More participants likely to face discipline, charges following ‘unsanctioned’ McMaster homecoming

Click to play video: 'Weekend university street parties get out of control in Hamilton'
Weekend university street parties get out of control in Hamilton
WATCH: It was not officially sanctioned by McMaster University, but students now face school discipline after a rowdy street party in Hamilton Saturday. Sean O'Shea reports – Oct 4, 2021

Westdale’s Ryan Griver says McMaster University “dropped the ball” for not better doing a better job mitigating a gathering of close to 5,000 who descended into multiple Hamilton neighbourhoods on Saturday for what police are calling an “unsanctioned” event.

“I mean, I read that apology from the president, and you know my response was great apology. Can your apology come and pick up the glass in my backyard?” Griver told Global News.

The resident said the gathering is something he’s been experiencing since 2017, when he was surprised to be woken by AC/DC’s ‘Dirt Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ at 7:30 a.m. one morning.

“It being Yom Kippur, the day of atonement for the Jewish faith, we were fasting and we just kind of went to synagogue, came back and our street was overrun. So that was the first.”

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Griver says events in 2018 and 2019 were managed “better” with police taping off lawns in his neighbourhoods, while 2020 was a write-off due to the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions at their peak.

“Here we are at 2021, which was as big as the first, as intense as the first, but with better police management and resources,” recalls Griver.

“You really only saw a little bit of spillover into negative territory with about, I would say, 90 per cent good vibes.”

The local was a little more forgiving in his assessment of the university crowd than his neighbours according to Ward 1 west end councillor Maureen Wilson, who went door knocking with residents on Sunday.

“It was a debacle,” Wilson told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

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“Damaged trees, garbage, glass, what they went through all through that night. I talked to elderly people who were afraid, were hiding in their rooms, not able to leave their homes. I suspect it might be a good idea for the university to get out and also knock on some doors.”

Hamilton police say charges laid in connection with the “fake” homecoming include a pair for liquor licence violations and five for breach of the peace/cause disturbance.

Superintendent Will Mason told 900 CHML’s Hamilton Today the “unsanctioned” event followed McMaster’s football game against Waterloo at nearby Ron Joyce Stadium and resulted in damage to street signs, some residences and an overturned car in the area of Dalewood and Westwood.

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Mason said police were aware of a social media driven gathering and did have preliminary talks with the school leading up to the event but were simply not expecting the numbers seen.

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“Officers did visit a number of student houses actually, and talked to them about safety, behavior, expectations and all of those type of things,” Mason said.

“There will be visits in the coming days from our officers again in terms of follow up.”

Investigators say they are looking to speak to a man in connection with the flipping of a white Mazda during Saturday’s unsanctioned event in Westdale. Global News

Sean Van Koughnett, McMaster University’s associate vice-president and dean of students, said officials at the school saw “signs” of something being planned  through tips via social media.

“We have people who hide behind social media accounts. Whether they’re students or not, no one knows,” Van Koughnett said.

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Van Koughnett told the Bill Kelly Show he was also surprised by the large turnout and says the challenge now is combing through a vast number social media posts and identifying offenders.

“We’ve identified one student and we’re going to suspend him from the university while we conduct an investigation into his behavior,” said Van Koughnett.

“As … we are going to find more. There are people coming forward willing to identify students, and I’m confident we’ll find more.”

The vice president says people are coming forward and willing to identify students.

He says the repercussions of being negligent at such an event could end up on a student transcript and affect future employment or schooling.

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“So if you want to apply to grad school, if you want apply to teachers college, that’s on your transcript,” Van Koughnett said.

“Employers sometimes look at transcripts. Good luck getting that job. So I think students really have to consider whether a few moments of stupidity are worth the sacrifice.”

Videos and photos taken by Global News showed little to no physical distancing, mask wearing or safety measures being upheld amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hamilton’s medical officer of health called the whole display “disappointing” and said despite many likely being vaccinated, they still put themselves and the community at risk.

“This is absolutely the kind of situations where you can see increased COVID-19 transmission, especially with this Delta variant and having it spread through further,” Richardson said.

“So it is irresponsible, and in many ways, it’s quite selfish in terms of that sort of behaviour.”

Richardson said public health is monitoring the event but did not reveal any specific investigation or measures when asked by reporters during a city update on Monday afternoon.

“We’re hopeful that we won’t see anything from this but really are concerned about these kinds of events and what they could mean for us,” said Richardson.

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Van Koughnett says the few thousand seen on the weekend only represents about 10 per cent of the current student body, and those “doing stupid things” on Saturday represents an even smaller percentage.

He suggests a partnership with the city, police and peer pressure from fellow students are key in avoiding something “ridiculous” amid future gatherings.

“We have a great student population, and what really angers me is we’ve got idiotic behavior of a few small percentage who are creating this.” Van Koughnett said.

GoFundMe for McMaster student's 'destroyed' car raises over $10,000

The organizer of a fundraiser sent a “huge thanks” to donors who raised close to $10,000 for the owner of a car overturned during Saturday’s mayhem.

A GoFundMe campaign, aiding student Ashley Hogan, surpassed it’s goal in less than 24 hours and closed Monday afternoon.

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“Although the insurance will cover the car replacement, it will not cover the deductible and the contents that were in the car and also destroyed,” facilitator Julie Martin said in the post.

“She is a first year university student who had worked hard and saved to purchase that car herself.”

Martin called support for the initiative “very heartwarming.”

Hamilton police did reveal on Sunday they were seeking a man with brown hair, wearing a blue baseball cap, burgundy and yellow rugby shirt and khaki shorts in connection with the flipping of a white Mazda.


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