November 7, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 39  

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Housing vs sophs

A social science soph and former Medway-Sydenham Hall in-rez soph, Graham Knowles, has been banned from the aforementioned residence.

When he neglected to sign in and the room he was visiting later received two noise complaints, Knowles was promptly escorted out of the building and issued a writ of trespass. His anger springs from the fact that he received no formal warning, but he also feels he was targeted because of his status as a soph.

This event raises the issue of the relationship between off-campus and faculty sophs with Housing. Undeniably, there has been tension in the past and this relationship does not appear to be a completely harmonious one at present. Sophs often feel Housing is heavy handed with their disciplinary action and unappreciative of the role of off-campus sophs. Of course, it is the responsibility of Housing to ensure that residences remain safe places to live and they have guest sign-in policies for security reasons. But it seems they may find it difficult to decipher between a noisy visitor and a high-risk intruder.

What is the purpose of a soph? Let us remember these people first go through a screening process which evaluates their suitability as a role model and then volunteer their time for all of Orientation Week. Many head sophs encourage their team to consider the leadership position a year-long commitment. A soph who is devoted to this will continue to be present as a leader, mentor and a friend throughout the year.

The tension between sophs and Housing arises when off-campus and faculty sophs feel they are treated like nuisances or intruders. It must be remembered that sophs pay to volunteer and are essentially doing both the University and their respective residences a favour.

There is evidence that Housing has been attempting to make positive changes. They have been addressing the need for relationships of mutual respect between sophs and staff. This year, the very first “Community Under Construction” training program was implemented, in which residence sophs and staff were trained together for a day. This may or may not have been successful in strengthening relationships, but it did not touch upon what is most often the cause of conflict.

Basically: some off-campus sophs feel their role is not understood by Housing and as a result feel as though they are unwelcome. There may be the some sophs who are hard-headed and hold blind anger towards Housing, which they see as “the Man,” however, the majority of them recognize they are setting an example for first-year students with their behavior and take their role seriously.

More needs to be done to improve the soph-Housing relationship. Given the yearly turnaround of sophs, the onus is on Housing, which thus far has been operated with too much of a top-down authoritative structure.



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