London frat house plans frosh parties calling it a 'crime' to rob students of experience
Delta Upsilon is hosting 'Faux Week 2020,' an alternative to Western's mostly virtual O-Week
A Western University fraternity has taken to social media promoting an alternative to the school's mostly virtual orientation week, causing concern among London's health officials.
Delta Upsilon, an established frat house in London, Ont., is offering incoming first-year students an alternative to O-Week, including parties and social gatherings.
The event's social media page says the group decided to host their own celebration because they think "it ought to be a downright crime to rob frosh of the late night mini-raves and partying that makes the week one of the most memorable experiences of our lives as Western students."
The $100 ticket gives attendees access to a lineup of events throughout the week including a small toga paint party, capped at 45 to 50 people, a trip to Grand Bend, a group volunteering event and a BBQ night.
"When that type of post goes up and there are plans for some big parties, it concerns me," said Dr. Alex Summers, the associate medical officer of health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU).
"Parties like that are going to be hot spots of transmission and we have to make sure that everyone understands the potential risks."
CBC News has reached out to the fraternity for comment, but no one has yet been available.
Organizers do say there are guidelines, an attempt to keep party-goers safe from COVID-19, including asking attendees to complete a health screening before each event, checking temperatures at the door and wearing a mask.
The frat house also plans to divide attendees into cohorts of 45 to 50 people to reduce exposure.
While the province allows indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people, that doesn't mean groups can be crammed together, one of the big concerns from health unit.
"With those 50 people, unless they are part of your social circle, you still have to physically distance," Summers said.
"We are concerned there is going to be large interactions between individuals that aren't part of the same social circle. That's where you start to see physical contacts go up rapidly and the potential for COVID-19 increase," he said, adding that physical distancing will be challenging, especially if alcohol is involved.
The fraternity said it has consulted with public health officials on safety measures. Summers said the MLHU has not been contacted by the organizers.
Party-goers can be fined if they fail to adhere to provincial guidelines
While the City of London has taken an education-first approach when enforcing provincial orders, by-law officers can issue tickets to party-goers or hosts who aren't abiding to health guidelines, such as exceeding gathering limits, not using a mask when required or failing to maintain two metres of physical distance.
Violating these measure can lead to a $750 fine, plus surcharges for a total of $830.
"Our hope is that anyone who is planning a large gathering is also following all of the health precautions – the priority for our community is to prevent the spread of COVID-19," a city spokesperson said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Western University said it is also aware of the event but clarified it isn't directly affiliated with fraternities or sororities.
"We hope all of our students do their part, take precautionary measures, and work together to create a safer and healthier community," said Jennifer Massey, the associate vice president of students experience at the university.
This year, the university gave orientation week, commonly known as O-week, a complete overhaul. It has turned an experience traditionally filled with large gatherings and large-scale events into one that includes a mix of in-person and virtual events that adhere to provincial guidelines.
The school is also encouraging students to create social circles of up to 10 people on campus and practice physical distancing around anyone outside of their circle to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Summers said he hopes organizers and attendees realize the important role every person plays in ensuring the virus does not continue to spread in the city.
"I think it's a testament to everybody's commitment that we've made such amazing process this far and we do not want that process to unravel," he said.