There has been increasing concern from city officials about the growth in unsanctioned student parties happening during homecoming game weekends and major celebrations. It is not uncommon for students to know of big street parties such as on Broughdale Avenue during Western University’s Fake Homecoming (FOCO) or during St. Patrick’s Day at Wilfrid Laurier University on Ezra Avenue.
Such parties happen at most post-secondary institutions across Ontario and North America. They are common to the classic college student experience. The question arises – why has this issue suddenly received new attention these past few weeks?
Ed Holder, Mayor of London, considers the extreme events at these street parties. Whenever drugs, alcohol, and crowds of students are gathered, events get out of hand.
“There will be blood on all our hands,” Holder said.
Last September, 20,000 students attended Western’s FOCO and 3,000 warnings were issued, including 130 provincial offence warnings. This event costed the London police upwards of $100,000. Fifty-two people were hospitalized, and one person suffered serious injuries from jumping off a roof. Similar numbers were reported by other universities.
People coming to these parties from out of town add another layer of complexity for school administration and cities to address.
On St. Patrick’s day in 2018, 22,400 celebrated on Ezra Avenue. This was nearly 1.5 times more than the 15,000 that showed up in 2017. Seventy-three per cent of the 619 charges were laid on non-Laurier students. It is very common to see students travelling from other schools to attend these parties, and, while Laurier can communicate to its students the consequences of partaking in parties and acting illegally, this message does not affect the behaviour of people who do not attend the school.
“It may seem like a simple problem to solve but in fact it’s very difficult,” Kevin Crowley, Laurier’s Director of Communications, said. “Very smart people with the police, very smart people with the city, very smart people with the universities have been trying to contain this and shrink it and hopefully eliminate it and it’s slow going. If it was easy I think we would have resolved it already.”
Laurier and Western are not alone —street parties are an ever-growing issue present at schools across the board and officials are taking more action than ever to attempt to curb this problem.
A discussion in Waterloo with representatives from eight universities across Ontario regarding unsanctioned parties including Ontario University Athletics (OUA) who has taken initiative in addressing this issue as well.
In the 2019 season, homecoming games for Laurier, UW, Western University, McMaster University, the University of Guelph, and Queen’s University will be held on two weekends as opposed to spreading them out over the regular five to six weekends as in the past.
“We’re about the student-athlete experience, we’re about the student experience … we want to make sure that we’re supporting the directives of the universities and making sure that the culture is the right culture on campus,” Gord Grace, the Chief Executive Officer of OUA, said,
OUA is hoping that by limiting the weekends for football games, students will not be able to travel to these different schools so frequently, limiting the number of people showing up to parties and controlling illegal activity.
As St. Patrick’s Day approaches this year, this issue still persists. Officials are trying to find out why university parties are such an attraction for youth, and to better understand how they can lessen the negative impact of such events. What school administration arranges with city officials —whether that is increasing severity of punishments or enforcing strict regulations — is yet to be seen.