University of Alberta trashes student’s belongings worth $3500

EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Students’ Union is calling for new regulations to protect students living on campus, after an international student had thousands of dollars worth of her belongings thrown out.

Fourth-year design student Siying Chen, 22, arrived back from her annual summer visit with family in China to find most of her possessions gone from the HUB Mall apartment she has rented for the past three years.

Missing was her 51-inch television, a sewing machine, a Toshiba laptop, snowboards and snowboarding equipment, art supplies for her classes, paintings and drawings from four years of coursework, handmade furniture such as a side table, stool and floor lamp.

Chen emailed residence services on Sept. 5 and received a response saying she was required under her lease agreement to notify Residence Services if she planned to leave her unit for more than 14 days.

“We had no idea if you left and moved out, leaving items behind which so many, many students do, leaving the university to pay for removal of items,� the email said.

Some of the items were left in the common area of the four-unit apartment Chen shares with roommates.

“We felt that if the items in the common area were important to someone, then they would have put them in their bedroom for safekeeping while they were away,� the email said. “Therefore, due to your lack of responsibility these items were considered as trash (left) behind and therefore were all thrown out and removed as garbage as well while the unit was getting cleaned.�

Chen said she left items such as her television in the common room to share with her roommates.

She had prepaid her rent for the summer and was enrolled for classes this year, and doesn’t understand why the items were thrown out when she has gone home for summer break every year with no problem.

Chen has replaced some of the items since she needs them for school. However, she hasn’t been reimbursed for any of the belongings that were removed.

“I’m very, very helpless,� she said. “It’s the record of my university life … Emotionally, it’s like someone used an eraser, has erased something very important of your life.�

A spokesperson for the U of A’s Residence Services wasn’t immediately available Thursday, but Doug Dawson, associate vice-president for ancillary services, said the university’s policies and procedures governing how students’ belongings are handled when they move out were followed in Chen’s case.

“We are committed to constantly improving those policies and procedures and we are committed to enhancing students’ experience while here. Situations like this help us identify where and how we can make those improvements.�

Chen contacted the U of A Students’ Union in early October, but it is difficult to help students in these situations because the residences are basically unregulated, said students’ union vice-president Nicholas Diaz, who handles complaints about student housing.

“Residence Services (at the U of A) makes the rules and enforces the rules, and there’s no dispute-resolution mechanism, either,� Diaz said.

“The Residential Tenancies Act does not apply to them, so there’s no law governing their procedures around cleaning, inspections and so forth … Reimbursement for Siying would have to come from the university wanting to do that.�

Over the past six months, Diaz said he has received hundreds of complaints from students about their on-campus housing.

“This case is one student who lost $3,500 worth of property that they will never see again,� he said. “This is just one student. This is happening to hundreds of students and not all of them speak up.�

asands@edmontonjournal.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *