London

The Broughdale bash: 3 possible solutions to Western's street party problem

City officials, the police and Western University officials admit the annual late-September party on Broughdale Avenue has reached dangerous levels. We asked three people to weight in with their thoughts on how to fix it.

Should homecoming be moved back to September? What about booting students from school?

Police released this aerial footage of crowds crammed onto Broughdale Avenue during a massive student street party Saturday. Police say the size of the crowd, estimated at 20,000 people, has turned the party into a threat to public safety. (London Police Service)

Police, paramedics and London city officials all agree that, when it comes to massive illegal student street parties like the one that happened on Broughdale Avenue on Saturday, the status quo can't continue. 

For a second straight year, London police Chief John Pare is raising the alarm after 20,000 revellers crammed onto the small residential street near the Western University. 

In a statement issued Tuesday, Western University acknowledges the street party creates a dangerous situation, but offers no specifics about how the university might work to address the problem. 

"We are committed to changing the culture that leads to this unsanctioned street party. We know from other universities this can take several years to achieve," wrote Jennifer Massey, Western's associate vice-president of student experience.

But what, exactly, is the solution? 

CBC News spoke to three people with first-hand experience dealing with student street parties: a former London police chief, a former student leader at Western University, and London's current police chief. 

Here are three solutions they suggest. 

1: Hold all Ontario homecomings on the same day

Landon Tulk is a former vice president of the University Student Council (USC) at Western University. (Andrew Lupton/CBC News)

Dealing with street parties was a big part of Landon Tulk's job during his term as vice-president of the University Student Council (USC), which ended in May.

He'd like to see Western work with other Ontario universities to hold all homecomings on the same weekend. Tulk says many of the students who pack onto Broughdale Avenue aren't Western students or London residents. Many make the trek from other universities to experience what's become a destination party. He says it's a trip students might not bother to make if it means missing the party at their home university.

"It's certainly an idea that should be discussed," said Tulk. He admits it might be a headache to cajole all Ontario universities to shift their homecoming onto the same day, but feels it's worth a try.

And although it didn't stop the street party, Tulk says the idea behind Purple Fest — getting students to party on campus at a safe, sanctioned event on campus — is the right idea.

"There's a lot of potential there," he said. "I'd like to see the university and USC put more energy into Purple Fest next year."

2: Enforce Western's student code of conduct

Police Chief John Pare is calling on Western university to take a greater role in curtailing the so-called FOCO party, saying it's become a threat to public safety. (Colin Butler/CBC)

Western University has a student code of conduct  that students enrolled in the school are "responsible for observing" as part of their "membership in the university's academic and social community." 

It lists as various behaviours as verboten, including failing to comply with police orders or any "conduct that endangers the health or safety of any person."

Illegal drug and alcohol use is also covered by the code. 

Complaints about code violations are heard by the associate vice-president of student experience — that's Jennifer Massey — who can issue sanctions against students ranging from a written reprimand to outright expulsion. 

Pare suggested yesterday that strictly enforcing the student code of conduct could help curb the big bash on Broughdale. His thinking is that if a ticket for public intoxication isn't a sufficient deterrent to street partying, getting booted from school might be. 

"Maybe something that could affect their academic career would send a stronger message," he said. 

One problem: Investigations for code of conduct violations aren't made public. A total of 46 students were sanctioned in the 2016-17 academic last year, but the university won't say what the violations were for, or whether they are related to off-campus incidents.

3: Move homecoming back to September

Retired London police chief Murray Faulkner says the university needs to get tougher with students to help curb dangerous student street parties. (CBC)

Former London police chief Murray Faulkner says Western officials need to admit that moving the university's official homecoming from September to October was a bad idea. 

The move to October was made in response to unsanctioned street parties that happened during Western's official homecoming. The thinking was that fewer students would party in October when the weather is cooler and students' course load is heavier. 

"It hasn't worked," said Faulkner. 

Now fake homecoming — known widely as FOCO — has come to be seen by students as their party. But now it's grown to an unsafe size, say officials. Attendance at last year's FOCO was about 11,000. This year, it was estimated to be around 20,000. 

Faulkner says the entire culture needs to change and he says the university has a role to play in changing it. 

"To keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome is a bit wasteful," he said. 

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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