Some students were not deterred by warnings to stay home and to not party with gatherings underway in the neighbourhood around Western University in London, Ont. during the school’s homecoming weekend.
The streets around campus, in particular Broughdale Avenue, were filling up with students dressed in purple, the school’s colour, before noon on Saturday. Some small gatherings were taking place on front porches and front lawns.
London Police Service had promised to be visible and that was the case, with dozens of police officers patrolling the area.
Earlier in the week, public health beefed up fines aimed at stopping large gatherings, which could further increase the spread of the delta variant that’s rampant in the community.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) capped private parties to 25 people inside and 100 people outside, with fines starting at $750 per person.
Police said early Saturday that no one had been fined, with students so far respecting the rules around gathering.
“We’re seeing some increased activity around Broughdale,” said Cst. Scott Mandich. “Right now we have police, EMS and city bylaw officers on the scene.”
The call for calm also comes a week after thousands of students called for more safety on campus and an end to sexual violence. That call came after a weekend of heavy drinking and allegations of reports of sexual assault.
“I understand what they’re saying but we’re going to chill. We’re not going to be a public nuisance,” said student Carmen Singh who had an outdoor bar set up at his friend’s house on Broughdale.
Hear from students on Broughdale Avenue near <a href=”https://twitter.com/WesternU?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@WesternU</a> talking to <a href=”https://twitter.com/RebeccaZandberg?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@RebeccaZandberg</a> about party plans. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/LdnOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#LdnOnt</a> <a href=”https://t.co/mSOkT424HQ”>pic.twitter.com/mSOkT424HQ</a>
Some students had bed sheets spray painted with messages hanging outside of houses. One said “Western Daddies drink here FREE.” Another said, “Our Roomate is a Ginger. Pls help.”
“I’m here having fun and living the college experience,” said first-year student Elise who lives on campus and was walking with her friends on Broughdale.
When asked about safety concerns, following a week that saw the entire school community take a hard look at bro-culture, the occurrence of sexual assaults on campus and the safety of all students, Elise said it is on her mind.
“I have a cup with a lid on it and I know what’s going into my drinks. I’m with a good group of girls and I’m taking all the precautions,” she said.
Earlier this month, Western warned students to not party, or else the entire year could be compromised if outbreaks occurred. The university does not make the number of COVID cases on campus public, but this week it told CBC London that there have been six cases identified so far this year.
On Friday, there were 204 active COVID-19 cases in Middlesex London and 11 people in hospital.
“The continued threat of COVID-19, violence and personal safety are reasons we are asking our students to choose to avoid unsanctioned mass gatherings,” said Chris Alleyne, a university vice-president, earlier this week.
“We ask that they keep their circles small, be with friends they trust and show respect and care for each other, and for the London community.”