Western University administrators are admonishing students who have been gathering in large numbers and partying, saying they are putting the school year at risk before it has even begun.
In a letter to students written on Tuesday — a day before classes officially start — the president of the university and the president of the student council told students they’re putting “our entire year in jeopardy” after video surfaced of massive parties, one of which appeared to include violence.
“This past weekend there were several large gatherings near campus – along with some aggressive behaviour that put the safety of others at risk. This activity is a blatant disregard for the campus community, public health, and the law,” wrote Western president Alan Shepard and University Student Council Zamir Fakirani.
“We want to be clear: if this activity continues, the academic year we have so carefully planned will not happen. In-person learning with fellow students, interaction with professors, extra-curricular activities, athletics and all the things that make your student experience great will be lost.”
The two tell students “there is a lot on the line” and that it would be disappointing to have to shut down in-person learning before it even starts.
Videos on social media show large groups of students on what appears to be Broughdale Avenue, the site of large student parties in the past, including during FoCo, the unsanctioned homecoming party. In one of the videos, someone is climbing a hydro pole. In another, young people are jumping over one another while others cheer.
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The parties happened as London police launched Project Learn, the annual crackdown on noise and alcohol violations.
But some have also condemned Western University for allowing an atmosphere that encouraged students to party, or at least have fun.
On Sept. 6, the first night of Orientation Week, the university hosted a large party on university hill.
“Why did the university put on a super spreader event last night? You sanctioned the very behaviour you’re reprimanding students for today,” one person wrote on Facebook.
“There was a full on rave last night – thousands of students…as a Western student, I’m disappointed,” wrote another. “There should have been more caution put into place with Orientation Week. The pandemic isn’t over.”
Western law professor Jacob Shelley said the large unsanctioned gatherings were foreseeable, partly because students have gotten the message that they can be in large groups and be safe.
“We would be naïve to think students who have been living through a pandemic, just like us, wouldn’t do this. I think most of us want to do this. We created the conditions by bringing students back without a great plan. We spent all summer trying to get administrations to act recognizing that this was coming,” he wrote.
“We could have done more to make sure students know how serious this is. They’re going to classes with hundreds of students – thousands of contact exposure possibilities. What’s is the difference? These parties are smaller than classrooms – and who are we kidding, way more fun. We created the conditions.”
Blaming students for something the administration knew, or ought to have known was going to happen, is unfair, Shelley said.