Code changes target street-party behaviour

In an effort to curb extreme behaviour at the Broughdale Avenue street party, the Board of Governors approved changes to the Code of Student Conduct that extend its reach to behaviour at unsanctioned events that have become associated with the university.

Previously, the code could be applied only to sanctioned university events or, in some instances, external events where students were officially representing Western.

“This change to the code is just one of a number of initiatives aiming to put an end to this illegal party,” said Jennifer Massey, Associate Vice-President (Student Experience). “The size of these street parties presents a complex problem that requires a well-coordinated response from Western, London police, the city and student leaders.”

Earlier this year, Western administrators also met with representatives from eight other Ontario universities that, together with their community leaders, are dealing with large, unsanctioned street parties.

Western reviewed amendments other universities have made to their codes of student conduct and worked with legal experts and student leaders to determine how amendments could be made to Western’s code.

“Members of the community had advocated for changes to Western’s Code of Student Conduct and we have listened to that feedback and acted upon it,” Massey said. “We’ve had some very productive discussions with London police and student leaders on both the amendment and our approach to exercising jurisdiction over off-campus conduct.”

The Code now reads that the university may exercise jurisdiction in specific, serious off-campus instances:

“This Code applies to … off-campus conduct… where the conduct occurs at a program, event or activity not hosted, sanctioned, sponsored, or organized by the University that because of the nature of the program, event or activity and/or the number of students involved, might reasonably be seen to have a direct or indirect association with the University.”

In determining whether or not to exercise jurisdiction over off-campus conduct, the university will consider four factors:

  1. The seriousness of the alleged conduct;
  2. The risk of harm involved;
  3. Whether the victim(s) are members of the campus community; and/or
  4. Whether the off-campus conduct is part of a series of actions that occurred both on and off the premises.

“What’s important to understand here is that we’re dealing only with the most serious instances and those that have a safety concern,” Massey said.

Chair Paul Jenkins said the Board was pleased to move this forward as a positive step. “We will continue to work with civic leaders and other stakeholders on a lasting solution,” he said.

Lynn Logan, Vice-president (Property and Operations), said changes to the code, by themselves, won’t shift the culture and “multiple levers” must be used to improve safety, reduce the impact on community services and affirm students as leaders.

“There’s no one magic answer on this,” she said. “It’s going to take concentrated effort by everyone.”

Governors had numerous questions about some of the logistics of implementation, including the importance of making sure students are aware of the code, but not about the amendment’s essence.

The motion to amend the code passed unanimously.

Mayor Ed Holder welcomed the code amendment. “I am pleased to see this change to Western’s Code of Student Conduct. While not the sole solution to ending this dangerous event, it is a sign that we can make progress on this when the University, University Students’ Council, the City, and Police are working in tandem,” said Mayor Holder. “I know more solutions are in the works and I expect we will see further progress in the weeks and months ahead.”

For the past six years, Western, the City of London and emergency services have shared information prior in the weeks leading up to the Broughdale event, which has taken place on the last Saturday in September or the first Saturday in October.

This past fall, senior leaders from Western, the city, London Police Services, the London Fire Department and the University Students’ Council formed a task force with the goal of understanding the culture behind the event and finding effective ways to deal with it.

“We are very encouraged by the change to the university’s Code of Student Conduct to include some aspects of off-campus behavior,” said Deputy Chief of Police Steve Williams. “It is not going to solve the problem alone, but it is one important component in ensuring all community members are working together towards a solution. We hope that not only students, but their parents as well, will recognize that the community’s tolerance for these disruptive and dangerous events has been exhausted.”

Massey echoed that sentiment, saying the amended code is just one part of the solution, along with continued collaboration with the task force, strengthening alternative programming for the weekend and sharing information about best practices with peer universities experiencing similar challenges.

She noted students have been integral parts of the process, including three who have been part of the task force, and have also helped lead these changes. “Western has fabulous students who are doing amazing things,” she emphasized, and this change to the code is one way of addressing the most challenging and complex cases.

In 2016, Western responded to the concerns of London Police Services that the crowds partying on Broughdale for Homecoming were becoming so large that it was only a matter to time before someone was killed or permanently injured.  Western moved its annual Homecoming event to later in October when students are focused on tests and exams.

Despite that move, and despite alternative programming taking place, large crowds numbering in the thousands have continued to gather illegally on Broughdale.