In a province with a tendency to boast about its education system, British Columbians were hard-pressed to find suitable words last week to describe the behaviour of students at the top of the learning tree at the University of Victoria (UVic).
The UVic campus overlaps three local municipal boundaries – Oak Bay, Victoria and Saanich – with Saanich police and fire services in closest proximity. They were first called on the night of Nov. 1st when multi-storey student residences became the playground of an unruly, often violent, mob.
The crowd, “several hundred,” was displayed in a large coloured photo on the front page of the Times-Colonist on Nov. 2nd. The photograph was taken from an upper residence room by a student who, fearing reprisal, didn’t want to be identified.
Saanich police media relations officer Const. Markus Anastasiades told the T-C an estimated 1,000 out-of-control revellers joined similar crowds on Friday, Nov. 1st and throughout Saturday and Sunday nights from dark to 4 a.m. He added: “What we are now seeing, we haven’t seen before. Some of them are students, some of them are not. The university is being seen as a gathering ground for young people.”
In the same story, UVic associate director of public affairs Karen Johnson endorsed the suggestion that many of the people massing on campus were not UVic students, that there are rules and regulations for student conduct. Violation of those rules could result in disciplinary action – including expulsion.
When I first read about the riots at UVic, I was dismayed that students at one of our highest seats of learning could (a) let themselves be taken over by binge drinkers from the back alleys of the city, and (b) stand by and laugh when alcohol-fueled “invaders” threw exploding firecrackers into the crowd. Surely, even the dimmest of brains has registered stories of people losing eyes or fingers when even the most modest of devices explode.
I tried to comfort myself by remembering Shakespeare’s warning that there would be times in our life when we have to walk part of the journey in uncomfortable company. Shakespeare’s Macbeth said: “And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more. It is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.”
But, that would be cold comfort if not for the fact that Saanich police are planning an appropriate response. Concerned that the violence on the UVic campus will escalate each weekend, police will enforce the Trespass Act, the Liquor and Licensing Act and “any other statute that applies to those who are not lawfully on campus.”
A thankless task, but I’m happy we have someone to “throw the book at them.”