Safety concerns raised after drug sorting operation found in University of Alberta bathroom

A University of Alberta Faculty of Fine Arts building. Global News

EDITOR’S NOTE: The witness Global News spoke with for this story didn’t initially have any objections to their name being used but has since asked for his name to be withheld out of concern for his safety. Global News agreed to remove his name from the article for that reason.

The University of Alberta is addressing safety concerns after an incident in a campus bathroom last week.

A fourth-year music student says he was with friends in the Fine Arts building at around 9 p.m. last Thursday, when he went to use a third-floor bathroom.

“When I walked in, there were a couple of guys standing at the sinks. I heard one of them start swearing and he seemed super worried that I was there,” said the student, whose name Global News has agreed to withhold because of concerns for his safety.

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“The other one told him, ‘don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.’ At that point I was like, ‘What the heck does that mean?'”

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The student said the group of men was at the counter weighing and separating what looked like piles of drugs.

“So I went to get out of there and the one guy stopped me and was like “yo dude, so this never happened,” and when he did that, I saw on the counter of the washroom they had a scale and mound of what I believe to be cocaine sitting on it. And also on the counter beside that there was a brick of it, wrapped up in plastic.”

He left, but said one of the men followed him down the hallway.

“The guy was behind me and said, ‘Yo, get back here,’ and I was like, ‘Nope.'”

The student used his key card to get into a locked area and called University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS).

“The lady I spoke to asked for a description of them, and I gave it to her,” he said. “After I gave the description, she said, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do because there aren’t any cameras in the washrooms, so sorry about that. ‘And I’m like, ‘What? Excuse me? There’s people with illegal drugs here right now.'”

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The student said he also called the Edmonton Police Service non-emergency line, and was told it was an issue for UAPS.

“We pay tens of thousands of dollars to go get a degree, just because we love what we do, ” he said. “We’d at least like to be able to study in a safe environment.”

Lesley Cormack, the dean of the Faculty of Arts, said safety in the building has been a concern.

“It’s located very near the LRT station and so it has been a place where people have come in, who are not necessarily at the university for any reason,” Cormack said.

Cormack added the university already has some additional safety measures in place.

“We’ve done a number of things to try and make it a safer location. We have instituted lockdown times so that there are portions of the building that are locked down at 4:30 p.m. — that you can only access with a card — and we lock the whole building at 9:30 p.m.”

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The student said there are cameras in newer buildings, but not the older fine arts ones. Cormack said that is being addressed.

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“We have ordered security cameras, which are taking a little while to be installed, but hope to have them installed this summer, so that’s one of the things we’ve done.”

Cormack said an extra set of security guards also does a sweep of the building before the lockdown at night, and removes people who are not supposed to be on the building.

“The challenge of course, for fine arts students is they often are there at night: They are in their studio painting, they’re rehearsing, so they are more likely to be in the building more than other buildings that we have.”

Cormack reiterated if students feel unsafe, to call 911 and campus security.

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