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Dalhousie prepares for Homecoming street parties following last year’s disaster

The university forms a multi-pronged approach to curb unsanctioned gatherings

Dalhousie University ramps up efforts to avoid unsanctioned street parties as Homecoming approaches, but students remain unphased. 

3000-4000 people attended last year’s unsanctioned street gatherings, which made national news when a person was stabbed, fires were set, fireworks were shot off and 122 summary offence tickets were issued, according to CTV News

Dalhousie is determined not to have a repeat of 2022. According to the university’s website, “Dalhousie and partners embarked on a multi-stakeholder collaborative framework to address unsanctioned street parties in our shared neighbourhood.”. 

Efforts include a community mural project at the intersection of Larch Street and Jennings Street to foster connection between students and community residents, hosting sanctioned homecoming events on campus, investing in harm reduction programs and launching a joint task force on response planning for unsanctioned street parties with the Halifax Regional Police. 

Dalhousie’s Vice-Provost of Student Affairs Rick Ezekial is co-leading the task force. 

“Unsanctioned street gatherings have been a bit of a growing trend across the country and at Dal, we really saw them pick up around 2017/2018,” he said. “[They] really seem to be a thing that is influenced by outside social media influences. I think underlying it is a desire to connect, have fun and celebrate. But there are lots of different impacts when we think about a gathering in the community on the street.”

Second-year Dal student Carson Devitt blames the university for Homecoming getting out of hand in the past. 

“I don’t think [there’s a problem in how Dalhousie students have been celebrating Homecoming in past years], I think the university does a bad job of helping out the students to celebrate,” he said. “I think the only problem with it is that it’s in a public neighbourhood and not in a private area.”

Events run by Dalhousie 

This year, Dalhousie is hosting sanctioned homecoming events for students on campus in hopes of preventing off-campus unsanctioned gatherings in the surrounding community.

The events include the homecoming football game on Wickwire Field, a beer garden for those 19 and over, food trucks and a DJ on the quad. 

“We’re trying to create the celebratory atmosphere that students are looking for, but in ways that aren’t having a negative impact on neighbours and the community,” Ezekiel said. “We are also making significant investments in harm reduction on campus [to support students who might become over-intoxicated].”

According to Ezekial, the university secured additional funding for the Dalhousie Medical Campus Response Team; a team of student volunteers trained to the level of first responders in mental health and physical first aid. The team is now available to help students 24-7 on weekends and during large events. 

“We’ve been trying to shift our approach in residence from one that was more focused on compliance and policy enforcement to one focused on community building and keeping folks safe while still enabling students to connect and gather in fun ways,” Ezekiel said. 

Student response

This year’s Homecoming is surrounded by confusion according to third-year Dalhousie student Rebecca Patterson. 

“Honestly I don’t even know when homecoming is because there’s been so many dates thrown out there. Like Oct. 7, which is Thanksgiving weekend or next Sunday, which is Oct. 1,” Patterson said. “If it’s Oct. 1, I’ll probably go out with my friends and we’ll probably do the whole street thing, but if it’s Thanksgiving weekend I’m not going to go because I have plans with my family.” 

Despite the university’s efforts, interest in the sanctioned events is low.

“I wasn’t planning on [going to any of the sanctioned events] because honestly, I didn’t even know they were happening until two days ago, so I didn’t plan for it,” Patterson said. 

Interviews for this article were conducted on or before Sept. 29. On Oct. 1, there was a large, unsanctioned street gathering of several thousand students on Jennings Street and the surrounding area in Halifax’s South End for ‘Foco’ or Fake Homecoming. There was a large police presence during the gathering which happened in the afternoon and was shut down by nightfall. Two people were arrested and 96 tickets were issued by police. Homecoming is officially scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 7.

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