On Saturday, Sept. 25, Dalhousie students participated in the annual homecoming celebration. This year wasn’t the first time HoCo has gotten out-of-control, but it has students like myself wondering whether on-campus party restrictions push students to the streets.
HoCo 2021 will be remembered in infamy because it coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. After lost time last year, students pushed the boundaries this year. Hundreds crowded along Jennings Street during the day and Larch Street at night. Pictures of students packed together, unmasked, proudly wearing yellow and black have been published in local papers; a headline in the Coast called the day’s events the “perfect thing to be mad about.”
Beyond the public health implications, the neighbourhoods were trashed. Halifax police arrested ten partygoers for public intoxication and ticketed more for underage drinking and carrying open liquor. In the Dalhousie Gazette’s previous issue, neighbourhood residents and city councillor Waye Mason expressed their frustration with Dalhousie students who partied, citing unacceptable noise levels, littering and overall disrespect.
COVID-19 restrictions follow students home
While some may agree the school is doing their best to protect us with COVID-19 safety protocols, for some, these protocols follow us home.
One COVID-19 inspired regulation imposed at Dal are substance-free residences. While not all students care to drink, or are even of age to, there are those who will go elsewhere to imbibe because of on-campus restrictions.
Could the size of HoCo have been diminished by allowing students to enjoy themselves in residence?
Dal reacts appropriately
The Administration’s response to the parties has been discipline-oriented, and rightly so. First, Dalhousie released a statement encouraging partygoers to get tested and avoid classes. The President’s Office also announced its pursuit of disciplinary action, under the Code of Student Conduct, citing suspension and other penalties.
First-year Dal student, Mallory Jackson, believes the school is taking the right steps.
“Dal is doing the right thing proposing proper protocols for safety,” she says.
Many students appear to agree HoCo went too far, and a piece in the Gazette’s previous issue also reported some are worried about what these repercussions might mean for Halloween and upcoming events.
Mackenzie Laporte, another first-year student at Dal, says, “I just don’t think students should have done it. They should have been more mature. Obviously, it’s a good thing people are getting vaccinated, but it doesn’t fully prevent the virus.”
Taking steps toward freedom
One of Dalhousie’s newest responses to the lack of on campus parties has been promoting attendance of Dal After Dark events. These are safe, regulated, alcohol and substance-free events for all Dal and University of King’s College students. While appreciated as an effort to include students in on campus celebrations and events, some students don’t feel Dal After Dark is an adequate replacement for house parties.
Jackson says, “Dal After Dark? No one goes to those.”
Laporte feels differently. He says, “I don’t know how big Dal After Dark is, but it makes groups a lot smaller, and it reduces the chance of COVID-19 spreading to a lot of people.”
Maybe we can find a middle ground. One where students have the freedom to stretch their wings without taking things too far. Is there a way to regulate Dal celebrations without extending our lockdown?
Emails aren’t enough
Whether Dal did all it could, or there were more pre-party actions which may have prevented the size of this year’s HoCo celebrations, many students believe email warnings aren’t enough. Popular Instagram account DalMemes mocked the response of Dal administrators, sharing a screenshot of a tweet that reads, “In retrospect it probably wasn’t the best idea for Dalhousie to email all of the students on Friday alerting them of a block party on Jennings street.”
Personally, I feel students will continue to drink and party regardless of what Dalhousie warns. As Jackson puts it, “Dal is doing the right thing on paper, but in practice, it’s not working.”
The Student Union has offered a refreshingly measured response. DSU President Madeleine Stinson states in a recent CBC interview, “You throw an on-campus sanctioned event and you stop pushing students out into the community.”
I agree 100 per cent.
The Dal administration has faced a lot to make classes possible during the pandemic and I’m grateful, but we need a little wiggle room. I propose lifting the recent prohibition of substances in residence as a start and focusing on keeping parties safe instead of dry.