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06/01/2010

Dorm residents challenge U of T's move to "evict" them

Residents of U of T’s Woodsworth College Residence are challenging the university’s decision to “evict” because of safety concerns for the G20 summit.

“I believe that the University of Toronto is in breach of the occupancy agreement that they have signed with the residents. Moreover, they are not providing us with sufficient compensation for the move,” student Michael Otto wrote in an email.

Residents have been offered to temporarily relocate to two other dorms — including one in Scarborough — or $125 in compensation, Otto said.

Otto has spearheaded a letter writing campaign to the university’s Vice Provost students Jill Matus. (See the full letter below)

In late May, Matus told the Star that the decision to close the school from June 23 to 27 was based on security concerns.

“We had a series of deliberations and in light of the fact that the protest site has effectively been moved to our doorstep on the St. George campus, we took the decision to restrict access,” Matus said last week. “We know that in past G20 summits, in particularly last year’s summit in Pittsburgh, protests may be associated with violence, arrests, disruptions, tear gas and damage to property.”

 According to the residence's website, the cost of rent for the summer (May 1 - Aug. 24) is $2575.

The 17th-story building is located at the corner of Bloor and St. George Sts. Its suites house four to six residents (each person has a private bedroom).

Copy of the letter sent to Matus

 

Dear Vice Provost Matus,

My name is Michael Otto and I would like to express my frustration over the University's recent decision to close Woodsworth College Residence due to “safety concerns” over the upcoming G8/G20 summit.

First, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that there is no provision in the Occupancy Agreement permitting the University to transfer residents for the G8/G20 or any other event as a result of “safety concerns”. This reason is not identified in our agreement as a legitimate cause to breach (even temporarily) your contractual obligation to provide me with access to the specific space that I have paid to rent. Moreover, it seems highly unlikely that this event would be considered a force majeure and thus relieve the University of its contractual obligations. There are many individuals and companies that licence space in proximity to Queen's Park. I find it hard to imagine that other landlords will be temporarily evicting them from such spaces during the G8/G20. What gives the University of Toronto the right to evict me?

Second, the three alternatives identified by the University do not provide sufficient compensation for the hassle and aggravation that this move will cause.

The option to relocate to the Scarborough campus is unacceptable. It is too far for many residents of Woodsworth College Residence. Many residents commute into downtown every day and work long hours. I chose Woodsworth specifically for its close proximity to downtown. The University's decision to relocate residents to Scarborough poses an undue burden on those that work in the city and simply does not represent a comparable alternative to what I have paid for.

The option to relocate to 89 Chestnut is also unacceptable. I did not pay for a double room. I paid for a single room. Similarly I paid to have cooking facilities in the residence. I am not prepared to pay for my meals. Moreover, I am simply confused as to why the University has selected this location. 89 Chestnut is located between Queen’s Park and the Toronto Convention Centre. If we are being moved for our safety, why are we being moved between the designated protester zone (Queen’s Park) and the place that will likely be the focus of the protest (the Toronto Convention Centre)? This does not make any sense.

Finally, the proposed compensation option of $125 is also unacceptable. This amount is not sufficient to provide comparable accommodation during the period in which the University has decided to close Woodsworth Residence. There is simply no hotel, motel, or hostel that is located at a comparable distance to the city with comparable amenities that I have paid for at Woodsworth.

In conclusion, we have a deal. The University of Toronto has agreed to provide me with a specific space to live. I have agreed to pay rent for the duration of my stay. I am holding up my part of the bargain. Why is the University of Toronto not holding up its part?

I would appreciate your response to these concerns,

Sincerely,

Michael Otto

Comments

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Nice going, Mr. Otto. It sure would be nice if the U of T Student's Union would have been on this sooner than they were, but instead they were too busy responding to complaints at their endorsement of a G20 "teach-in" (read: extreme leftist indoctrination) and using student money to be hanging out in Ottawa. They didn't do anything about this until it was too late. UTSU fail.

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