VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Two of B.C.’s biggest universities are imploring their respective student bodies to “stop partying,” in efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Videos and photos taken by staff from the University of Victoria’s student newspaper, The Martlet, show hundreds of people partying on campus Sunday evening around 10 p.m. Balconies can be seen full of people, with others standing close to each other without masks on. Campus security and Saanich Police were shown to be on-scene breaking up the party.
According to the university, “A large crowd of several hundred students including what appeared to be people from off-campus and non-UVic students gathered outdoors near cluster housing on Sunday night.”
Huge party on campus. CSec and Saanich Police are on scene but weren't shutting it down, as of 11:15. No masks, clearly no distancing.
— Kate Elizabeth Korte (@katekorte) September 6, 2021
In a statement, UVic is strongly advising its students to “act responsibly and not gather in large numbers on campus properties for parties.”
“We have worked hard for a healthy, safe and successful fall term. We know that our students want the same. By holding or attending large, unstructured parties, students increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Their behaviour is unacceptable and puts at risk students, our employees, our instructors and our local community,” Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president of Student Affairs writes.
Hundreds of maskless students gathered at @uvic Sunday night.
UVic says it is “concerned about people using the campus as a place to gather in very large groups”. Videos of the scene were shared publicly on Snapchat (see below). @CityNewsVAN @NEWS1130 https://t.co/VgVgf7xdKQ pic.twitter.com/5xF6N0sc7l
— Ashley Burr (@AshleyBurr_) September 6, 2021
The statement goes on to say that university has put the health and safety of its students, faculty and staff at the centre of its decision for a return to in-person learning.
“It is the responsibility of every UVic student to take public health measures and related campus rules seriously and challenge their peers to do the same,” it says.
“Although there are no Provincial Health Guidelines around the size of outdoor gatherings, UVic is concerned about people using the campus as a place to gather in very large groups.”
‘It is frustrating’
Meanwhile, the University of British Columbia says if you’re smart enough to get into the university, you’re smart enough to understand you should not be going to frat parties during a pandemic.
“It is frustrating. By and large, the vast majority of our students are responsible members of the community. That’s not to suggest that the fraternities and the sororities aren’t concerned about that, but what we’re saying is you have to be responsible. You have to follow the guidelines and you have to follow the orders,” Matthew Ramsey, director of University Affairs, says.
The stern words come after a UBC student called out would-be classmates on social media suggesting the parties were super spreader events, as video emerges of frat parties taking place indoors along Wesbrook Mall without masks.
— Ashley Burr (@AshleyBurr_) September 6, 2021
In a post on Reddit, a user writes: “My friends all stupidly and selfishly attended the frat parties on Tuesday and Wednesday, with upwards of 200-400 people. They just got tested after three days of coughing, and surprise, they tested positive. All 3 of them are double vaccinated and thought it wouldn’t be an issue – a stupid mistake on their part.”
The post goes on to say that their friends who tested postive to COVID-19 have been to multiple areas on campus before quarantining.
“They’ve been to Save-On, Sharetea, other areas on campus and Wesbrook village and are now quarantining. I am extremely worried as this means that more than likely, everyone at these frat parties have been exposed to COVID and likely have it,” the anonymous poster writes.
The reddit post alleges that “many of the guys at the frats” are choosing to keep their positive diagnoses secret so they can continue to attend UBC events.
Thousands in fines handed out
Ramsey says about $3,000 worth of fines have already been issued to frat house operators who are not on UBC property or owned by the university, while Mounties were called to the village on during the last weekend in August, and handed out tickets amounting to about $5,000.
“We required all fraternity and sorority presidents to attend mandatory training last Friday with the RCMP and with the Vancouver Fire Department,” he says.
He says Vancouver Coastal Health has not reached yet out for support with contact tracing, to determine if any of the hundreds involved may now have COVID-19.
“If Vancouver Coastal reaches out to the university for assistance with contact tracing, we would, of course provide that. Large scale gatherings that are in violation of provincial health orders are not acceptable for any students at UBC,” he says.
Ramsey adds it would be a “tremendous” shame if a few parties derailed all the work that’s gone in to making the campus safe for students to resume in-person learning.
– With files from Peter Wagner