Western and its citywide partners are taking collective action and sending a strong message ahead of what is traditionally a weekend of dangerous, unsanctioned street parties off campus.
“We’re asking our students to avoid these highly dangerous events where the potential for injury and violence is real,” said Western president Alan Shepard.
“Our students are demanding more safety and security on our campus and calling for big changes in our culture. We know this will take a collective effort if we are to succeed in this important turning point for our community.”
Events during orientation week sparked calls for a change in culture and improved safety on campus.
In response, Western launched a student safety action plan and announced a Task Force on Sexual Violence and Student Safety. As well, the university will engage a third-party to inquire into concerns raised by students about this year’s orientation week, with details to be shared in the coming days.
The multi-stakeholder task force will take a deeper look at issues of sexual violence and student safety, identify gaps and make recommendations for meaningful change.
“Having students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners working together will help us realize the cultural shifts needed to foster a safer campus community,” Shepard said.
As part of the action plan, mandatory, in-person training on consent, personal safety and sexual violence awareness and prevention began this week for all 5,300 students living in Western’s residences. While the training is starting in the residences, the university plans to make it mandatory for all students, with additional training eventually developed for faculty and staff.
Western is also hiring up to 100 new safety ambassadors to bolster support in residence during the late-night hours. Western intends to initially engage graduate students for this work.
The university will be increasing special constables who are patrolling campus by 33 per cent.
Heading into the weekend, about 100 additional security guards have been assigned across campus.
Over the last several days, Western’s housing department has been engaging students in residence to increase awareness and education on sexual violence prevention and personal safety.
This Thursday and Friday evening, residence dons will go door-to-door in the residences to reinforce safety messages to students. Western’s off-campus housing services team has also reached out to students living on streets near campus to provide more information about safety and risk mitigation.
Western is part of a Broughdale task force, which includes the City of London, London Police Services, Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU), London Fire Department, Middlesex-London Paramedic Service, Fanshawe College and the University Students’ Council.
On Sept. 21, the MLHU announced section 22 orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, allowing for hefty fines to be issued to partygoers (up to $5,000) who aren’t complying with gathering limits.
London Police Service will be deploying additional resources, including bringing in officers from other communities to help enforce MLHU orders, issue tickets and protect first responders.
The City of London will also have bylaw officers on site to enforce fines.
For serious incidents off campus, Western’s complaint-driven Code of Student Conduct can be applied.
Sanctioned Homecoming events this weekend are almost exclusively online, to respect the provincial rules around public gatherings.
“Unsanctioned parties are inherently unsafe spaces, where real harm happens,” said Shepard. “This weekend, we’re asking students to keep their circles small, stick with friends they trust and show respect and care for each other, and for the community.”