By Shruti Nistandra, Senior Videographer
Recent student parties, organized by students from McMaster University, Queen’s University, University of Windsor, Acadia University, and Dalhousie University have been infamous around the country. Consisting of thousands of people, the parties have been notorious for their gargantuan size as well as for their destructive, and often violent potential. News organizations have reported vandalism, property damage, and glass bottles thrown at police officers. Condemned by university and city officials, these parties have made students personae non gratae in many suburban neighbourhoods. In the aftermath of the peak of the pandemic, when many are still recovering from its effects, such spectacles endangering the health, safety, and peace of the community seem especially insensitive.
However, news organizations have also begun discussing how the very pandemic circumstances that made these parties so inappropriate are the same circumstances that made them most likely to occur. The sense of alienation, uncertainty, disconnection, and disillusion combined with the pent-up energy of the past year caused this reaction to erupt at the first and smallest of openings. While this by no means endorses or justifies that reaction, it is an important acknowledgement of what may have fuelled the phenomenon.
As interesting as it is to explore where and why these parties occurred, we should also consider where and why they did not occur. Trinity College makes a very good study. This year, the college has taken measures to avoid such a phenomenon by demonstrating sensitivity to the unique needs of students returning to school post lockdowns. Since the start of this year, Trinity College has strengthened its mental health messaging and programming. Additionally, in response to the sense of alienation that developed over the last year, the college has also been very active in community building. The Trinity College student heads have been active in ensuring that all students feel involved, especially around holidays such as Thanksgiving and Halloween when students are more likely to feel isolated if they are unable to be with their families. Similarly, the heads have placed a special focus on creating programming and study sessions for reading week, recognizing it as a time of heightened isolation. Additionally, U of T’s college system means that the large student population is divided into smaller social groups; as Trinity College has the smallest student population of all the colleges, it becomes much easier to build a sense of community at Trinity.
It is important to recognize that these factors are not the only ones that impact the occurrence of such parties. Still, Trinity College and other universities should seek to develop better solutions to student well-being, as that is an important way to prevent such occurrences in the future.
However, this brief exploration illustrates that these parties do not reflect inherent flaws in the student demographic or the problematic attitudes of this generation, but rather, it exposes that these events are partly a dramatic response to the unusual conditions created by the pandemic, which can be mitigated with greater attention to student well-being. It’s the essential nature versus nurture debate, and nature is not wholly to blame.