The University of Victoria is investigating after students were seen gathering in large numbers Friday night, ignoring the orders of the provincial health officer.
“UVic has been very clear with all students about the need to follow the advice and guidance of the public health officer regarding COVID-19,” said Joel Lynn, Executive Director of Student Services.
“Disregarding UVic guidelines and policies is not acceptable and we are investigating the events on campus and following up with those involved. Our response will be consistent with the university’s policies and reflect the serious nature of these actions.”
The Martlet student newspaper reported that Saanich police broke up two gatherings of more than 100 people Friday night.
Students started trickling out of their residences around 9 p.m. and began gathering in front of the McPherson library to drink, smoke and socialize, said the online article.
Police dispersed the gathering but another large party took place on the grounds of Frank Hobbs Elementary School, the Martlet reported. Some people climbed up on the roof of the school. Others smoked marijuana and took shots at the basketball hoops. Saanich police arrived around 10:50 p.m. and the crowd dispersed. Then the students began holding roaming dance parties throughout the neighbourhood.
Under B.C.’s Emergency Program Act, people who organize large, unsafe gatherings or ignore provincial health orders related to mass gatherings and events can be issued a fine or violation ticket of either $200 or $2,000. Health orders prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people.
Breaking pandemic rules has resulted in punishment for students elsewhere. In Nova Scotia, a student at the Université Sainte-Anne was expelled after failing to self-isolate as required. The student, who travelled from outside Atlantic Canada, later tested positive for the virus.
In Boston, 11 first-year students at Northeastern University were dismissed after they were discovered together in a hotel room in violation of university and public health protocols.
Police in Ohio reported attending a house party at Miami University, thrown by a student who had just tested positive for the virus. More than 1,000 students at the university have tested positive for COVID-19 since classes started this fall.
UVic residence services has a well-established process for addressing conduct-related violations with consequences up to and including eviction, said Lynn. The student residence contract for this academic year was amended to include the public health guidelines.
“If students conduct themselves contrary to our expectations and policies elsewhere on campus, the incident is referred to the Office of Student Life for consideration under the university’s policy on non-academic misconduct which has a range of consequences including and up to eviction,” he said.