Update I: Fire at McMaster University’s Brandon Hall


McMaster University will be holding a information session for parents and students at 7pm tonight.

I will be attending.

For those parents and students that cannot attend the session, McMaster will be streaming the session live over the Internet. More information and streaming link here.

During the past 48 hours, it has been learned that the fire was an arson and that the damage to the building is extensive.

Hamilton Police are investigating the arson with the support of McMaster’s Security Service. They are reviewing security camera footage in the hope of finding a suspect.

Damage to the building means the 580 students who live in the building will be displaced for a long period of time. Finding houisng for 580 students will pose a significant challenge for the university. They have been working on a plan and will be releasing it during the parent’s meeting tonight.

McMaster’s response to the crisis has been commendable thus far. I’ve spoke with my sources on campus and some have expressed frustration with a few decisions by the university. I don’t see how McMaster University could have done better in the circumstances.

A lot of questions have been swirling regarding the emergency shelter in a campus gym. The university requested the assistance of the Red Cross in operating the shelter. I believe this was a wise decision. The Red Cross knows how to operate an emergency shelter and has the experienced staff to support displaced individuals.

There are complaints that a housing plan has not been released. I don’t believe anyone can put together living arrangements for such a large number of people within minutes.

I will have my smartphone on me during the meeting, feel free to contact me by email: joey@joeycoleman.ca


Update I: Fire at McMaster University’s Brandon Hall

  1. Wow this showed up in my RSS Feed around 12 AM….

  2. a student told hamilton spectator reporter wade hemsworth she saw a pile of newspapers and an empty liquor bottle in the elevator just before the fire – the fire appears alcohol related – not surprising as mcmaster has the most liberal alcohol in the residences policy of all the universities i know that encourages drinking in residence as a rite of passage – neighbors have complained for years on how irresponsible the mcmaster administration is on this issue — someone could have been killed – at best there are at least 680 homeless students who can ill afford the extra cost of moving around until the end of term – its long been accepted that the president and senate of mcmaster have wanted a michigan state style campus with party, beer and football as the main attractions to this dysfunctional campus and this is just more evidence the plan is working – liquor related offences are common place at mcmaster and the student run bar Quarters lost its license last fall for liquor act violations – mcmaster is said to have 4500 licensed seats on a campus of 20,000 – the fire is not surprising to those of us who know this campus – they are lucky no one died – close call – maybe the senate should review the alcohol in the residence policy before someone does……

  3. McMaster needs to involve the Realtors in the Hamilton area so that they can advertise on MLS and get the community involved in providing housing in this emergency situation.

  4. I think that before people can comment on this issue it is important that they understand the facts. The residence life team and the mcmaster residence behavioural standards are upheld as best as any university. There are regualtions about alcohol consumptions in residence and it is treated very seriously by all those in the mcmaster residence community. The response team is doing everything that they can in order to ensure that the 554 students who were living in the Brandon residence are able to find a comfortable living situation and are also providing monetary compensation. We must applaud the McMaster response to this crisis situation and move criticically towards creating solutions. I do not think that the alcohol restrictions in residence or on campus at all are the main cause for concern in this scenario. I am a McMaster student and I can say that I feel confident in my school’s ability to maintain safety and security for the McMaster community.

  5. I think this fire is incredibly unfortunate, obviously, and I do hope it doesn’t disrupt anyone’s education too badly. But to argue that simply because students are allowed to drink in their homes the fire is alcohol related is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion. People manage to drink in their homes without burning them down in many other places – I don’t see why a university campus should be so different.

    I hope I don’t appear callus, but given the option between padding the whole campus with foam rubber and allowing students to live their own lives as young adults, I’ll choose the later option every time. I neither want not expect the university (even as landlord) to act as a surrogate parent. This is not because I’m unmindful of the special demands of education, but rather because I am mindful of them. I don’t believe that anyone who is still living as a “kid” can effectively benefit from university education. If university students aren’t adults – and capable of living as adults – they shouldn’t be there at all yet. For their own sakes.

    Anyway, I apologize for that aside. This is a hell of a mess, and I hope students are able to get back in their homes sooner rather than later.

  6. What is not to be missed is that this was an act of arson as I understand the facts are showing? A drunk’n prank would be a fire in an outside garbage can in a smoking area. An elevator jammed open on a second floor of an 11 floor building set ablaze with newspapers (and rumoured fuelled by alcohol probably so the criminal could escape down the stair and be out of the building by the time the fire grew is a criminal act. I hope it is not minimalized that because there is alcohol consumed on the premises that this fire was meant to cause harm.. and I am thankful that there were no serious physical injury. It sounds like the last three students from floor two taken to hospital had God on their side. You can not blame the alcohol when some drunk starts a car and drives or starts a fire and flees.

  7. Hi Lou Ferro! Without wanting to appear unfriendly Lou, I flat out disagree with some of your comments, and I think you paint a false picture of McMaster. As an alumni of McMaster (’06) and former Residence Life Staff member, I’d like to offer a different viewpoint on a few things you spoke about:

    You said: “the fire appears alcohol related – not surprising as mcmaster has the most liberal alcohol in the residences policy of all the universities i know that encourages drinking in residence as a rite of passage”
    The facts: McMaster has a strict alcohol policy and is quick to enforce both provincial law and the residence code of conduct, both strictly prohibiting underage drinking and unruly behaviour. Open alcohol is NOT allowed in hallways or public areas (including elevators) and only limited amounts may be stored in the residence room). Many students have been handed $95 fines (or more) for public possession of alcohol. Encourage drinking? Hardly… McMaster’s “Welcome Week” was one of the first in Canada to be completely alcohol-free, and this was lead largely by residence life leaders who were concerned about creating an inclusive, non-threatening environment for all students. Furthermore, Campus Heath has repeatedly done awareness campaigns showing that many McMaster students do NOT consume alcohol or consume it less than people think. Sports teams have been mandated to move away from traditional hazing parties for rookies and chosen to move towards more creative, non-alcohol based activities. Is alcohol eliminated? Of course not, but we’re far beyond the “rite of passage” days, and McMaster is a Canadian leader in the proper direction.

    You said: “neighbors have complained for years on how irresponsible the mcmaster administration is on this issue”
    The fact: Neighbors HAVE complained. I agree.
    My view: Their complaints are generally misplaced. McMaster administration have generally been very responsible in ensuring not only the proper policy, but a wide variety of non-alcoholic programming options for McMaster students, including doing the best they can with Quarters, the campus pup. Is it perfect? Certainly not, but students, not administration, should be the main target of the neighbors (often justified) complaints.

    You said: “its long been accepted that the president and senate of mcmaster have wanted a michigan state style campus with party, beer and football as the main attractions to this dysfunctional campus”
    My alternate view: Exactly who has long-accepted these envies of Michigan campuses? I’ve never once heard of any McMaster Official, employee or student, claim to want to emulate a Michigan campus, and I would challenge you to produce documentation stating this desire. And “dysfunctional”? That’s vague – I think things actually run pretty decently, overall.
    The facts: McMaster has invested heavily in its academic infrastructure (retrofitting buildings), its residence buildings (new residences and temporary upsizes to handle large first-year classes), its athletic facilities for ALL students (new Athletic Centre), and of course its well-respected academic research to maintain a high standard amongst international academic institutions. Party, beer, and football have never been focal points either in spending or in rhetoric.

    You said: “liquor related offences are common place at mcmaster”
    The fact: I don’t actually know the stats on this, but its important to realize that if offences ARE common, then it COULD be indicative of an ALREADY strict alcohol policy (many offences and many convictions).
    My view: I agree with you Lou: Our country has an alcohol problem, but perhaps our problems do not stem from insufficiently strict policy, but rather stem from lack of education? Our “don’t even talk to me about it until you’re older” policy frequently leaves students with no one to approach at age 17, or 15 (or even 12 or under!) when they first become interested in it. Alternatively, students often arrive in residence with NO context of what alcohol is, what it can do, how it can be consumed responsibly, or how it affects them personally. What sort of behaviour are we to expect?

    You are right that we are lucky not to have lost any lives. This fire is certainly a tragedy, and I have no idea what makes a person momentarily think that it would be anything but stupid, unacceptable and incredibly hurtful to light a fire in an elevator. While I in no way wish to absolve the culprit(s) of responsibility for his or her (or their) actions, we might be well served as a society by using this as an opportunity to turn the mirror on ourselves and ask what we can do better, as a society, to ensure students like these are not becoming qualified to attend university while simultaneously missing out on crucial bits of social intelligence, emotional empathy, and good ol’ common sense.

    Joel Hilchey

  8. I too am thankful that the injuries were not more serious and that those who were injured are recovering. In my opinion, the university has responded quickly and with the student’s academic and social lives in mind. We have to remember it takes time to develop and rollout an emergency plan and, just a week later most, if not all, students have been relocated and compensation made.

    I don’t believe that we should assume that the arsonist was a student nor that alcohol was involved (other than as an accelerant). We should wait for the investigation to be completed before jumping to any conclusions. McMaster’s policies relating to alcohol are appropriate, we are responsible to ourselves and others to ensure we follow the rules.

  9. “I don’t believe that we should assume that the arsonist was a student nor that alcohol was involved”

    Wow. I am sure that some random person who was completely sober and did not go to the school broke into the residence and lit the fire. That would be a safe assumption.

  10. I completely agree with Bob Jones.

  11. Actually, Katherine does have a point. We are making an assumption. However, I believe it is a safe assumption to make, but an assumption nonetheless.

  12. Lou Ferro, you got taught a lesson son. I suggest you go back to Law School because clearly you got your education from the Humanities Department at Slowhawk College.

  13. jow rowggin -you’re a goof and a mindless jock head – go have a bud cause that’s all you’re empty head can understand

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