McMaster students 'disappointed,' say actions at destructive homecoming event 'disgusting'

McMaster students who attended the unofficial homecoming event or were impacted by it say they're shocked and saddened by how out of control the celebrations became.

Ashley Hogan, 18, said she went to the hospital after learning her car was flipped over by partiers Saturday

Hamilton police say seven people were arrested during what McMaster University is calling a "fake homecoming" event Saturday that drew thousands of students and resulted in the destruction of property. (Submitted by Maureen Wilson )

If you asked Ashley Hogan what she thought would happen Saturday after travelling out of town to her first rowing regatta, the first-year McMaster University student wouldn't have guessed she'd end up in a hospital.

But that's where she says she wound up after she learned her car — the one she worked four years to save up for and buy in November 2020 — was smashed, flipped over and destroyed by a horde of people on homecoming weekend in Hamilton.

"I saw a video and that's when … I got really bad anxiety about my car and what's going to happen with insurance and my money … I passed out," the 18-year-old told CBC Hamilton on Monday, as her voice trembled.

Her white, 2017 Mazda 3 is now in a junkyard, she says. The destruction of Hogan's car has become the central image of a crowded, unsanctioned gathering near Dalewood Avenue in the city's west end, near McMaster University. The area is known as one where many students live given its close proximity to campus.

Hamilton police said by 2 p.m. Saturday, there were roughly 5,000 people in the area. They arrested and charged two people for Liquor Licence Act Offences and five others causing a disturbance.

McMaster president David Farrar wrote in a letter those who participated "owe our neighbours, our emergency workers and every other student an apology for the disruptions, disrespect of property and disregard of those who live in our community."

Celebrations were 'definitely not safe,' students say

While the school and police are looking for answers, some McMaster students said they feel ashamed about what took place.

"The reputation of McMaster and all of the students is hurt," said Darius Caimac, a second-year political science student.

He said Saturday morning was full of excitement, with students in their homes starting to drink and celebrate.

Darius Caimac, a second-year political science student, said he was disappointed to see how out of control homecoming celebrations became in Hamilton on Saturday. (Submitted by Darius Caimac)

Second-year students like Caimac didn't get a chance to socialize much last year because the pandemic had forced campus to close. This year's homecoming would provide that chance, he said.

But when he arrived at Dalewood Avenue, "that's the moment I realized it was really, really crazy."

"The moment it got bad was when a car got flipped, that was disgusting," he said.

"It got progressively worse."

He said people were entering random backyards, disturbing homeowners in the area. Some were also ripping out street signs, lifting shopping carts with people inside them and littering. 

Then there were multiple parties spanning into the evening, with homes "absolutely packed."

"When we left, people were throwing glass bottles at people's heads," Caimac said.

Some students getting COVID-19 tests

Caimac said he was planning on stay home for the next few days and taking a precautionary COVID-19 test.

Spring Fu, a first-year engineering student, also said she's going to get tested for similar reasons.

She said she showed up in the area around 9 p.m. and noticed no one was wearing masks.

"That was scary ... I'm kind of scared of COVID because I've seen what it does to people," she said.

Fu said her grandmother recently died and wonders if she might've received better care if more people weren't in the hospital with the virus.

She added she was "disappointed" to see McMaster students acting the way they did.

Ashley Hogan's car was destroyed during homecoming celebrations in Hamilton on Saturday. (Submitted by Ashley Hogan)

"I feel bad for people living on that street ... I really thought McMaster was a lot more chill and I'm disappointed this is the first time [hanging out] after COVID, especially for that poor girl's car," Fu said.

Hogan said she may see her totalled car some time this week. A fundraiser set up by a friend also helped her raise some money to buy a new vehicle.

"I hope that living with the memory and the guilt of this is enough to fix them and I hope they don't do this again. It's impacted so many people."

Police are still reviewing video and images to identify whose who flipped Hogan's car. McMaster said it would "fully cooperate" with police. Sean Van Koughnett, associate vice president and dean of students, also said "expulsion and suspension is on the table," if some students' behaviour warrants it.

Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson said she has requested a meeting with the university and holds both McMaster and students responsible.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.