Unsanctioned outdoor gathering attracts close to 1,000 young adults to University of Victoria

They did not break any pandemic public-health rules because restrictions have been eased, but police and security officers were still called out Sunday night when hundreds of young adults gathered outdoors to party on the University of Victoria campus.

“There were hundreds, if not close to 1,000, young adults up at the university last night,” said Saanich police spokesman Const. Markus Anastasiades. “The majority of the people there were respectful, but as usual, there were some that were not.”

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Saanich police conducted 100 pour-outs of liquor and ticketed two people for underage drinking. There were no reports of altercations or property damage.

“People were just happy not to be inside for a change,” said a first-year student from Vancouver who stayed for part of the evening. “Everybody was really friendly and there was a great vibe.”

But the university frowned on the gathering. “The start of term is an exciting time on a ­university campus and building new social connections is a ­critical part of that experience,” Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president of student affairs, said in a statement.

“We appreciate those students who are acting ­responsibly and ask those involved in the ­incident last night to stop ­behaving in a manner that puts our fall return to campus at risk.

“We have worked hard for a healthy, safe and successful fall term. We know that our students want the same,” said Dunsdon.

“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.”

Large gatherings at the start of the semester in September at the university are a regular occurrence, according to police.

In anticipation, two officers had been assigned to assist UVic Security with the evening. As the crowd grew larger two­ ­additional officers were called to assist.

Students found out about the event through social media. They initially gathered off-campus and moved to the Cluster Housing Complex, a residential area on campus comprised of 121 apartment and townhouse units.

Most people in the crowd were not wearing masks, but there are no current provincial health restrictions regarding the size of gatherings, mask-wearing or physical distancing when outdoors.

“This is the first large gathering on campus in over a year,” said a second-year student.

“Last year at this time, we were restricted to 20 people at a time and all our classes were online.”

He said that most people felt safe to be around each other, as all students moving into on-campus residence are required to be double vaccinated.

While vaccination is not mandatory at the university, those who are not — or choose not to disclose their status — will be required to take a test weekly.

The university will require students to show proof of vaccination to access dining, fitness centres, events and clubs on campus beginning Sept. 13.

For those who are partially vaccinated or intend to get vaccinated, on-campus vaccination clinics start Sept. 7. Masks are required for all indoor public spaces at the university.

parrais@timescolonist.com

Note to readers: This story has been corrected. Proof of vaccination will not be required to enter UVic's libraries.

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