Dalhousie University condemns 'reckless' behaviour of students after weekend street parties

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Halifax police say thousands of people attended the Saturday evening gathering on Jennings Street. (Mark Doiron/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Halifax police say thousands of people attended the Saturday evening gathering on Jennings Street. (Mark Doiron/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Dalhousie University has condemned the actions of students who took part in unsanctioned street parties near the campus over the weekend.

Hundreds attended a party in the Jennings Street area on Saturday afternoon. Halifax police estimated that thousands attended another party in the same area that night.

President and vice-chancellor Deep Saini, provost and vice-president academic Frank Harvey and acting vice-provost for student affairs Verity Turpin issued a joint statement on Sunday.

The university said that while the majority of its students heeded warnings not to attend, many ignored them. The university said it is working to ensure that they face the consequences of their actions.

10 arrests for public intoxication

Halifax police say they arrested nine men and one woman for public intoxication. They also issued "numerous" tickets for carrying open liquor.

Relations with the surrounding community have been strained in recent years because of the partying, the statement said.

The university described the gatherings as "reckless, dangerous and disruptive" and said no one should be made to feel unsafe in their own home.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

The university is sorry for the actions of the students involved and said its neighbours are owed an apology from the students involved, according to the release.

Describing the choices made by students to attend as "unacceptable," the university said those attending violated pandemic gathering limits under the provincial state of emergency.

"Many of you showed complete disregard for the surrounding neighbourhood and for laws and bylaws around noise, open alcohol and public intoxication," the statement said.

"With first aid and arrests reported, you put strain on first responders already at capacity due to the current pandemic."

Students urged not to attend campus

The school is strongly urging any students who attended the parties to not attend classes or on-campus activities for one week, beginning immediately and continuing until Oct. 4.

Students are also being asked to limit their interactions in public spaces and get tested for COVID-19.

Students can get tested at a campus testing site or test-kit pickup location, as well as a local pop-up rapid testing site.

"Even if your test is negative, we ask you to continue to not attend classes or on-campus activities for the full week and continue regular testing," the statement said.

Students in residence are asked to restrict their on-campus activities to their residence and dining halls.

Anyone concerned about missing course material should follow up with their instructor, though instructors "are not required to provide alternate instruction outside of standard absence procedures."

Discipline can include expulsion

The university said it made it clear to students last week that anyone partaking in such activities risked being sanctioned by Dalhousie under the code of student conduct.

It said the code can be applied to off-campus activities if a violation of law results in a negative impact on the university community or raises concern for student safety and well-being or the university community as a whole.

It said disciplinary actions that may be applied in such situations range from mandatory training or probation to expulsion.

According to the statement, Dalhousie is committed to being a good neighbour and expects its students to do so as well.

Councillor says party was 'out of control'

Waye Mason, the municipal councillor for the area where the parties took place, said what happened on Saturday cannot be allowed to happen again.

Mason said the university and police learned about the party on Wednesday, when it started to make the rounds on social media.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

He said police put together a plan that would have allowed students to party only on their own property. He said when the partying began to spill over into the street, police blocked off the area with the intention of shutting it down by telling people to move along.

Mason said this may have given people the impression that, by closing the street, police were enabling the party.

He said the afternoon party was over by 4 p.m. and police returned to the station not expecting a late-night "flash mob party" on Larch Street.

Mason said he drove through the area around 10 p.m. when he heard about what was happening. He said he saw a party that was "out of control."

"It was a mob of people in near-riot conditions on Jennings Street, " Mason said.

He said in the future, police will have to adopt more of a "zero-tolerance policy."

"When you get to a point where... people walk with open liquor or they're publicly intoxicated and they're blocking a street, I suspect they're going to go straight to tickets and arrests," he said.

Madeleine Stinson, the president of the Dalhousie Student Union, agrees with Mason that the parties "went too far."

However, she said the university should have given its students another option to safely gather on campus where they could be monitored.

Dalhousie University has recently banned the possession and consumption of alcohol and cannabis on campus, and those living in residence can't have guests until at least Oct. 31.

Stinson said these new restrictions may have contributed to the parties off campus.

"I think a dry campus policy is always harmful because it pushes students away from the place where they have access to the resources that they might need if something goes wrong," Stinson told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Monday.

"[Now], they're told if they need help, you can call for help, but you're also going to be disciplined through the code of conduct if you have to go to the hospital or if you cause a ruckus in residence."

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