Do Western students really study hard and party harder?

A day after Western moved Homecoming to the end of October in hopes the cold weather and midterm season would deter students from partying on Broughdale Ave., the backlash on social media has been swift, prompting the University administration and the University Students' Council to respond. 

Associate vice-president student experience Jana Luker explained the motivations behind Western's decision. 

"Homecoming is a very big production with a lot of proud traditions but after last year, the Broughdale unsanctioned street party was quite large ... This is where several administrators sat around a table and made the decision all together and the police were quite involved as well," she said, adding that concerns have been brought forward from the city of London, the University Hospital emergency department and students.

Luker added that the move would not be foolproof and that there was no easy solution to ending unsanctioned events. The ultimate hope of University administration is to see this culture diluted in some way.

"We need to make some decisive action for the safety of the students and community. Yes, it will inconvenience people. [To] the university itself this is quite a large interruption but we’re willing to do that ourselves and to take possible criticism in order to try another initiative to keep the students safer.”

In an email, USC president Eddy Avila noted that while they were consulted on changes to Homecoming, the USC ultimately had no involvement in the decision making process. 

"We plan on addressing student concerns by bringing even more of the student voice to the conversation about Homecoming," Avila said.

"However, as Western has already made the decision, it is our role now to ensure that homecoming, regardless of the date, is an enjoyable day for students and that is in keeping with the spirit of homecoming, while ensuring safety."  

Luker says that after this year's Homecoming, there will be a period of reassessment in which plans for future years will be discussed. She also added that the University would be keeping its eye on the original October 1 date to see how students respond. 

Some stakeholders have been worried that a continued party atmosphere could lead Western to act similarly to Queen's in 2008, when they  canceled their Homecoming. When asked if Western had considered this option or would explore cancelation if rowdiness occurred on October 1, Luker didn't shut down the possibility. 

“All decisions will be on the table but there is certainly isn’t any plan specifically.” 

The criticism of last year's Homecoming events, however, comes as a surprise considering the USC and University administration considered it a success at the time. 

“As a much bigger event than it was last year, it definitely went really well," former USC president Sophie Helpard said at the time. "We had a lot of great attendance and a lot of positive feedback."

The move to bring Homecoming festivities was titled "Hoco on the Hill" and two major concerts were held on campus. The DVBBS and Our Lady Peace concerts drew big crowds of up to 6,000 people.

Director of campus police, John Carson, at the time said his staff worked with the USC and senior management to develop a plan for all the events on Saturday.

“This is the first year that we’ve had the concert on the hill during the day. We’ve never had a concert that’s attracted 6,000 people in one location,” he said.

"Almost all of our officers that work at Western were on duty on Saturday along with extra officers from London police to help us to make sure we had enough people on site."

Students who attended Broughdale last year found the police presence to be friendlier than in past years. The police also laid significantly fewer charges during the 2015 Homecoming. 

Overall, there was an 78 per cent drop in criminal charges, with 105 criminal charges in the fall of 2014, down to 23 criminal charges in 2015.

Additionally, 1422 provincial offence notices were issued in fall 2014, with a substantial drop to 791 provincial offence notices in 2015.

Comparing provincial offences given out on the day of homecoming, notices went down from 213 to 76.

“We issued 1472 warnings this year, those warnings could’ve been tickets,” Ken Steeves, corporate communications and public relations officer of London police, said at the time. 

LPS constable Sandasha Ferguson said that students on the popular party street were well behaved and interacted well with police.

Addressing the fewer charges during the weekend events, Keith Marnoch, director of media relations at Western said in 2015 that such successes were built on lessons learned in previous years. 

“I think that we can maybe say that the message got through a few more people this year, which is really good to hear,” Marnoch said.

Despite the successes of last year's Homecoming, Luker said there would be a move away from that sort of programming but said there would be other events, though they have yet to be finalized.

With files from Drishti Kataria and Hamza Tariq.

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Bradley is the digital managing editor for Volume 110 of the Gazette. This is his fourth year on the editorial board, previously working in Opinions, Sports, and Culture. He's a recent graduate with a degree in Canadian-American relations.

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