'Hostile' fence now divides Western University from its hard-partying neighbours
The 900-foot-long steel fence creates a barrier for an event many say respects few boundaries
The annual student street party on Broughdale Avenue known as FOCO knows few boundaries. So maybe that's why Western University recently built one.
In July, Western University built a 900-foot-long, seven-foot-high black steel fence that slices through backyards from Richmond Street to Sunset Street, dividing campus from nearby Broughdale and its now notorious annual street party.
It means students who live on Broughdale can no longer cut through their backyard laneways to get to class. Now they must either walk all the way around to Richmond Street, or use a gravel pathway that cuts between two of Western's residences.
For Jack Moore, a third-year nursing student who lives on Broughdale, the fence represents more than a minor inconvenience.
'A bit ridiculous'
"I definitely think the aura of the community has changed," he said. "I feel like it's a lot more hostile."
That antagonism Moore feels might be because in the perennial contest of town versus gown, the town has stepped up its game this year.
Not only has Western built a fence with the capability of preventing people from entering and exiting campus, the City of London has upped its fines and police have cracked down on enforcement.
Moore said his neighbours, all students, have the fines to prove it. They all received $1,130 tickets for recently having what police considered a nuisance party.
"I think their whole attitude is a bit ridiculous. I think they should focus on damage control rather than trying to prevent it from happening."
"It's a party school," he said. "I think they should just make sure that kids are safe," suggesting water stations and free naloxone kits would go a long way to help make that possible.
Moore said he and his roommates plan to lock their doors on the day of the gathering so that no one can enter their rental home because they can't afford the fines.
Still, making kids "safe" during a party that last year attracted 20,000 people to a street barely three football fields long is a tall order, especially when each year dozens of people are sent to hospital and police, paramedics and even the mayor have all said it's only a matter of time before someone is killed.
'Honestly? I think it's a good idea'
"Honestly? I think it's a good idea," said Habib Younes, a first-year finance student. "Around FOCO, a lot of people get pretty crazy. I know I'm worried about my house."
In fact, on the day of the big party, Younes and his five roommates are not only locking all the doors and windows of their rental home, they're even taking shifts to make sure nothing gets damaged.
"Probably one or two of us are going to stay in the house and take shifts to make sure no-one breaks in," he said, noting he and his roommates will be decorating the backyard and welcoming the guests because they don't have a choice.
"We can't stop the partying. People will be in our backyard whether we like it or not, so best to make sure our house is safe," he said.
'Not oblivious to the destruction'
In fact, most students who live on the street say they plan to batten down the hatches in preparation for the deluge of humanity that will inundate Broughdale Avenue for FOCO.
"We're not oblivious to the destruction that goes on," said Celia Chapcott, a media student whose backyard gives her a clear view of the new fence.
"Having strangers in the house can be really overwhelming," she said. "The houses just serve as open places almost on FOCO, there's very little respect for people's property."
"It's a given your house will be destroyed if you have people in it," she said. "We're just going to leave our house and lock it so the city knows we can't be liable."
Fence built for security reasons
Western University said the fence was built to clearly mark the line between campus and adjoining private properties as part of larger security strategy for the school.
Elizabeth Krische, the school's vice-president of facilities, said there are a number of gates along the fence which will likely be closed during upcoming FOCO festivities on Broughdale.
"We may close some of the gates to restrict some of the access to the unsanctioned street party on Broughdale that will take place," she said.
"London city police will help us decide when to do that."