Thousands of McMaster University students gathered on Dalewood Avenue for the university’s now traditional “homecoming” bash.
As in years past, there was plenty of public intoxication, urination, and stupid behaviour.
There is no dispute there must be consequences for unlawful conduct.
Those consequences need to be handed out by the police and City of Hamilton by-law officers.
McMaster can attempt to discipline the students who appear in social media clips engaged in particularly egregious behaviour. The unsanctioned event directly ties itself to the university and is not some random gathering which happens to have McMaster students present – it exists because McMaster students make it happen.
Nonetheless, even if the university sought to deal with this, it has limited investigative powers.
Hamilton police have the investigative powers and resources to attempt to identify those involved in flipping the car.
McMaster succeeded in rebranding its homecoming into a major event with ads stating “don’t miss out on the biggest party of the year” in 2017.
The university knowingly opened a Pandora’s Box.
McMaster students created the Dalewood gathering. It is now an annual unsanctioned event, drawing revellers from far and wide, and the event will continue annually for the foreseeable future.
In a tweet, Ward 1 Hamilton City Councillor Maureen Wilson is calling for McMaster to “own this annual community debacle” and for the City to “send them the bill for all policing, paramedic & clean up costs. Mac President – get your house in order & stop trashing ours.”
During my time working for Maclean’s, I covered similar unsanctioned parties in the “student ghettos” of London and Kingston. These have an energy of their own, drawing large crowds of both students and non-students.
Beyond a draconian police presence, options for stopping this event are limited. The unofficial frat houses will continue being vocal points for these gatherings. The sheer number of people will overwhelm any enforcement.
Law enforcement on its own will not solve this annual problem.
The university can create sanctioned on-campus events. Even if it does, the crowds who partake in these street parties will not change their habits. These unsanctioned “homecoming” parties will continue.
Pandora’s box is open.
“Student ghettos” create the conditions for unruly “homecomings”.
The only possible solution is reversing the studentification of Westdale and Ainslie-Wood by McMaster building significant student residence spaces to house its student body, but McMaster does not want more mortgage debt on its books.