Residence quality deteriorating in some Queen’s buildings

Queen’s needs to invest the same care in older buildings it does in newer accommodations

Image supplied by: Image Supplied by: Claire Lumley
Claire reflects on her time in Victoria Hall and what needs to be improved.

Queen’s University has arguably one of the best academic and campus reputations in Canada. New students are attracted to the close-knit, town-like like feel of residence and academic life.

Unfortunately, first-year residence experiences don’t necessarily live up to expectations—especially for those living in older dormitory buildings.

There’s an overall poor investment in ensuring proper residence safety and quality of living. This leads to new and young undergraduate students feeling unsafe and overwhelmed.

Queen’s has a variety of residence buildings. With some opening in the mid 19th century, while newer residences such as Brant and Smith House opened in 2015. The most recent residence, Endaayaan-Tkanónsote, opened in 2022.

Victoria Hall—often referred to as “Vic” by students—has a reputation for being a party building.  While many pick this residence deliberately, the selection process places several incoming students there automatically.

Vic is known to have minimal security. There are limited cameras installed, and the entrance doors habitually malfunction. Though some students enjoy the lack of surveillance, others believe cameras would prevent unwanted intrusions and reduce student misconduct.

Vandalism is another constant issue in this residence. By the end of each weekend, ceiling tiles are broken in every wing and bathrooms are completely trashed.

In comparison, Smith and Brant House are pristine, as most students choose to party in other buildings.

It’s hard to live in the residence hall that is always being torn apart. If all the residences were equally and consistently maintained, then perhaps there wouldn’t be a designated party building. Vic wouldn’t bear the brunt of weeknight and weekend disruptions, allowing its residents moments of peace and quiet.

The University is quite slow to respond to damage complaints. The first week I lived in Victoria Hall, someone punched and broke the hallway window on the door outside my bedroom. Glass shattered all over the floor. When facilities finally came three days later, they repaired the door with duct tape.

Though some students see past the low-security quarters and hasty repairs, it’s frustrating for many to pay exorbitant fees just to have their residence neglected.

A couple months after the window incident, Queen’s Hospitality apparently had the money to build a candy dispenser system in the Lazy Scholar. Clearly, their budgetary priorities askew—there are so many residence issues that should be addressed before pursuing additional money-making ventures.

The upkeep imbalance is only a fraction of the problem—first year’s right to safety in their living quarter is where the neglect is especially prominent.

It seems excessive to lock your door to prevent theft when simply walking down the hall to use the bathroom. For students in Vic, it’s a necessity.

On any given weekend, Vic residents experience random strangers entering their room without permission and belongings often go missing.  Security personnel aren’t typically around, and dons don’t have the authority to penalize non-Queen’s students.

In comparison, Smith and Brant House have security cameras everywhere. Bedroom doors in these buildings automatically lock, and the key fob system rarely malfunctions. Any slight disturbance draws the attention of residence security. Students in these buildings have the luxury of private washrooms, which are much safer than communal ones. This privilege should be afforded to more first years.

The fire alarm is perhaps the most frustrating problem for students living on campus.

In my experience, fire alarms were pulled between five and eight times every week in Vic, most often at night. Like every other issue, malicious fire alarm pulls are disproportionately felt by those in older, low-security buildings, where students feel they can misbehave without the fear of getting caught.

Due to the frequency of false fire alarms, residents disband the threat of an actual fire by the fifth alarm, choosing to remain inside during the chaos. The alarm loses credibility; in the event of an actual fire, many students would be at risk.

The fire alarm is a great frustration during exam season.  An alarm going off three times a night eats at time that could otherwise be spent sleeping.

Students often choose to write online exams in the evening. The alarms are a hinderance not only to their concentration, but have reduced their allotted test time.

Queen’s claims to be on top of controlling malicious alarm pulls, but there is little evidence that this is the case. A surge of alarm activations between September and November of 2019 caused tamper dye to be installed in order to catch perpetrators.

Despite this, students continue this behaviour. In 2020, Kingston Fire and Rescue fined Queen’s over $9,000 dollars for seven fire alarm calls in just 24 for hours.

This past fall, the Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs issued a statement saying students found guilty of maliciously pulling fire alarms may be asked to leave residence. Only time will tell if this threat of punishment will have any effect.

If Queen’s wants to keep its reputation and have successful graduates, it needs to prioritize students’ safety and quality of life. This starts in residence.

Though Queen’s is an amazing school, the University needs to live up to its renown reputation in all aspects. In the meantime, it’s up to first years to pick their residences wisely.

Claire is a second year English student.


fire alarms, first year, Residence, ResLife, Safety, Victoria Hall

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