By Elisabeth Johns
Residents at O’Keefe House are protesting the departure of a staff member who some students say is being targeted because he spoke up about the building’s poor maintenance.
“I feel that Kevin is being penalized for speaking out [and] being honest,” said Marcie Clowry, a first-year resident, regarding the housing department decision to replace don Kevin Turcot next year.
This year, Turcot was among the most vocal about O’Keefe’s deteriorating living conditions, which included a rat-infested couch that was removed six months after Ryerson Housing was notified.
Last week, experts told The Eyeopener that the structural cracks along the residence’s walls indicate that O’Keefe has structural damage and that its walls and ceilings are in danger of crumbling.
Ryerson Housing Manager Philip Lim told the paper there had been only five maintenance request at O’Keefe this semester. However, residents claim 15 requests have been made since January.
Since last week’s article, maintenance has been in O’Keefe nearly every day according to residents.
This winter, residents have endured two floods — one due to a broken pipe and the other from a leaky ceiling in the girls’ washroom — dealt with dangerous icy steps,, dirty bathrooms and continuously clogged toilets.
Housing was upset that Turcot criticized O’Keefe’s maintenance problems in front of students, according to residents.
In response to Turcot’s departure, O’Keefe’s residents have written letters of complaint to Marion Creery, director of student services.
Also, O’Keefe alumnus Jerome Simpson is organizing a petition to protest Turcot’s departure.
“Losing Kevin will alienate O’Keefe House from housing,” Simpson said. “He cares about the house and he cares about the community it represents.”
Lim said the reasoning behind Turcot’s departure is confidential, but indicated it had more to do with better candidates than poor maintenance.
“I know a lot of students have concerns about Kevin not returning … [But] we have a limited number of positions and so many good candidates.”
Ryerson said housing also took issue with Turcot’s neglected paperwork. He did not fill out programming sheets this year, a monthly form residence staff are required to submit to housing to ensure educational activities are organized for first-year residents.
“I think if Housing wanted to know if I was doing a good job, they should ask my students,” Turcot said. “I have been organizing events for the students of this house and I do it because I love the house and organizing events, not because it is my job.”
In addition to replacing Turcot, housing is discontinuing the senior don position at O’Keefe House, a job currently held by Matt Schiller.
O’Keefe residents fear the changes to their residence could spell the end of the house’s 40-year-old traditions, like having current dons choose the house’s senior for the following year.
Lucy Jakupi, Ryerson’s housing administrator, said the residents’ fears are unfounded.
“We’re not trying to change O’Keefe,” Jakupi said. “I have no doubt it’s going to be as great as ever … I know that the traditions are going to continue.”
Most residents don’t share Jakupi’s optimism.
“I would trade rats, floods and cracks to have Schiller and Kevin back any day,” said second-year resident Matt Flemming.