Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., has cancelled its annual fall homecoming celebrations for at least two years in response to safety concerns over rowdy and violent parties.
Over the past four years, homecoming weekend has seen a "growing unsanctioned student gathering" of 5,000 to 10,000 people on Aberdeen Street, near the campus, and this year's event resulted in "an unprecedented number of police charges, arrests, violent incidents and injuries," said a letter to alumni from principal and vice-chancellor Tom Williams Tuesday.
"We figured that we could not afford to be associated in any way with an event that had such high risk for individuals and for the university's reputation," Williams told CBC News.
The university will hold a "homecoming-styled" spring reunion in May 2009 that will include traditional fall homecoming events such as class reunions and the Tricolour Guard dinner.
Alumni usually return each fall to the Queen's University campus to take in events that include a football game and a parade, and to meet with their former classmates, but homecoming has become best known in recent years for the unofficial Aberdeen Street party.
A car was set on fire in 2005, other vehicles were overturned in subsequent years, and dozens of people have been arrested each year, mostly on alcohol-related charges. In 2006, the mayor of Kingston published an open letter asking students not to get out of control during homecoming weekend.
The university said that it spent three years working with City of Kingston police, trying unsuccessfully to control the situation, and then consulted with both the university and the Kingston community, who broadly agreed that "a new course of action is required."
The principal and vice-chancellor's letter acknowledged that homecoming brings joy to the university's alumni, but asked them to "sacrifice" the event to protect the university's reputation.