UBC not commenting on residence safety policy review amid calls from province, community

UBC is not commenting on whether it will review its safety policies after BC Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said he expected a review following the death of a student in late November 2022.

Second-year student Kyle Sohn died on November 22. His family has since called for a review into his death.

According to CityNews, on November 14, Sohn’s neighbours called a UBC Residence Life Manager (RLM) to open his door after hearing vomiting sounds, but CityNews reported that the RLM said they could not open Sohn’s door due to a UBC policy. His neighbours called 911, and Sohn was found unresponsive.

It is unclear which policy the RLM was referring to.

In a statement sent to The Ubyssey, UBC’s VP Students Ainsley Carry said the university could give no further details on its review of the death as it is a “private matter.”

“The university wishes to offer our deepest condolences to the student's family who are suffering through this tragic situation. We are reaching out to meet with the family to further discuss this matter,” Carry wrote.

“The university has comprehensive procedures and protocols when responding to these situations,” he added, but he did not specify what these policies were.

Policies for entry

In both resident contracts for winter session and year-round students, the university says “authorized personnel of the University” can enter a resident’s room without prior notice to “ensure the health and safety of any member of the community.”

UBC Media Relations defined this group to generally be emergency responders.

Residents themselves are prohibited from entering another person’s unit unless they are duly authorized.

For Residence Advisors (RA), a health emergency does not appear to be a reason to grant them entry into a room without notice.

An RLM is a professional staff member who works and lives in residence, while RAs are hired students.

In a screenshot sent to The Ubyssey of the 2022/23 RA Handbook, section K, titled “Room Entry Protocol,” states that RLMs can grant authorization to an RA to enter a resident’s room if there is a “significant community nuisance.”

This section does not state that an RLM can grant authorization to enter a resident's room during a health emergency.

A separate section of the RA contract covers the course of action that an RA takes if they receive a report of a “very ill/passed out” resident.

The residence staff is supposed to ask the person who reported the concern to call 911 and notify the front desk. Then, the residence staff completes an interaction log. The steps clearly state, "residence staff are not to key into or enter the resident’s room.”

RA says more training is needed

According to T, a current RA, there is a lack of communication and protocol in place regarding situations where residents are in distress. Their identity has been omitted to protect their job security.

“Many of the RAs feel like this situation has been swept under the rug,” T wrote in an email to The Ubyssey. During the first term, none of the RAs received any communication regarding the incident, and many only found out through the CityNews article, according to T.

UBC Senior Director of Media Relations Kurt Heinrich said RLMs are trained to assess and either respond or refer the student or caller to the appropriate resource. In acute health emergencies, “the appropriate resource is always 911.”

T said they wanted to see more priority on training surrounding mental health crises or self-harm situations instead of “repetitive role play of how to handle noisy, disruptive or drunk residents.”

T also said they have called 911 in residence, and recalled that “they take ages to come.”

Even though RAs have CPR training and have attended various training seminars, T said they do not receive training about what to do while waiting for 911 to arrive when someone is hurt.

“We need more training in how to address these sensitive situations.”

T said they believe it is important to discuss what happened in order to improve protocols and prevent similar tragedies from occurring.

“As student leaders, we understand the responsibility we hold for the safety and wellbeing of our residents, and the idea of anyone facing a situation like this is truly terrifying.”