FOCO police squeeze

London Police prevent students from breaking through the barricade, Sept. 29, 2018.

Police will tell Western about partiers charged with crimes so the school can sanction them under its code of conduct, police announced today.

If a student is charged with a criminal or drug offence, police can now send over their name, date of birth, address and their charge to the university.

Western University will use the information for investigations under the Student Code of Conduct, which can suspend or expel students, even if the student is off campus.

The announcement comes just days before this year's Fake Homecoming on Saturday.

The plan, in its willingness to sacrifice students' privacy, marks the boldest effort yet to stop Fake Homecoming — coming after years of failed efforts that have left Western and London desperate.

"Safety is our number one concern when it comes to these extremely large, unsanctioned street parties," said Lynn Logan, vice-president of operations and finance, in a press release. "Our focus will be on those who put the safety of others at risk."

The new info-sharing relationship is described by a memorandum of understanding between the two groups, citing laws that allow the chief of police to disclose personal information to outside organizations.

There are two ways that Western can get a student's information.

Jennie Massey, the chief administrator of the code, explained that police can send details to Western about people they believe could be students, which Western can then verify. She added that only Western has record of who is a Western student, which they are not sharing with police.

Western can also spur the info-sharing themselves.

Western uses the code to investigate students based on complaints. Complainants are usually other students, but the university itself can also act as one.

Fake Homecoming could see students file a complaint about being assaulted, for instance, but Western could also file complaint alone. In both cases, Western would request details from police about the person charged to verify if they are a student.

Police and Western said they are only cooperating to handle extreme offences. These include: assault, sexual assault, destruction of property, drug trafficking, providing alcohol to minors and dangerous activities on rooftops.

It also applies only to large gatherings not sanctioned by the university — meaning parties, and not assault charges stemming from a fight in a parking lot.

Municipal rules are not included. This means London's new nuisance bylaw — which has fined students thousands of dollars each for hosting large parties — will not come back to Western.

It also will not affect minors, as their information has stronger protections.

The information Western and police are sharing would eventually be public, Western stressed in the press release. The agreement steps beyond the status quo in giving Western access before the information is public.

"It does seem unusual," said Arthur J. Cockfield, a law professor at Queen's University.

"There's always a danger when the police, or any government institution, wants the university to set up courts and start prosecuting. Because those processes often don't give students the protection they would get in the legal system."

But, according to Massey, the code is an educational process, not just a punitive one. While its punishments do include expulsion or suspension, the code could also recommend a conversation or loss of a leadership role for an offending student.

"There's always due process," she said. "We have a very well-defined journey through any investigation. The complainant and respondent is kept up to date."

While Western was pressured to change its code in the aftermath of last year's Fake Homecoming, Western and police say the partnership will stretch from now until April 30, past Fake Homecoming.

The duration of the agreement signals that Western, like police, is addressing Western's party culture itself, epitomized by Fake Homecoming.

"We really want to promote safety," said Massey. "We're really genuinely concerned about the safety of our students, the safety of our community members, the safety of our emergency personnel and first responders."

She added that a party, in and of itself, will not pique Western's interest.


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