Every year, a portion of University of Saskatchewan students take up residence in Voyageur Place, one of the U of S’ four residences. For some, living in residence is a thoroughly frustrating experience.
I spoke to several students who have lived in Voyageur Place to get an idea of what it’s like. While there are both positive and negative aspects to living there, the services offered to students seem to be both disappointing and overpriced.
In an email interview with the Sheaf, fourth year computer science student Erik LaBine, suggested that the quality of rooms left quite a bit to be desired.
“Paint was peeling off every ceiling, lights would flicker unless you left them on all day long, insulation was falling off of steam pipes and radiators were often stuck at an inconvenient temperature setting,” LaBine said.
Living in Voyageur Place can also be significantly more expensive than living off-campus. After his second year, LaBine moved off campus, feeling that residence simply wasn’t “worth it.”
Besides the quality of the rooms, students also identify the bureaucracy of residence as a huge drawback. One former Residence Assistant, referred to as Alex to protect their privacy, described how slow the process of changing rooms was.
When experiencing conflict, students “would be encouraged to go through a remediation process which, depending on how busy the RA [was], could take up to two to three days,” Alex said. “They would have to then go two to three weeks before residence would take any further action. Residence, after deciding that further action is necessary, could take days to weeks before arranging a room change.”
Alex also indicated that in some cases it could take a whole month for the process to conclude.
Irritation with the bureaucracy isn’t limited to room changes, either. Lucas Berg, a sixth year physics student who lived in Voyageur Place for several years, found himself the victim of changing regulations on move-in day for the 2014–15 academic year.
“I was told that since I hadn’t made arrangements months in advance, I would have to pay the full rent for the semester on the spot, a policy much different from the previous four years’ ‘pay as you go’ method,” Berg said.
This change in an extremely important policy was not adequately advertised to students, and Berg wasn’t the only person who was unpleasantly surprised that day. Though he did manage to make the bulk payment on time, it was only with the help of friends.
What frustrated him most was the unsympathetic manner in which he was treated by residence staff.
“They were certainly being more difficult than I felt they had reason to be,” Berg said, going on to note that while he was initially inclined to attribute his treatment to inexperienced staff, he changed his mind upon hearing of the similar experience of a friend.
It shouldn’t be said that living in Voyageur Place is without redeeming qualities though. Former RA and third year computer science major Royce Meyer thoroughly enjoyed his experience.
“I liked that it was close to everything. I could crawl out of bed 10 minutes before class started and make it in time,” Meyer said. “What residence offers is a place on campus, close to classes, potentially near friends, where you can feasibly worry about nothing but your academics and social life, as your expenses are effectively unified into one bill.”
With this in mind, living on campus is not necessarily a wholly bad idea. Student residences can be a great place for new or out of town students to make friends and they can often foster a sense of community among students.
It appears that the only significant flaws are in the execution. For many students, the price tag, poor room quality and exasperating bureaucracy are substantial enough grievances to prompt a relocation off of campus.
“I felt like I was being treated like a disposable product,” LaBine said. “I’d guess that the university is leaning on the residence department to try to turn a profit to deal with the current financial woes … The upper administration can get away with screwing over the students and the staff, because they know there’ll always be a fresh batch next year, no matter how many people swear it off for life.”