Despite minor improvements, living conditions remain poor for students living at the LeBlanc residence
Two months ago, the Fulcrum published a feature on the appalling conditions of the University’s LeBlanc residence. The University vowed to improve living conditions… but has it?
On the afternoon of March 26, seven weeks after our editor-in-chief Charley Dutil first visited LeBlanc, I arrived at the neglected residence, equipped with a camera to take pictures. Once again, its main lobby was easily accessible to outsiders.
In our last article, we mentioned that the main entrance door and the door leading to the lobby previously had holes where locks should have been. Those holes have since been covered with a slab of metal, but could still be opened by anyone.
I then reached the third door that could only be unlocked with a key card, but a resident immediately opened the door for me as he was coming out. It seemed like LeBlanc was just as easy to slip into as before.
I couldn’t find anyone roaming the halls of the ground floor, so I decided to take the stairs all the way up to the third floor. In the common room, I found a student who agreed to talk to me. They requested to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. This student was not aware of our last article, nor some of the issues that were brought up in it, but they had some concerns of their own.
“I’ll be so brutally honest about this place: I feel so bad for people that get this for [their] first year, like me,“ said the student. “Nobody’s really here. Everyone goes to like all the other residences ‘cause this one’s kinda crappy.’ ”
I asked them if they were aware of the rodent feces reported in the basement, and they said they did not know about them since they avoided the basement in general.
“I’m too scared to go into the basement,” they stated. “I hate having to go down there to do my laundry. I guess it’s just so not taken care of and I don’t know if it’s just me, but the laundry room smells like chlorine, and it just smells dirty in there. So I just try to stay [up here on the third floor].”
I thanked them for their time and decided to go down to the basement to investigate the infamous feces. I found the food lockers near the kitchen where the excrements were found and opened a few doors for inspection. I could not find obvious traces of feces, but the inside was still very dirty. It looked like the droppings had been removed.
I spotted another student in the kitchen preparing food, and walked over to talk to them. As it turns out, they were one of the students who shared their experiences in our first LeBlanc piece. They were interested in being interviewed again for our follow-up article, and even notified their friend, who was also one of the original interviewees. We then went back up to the ground floor to join them.
In the last article, we mentioned that these students met with a member of the Residents Association of the University of Ottawa (RAUO) who said that the University would improve the security at LeBlanc and take a look into the repairs needed for the residence. I asked the two students if any of those promises had been fulfilled.
Have any repairs been made since the article came out?
One student said they have noticed more workers in the building recently. There have been some small repairs, including the installation of a light in one of the showers and the concealing of the exposed wires near the electric panel on their floor.
“[The workers] chose to do it at nine in the morning, which is really annoying. [It] took them weeks to do it, too.”
The student I interviewed earlier on the third floor also mentioned that the residence’s elevators were fixed.
However, several problems concerning the living conditions still remain. According to one of the students, the first floor still has terrible heating.
“I’ve got my own space heater, so it hasn’t been a problem,” they said. “But it’s been the same: it’s been pretty cold, at least on our floor. Every other floor says it’s too hot, but obviously, we’re closer to the ground.”
While I was wandering the halls of LeBlanc on my own, I noticed many other sanitary issues within the building. I first noticed several clumps of brown goo on the ceiling of the third-floor common room.
The chairs in that area were also worn out and had large stains on them.
In the third-floor men’s bathroom, yellow gunk was visible through the shower drains.
Has the University increased security?
Previously, the students had informed us that a member of the “Freedom Convoy” broke into one of their bedrooms on Jan. 30. I asked if the University had increased security at LeBlanc since that incident, especially in the wake of the planned “Rolling Thunder” protests.
Reportedly, there is still little to no security at the residence. Before reading week, the students could see security guards in the main lobby, who were present on certains days of the week. But ever since they came back from reading week, the residents see security guards around once a week, leaving the building essentially unguarded. I asked them if they had witnessed any other troubling incidents, and they replied that no one had bothered them recently.
What have the students done?
When asked about what the students have done about the persisting issues at LeBlanc, one of the students told me they practically gave up after the article came out since they thought it would fix things. They would still contact the University when there are essential repairs, but the process remained tedious.
For instance, one of the students has a neighbour whose power outlets constantly stopped working. The students would call the University several times before a worker would come over. Furthermore, the repair itself would take several hours.
“I think at this point, we’ve just adjusted to everything,” one of the students said. They then added that every repair they see at LeBlanc is a “pleasant surprise”.
My last question to the duo was, do you regret choosing this residence? I knew the answer before they even spoke.
“No one chose this,” they said in unison. They told me that not only was LeBlanc not in any of their choices for housing, it was not even the first residence they were forcefully assigned to.
The University’s response
In an email to the Fulcrum, a university spokesperson said that in order to improve security at LeBlanc, a second key fob lock will be installed on the second door leading into the building, as well as a security mirror. These extra layers of security will be put in place once the necessary materials are received.
Furthermore, a new student safety patroller program will be available in residence starting in the fall. For the time being, students are advised to be vigilant in order to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the building. Protection Services should be contacted in case of an individual trespassing in the residence.
The university spokesperson also confirmed the repairs brought up by the students I interviewed. They also added that the kitchen and the food lockers are now clean and all appliances are functional. Facilities staff conduct daily inspections of the residence and look for cleanliness issues.
Several other renovation projects are planned to be completed this coming summer, including the stained ceiling tiles and the chipped paint.