RSJ has never been a first-year residence

This article is a response to a January 21 editorial, “Hasn’t Lister essentially been a first-year residence all along?

While the change to strictly first-year residence may simply just be a formality title for Lister, the change puts a larger strain on Résidence Saint-Jean (RSJ).

This change was made, as many have been, without consulting our council, the Association des Résidents de Faculté Saint-Jean (ARSJ). This demonstrates not only a lack of understanding, but apathy towards RSJ’s realities and opinions.

This is my second year living in RSJ. I have been both a Resident Assistant (RA) and a member of ARSJ. If I can enlighten anyone about anything regarding my community, I hope it’s an understanding of how we are fundamentally different from Lister. While we’re often lumped together with Lister to simplify administrative decisions, a positive decision for Lister can easily be detrimental to RSJ.

RSJ, a quaint 101-room building, has always given priority to first-years. That being said, even including upper-year students, our residence doesn’t reach full capacity. According to Rachel Bates, a third-time resident, this year is the fullest RSJ has ever been, given her experience.

The building still has 11 empty rooms. There are currently 17 upper-years in leadership positions, and I personally know at least 15 other upper-years who are not in leadership positions. Without upper-year leaders, RSJ would be 31 per cent empty.

Why impose a uniform decision on Lister and RSJ? Why not give more people the chance to have an immersive experience in the French language, contribute to the community, and give their money to the university? I imagine the university will back peddle from this decision after seeing the likely economic shortfall alone, one that could’ve been avoided had our council been consulted.

But this issue goes beyond money. This fall, I was one of RSJ’s four RAs (for comparison, Lister has closer to 80). Alongside being available on their floor, Lister RAs typically work around 4 shifts a month; while I was working, I had at least one shift a week, sometimes up to four. There never passed a day without someone knocking on my door outside of hours for assistance.

Given the small number of RAs, upper-years provide integral support in RSJ. They keep our already overworked RAs sane and make a tangible difference in the lives of first-years; they help with homework, directions, class advice, and the dreaded French grammar. So while some argue that limiting upper-years to student staff positions ensures that there will be strong student leaders in Lister, I’d say that in RSJ, any upper-year plays that role by default. Allowing less upper-years in RSJ means giving less support to the student staff and the first-years.

Our community is not Lister. We speak French, drink in communal spaces, and our mascot is a wrench named Mr. F Wrench. Just because we’re small doesn’t mean the wellbeing of our community can be disregarded. The supportive environment created by upper-years and our council is what got me through my first year. I’ll be devastated to see that fade because of a policy change.

RSJ, in essence, was never a first-year residence. At its core, it’s the French residence. Let that be its strength. Please don’t reduce my community to a bunch of empty rooms.

Residence Services, I beg you, take the time to know RSJ before blindly implementing a detrimental designation change.

One Comment

  1. While doing a research on the Reseidence Saint Jean website, I found that it is primarily a first year residence since first years are promised a room if they apply before April 30. This being said, in other words, this residence is a first year, but since there are not enough first years who apply, they open rooms to upper Years. I do not understand what the change is since it is already a first year residence.

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