The setting is Halloween weekend, one of the most legendary nights for a first-year student in residence. Residents of the floor have blacked out all of the lights and covered the walls in glowing decor, and a DJ is manning a room cleared of furniture.
Many would think that this is describing a night in Saugeen-Maitland Hall, but they would be wrong. This is one of the legendary parties that take place in Medway-Sydenham Hall, leading many to believe that it has taken over the role of Western's "party residence."
Saugeen has mellowed out and there's a new kid in town to take its place.
There's a lot of history behind the notorious Saugeen-Maitland Hall, and the only way to discover how it got its reputation is to start at the beginning.
Saugeen-Maitland opened its doors in 1969. Even though the Saugeen side housed strictly men and the Maitland side only women, it was the first co-ed residence in Western history.
The nickname "the Zoo" was coined by its residents and students over time, based on the outrageous parties and animal-like behaviour. It infers that students living in the building are living in zoo-like conditions, and pure senselessness occurs within its walls. For many years, the Saugeen yearbook was officially titled "The Jungle Book," which further brought this nickname to popularity.
Between 1971 and 1981, the Zoo transformed into a fully co-ed residence. This produced results that administration wanted; the male residents got a better understanding of how to live away from home, and the rowdiness subsided. This was the first stage of taming the Zoo, but was only the beginning stages of Saugeen's legacy.
After years of rowdy residence parties, pulled fire alarms and wild stories in the historic building, Western Housing once again had to intervene. In 1989, the ever-fitting nickname “the zoo” was banned by administration. According to Western Housing, this term not only compared the residents to animals, but gave off the idea that Western as a community did not have their priorities straight.
Nick Jeffers, the 2017-18 head soph for Saugeen, believes this to be the turning point for the residence.
“Recently there was the Maclean's article that ranked Western really high as a party school, and they still refer to Saugeen as 'the Zoo'" says Jeffers, "I have never heard from anyone in Saugeen refer to it as the Zoo because it is not the Zoo anymore,” Jeffers says. “Every aspect of the building was changed at that point.”
In response to the banning of Saugeen’s second name, a secret club who went by the name “Zoo Crew” formed. This elite group was known to sell packages including supplies for their pub crawls, such as drink tickets, shot glasses and clothing with the club name on it. No one knows what ever happened to the Zoo Crew; it still remains a mystery today.
2005 was the year of the Saugeen Stripper. This is the event that is thought to have put Western on the international map of party schools, with the viral story gaining a lot of criticism both inside and outside of Ontario when a female first-year student in Saugeen performed a strip tease for some of her fellow male students. It is assumed that the tale of the Saugeen Stripper is what put Western on the radar of Playboy magazine, securing the number four position on their prestigious “Top 10 Party Schools” in 2011.
Following this ranking, as well as many out-of-control parties and critiques that Western did not have its academic priorities set in place, Western administration put the Zoo on lockdown. In September of 2014, Saugeen had a new security system installed. Each floor was only accessible with the keys of those who lived on it, making floor-hopping much more difficult.
Despite the increased security, Saugeen's colourful reputation endures, as first-year FIMS student, Nicole Tucker, explains her devastation when she was assigned to live in Saugeen, despite ranking it last.
“I actually called the school a couple of times and tried to get out of it,” Tucker says, “I was very anxious about coming here because of the rep Saugeen had.”
Tucker came to realize, along with her floor mate, first-year kinesiology student Erin Alizadeh, that the building was much more mellow than they had expected. ”It’s had a couple nights where [Saugeen] has lived up to its reputation, but I am still able to get to sleep, and it’s never too rowdy,” says Alizadeh.
The word on campus is that Medway-Sydenham Hall is the “new Saugeen” in regards to rowdiest residence. First-year FIMS students and current Med-Syd residents, Briar MacPherson and Serena Mendizabal, agree that the residence is gaining this reputation around campus.
In addition to weekly floor parties, MacPherson explains a unique tradition in the residence. "We do 'Tour de Med-Syd,' which is where you take a shot on every floor before you go out." Only some floors take part in it, but it is a well recognized activity among the residents.
Mendizabal states that she ranked Med-Syd as her first choice because she heard that it was a place that always had a lot going on in it, but you could still get your work done. "It tamed down second semester, but other than Sundays and Tuesdays, you can always find people to party with."
Increased security, nickname banning and years of a more peaceful existence are seen as the key factors in Saugeen’s decline as Western’s craziest residence among today's first years. Even if Med-Syd is claiming the rowdiest residence title, it can never replace the stories and history from within the stark, white, concrete walls of Saugeen-Maitland Hall.