London officials warn Western University students to avoid mass street party held during homecoming

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LONDON, Ont. – A southwestern Ontario city has warned post-secondary students to avoid a large street party that’s expected to be held this weekend.

Western University is holding its 72nd homecoming event this Saturday, which is usually marked by a large unsanctioned party on Broughdale Avenue, just off campus.

The City of London said with COVID-19 and a recent slew of sexual assault allegations at Western, students should avoid the party.

“During a time when the threat of a fourth wave of COVID-19 is not only real, but present and when we have seen escalating incidents of violence, out of concern for everyone’s safety and well-being, I am imploring students to avoid Broughdale,” said London Mayor Ed Holder in a statement.

During Western’s orientation week in early September, four female students came forward with sexual assault allegations. Police also began investigating allegations made on social media of mass drugging and sexual assaults at a residence.

Students organized a mass walkout last Friday to protest what they called a “culture of misogyny,” with many young women talking openly about being sexually assaulted while at school.

An 18-year-old Western student also died following an off-campus assault.

“Unsanctioned street parties are highly dangerous and put our students at great risk,” said Western president Alan Shepard in a statement.

“Those risks are compounded right now by the threat of COVID-19 and our students have a critical role to play in keeping circles small, protecting our community and each other.”

The school’s official homecoming events are largely online due to the pandemic.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit said it has issued orders this week that limit social gatherings to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

“This is about making wise choices,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the health unit’s medical officer of health. “We’re not against drinking. We’re not against dancing. We just hope people can figure out how to do those things safely. Party small.”

London police said they would have a strong visible presence and would enforce new regulations put in place.

Western said there would be 100 additional security guards across campus heading into the weekend.

The school also said Thursday that mandatory training for all 5,300 students in on-campus residences has begun for sexual violence awareness and prevention as part of the school’s new student safety action plan.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2021.

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