Cluster housing visitors limited to 20 until further consultation

Campus Local News

University Residence Services sets visitation limits a week before Halloween

A typical cluster party in 2018. Photo by Michael John Lo

On October 24, students living in the residences of Ring Road, Tower, South Tower, and Cluster Neighbourhood received an email from Residence Life Services stating that due to “received concerns regarding structural integrity and safety in the event of emergencies,” an interim limit of 20 for visitors to a single cluster unit had been set.

This decision was made after consultation with UVic’s Emergency Planning office, with the stated intention of ensuring resident safety. According to the email, Residence Life Services will be developing a report through a contractor to determine the maximum capacity of a cluster unit. Residents were not given an estimate of how long that report would take.

“Residence Services staff, Campus Security and/or Saanich Police will ask people to clear cluster units with more than 20 people in them,” said the email. “Failure to cooperate will lead to documentation and follow up through the Residence Conduct System as related to the Safety/Security/Fire Equipment Community Standard.”

The 20-person limit that Residence Life Services now requires in Cluster Residences is stricter than the provincial fire code, as that number of individuals would only require the space of about 7.4 square meters. It is unclear what “concerns regarding structural integrity and safety” would require UVic’s current measures, or where these concerns originated from.

The standard cited in UVic’s email prohibits any interference with fire or safety equipment, intentional or not. Residents are also required to evacuate buildings in the event of an emergency.

If cluster units follow provincial building and fire codes, there are already regulations limiting occupant load in buildings. Under B.C. Fire Code article, this limit is prohibits a density of more than 4 square feet per person in a room. 

Cluster units also only have one exit door, which limits the occupant load to 60, according to B.C. Building Code article (1)(b). 

In the same week, Residence Life Services also sent out an email that informed residents that non-residents and overnight guests are not permitted on residence from Oct 25 to Nov 3, titled “Residence Services Memo: Hallowe’en No-Guest policy”. 

UVic has had a long held reputation as a party school, but the university has historically attempted to control and limit that impression. Cluster residences have historically been a focal point for student parties on campus.

After reading the email, current Cluster resident Josh Novak shared his perspective on this new regulation.

“It’s just a way for [Residence Life Services] to stop having parties on campus, to control people from throwing parties,” Novak said.

When asked if he had any concerns with the structural integrity and safety of his Cluster unit in the event of emergencies, he said, “[Cluster Residents have] been having big parties in here since the building was built. I know there were lots last year that were a hundred plus people, and there was never any problems.” 

This story is still ongoing, and may be updated to include new information.