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'It wasn't perfect': Fewer incidents but still work to be done to improve St. F.X. homecoming issues

The ceremonies on campus during St. F.X. Homecoming 2018, such as the Welcome Dinner on Friday night, went off smoothly; but what about around the community the following day? Antigonish RCMP report their numbers improved over last year, but what do you think? The Casket welcomes your opinion.
The ceremonies on campus during St. F.X. Homecoming 2018, such as the Welcome Dinner on Friday night, went off smoothly; but what about around the community the following day? Antigonish RCMP report their numbers improved over last year, but what do you think? The Casket welcomes your opinion. - Richard MacKenzie

Was Homecoming Saturday better than past years?

ANTIGONISH, N.S. - It didn’t appear like the on-campus party organized for current students played much of a role in the stats, but the numbers recorded by the RCMP for this year’s St. F.X. Homecoming Weekend were better than last year.

“Overall, from my perspective, it was better than the previous year; it was definitely a step in the right direction,” Sgt. Warren McBeath, from the Antigonish RCMP detachment, said. 

“For us, if you get down to the actual numbers of people we dealt with and issued fines to, all those kinds of things, this year we issued 27 tickets under the Liquor Control Act. The vast majority were for open liquor in public, the other ones would be public intoxication and underage drinking; 27 of those this weekend compared to 54 last year.

“Other tickets, mostly under the Motor Vehicle Acts and things like that; we had 15 this year, 24 last year. And then people we had in our cells, we had to bring in to sober up, we had 16 this year, we had 17 last year.”

McBeath acknowledged those results are “not perfect”.

“There is still a lot of room for improvement,’ he said.

“There was a lot of foot traffic and people in town, at various different house parties,” he said. “We intervened at a lot of them before they got out of hand and dispersed them.”

He added, when that was the case, at least those they dealt with were “respectful.”

“The people we dealt with, some alumni but mostly students, were very cooperative, respectful; we didn’t have any problems or pushback … any attitude from them, by and large,” he said.

“I think credit for that; there was a lot of communication between the university and the town, property owners and students, of what the expectations were for the weekend and what behaviours were going to be tolerated and what weren’t. And when we showed up somewhere, [they knew] what the expected response would be.

“That went a long way in making it a relatively safe weekend.”

McBeath noted RCMP did assist EHS with two injuries; both involving students at house parties.

“One fellow was on a roof and fall or jumped onto the balcony a story below and broke his ankle. And another lady fall off a deck onto the ground and she required some stitches. In the grand scheme of things, not serious life-threatening injuries; nonetheless, if someone had fell on their head that could have been a lot of trouble.

“That was one of the perimeters we had; if we saw anybody on a roof we intervened immediately and, if it was a source of a party, the party was shut-down and dispersed and that was the end of it. We had a few of those, people on the roofs.”

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McBeath said the busiest times were as anticipated – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – and they had “four times the amount of staff I normally have.”

“I had 12 cars on Saturday… 13 people in 12 vehicles,” he said.

“Previous years we would have a couple of officers on bicycle patrol and on campus; we stayed completely off the campus this year, they [St. F.X.] had that covered. They had their security people and residence staff and they’re all trained in first aid and know, if they see someone in trouble, who to call.

“So we didn’t need to be there, that’s a duplication of services, so we dispersed all of our units into the town and just kept going around, trying to keep an eye on everywhere and when some locations started to get rowdy or out-of-hand, we broke them up before we got calls about it … that was the easiest way to do it.

“By and large, it was definitely an improvement over the previous year, so something to build on.”

University reaction

St. F.X. President Kent MacDonald also noted the improvement from last year and that there is still work to be done.

“I’m not sure if we are ever going to get a perfect Homecoming Weekend; but I’m not quite sure how to even define that when there are thousands of people coming to our little town,” he said. “But I do know, from my observation and the briefings I received from my staff on Monday morning and from the RCMP, all indicated this was a better Homecoming for St. F.X. and Antigonish; that is measured by the number of incidents we have and they dropped dramatically.

“It wasn’t perfect and we’ve already started our debriefing on how to make Homecoming even better next year.”

He talked about the on-campus party, noting there was “some student turnout.”

“It didn’t work out on the scale we had hoped, so what do we need to think about in terms of it being different,” he said.

“The time? The location? The event itself? Are there better communication things we could have done? One of the ideas is we should have had our house presidents more involved. These are all good pieces of feedback for us to continue to move forward to have a better Homecoming Weekend.

“If we’re too afraid to try new things, we are never going to improve,” he said, adding he is appreciative of the time faculty and staff put into the event, as well as cooperation with community partners such as the Town of Antigonish and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish.      

“I want to give real credit to Mayor Laurie Boucher and Warden Owen McCarron for wanting to work alongside the university to say this is in the best interests of everyone to bring a little bit more structure to Homecoming,” he said. “To provide alternative activities for our students and guests and, fundamentally, make sure it’s safer.

“Along with Laurie and Owen, we had tremendous input from the property owners’ association, voices from the hospital come and meet with us, and I can’t say enough about the positive approach from the RCMP. They were all just terrific in looking at the bigger picture of, how do we make sure everyone is safe?”

The Casket welcomes your thoughts on activities around town during Homecoming Saturday.

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