U of S takes wide-ranging steps to address student concerns

Interim President Gordon Barnhart has announced a number of increased security measures on the University of Saskatchewan campus following weekend vandalism May 9 in a student parking lot.

The following is the president's response to student concerns presented to the university in a petition on Monday:

Dear Students and Residents,

Let me begin my response to your petition letter by assuring you that you are vitally important members of our community and speaking on behalf of the entire university community, we are dismayed by the threatening level of vandalism you have experienced.

You are correct that those responsible for your safety and security do ultimately report to me. I want you to know that the "runaround" you described in your letter is not acceptable and I have asked these teams to work together to come up with immediate actions and to work with their teams to prevent these unsatisfactory responses from being repeated. To date, an internal investigation has been launched into how members of the unit responded to the initial calls and I am reviewing the incident to find ways to improve our services and eliminate the inconsistencies in responses.

With regard to our International Students experiencing discrimination by university employees through these incidents, let me state unequivocally, I cannot accept and will not tolerate any action or inaction that is based in racial discrimination. The university is a place for diversity and inclusion and as a community, we will do everything within our means to protect that ideal.

You have made some very specific requests of the university that I will respond to below.

Request 1. Place Protective Services Personnel on location at McEown Park U-Lot from sunset to sunrise until such a time that adequate security is provided.

Response: Immediately following the May 9 incident, Protective Services increased the frequency of patrols in the McEown Park area (further to the increased frequency of patrols in response to previous incidents). Beginning May 11, a Protective Services officer in a marked patrol car will be stationed at the residence building near parking Lot U from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. This increased security will remain in place until the permanent solutions for security measures are in place.

Request 2. Place security cameras, of sufficient quality as to have the ability to identify vandals in strategic location so as to cover the entirety of the McEown Park U-Lot.

Response: Surveillance cameras require network enhancements that can only be completed in conjunction with the construction of the child care facility, anticipated this fall. The increased patrols, overnight marked patrol car and officers will be in place until such time as the surveillance systems are fully functioning.

Request 3. Construct adequate lighting to deter crime and allow for greater visibility of the suspicious activity around the lot.

Response: Temporary improved lighting is expected to be in place by the end of the month. The more permanent solution involves an already developed, campus-wide plan for improved lighting. These improvements will begin with Lot U, however, this project requires approval by the University of Saskatchewan Board of Governors and an RFP process, which means this more permanent solution may be many months away. In addition to lighting, our improvement efforts will include changes to the layout of the grounds to ensure adequate sight lines for pedestrians and for those on patrol in this area. Again, the increased patrols, overnight marked patrol car and officers will be in place until such time as the improved grounds and lighting measures are in place.

Request 4. Compensate all affected resident vehicle owners by paying for the full out of pocket expense incurred from the May 9th attack.

Response: While the university is not responsible for the acts of vandals and criminals, we are sensitive to the unique hardship experienced by our students through recent incidents in and around parking Lot U. We are a community and we will step up to support each other during times of hardship. For this reason, I have established a relief fund, intended to offset the financial hardships incurred by students whose vehicles have been vandalized while parking in Lot U. The terms for the administration of this fund will be determined within the next week in order to provide relief to the students affected. This fund will also be open to others in the community to support as I have heard from many who would like to contribute to helping students through this difficult time.

Request 5. Set up independent committee involving residents with an explicit mandate to investigate and audit management of the university residence services.

Response: The Graduate Students' Association (GSA) and the University of Saskatchewan Students' Union (USSU) are established student representative bodies who are formally appointed to provide input to the administration of university services. I would suggest that this is your channel for expressing concerns regarding university services. I also expect all university service providers to regularly solicit input from students and to respond to concerns about service in a timely and satisfactory way. I understand that Protective Services has extended an invitation to members of the concerned student group to review the safety audit that was conducted last year and to review the scheduled improvements. I encourage you to participate and provide input in this way.

Thank you for your faith in the university to make this right. You have my word that action has been and will be taken to address your concerns about the safety and security of our community.


Gordon Barnhart, C.M., S.O.M., Ph.D.

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor

For more information, contact:

James Shewaga
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan
Share this story