On the first weekend back on campus, UVic residence students party on during pandemic

Campus News

Saanich PD break up gatherings on campus and at nearby elementary school

on campus party at UVic during pandemic being shut down by SaanichPD
Photo by Michael John Lo.

Students on campus didn’t let the pandemic stop the party. On Friday night, Saanich PD broke up two large gatherings of over a hundred people.

Around nine p.m., students started trickling out of their residences and began gathering in front of the McPherson library looking to drink, smoke, and socialize. Twenty minutes later, Saanich PD shut things down.

Students also gathered on the grounds of the nearby Franks Hobbs Elementary school to shoot hoops and smoke weed. Some partygoers climbed their way up to the school’s roof. When Saanich Police arrived in the parking lot around 10:50 p.m., the crowd dispersed into the surrounding neighborhood.

party dispersed after UVic into surrounding neighbourhood
Photo by Michael John Lo.

Zak Martin, a first-year Psychology student, says that parties like this have happened nearly every night so far on campus. Although students aren’t gathering in the Cluster dorms any more, Martin says parties have moved outside.

“I’m glad that there’s still a social scene, I mean, I can’t complain about that,” Martin said, admitting that he is afraid of contracting COVID-19. “Last night it was here [at Frank Hobbs] and it got shut down.”

Cluster neighbourhood, the traditional nexus of weekend revelries on campus, stayed quiet for the first part of the night, but dispersed students from the Quad soon began holding roaming dance parties across the neighbourhood. Three police officers followed around the largest and loudest groups.

The mood was festive, with multiple portable speakers playing music struggling to make themselves heard over the din of conversation. Most attendees were unmasked and hanging out in dispersed, but definitely not socially distanced, circles.

party at nearby elementary school
Photo by Michael John Lo

Due to COVID-19 precautions, there are only 700 students living on campus this year instead of the usual 2 300.

The B.C. government has given police the ability to enforce and issue $200 tickets to individuals who refuse to comply with requests to follow public health orders. Although SaanichPD dispersed the crowds, they did not appear to issue any tickets. There is a current ban on public outdoor gatherings of over 50 people.

Students living in residence are not permitted to have non-resident guests over and there is a limit of one guest at a time if students wish to visit other dorms. Masks are required in shared indoor spaces, but there are no additional guidelines or requirements regarding outdoor spaces beyond provincial health guidelines.

More from the Martlet: Inside UVic’s investigation of Rowing Coach Barney Williams, and the 60 alumni calls to re-do it.

In an email statement provided to the Martlet, UVic Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs Denise Helm says UVic strongly encourages students to follow public health orders. 

“It is unclear whether these are all UVic students or whether they live in residence or not,” Helms said. “Unfortunately, some students are disregarding the advice of the public health officer who has pointed out that people who haven’t been socializing safely in BC have spread the virus to friends, families and strangers.”

UVic Director of Residence Services Kathryn Macleod says students received clear and consistent messaging about public health guidelines throughout the residence move-in process.

“We realize this is a time of year when students are trying to make new friends, and that is absolutely an important part of student life,” Macleod said. “We are disappointed that some students are gathering in inappropriate numbers.”

The Martlet reached out to the Saanich Police Department for comment, but was unable to receive a response before the time of publication.

The photos in this story are the property of The Martlet and may not be used by other outlets without permission.