‘All about them’
Each September, thousands of students pour into Waterloo on Labour Day weekend to prepare for school, settle into new dwellings or participate in frosh week activities.
However, for the 19-plus crowd, many head back to school early for only one purpose — to party.
Any student who has stayed in town for the summer can play witness to drastic and immediate change to Waterloo’s night life, as crowds of lively people stumble through the streets at all hours of the night, and line ups for bars stretch down the sidewalk at 9 p.m.
According to Bob Leis, manager of local bar Fox and Fiddle, “Frosh week is all about them [students] getting drunk before they go to school.”
Although the ‘Fox’ is a popular spot throughout the year, Leis noted that Orientation Week is a particularly busy time, something which brings with it a share of problems.
“The students don’t understand the rules and regulations each bar has, as well as what they accept and don’t accept, and what happens if they get unruly in a bar,” he commented with apparent irritation. “They don’t understand they can’t drink as much anymore, because the liquor law gets stricter and stricter every year.”
Leis has now been working with the university crowd for nearly 20 years, and has noticed an increase in behavioural issues.
“The last three years they don’t respect it anymore, and that’s not a good thing,” said Leis.
He continued, “Parents are letting them loose, and they’re letting them do whatever they want.”
The University of Guelph has created a program designed to increase awareness of alcohol regulations and reduce crime, titled Project Safe Semester. According the Guelph Mercury, the plan is focused on “keeping alcohol related crime and disorder problems in check for the first month of the school year,” and includes greater police monitoring of the downtown area and increased transparency through the use of Twitter by the police force.
Waterloo has yet to engage in such a program, but director of by-law enforcement and property standards Jim Barry claimed that communication is key to success. “I believe that there’s always more to be done,” he said. “The more we do, the more we help everybody understand their roles.”
In terms of complaints received by residents, Barry confirmed that the amount of calls received does go up as students return to town. “It’s a lot of people coming to our community, lots of them for the first time, and they’re excited,” he explained. For their method of accommodating all citizens, Barry says the focus of bylaw officers is “… just finding that happy medium and making sure we’re being firm but fair.”
Alexandra Miciak, a third-year arts student at Wilfrid Laurier University, has experienced both the positive and negative attributes of frosh week festivities.
“I was part of it, it’s been a lot of fun, but obviously partying does reach that point where it’s just out of control,” she admitted.
Part of the problem, she believes, comes from the sheer number of arrivals to the area in such a short time span.
“It’s just like a big overload of people, so when you get that many partiers, it can be pretty damaging [and] disruptive,” Miciak explained. She noted that house parties in particular have a tendency to be more problematic, due to the inability of the host to control exactly who is attending.