SFU Residence and Housing fails to properly enforce COVID-19 guidelines

Multiple students share concerns with loose and unenforced guidelines

by Gurpreet Kambo and Harvin Bhathal

Several SFU students have voiced their concerns to The Peak regarding SFU Residence and Housing’s COVID-19 procedures. These concerns primarily revolve around proper sanitation and the enforcement of existing physical distancing policies that Residence and Housing already has.

One of the students who approached The Peak stated that they frequently saw groups of more than four gathering in their building without masks, and that it has been happening “since the beginning of September.” 

They further stated that sometimes these gatherings last until quite late in the night, and sometimes occur in the floor’s shared kitchen, which has an occupancy limit of three people. This prevents others from being able to use the kitchen. 

Furthermore, at least two other students have corroborated the reports of witnessing multiple gatherings of greater than four students.

According to SFU Residence and Housing’s temporary community standards, gatherings of more than four people are allowed, and they must practice “appropriate physical/social distancing as outlined by Health Canada, or it will be instructed to end.”

The student also told The Peak that multiple students (including themself) have reported the infraction — however, the group was not dispersed even after both Residence and Security were contacted.

In an email to The Peak, SFU Communications, on behalf of Campus Public Safety, outlined the procedures they follow in cases of gatherings above the set limit:

  1. “If an incident is happening and a member of the community is witnessing it, they are encouraged to call SFU Residences Front Desk to inform them of the situation. The staff will then direct the supports SFU Residence has in either student or professional staff, to engage in a conversation with all those who are involved in any potential violation(s). These conversations are intended to be educational and includes:
  • gathering all information of those involved,
  • explaining to the group why staff have approached the situation, and
  • if it is related to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, staff will inform individuals what the gathering restrictions are, what is expected of them, and ensure that in the moment staff stay until everyone is following the gathering restrictions in place.

2. If someone contacts SFU Residences after an incident has taken place, follow-up happens through the community standards process. The Residence Life Office will use the information brought forward and reach out to all involved to discuss the information and learn more about the situation.”

The email further stated, “In regard to security, Campus Public Safety (CPS) provides support and works in collaboration with SFU Residence & Housing to keep the community safe and aware of established safety guidelines. Reports about residence-specific concerns received by CPS are responded to in partnership with SFU Residence & Housing following our community standards process.”

Furthermore, the email from SFU Communications said, “SFU and FIC residents and community members are expected to wear non-medical masks in all indoor common area spaces at all times. This includes the Dining Hall, elevators, the main office, hallways, washrooms, stairwells, study areas and other high traffic common areas where physical distancing isn’t possible.” This policy has been in place since “early August.”

While Residence buildings are supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and sanitizing wipes, it does not guarantee their application. 

The same student who spoke above added that in residence, students are required to pitch in to prevent the spread of COVID-19, by wiping down communal surfaces. “During my time in residence (Fall 2019), I have not once seen any students wipe down communal surfaces after using them [ . . . ] [we] contacted Residence and asked them to provide free cleaning products, and thankfully they did.” 

However, the student also added that they still had seen many students not helping with the sanitation of common spaces. “I think that one issue might be from a lack of education — if students are not prompted to wipe down surfaces, they may not actively realize that they are expected to do so. [ . . . ] SFU Residence and Housing has been contacted numerous times regarding this issue, but nothing has changed in regard to students following these guidelines.”

Another student added that “the vast majority of students living in residence are quite respectful of [most] COVID-19 guidelines,” such as physical distancing, “I can say a majority do not wear masks when they are inside.”

While PPE is provided, it is up to students to use it and follow COVID-19 guidelines. Whether or not it should be up to students is another issue but nonetheless, this puts students of SFU residence in a difficult situation because they are at the mercy of people who do not recognize the severity of the pandemic.