University of Guelph entrance wallUniversity of Guelph president Charlotte Yates today thanked City of Guelph police and fire services and the Campus Safety Office for their efforts during a large, unsanctioned gathering at Chancellor’s Way yesterday.

Yates also expressed disappointment at both the size of the gathering and behaviour that was witnessed while reaffirming the University’s commitment to working collaboratively to find solutions.

“Ensuring public health and safety is a shared responsibility, and those who attended this large gathering did not behave responsibly,” Yates said.

She said U of G takes pride in its positive relationship with the City of Guelph and greater Guelph community. “I want to thank local police and fire and campus safety officers for their hard work and commitment. It is unfortunate that the actions of some people distract us from the many wonderful and important contributions the University and our students make to the life and energy of this city,” she said.

In recent years, Chancellor’s Way, a roadway in front of a private, off-campus housing complex, has become a gathering spot for large unsanctioned gatherings, especially during the first home football game of the season.

On Sept. 25, Guelph Police Service issued numerous tickets and fines at Chancellor’s Way and other neighbourhood locations. U of G’s campus safety office also responded to on-campus gatherings and activities Sept. 24 and Sept. 25, issuing numerous tickets for trespassing, alcohol consumption and other violations.

Nearby universities also reported large parties and gatherings during the weekend.

“The University does not condone this behaviour and will not tolerate activity that puts people at risk, especially during a pandemic,” Yates said.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with the City of Guelph, students, neighbourhood associations and other community partners to find effective solutions to the serious concerns associated with unsanctioned street gatherings.”

This past week, City of Guelph and University officials announced they would be increasing police presence on Chancellor’s Way and in local neighbourhoods, and publicized amounts of fines and tickets for violations. The University president, the Guelph Mayor and the Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin Guelph also published an open letter to students about increasing concerns for public health and safety due to large unsanctioned gatherings.

Irene Thompson, interim vice-provost (student affairs), said about 24,000 students are on the Guelph campus. “I want to thank the vast majority of our students for not taking part in this unsanctioned gathering on Saturday,” she said.  “We also know that many of those in attendance were not our students, as such street gatherings attract people from all over due to their prominence on social media.

“But obviously, the fact that people continue to gather in such large numbers, especially during a pandemic, is upsetting, as is some of the behaviour we are seeing.” That behaviour presents a risk to public health and safety, causes undue strain on City and University resources, and is burdensome to neighbourhood residents, she said.

Thompson added: “The return to in-person learning and on-campus living is a positive thing for the University and Guelph community, but it is not without challenges, especially amid a global pandemic. We need students to do their part. We need them to find the balance between building new connections and having new experiences and being responsible citizens and following public health guidelines amid the fourth wave of COVID-19.”