When Homecoming parties get out of hand
As Homecoming approaches, many Wilfrid Laurier University students are preparing for a wild weekend of parties and keggers. While these spirited homecoming events are highly anticipated and popular, there have been homecoming parties at universities across Canada that have gotten out of control and resulted in arrests, injuries, and damages to public and private property.
In 2005, a Queen’s University Homecoming party on Kingston’s Aberdeen St. intensified into a riot. Attendees flipped and set fire to a car parked on the street. The Kingston Police estimate that 5,000-7,000 people attended the street party that resulted in 200 liquor violations, 42 arrests and damages to private property.
Samantha Johnson, a Queen’s 2010 graduate who attended the 2005 homecoming party said, “There were more than a few hundred people there… the street is about two blocks and it was blocked off by police officers so we had to go around through a backyard to get onto the street itself. There was glass all over the ground and we were stepping on it in our flip-flops, and we saw some people flip a car.”
“We didn’t see anything get set on fire or anything. We left at that point because we didn’t want to be there,” Johnson added.
Police were stationed around the street party; however the Kingston Police Chief stated that they were outnumbered and unable to control the crowd.
Interestingly, the 2005 Queen’s Homecoming events did not deter people from attending in coming years. Approximately 8,000 people attended Queen’s Homecoming in 2006 and 6,500 in 2007.
Johnson said, “[People] heard that in previous years there was a party on this specific street, so they expect that and they expect that there aren’t going to be any repercussions… It was pretty much an effective group mentality where no one takes responsibility and everyone wants to be a part of the spectacle.”
In 2010 Macleans magazine reported that Queen’s University Homecoming would be cancelled until 2014 in order to curtail the wild street partying. A review will take place in 2013 to determine if a fall Homecoming will be reinstated.
Riots are uncommon at most Canadian university homecoming parties; however homecoming parties have become unruly at some institutions..
In 2003 The Cord reported on a homecoming party that Laurier’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, better known on campus as the Pikes, hosted that year. The annual Pikecoming party took place at the Elmira Rod and Gun Club and approximately 1,650 students attended the event. When the kegs went dry earlier than expected, students became unruly. As they waited for buses back to campus, many verbally abused and spat on Foot Patrol, BACCHUS and ERT members, and some also kicked in bus windows. The riot caused $900 worth of damage and the Pikecoming event did not receive official university support for four years.
At the University of Western Ontario (UWO), one homecoming party grew too large and became unruly. Matthew Chornaby, a UWO 2011 grad, said, “It was on Richmond Street, near school, and it kind of just got out of hand and too many people that weren’t invited started showing up and it spilled out onto the street and that caused some problems. It started to plug up traffic in the road.”
Chornaby was president of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity at Western in the 2010-2011 school year and he organized many large parties during his tenure. He stated that his major concerns when hosting these parties surrounded crowd control and making sure that people stayed safe and didn’t get over-intoxicated.
Chornaby said, “Members of the same fraternity would take on different security tasks, and depending on the size we would also hire in external security from a security company in town.” When asked if safety problems ever occurred at his Pike parties, he said, “Not that I can remember that were any kind of actual safety concerns”.
When asked what caused homecoming events to become uncontrollable , Chornaby said “Lack of planning. Lack of trying to keep people down to a manageable number.”
Permanent residents are affected by homecoming parties and they grow tired of dealing with noise, vandalism, litter, and crowds. As an alumnus, Johnson has more perspective on how homecoming riots affect a school’s reputation, saying, “It had a negative effect on the alumni community. What goes on at the school currently affects the perception of our school, the credentials and therefore getting a job. All around a negative event led to serious negative repercussions.”
When asked if they will attend their Homecoming again in the future, however, the answer is a resounding yes. Johnson answered, “I absolutely would attend in the future. I am very excited about homecoming being reinstated and yes with more security measures for things like massive partying.”
Similarly, Chornaby said, “I’ll be there this weekend.”