Campus Security and Residence Services are working together to manage dangerous parties
Preparations are underway to prevent another year of Halloween parties on UVic’s campus.
For the past two years on Halloween weekend, residence areas on the UVic campus have seen mass gatherings of dangerous sizes. Acts of vandalism and the setting off of fireworks into crowds brought national news attention to the school, with many residents feeling concerned for their safety.
Paige Mercier, a second-year biology student, lived on campus last year and attended the Halloween parties. “It got pretty out of hand,” she told the Martlet, adding that “there [were] a lot of CSEC and police officers, and some firefighters as well.”
Mercier left before the fireworks were let off, but she heard about them and the bathroom vandalism the next day. She remembers receiving messages from UVic Residence Services prior to Halloween regarding resident expectations for the weekend, and said that she never felt unsafe while participating in the gatherings.
After two years of notable and out-of-control parties, new students on campus are aware of how extreme the crowds can be at Halloween. Josi Wilson, who just started her first year studying education, knew about the parties at UVic before setting foot on campus.
“I’ve heard that there are some [parties] and they’re normally quite hectic,” Wilson told the Martlet. Like Mercier, Wilson noted receiving emails about the rules and guidelines for students during holiday weekends. She’s “heard that Halloween is generally fun here,” but feels that the messaging from UVic about safety has been successful.
Wilson said that Campus Security (CSEC) has done a good job of managing gatherings this fall, and is not worried about her safety. “[During] Thunderfest it was really safe, and I’m assuming it will be the same for Halloween,” she added.
Tom Downie is the acting associate director of CSEC at UVic. He has been working at the school for nearly 30 years and told the Martlet that the size of groups partying on campus has doubled in size since COVID-19.
He noted that many participating in these gatherings come from off-campus and some are not UVic students at all. “When we have very large groups coming from off campus, people don’t feel safe,” said Downie.
According to Downie, there will be more CSEC officers patrolling residence on the Friday and Saturday before Halloween, but also on the night itself, which falls on a Tuesday this year.
Saanich Police will also be on campus and ready to assist CSEC, added Downie. He explained that having them there helps with swift response time and coordination during emergencies, should they happen.
Downie noted that weekend crowds have already been smaller this fall than in previous years, and hopes that this year will see fewer people on campus during Halloween. “It’s a simple slogan — keep it small and responsible,” he said.
Terry Forst, associate director of Residence Life and Education, told the Martlet that spreading the word to non-residents that off-campus guests are not permitted is key to their approach this year.
He echoed Downie’s concern that many of the people in crowds last year were from off campus, particularly high school students. “We want folks to know that there’s no guests allowed,” said Forst, adding that the no-guest policy will be in place from Oct. 27 until Halloween day.
Though this policy was in place last year, Forst said that early and more widespread messaging about the rule should help to reduce off-campus visitors this year. “Last year the communication was mostly internal, to our residents … [this year] what we’re doing is trying to promote it more, through different social media channels through the university.”
Forst explained that this year, CSEC officers can deliver trespassing notices to anyone they encounter who is not a UVic student living on campus. “That’s a big thing,” he said, “identifying folks who don’t belong in our precinct, and then having them move along so that our residents can remain safe.”
Residence Services is planning various events for students leading up to Halloween to offer them a safe alternative to partying, said Forst, explaining that there will be events such as a costume party in the Indigenous students lounge and a mocktail party hosted by Residence Services.
Forst also noted that there will be workers with Good Night Out, a social bystander group, present on campus during Halloween festivities. He said that they will be “looking out for people” and sharing information, acting as another resource in case students feel uncomfortable approaching residence staff or CSEC for help.
Forst encouraged students to speak with staff if they’re feeling unsafe, even if they’re nervous about underage substance use. “[Residence staff is] not here to get them in trouble,” he said. “We’re here to make sure that they’re safe,”
Students can reach CSEC at their 24/7 phone line (250) 721-7599.