Laurier Homecoming showcases school spirit and new safety measures

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Laurier’s annual homecoming weekend took place from Friday, Sept. 27 to Sunday, Sept. 29, a weekend created for alumni to come back and celebrate their alma mater but has now also included many current students celebrating their decision to come to Laurier and sport the purple and gold.

Many other schools also had their homecomings on the same weekend, with the University of Guelph hosting theirs as well as the University of Western Ontario hosting their “foco” after the school moved their homecoming weekend to mid-October three years ago.

“Traditionally, homecoming has been for alumni to come home and there’s multiple functions happening from Friday night’s athletic hall of fame banquet to Saturday morning’s pancake breakfast, which is for everyone, the alumni association has a general meeting, the hype associated with the football match is always a feature, the pre-game comradely, the end zone tents and reunions, 25 and 50 year ones, the end zone is also licensed for all students,” said David McMurray, vice president of student affairs for the university.

“Declining numbers for the end zone though because students are opting to gather in the street, which is kind of disappointing because the end zone has always been a lot of fun.There’s ton of post-game events at the stadium, in the gym, Wilf’s, the Turret was going to have an event but they didn’t sell enough tickets, that used to be a huge event with a band, dance party and then Sunday is a service over at Martin Luther University College.”

Many precautions are put in place for the unsanctioned street party that takes place the Saturday of homecoming, with safety being the number one concern of staff at the university as they are aware that programming for homecoming is mainly aimed towards alumni rather than current students.

Staff were in contact with the community and the students’ union for options that may deter from the street, however even if the idea of a pricey concert on Alumni Field took place, the fear is that many would wander back to the street afterwards and may even increase numbers by bringing in a big name.

“Homecoming is also for our students that are here now because they look forward to celebrating, I love seeing all the purple and gold, it was almost as busy in the bookstore as it was the first week of September. On Saturday, as early as eight o’clock, you can see the students walking to the house parties or functions they’ve planned,” McMurray said.

“There was a difference this year which I was thrilled to see, there were safety measures implemented like pods for supervision, washrooms, garbage collection; the fences that went u pin front of properties, Laurier owns two-thirds of them, the problem with the rising number of people is the safety and security of buildings and people, the fencing was a huge success as our own students could come and go safely with their guests, it also confined people on Ezra to thestreet, it moved the numbers more safely than before.”
Other schools have attempted to divert the traffic from main streets like Chancellor’s Way in Guelph or Broughdale Avenue at Western, with Guelph hosting a “Gryphon Park” with less than100 people showing up, as well as Western’s “Purple Fest”, where the headliner A$AP Rock did not appear and over 20,000 people still ended up on the street.

“I know there’s been a lot more student interest in that kind of thing, I don’t have direct evidence but my educated guess after being there all Saturday is that students had fun, they were responsible whether they were consuming alcohol or drugs or anything else, the incidents were very minor. For the most part I saw students enjoying the day and to me that’s what homecoming is all about,” McMurray said.

After an incident at the beginning of September where an unsanctioned street party on EzraAvenue gathered over 1,000 people and a student was charged on Sept. 9 for arson as furniture was set ablaze on the street, seeing criticism from both staff, faculty and students alike forgiving Laurier a bad reputation as students do not want to see even further measures put in place for events like homecoming or St. Patrick’s day.The young man is no longer a student at the university.

“We’ve talked about moving homecoming, but we’ve intentionally organized the homecomings of the six schools who are concerned with street gatherings, there were six schools; Laurier, Waterloo, Western, Guelph, Queen’s and Brock, because they’re all worried about what to do,”McMurray said.

“The football schedule, we worked with the OUA to ask the six schools when they preferred to have their homecoming. Laurier, Guelph and Waterloo wanted to maintain the tradition. Queen’s and Western preferred to have their homecoming later because the rationale was students will have more work academically, the weather maybe cooler.”

Last year’s street party that saw upwards of 14,000 people with over 462 charges laid. This year with added safety measures, aside from tickets given out, only four arrests were made. The city of London has increased fines up to a maximum of $25,000 for fines having illegal keg parties on homecoming weekends to deter these events.

“The biggest fear is that safety doesn’t happen, it keeps me up at night worrying about it. I was up at 3am on Saturday worrying, I was at everything all day, we had to do the media scrums in the morning and at 6pm, we walk around with our fingers crossed that there’s nothing serious to have to report an incident,” McMurray said.

“Saturday was a much better reflection of having fun with good judgement with the exception of a handful who will have to go to court, explain to a judge and pay a pretty hefty fine.”

Laurier will continue to look into how they can host events for students while keeping them safe and in good judgement as other holidays such as Halloween andSt. Patrick’s day come upat the school, but the main message for students is just to stay golden.

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