Town Hall on Homecoming – Update, Questions and Answers

This letter was sent to those who attended our Ward 5 Town Hall on Homecoming.


Ward 5 Town Hall on Homecoming Issues – Update, Q & A
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Dear Residents

This letter is to update you about the ongoing activities since the Ward 5 Town Hall in November regarding Homecoming and large nuisance parties.

You are receiving this update as you provided an email address when you signed into the November meeting. If you do not want to receive any further updates please click on the ‘unsubscribe’ link at the end of the email.

The purpose of this letter is to provide answers and clarifications to some of the question/issues that were raised at the November meeting.

In early March, we intend to bring you a final update of the new strategies and actions that will be implemented to address the issue. As your Ward 5 Councillors, we are committed to continue working with all stakeholders to find strategies to deal with the increasing number of large nuisance parties that are having a negative impact on the well-being of residents. It is evident that due to a number of factors, including the use of social media to promote parties, there is a need to step up enforcement and develop new approaches to both prevention and response to the problem.

The University of Guelph has set up a Homecoming Working Group 2018, chaired by Brenda Whiteside – VP of Student Affairs. On the committee, representatives from the U of G, near-campus neighbourhood groups and the City have been discussing strategies to respond to the growing number of off campus disturbances associated with Homecoming.
The Town and Gown Committee will also be meeting in February with a focus on preparing for St Patrick’s Day. This group, chaired by Kathryn Hofer – Manager of Off-Campus Living, has been meeting regularly for a number of years with representatives from By-law, zoning, U of G, neighbourhood groups, police, City Councillors and student associations.
In November, Councillor Downer participated as a panelist in a Webinar hosted by the Town & Gown Association of Ontario (TGAO) titled “How do Town & Gown communities respond to large scale post-secondary student street parties?” She and other panelists from Kingston, Hamilton and Waterloo explored the trends and best/emerging practices on how to deal with this growing problem facing University cities. Kathryn Hofer is the President of TGAO. She facilitated the webinar and will be bringing some of the suggestions back to the Working Group and the Town and Gown Committee for further discussion.
McElderry Community Meeting: Thursday, February 22, 7 pm at the Jean Little School, Youngman Drive. They have invited representatives of the Guelph Police Services and City By-Law Department to share their plans for St Patrick’s Day and large student parties. All are welcome.

November Town Hall Questions and Issues

Registered parties – does this mean it is sanctioned by the U of G?

A registered party is not a sanctioned party by the University of Guelph. Students participate in a consultation that provides students with an opportunity to ask any questions that they may have about by-laws and infractions. Tips to reduce the negative impact of the party on the community are provided, which, when followed, in turn reduce the chances of receiving neighbourhood complaints. Students also receive information and resources about alcohol consumption, sexual violence, and host liability.

When registering, students agree online to the terms of party registration, and these terms are discussed during the consultation. The terms identify that the party is neither condoned nor sponsored by the University of Guelph. The terms identify that the party host is responsible for complying with federal, provincial, and local laws, including but not limited to paying any fines or fulfilling any legal obligations that may come their way.

How many student “home visits” have occurred over the last three years?

These are the stats from the U of G.
Approximately 400 student households in near-campus neighbourhoods are visited annually, the weekend prior to Homecoming, through the Right Foot Forward program.

Fall Semester 2017
36 contacts initiated by community members, resulting in 27 visits to students homes
23 address visits initiated through joint enforcement identification

2016-2017 Academic Year
55 contacts initiated by community members, resulting in 41 visits to student homes
35 of these contacts were initiated during the Fall Semester
5 address visits initiated through joint enforcement identification

2015-2016 Academic Year
20 contacts initiated by community members, resulting in 28 visits to student homes
15 of these contacts were initiated during the Fall Semester
7 address visits initiated through joint enforcement identification

2014-2015 Academic Year
58 contacts initiated by community members, resulting in 64 visits to student homes
38 of these contacts were initiated during the Fall Semester
9 address visits initiated through joint enforcement identification

How is U of G collecting and communicating to students about the impacts (Photos, personal statements, etc.) ?

Meetings of the Homecoming Working Group are currently under way and recommendations brought forward by this group will be incorporated into the communication strategy for Homecoming.

Can students be fined by U of G?

There are a variety of outcomes and penalties through the Community Standards Protocol. The determined approach is case by case and is assessed on a variety of factors. If a case moves forward to a judicial process, receiving a financial penalty is one possible outcome.

Question: Would the U of G consider cancelling Homecoming?

The experiences from other post-secondary campuses in Ontario that have piloted the cancellation of Homecoming tell us that students will host off-campus events in response to a cancellation, resulting in a “Fake Homecoming”. A Fake Homecoming is likely to be just as large, or larger, and has the potential to be more disruptive due to the ‘backlash’ nature of events like this.

Question: Can the U of G hold all events on campus?

The strategy of hosting additional events on campus is being discussed by the Homecoming Working Group.

Question: Can the U of G suspend or expel a student who participates or organizes a nuisance party?

If a case moves forward to a judicial process, receiving a suspension/expulsion is one possible outcome, but is unlikely for an off-campus incident. Charges and penalties under our Nuisance Party by-law may be more effective.

Question: If U of G judicial/off campus protocols are voluntary, can they made mandatory?

Five of the six options on the response continuum of the Community Standards Protocol encourage the voluntary participation of students. Voluntary participation encourages active engagement in the process and follow through with a change in behaviour. If students do not voluntarily participate in the options, then a non-voluntary option comes into play. A review of the Community Standards Protocol is being discussed by the Homecoming Working Group.

Question: Why doesn’t the U of G Build more on campus housing?

The current demand for on-campus housing for students is being met. After first year, the majority of students have a preference to live off campus and will choose to do so even if on campus residence is available.

Question: Can there be student communication that pop-up parties are not permitted and use social media to broadcast consequences?

This strategy, and other communication solutions, are being discussed by the Homecoming Working Group.

Question: Can we distinguish between number of individual calls and number of ‘calls for service’?

Bylaw -If a party is ongoing and three neighbours call, this is only recorded as one incident. However, the complaints would be added onto the call for service to indicate that more than one call was received. This usually changes the priority of the call and officers are sent ASAP.
Police – If multiple people call in for the same incident then it is only entered in as one call for service. Otherwise the stats would be distorted and not in line with the requirements with Canada Stats. They do not track how many people call in for one incident. There might be an entry in the call that multiple people called but it is not captured to be made available as data.