The University of Victoria and police in Saanich, B.C., are taking unprecedented steps to crack down on wild campus parties attended by revellers, most of whom aren’t students.
Since the start of the semester, gatherings as large as 1,000 people have taken place outside residences, and the crowds have become increasingly unruly and unsafe, according to campus security.
On Friday, an increased number of officers stationed themselves on campus with new authorization to question people seen gathering in groups near the residences.
They were also empowered to enforce the university’s Trespass Act, which allows them to force non-students to leave the residence district or entire campus, “should that be necessary.”
“We’ve never seen this amount of people and disorderly behaviour in previous years,” said Thomas Downie, UVic’s director of campus security services.
“The university is not taking these steps lightly, but they are necessary to address a dangerous trend that is putting people at risk.”
Over the Halloween weekend, several hundred people attended a “drunk and disorderly” party outside student residences and set off illegal fireworks, the university said.
The large majority were not UVic students, according to the Saanich Police Department.
“Our main objective this weekend is to deter groups from gathering on the property in the first place, and we really hope this proactive approach will create the safe environment that we’re both seeking — us and the university,” said Const. Markus Anastasiades.
The university said police understand the sensitivity involved in approaching students and asking them to identify themselves, but it is compelled to take such measures due to the “extraordinary nature” of the parties taking place.
Student Eleanor Vannan said the gatherings are “getting in the way” of her learning.
She said she understands young people want to “have a good time,” but a party of a thousand people “isn’t needed” to do that.
“I think there’s only so much you can expect of 18-year-olds who are away from home for the first time, but the messaging from the university has not been clear,” she told Global News.
The university sent two emails to students about the parties at the beginning of the year, Vannan said.
The first was a polite request that students not have such large gatherings, while the second warned there are policies in place for non-academic misconduct, “and other than that it seems to have been tolerated.”
Earlier in the school year, the university introduced a “no guest” policy for student housing in response to the parties.
In its statement, UVic said Saanich police will also enforce other prevention measures, including ticketing individuals for open alcohol, underage drinking, and the destruction of school property.