July.

“It’s like a pile of documents … and it’s basically just a whole bunch of very empty information that talks about the current situation for Residence Services, the residence staff and the students, but there’s nothing in there that constitutes a state of emergency or urgency,” Yamagishi said.

“I’m not going to say the whole package is bogus, because that’s not true — but a lot of it is outdated information … and a lot of it is inaccurate.”

Dean of Students Frank Robinson confirmed that administration had based its concerns on what happened in the past two years. He added that they had shared their information with the SU as early as July 23.

“On July 23, (the SU) saw a list of troublesome events that we saw in Lister — not last year, but in the previous year,” he explained.

“In the days later, they received a very, very detailed list of incident reports. And the incident reports were primarily this last year. Yamagishi responded to it on the 31st, so he must have got it before then. He said he didn’t see anything problematic in it.”

Last year, there were more than 100 judicial incidents reported in Lister regarding things from vandalism and smoking to alcohol misuse and abuse to staff. Of these, 22 involved EMS, UAPS or EPS — compared to two such incidents requiring emergency help across other residences.

The report also notes that student staff told supervisors that there were many incidents they did not report.

Robinson said that the information that administration shared with the SU included YouTube videos and issues found on social media.

“When I say incident reports, I don’t just mean formal reports, I mean several incidents that cause risk to health and safety,” he clarified. “Some reports were from the past couple years, and some were before that. Some were this year, and some were in the past academic year.”

Robinson added that the university approves of many things Lister does, including its philanthropic endeavours and community-building events such as dodgeball.

“I don’t want to come down slamming all parts of Lister culture. There are some really good things happening in Lister hall and we don’t want to destroy that,” Robinson said. “However, the documents that we prepared this summer, when I looked at those and when other people in Central Administration looked at those, they said things have to change.”

Robinson said that he wasn’t made aware of the videos until June of this year.

“Even though we’ve been doing all this stuff, it wasn’t having the effect we needed to have, so we needed to do something like this,” he said.

“The things that deal with urgent health and safety things, we will make those changes, period. We’re not going to sit back … the way I look at it, if we wait to make changes, and something happens in that year, no one wants to be in that situation, so we are going to make the changes. We have no intention of going back on them.”

Despite these concerns, the SU is maintaining its hard-line position on the Lister changes. In an August 14 meeting of Students’ Council, the SU voted, in camera — which means only members of council are privy to details and are unable to discuss them — to approve $50,000 of unbudgeted money.

Of these funds $40,000 is for unexplained “professional fees,” and $10,000 for “student association training fees.”

Four members of council have confirmed with The Gateway that the $40,000 is for legal fees, with the $10,000 for LHSA training.

Shortly after the fees were approved, tweets on the hashtag #thenewLHSAtraining revealed the Lister Hall Students’ Association’s staff members went to the mountains for a weekend camping trip with a company named Hela Ventures. The trip included hiking, mountain climbing and white water rafting.

“Blew a knee rafting, gonna walk it off on the mountain #fruitvaleinstincts #thenewLHSAtraining #naturewalk,” tweeted @VPschaffer.

Although Yamagishi agrees that the $10,000 went to the LHSA training fees, he denies that they funded the trip.

“We certainly have not paid for their camp or for any food. All of the costs that went towards them went for materials, speakers and basically any training stuff they needed,” he said.

“The reason we helped them out with that … is just because those were costs that they normally wouldn’t have to incur unless this whole thing had gone crazy like this.”

Yamagishi declined to comment on the $40,000, citing in camera rules.


The following comments by our president make me giggle:

“I’m sure if these things were things that people didn’t enjoy they wouldn’t do them.” - See being hazed and peer pressure of 17-20 years olds to feel accepted

“There’s nothing happening now that hasn’t been happening for the last 50 years” - Probably means sexism and racism are acceptable by that logic

If you have a problem with this current administration you must understand that they are the same ones who too a hard nose approach at the hazing incident a few years ago. They see this as the same category. Student safety. Most people who live/lived in Lister a way too brainwashed to understand this, but mental health is also something they are trying to keep safe. Having people put through rigorous trials of peer pressure and attempts of feeling accepted through popularity contests (see “elections”) or by doing something they are uncomfortable doing can cause far reaching consequences most people don’t see right away.


Your friendly neighbourhood Troll

Posted by Trolling (It's like planking but under a bridge) on Sep 05, 2012

What I really cannot comprehend is why the SU is willing to waste so much of their time and so much of our money ($40,000!) fighting against something that clearly has been decided with the best interests of the health and safety of students living in Lister.  It is really starting to look like the SU president and vp’s (some ex-Lister residents) are abusing their positions and students money to fight a personal vendetta.  Maybe all it would take is another Acadia type incident in Lister for the SU to open their eyes and support these clearly proactive changes made by the University. At which point it would be far too late and University would be the ones to take all the blame not the SU.

And $10,000 for a white water rafting camping trip?!  How does that not seem just a little excessive to anyone else???

Posted by Save time...see it my way. on Sep 05, 2012

Well, I’d say this article definitively shows that there are some issues in Lister that need to change. I’m still unsure as to whether the changes that Dr. Samarasekera office implemented actually address those issues though. Confining drinking to rooms is only going to increase the danger to students and increase the likelihood of these kinds of incidents happening. (source:
Having both an RA and FC is sort of a step in the right direction by increasing the amount of student staff who have training to deal with breaches of the students’ code like these, many of which are drinking-related, but it leads to a whole host of other problems and difficulties for floors. I would love to see more student staff, volunteer or paid, who are going to help deal with this problem in a way which actually solves it. This isn’t even mentioning the way in which these changes were implemented, but that’s a whole other rant.

Posted by Grady Zielke on Sep 05, 2012

Seriously! SU gets so little vote and how often does the lawn gnome or barbie doll get 3rd or 4th place in voting for the president (25% of 5% of the student voting population is a joke of a mandate)

I personally am glad that they spent such hard earned money (ie I have to pay this as part of my tuition) to go rafting, seems like that will really fix this problem.

The hazing culture is stupid and if you are fighting for your right to pee on 1st year students you should go whitewater rafting, maybe you might hit your head on a rock somewhere and get some sense knocked into you.

Frankly I see no need for the SU these days, they take my money and try to get elected on beer in the water fountains. They are so out of touch with most university life!

Posted by SU gets 5% voter turn out I am glad they speak for on Sep 05, 2012

“mid ‘00s to last year, include a Floor Coordinator and a student vomiting on each other, collecting it in a pitcher, and having a third student drink it.

One act describes a student having his pelvic area lit on fire. Others include residents publicly urinating on each other, a Floor Coordinator having his anal region waxed with duct tape; a student drinking a mixture of urine, beer and toilet water; drinking cups of urine; stripping and also a false arrest — which led to an eviction and 100 hours of community service.”

All of these events took place in Ivanhoe: 2005. 7 years ago. Preventative measures went in place right away and nothing like it was done again, Ivanhoe is completely different now and has been for years.

“Reports often stemmed from tower competitions, which also include events where residents sit outside on an ice rink during winter nights.”

Again, this didn’t happen last year and wasn’t going to happen this year. Discretion was used when the event came up during a cold spell and it was moved inside.

On top of that, all of these are (outdated) examples from the tower events which are a week long in January. How does that constitute as a n emergency situation, they still have months to review what we have planned for tower events, where they would find out it is nothing like they imagine or similar at all to 7 years ago. 

Yes the SU set aside $10,000 for LHSA training fees, they knew how important it is for our staff to be trained in peer support, first aid, conflict mediation, campus resources, inclusivity/community building etc.. Especially when the University student staff were, and still are, understaffed. It was a move to ensure that Floor Coordinators were ready to handle a floor of first years on their own (as they used to), whether there was an RA on the floor or not.
We did not end up using all of the money because guest speakers and workshops we had were from university branches, and as a student group we received them for free. However the money that we did use went towards training binders to hold handouts and powerpoints from training, and first aid training for the late hired staff who hadn’t received it yet. 

The trip to Camp Hela happens in the middle of training week on the weekend. It is a dry trip where team building activities and bonding occur. This year some of the activities included rafting and a hike to some waterfalls, but not mountain climbing. None of the money from the SU was used to pay for this, it is a traditional trip that was valuable for team building and a moral boost after the ultimatum and bribery that ensued a month ago from the University. The LHSA realizes this is an expense that can be lowered and cheaper training weekend activities are being sought after.

#ERMEHGAWD #TWITTER #FACTS #longlivetheLHSA. Well there you go, I tweeted a light hearted tweet about our hiking and rafting, therefore, the SU is funding debauchery. #nopechucktesta.
Follow @VPschaffer for further insight into the disgusting and dangerous life of a LHSA officer including: Tweets about how hard we worked to get training done in short notice, Retweets of FC’s enjoying training, Eric Martin sleeping on a bus, and even a congratulatory tweet because of the LHSA being fully trained and staffed. All the scandalous stuff needed for some great Gateway articles.   


Posted by Kody Moncrief on Sep 05, 2012

To think that the University still thinks that we do those kind of things listed in the videos for our events shows either how little they know about Lister or how out of touch they are. Going into my fourth year of Lister, with the previous three in classic Lister, I never saw any of the above happen in the tower events and know that they will most likely not happen in the future for the very reasons in the video. Calling our recent tower events hazing is just ridiculous. I got the Ivanhoe crest tattoed on my calf in my year as Floor Coordinator and am still proud of it. I didn’t do it because I was peer pressured or forced to, I chose to on my own accord, and I wanted something that I loved participating in for two years and had the pleasure of planning for one year to be commemorated on my skin.

And @save time’s comment above:
“something that clearly has been decided with the best interests of the health and safety of students living in Lister”
Do you really think that putting drinking behind closed doors in wings while Res Services is understaffed (they are still missing a Senior RA for one of the towers) or having it outsourced off campus is safer for Listerites? Especially first years that barely know edmonton and are just starting to experiment with alcohol?

Posted by Matthew Dalla Lana on Sep 05, 2012

As a former residence services employee (just Rez Life, not LHSA) who worked move in weekend, I think it is extremely important to have trained people on each and every floor. One person cannot be everywhere on their floor and not every floor even had one RA to try and be. The training residence services provides is excellent but it doesn’t help if there are not enough people to be in all the needed places thus I agree with the SU’s decision to fund LHSA training. If all the RA positions were filled and those Leaders had been properly trained than the money wouldn’t have served as much purpose. My former floor is still lacking a RA and I am glad to hear that a FC with training was present for move in and the first week.

Overall, I think splitting the LHSA and ResLife reps will be a step in the right direction. I personally found the conflict of interest to be an issue on my floor while I lived there but I think doing so in the middle of the summer after they had previously hired student staff and at a time that did not allow for enough time to hire all the necessary new staff was irresponsible. Citing health safety concerns as the documents depict does not explain the necessity for the mid summer timing.

I am also extremely disappointed in the image that all Listerites have now been painted with. My floor never needed to bring in BeeClean to clean vomit except for Norovirus. We once broke a window while all sober by accident. We cleaned up best we could and BeeClean finished what we couldn’t in less than 10min. We owned up and paid the associated costs. Urinating anywhere was not an issue. Excessive drinking did not occur on the floor, we had a unofficial policy of going out to drink allowing those on the floor to sleep and study. We got our first noise complaint in January, while we were sober playing video games in someone’s room. While there have been those bad apples, or past issues, the way the administration describes Lister leads me to take offence. Not everyone or every floor was like that, Today when people learn I spent two years in Lister, I immediately get judged because of what the University has said. Even those not from Edmonton. I was judged in my workplace this summer in Southern Alberta as well as in my home town.

Posted by Anonymous on Sep 05, 2012

Impeach Yamawhatever.

Posted by R on Sep 06, 2012

Just to be clear we just got the final invoice from LHSA training and the final cost to the SU was only $737.89.  The funds went towards the following: First aid training for 12 participants $540, a reimbursement for first aid training at a third party trainer $155.00, Supplies and Materials including binders, journals, and exercise books $42.89.

and as a response to everyone who has commented above.
Thank you to those who support us, we have been working extremely hard to make things right for students on this issue.

To those who don’t support us, you have every right to do so but I would highly encourage that you to do more research into the issue.  There is a ton of news articles and press releases that you can check out in the media and on the SU website for more information. 

And to R, sometimes I wish I could just quit and didn’t have to deal with all of the work that I have been doing for the past 2 months to protect students but I keep doing it because I care for the students I represent.  The day that I am not able to stand behind my word and say that I will quit my job before there is a chance for impeachment.  I am glad to say that today is not that day.

Posted by Colten Yamagishi on Sep 06, 2012

This article fails to recognize that major changes have occurred in the last few years. As a former Lister resident (I spent 4 years here) I would like to stress that the health and safety of residents are considered for tower events. Yes, we try to maintain traditions but many alterations are made to them. Tower events are kept because they bring the residents of the floors together in a competitive and sometimes silly environment. It gives them the chance to let loose, and work together. Personally, and I am a very shy person, this was the first time in my first year that I really felt like my floor was a family. 

Now to clear up the misconceptions it is important to recognize that many strict rules during tower events were in place and were mentioned to Residence Services, who were aware of the activities. First of all, events last year were moved inside since it was during a cold spell. During the INSIDE “ice rink event” residents had a chance to do homework, talk with and meet members of other floors, play ice breakers, etc. None of this is at all harmful!  The previous year, the FCs checked all residents before being allowed to go outside to ensure they had layers, warm boots, mittens, etc and if residents looked too cold they would be sent inside and lose points, they had to switch off with members on their floor,  there was a temperature minimum at which the event would be moved inside, mitt warmers and hot chocolate were often provided etc. Once again the residents were not harmed! The majority of residents were angry and disappointed with the FCs for making SKULK 2012 STRICTLY INSIDE. In the general tower event rules it was made very clear that any form of peer pressuring would result in a floor being disqualified from the competition. In past years, noise was a problem, so any violation of quiet hours would result in points being deducted from their score. Last but not least, in the scavenger hunt, any pictures with alcohol would not count (very little drinking occurred this week).

It is fair to say that these rules were not that strict in my first year but the point is that changes are being made and the incidents that are being displayed in these articles, even if they were only a few years ago are not taking place now. Many strides in the last few years have been taken to make the traditions safer for the residents. Just so you have the full picture we had other healthy, fun and competitive events such as volleyball, a mock casino, a game show, and a relay race which incorporate a variety of strengths and the attendance at these events improves the community dynamics of the floors.

These events and the rules in place were mentioned and agreed upon with members of Residence Services. I would also like to point out that Residence Services has known about events, like the ice rink, for at least 5 years (one of the Resident Coordinators can easily see the ice rink from their window) and have failed to stop the occurrence of them. Residence Services members had plenty of opportunities to say “No, those rules are not good enough and you still cannot do that” but neglected to. Therefore, the supervisors should be held accountable if these activities are deemed to be that terrible.

The focus of these articles needs to move away from portraying that Lister is full of terrible people. I am not saying that there are not problems, but this demonstrates that the picture being displayed is biased and that there are many gaps in the information being provided.

Posted by Anonymous on Sep 07, 2012

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