Video shows hundreds of unruly Halloween partiers gathering on the lawns of a University of Victoria residence building.
From scaling a pole and chugging a drink, to a set of completely gutted bathroom stalls, UVic has confirmed to CHEK News that the videos are from this past weekend, connected to a large, unsanctioned gathering outside Richard Wilson Hall Residence.
“Despite a no-guest policy for residences between Oct. 28-Nov. 1, large crowds of several hundred students—including what appeared to be large numbers of people from off-campus and non-UVic students—gathered outdoors near cluster housing over the weekend,” said Kirsten Lauvaas, a spokesperson for UVic.
In addition to the property damage and unsanctioned gathering, Saanich police are investigating a sexual assault that happened the same weekend. It is not known if the assault and parties are connected at this time.
Saanich Police said in a statement issued after CHEK’s broadcast that one person was arrested but later released for being intoxicated in public while another was taken to hopsital for high levels of intoxication.
The series of events is raising questions about security on campus at UVic.
“On campus, I’ve been to a few of the parties and security isn’t that present there. Just a field of people doing whatever they want to do,” said 20-year-old Megan Howden who is in her third year of environmental and political science studies.
UVic says this past weekend’s gathering is not as large as the one in October of 2020 where the university also saw unsanctioned gatherings during pandemic restrictions. Regardless the university is coming down strong.
“Any threat to personal safety and property is unacceptable,” said Lauvaas.
Concerns over campus security
But students like Howden say gatherings like these are not just reserved to Halloween, and one mother says she too questions the university’s security plan.
“I would always ask them if they saw campus security on the walkways,” said Colleen, whose last name CHEK News is protecting. “I asked a lot. Constantly. The answer was always no.”
Colleen says her daughters attended UVic from 2014 to 2020 and had multiple late-night classes. On the heels of these incidents, especially the recent sexual assault on campus, she worries nothing has changed.
“They did tell me that they often saw campus security driving in the parking lots ticketing cars. So we came to call them campus parking, not campus security,” said Colleen.
UVic says since September of this year, they’ve added weekend campus security staff and hired additional special-duty Saanich Police officers to help manage public safety.
“Campus security conducts frequent and random patrols of the entire campus by foot, bike, and vehicle,” said Lauvaas.
Out-of-control parties may be connected to COVID: Expert
Saanich Police also say they were prepared with extra patrols at the university over the weekend.
“Saturday night to Sunday morning we had additional officers at the university, anticipating large crowds and gatherings, which certainly was the case. The weather didn’t deter the gatherings from occurring and we were definitely busy that evening,” said Const. Markus Anastasiades with Saanich Police.
A UVic psychology professor says this behavior is uncharacteristic of previous years.
“There would be drinking, there would be some nonsense at the beginning of the year. But it would dissipate pretty quickly. So I can’t say I’ve ever witnessed any of this,” said Dr. Bonnie Leadbeater.
To explain, but not excuse, the bad behaviour, Leadbeater has a theory, connected to the social isolation COVID caused.
“Maybe they haven’t had the teenage parties that helped with estimations of how much alcohol you can drink and what kind of behavior you could get into that’s immature or not appropriate for a university group,” said Leadbeater.
Leadbeater suggests the university could curb unsanctioned large gatherings, especially around Halloween, by providing a safer way to party.
“You can’t tell these kids to go home. They are home,” said Leadbeater. “So it could have been for example, get a band, have Halloween candy, have a little bit of an adult presence and the damages could have been avoided.”
The university says they investigate on-campus incidences of students violating UVic conduct policies, including reckless behaviour that puts themselves or others at risk of physical harm.
“While UVic has no jurisdiction over, or recourse with, non-UVic students on campus in terms of issuing penalties or sanctions, we work closely with Saanich police to help keep the campus safe. It’s law enforcement that has a public-safety mandate and the ability to ticket and recommend criminal charges, where warranted,” said Lauvaas
UVic says they don’t know the extent of the damage to the washrooms of Wilson Hall but are assessing. The Saanich Police investigation remains open.