Here are the facts
January 30, 2018, StFX students received an email from Head of Student Services, Andrew Beckett that, effective September, 2018 Cameron and MacKinnon Hall will become ‘co-ed by door’ residences. This is considered by the university as the next step in moving all residences across campus to all-gender living spaces. The email states that the evolution of all-gender residences across campus, is due as a result of a planning committee that began over 10 years ago.
In an interview with Andrew Beckett and Jaqueline De Leebeeck, Beckett states, “more than a decade ago, working groups have been pulled today to try and address concerning behaviour.” Recommendations to attempt to correct such behaviour date back to 2007, 2010, 2011 and most recently 2015. In 2015 as a result of conversations between the Students’ Union and Residence Life it was decided that rather than the buildings go co-ed, other sanctions would be put in place, these as Beckett explained were “first years only… a certain academic average and behavioral requirements”. These measures were part of an ongoing larger conversation of attempting to solve the conduct issues occurring within the residences that didn’t result in changing their single gendered organization. Beckett notes, “although we tried, culture trumps.”
As the interview continued we asked whether or not this decision is final and if there is room for this to not go through. Beckett stated that “the only finalized decision is that the residences will be co-ed”. He continues by saying, “Does this mean no more house cups? I don’t think so... those are all the discussions we want to get into, because it doesn’t have to be the end [of house cups].” Beckett stressed that there are ways to adapt within the change to a co-ed environment.
Beckett acknowledged that “the emotions and the fierce loyalty [to the residences] is understood but we made the commitment to this ongoing discussion.”
When asked how this will impact house council, Beckett explained that there will be only one house council per building, however the make-up of the house council will be up for discussion. These discussions are planned to happen with small focus groups and student input. This question later leads to what the names of the residences will be. Beckett stated that the buildings will remain as Cameron Hall and Mackinnon Hall, but the individual names will be up for discussion. Beckett remarked that the original names could remain the same but it will be decided during the focus groups.
Student response from the changes led to the creation of Facebook groups and even t-shirts to show that many do not agree with what, and how, the university is undergoing the transition. When asking former House President of McDonald Curtis Beitz why this matters so much to student, he spoke to his experiences explaining, “I did not come and live in Cameron Hall for two years because of it looking like a lavish hotel, I chose to live here because of the experiences and traditions I knew I would get to be a part of.”. Beitz also touched on the conversations being had about students safety within single gender residences and mentions “negative experiences happen in all residences no matter what.” Beitz final remarks comments that “this university is one discussed by word of mouth, if the students don’t feel like they matter [to the university] in these conversations, it will be known.”
We reached out to other students about what this change means for them and the response was substantial. A quote from Amelia Abbott, a first year in Chillis states ‘arriving on welcome day I was terrified and feeling alone. But as I walked up the path to MacKinnon Hall, I was overwhelmed by an abundance of love that I never knew was possible to feel from strangers.”
And she is not alone in these remarks. A previous resident of Cameron Hall, Hannah Hynes wrote ‘the support system that is 90 sisters is one that empowers the women who live in these residences to speak of their experiences, whether they be good or bad.’
On February 3, 2018 the Students Union held a Student Representative Council Meeting to address the concerns put forth from the student body. There were over 50 students present at the meeting with many voicing their own concerns, and the concerns on behalf of their houses. The meeting was adjourned and was voted to move to next week’s council meeting which will decide whether the council will support the school in its decision or otherwise. Select members of council have made it clear that they wish to hear from their constituents before making a decision and, as such, a survey has been distributed this week so that students can voice their opinions and have the potential to have a say in the future of their residences.