Student irked at Residence

By Erin McKenzie

While some students are living happily on campus, Blair Birdsell is still awaiting a “fair trial” for his eviction from residence Sept. 20, 2002, and may pursue legal action to get one.

“It will forever be unknown whether I would have been evicted if policies had been followed and all facts presented correctly [by Residence Services],” stated Birdsell, a University of Calgary student. “Residence services does not follow their own policies or University of Calgary policies.”

Birdsell was accused of the use or possession of illegal substances in the Residence Complex. He has argued that not only is this accusation false, but the manner in which the entire situation was handled violated many of his student rights and points of Canadian Administrative Law.

“I wish to push forward on this issue to make sure it does not happen to another student in the future,” stated Birdsell.

Birdsell cited procedures in the Residence Student Handbook which he claims were not followed. The handbook states: “Infractions of the Residence standards and policies may require a student to appear before the Community Review Board,” and “Board members review documentations prior to the commencement of the meeting.” “Witnesses and Witness statements may also be requested by the accused party.” After a hearing with the CRB, a student can appeal to the Manager of Residence Services within 48 hours of notification of the decision and sanctions.

“I actually had only three hours to organize a defense,” protested Birdsell. He did not receive a hearing with the CRB because the CRB does not function between April and September. He was then given a chance to appeal to the Manager of Residence Services three hours after notified. Neither Birdsell nor the manager were presented with relevant documentation prior to the appeal, and witnesses were not heard.

“[Residence Services General Manager] Mr. George Thomson said ‘I believe you so I don’t need to talk to your witnesses,’” said Birdsell.

Birdsell’s complaints about residence are the latest of many this year.

“Residence is a lot more strict this year,” said Irene Enyedy, Students’ Union Vice-President Events. “I find Residence Services trying to control what students think and not think.”

Enyedy also sees problems with the review process.

“We need to determine how we can support students more in the review process,” said Enyedy. “[Birdsell’s case] was dealt with incorrectly, the SU fully supports his decision to move forward with this case.”

Thomson would not comment.

“Anything relating to interaction with students or disciplinary measures with students is confidential,” said Joel Lynn, Assistant Manager Residence Life. Lynn also referred to the Residence Student Handbook stating that the procedures outlined in it are strictly followed. Lynn also explained that when the CRB does not convene, there is always a three stage process followed to ensure a fair trial.

“My appeal to Mr. Thomson, despite how things have been done in the past, was made to one administrator; non-bias therefore cannot be established,” wrote Birdsell. “It is bias when you are appealing to someone’s boss. There are no checks and balances in place.”

Residence staff however, enforce policies that students lay out.

“The Student Handbook is generated by students themselves,” said Lynn.

Birdsell believes his eviction notice was invalid due to the fact that sections of the Residence Student Handbook were recently rewritten, omitting whole sections of sentences.

“I would just like to know why Mr. Thomson changed the words,” said Birdsell.

Birdsell is currently living off campus and hoping to return to student residence one day.

“Residence was a perfect environment for me,” he said. “My marks shot up.”

Enyedy recommends setting up sub-committees to properly focus on student support. Enyedy also feels that when the CRB is not functioning, there should be an emergency group prepared to give the student the option of support.