Dalhousie says on-campus homecoming would not have prevented weekend bash

·3 min read
Saturday afternoon's street party on Jennings Street attracted hundreds of people. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)
Saturday afternoon's street party on Jennings Street attracted hundreds of people. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)

Dalhousie University officials are defending the school's dry residence policy, after some student leaders said the rule helped push weekend homecoming parties into the community.

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

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

But Madeleine Stinson, the president of the Dalhousie University Student Union (DSU), has said the school could have done more to avoid the situation. She said Dal could have held an on-campus sanctioned event, rather than "pushing students out into the community."

The school recently banned the possession and consumption of alcohol and cannabis in residences, and guests also aren't allowed until at least Oct. 31.

CBC
CBC

Verity Turpin, vice-provost of student affairs, told CBC's Information Morning on Tuesday that those policies are needed to keep people safe as the university returned to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having alcohol in residences could impair people's judgment and lead them to break public health restrictions, Turpin said.

She added that Dalhousie did consider hosting an on-campus homecoming event, but they have tried that in the past and it simply hasn't worked. In 2018, Turpin said they partnered with DSU to host a concert and other activities, but that event was not well attended.

"The reality of our situation is that the university will never be able to condone the behaviour, or participate in hosting, an event like the event that was held on Saturday," Turpin said.

She added the school has a "larger challenge" around student drinking culture, which is a complex problem Dalhousie continues to work on.

Turpin said they are working on how to bring back large and licensed events back onto campus safely, by watching how Public Health navigates reopening the province.

The province was originally scheduled to move to Phase 5 on Sept. 15, but that date was pushed to Oct. 4 because of an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Phase 5 will see the removal of most COVID-19 public health restrictions, but Strang has said a mask mandate could remain after Oct. 4.

During a senate meeting Monday, provost Frank Harvey said the university was prepared for a large daytime unsanctioned party to take place around Jennings Street, which has happened every year since 2017.

He said the university worked closely with Halifax police, campus security, and local regional councillors on a plan like in past years, including door-to-door community outreach before the event.

YouTube
YouTube

The Saturday afternoon gathering broke up around 4 and "we were pretty pleased at that point with how things worked out," Harvey said during the virtual meeting.

But then more than roughly 3,000 students gathered around the Larch Street area Saturday night, he said, which was "a surprise" to the school, councillors and police.

"The large street event included significantly increased activities and risks that caused pretty serious injuries," Harvey said, including broken legs, ankles, a serious back injury, and hospitalization for intoxication.

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

After seeing how both events unfolded, Harvey said that's when the school decided to urge party attendees to not come to campus this week and get tested for COVID-19.

He added there has already been an uptick in students going to campus testing facilities on Monday.

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