University of Alberta students are calling for increased security at a campus building and residence that can be accessed by the public 24 hours a day, and which they say sees frequent trespassers and disproportionate crime rates.  

U of A’s HUB was built with connections in mind: to a residence that houses 734 students, to a mall, and to numerous facilities for faculty and students.

But, what made the building so accessible when it was built is causing problems now.

According to Jared Larsen, president of the HUB Community Association, HUB residents don’t feel safe.

“From the outside, there are 72 access doors that are open 24/7 that go directly into student stairwells. And from the inside, there are 56, leading to 128 doors that are easily accessible to the general public at any point in the day,” he said.

He added that HUB sees a high number of suspicious persons, break-ins—and just this year—one sexual assault.

In October, the HCA conducted a survey on security levels; 83.7 per cent of respondents were supportive of the building implementing a card-swipe system.

Larsen said he’s personally seen suspicious individuals loitering in the building, or urinating in the stairwells that lead directly to students’ front doors.

He said he didn’t want to aggrandize, but that “No matter who you are, you can walk into this building at any time.”

Together with Andre Bourgeois, vice president of Student Life with the University of Alberta Students Union, Larsen has taken student concerns to school administration.

The student leaders formed a campus security and facility working group, and on Wednesday, made a case to U of A administrators: “To us, students living in the building and also experiencing a high level of security concerns means it should be bumped to the top of the priority list for the university.”

Bourgeois added: “Now we have actual statistics, actual facts and actual stories to back up the experiences that previously were just anecdotal.”

The U of A has previously recognized there are security issues at HUB.

In 2013, the university added security cameras and a CCTV system, as well as automatic locking doors and rotating security presence.

“Over the years we’ve added some stuff, hoping that would resolve the issue, but obviously we need to do more,” acknowledged Robert Pawliuk, director of operations and facilities.

At Wednesday’s meeting, administration agreed to hire a third-party consultant to determine which measures would be best for the building.

“For the time it was built, it was an award-winning facility. It created a hub for this end of campus,” said Pawliuk. “Things change. Circumstances change. And we’re seeing some of those nuances that were wonderful back then are creating issues for us today, so we have to look at how we resolve those issues.”

Both Larsen and Bourgeois said they felt heard by the university.

Although no timeline is set, the students were told to expect an update on the school’s efforts by mid-January.

In 2013, students were told it would cost $2.2 million to retrofit 60 doors with card locks and cameras.

With files from Timm Bruch