“No off-campus parties. Don’t put your first years in danger,” were the words on the whiteboard as the residence executive teams strolled in on their last day of training. Director of Student Life Gayle Churchill urged the teams to cancel the secret tradition of orientation.
Last year, the night resulted in at least five hospitalized first year students, all of whom were in critical condition. That and the recent deaths of first year students at other Maritime universities have prompted a concerted effort by Student Life to limit excessive drinking during orientation.
“The off-campus alumni parties always gave me a lot to worry about,” Churchill said. “We could have been Acadia. We could have been St. Thomas. We could have been any school that had a death of a first year student.”
No Mt. A first-years have been hospitalized for drinking yet this year.
Before meeting with the residence executive teams, Churchill told all residence assistants and assistant dons they were not allowed to attend the events in any capacity.
“Being part of this puts them in danger of being criminally negligent,” Churchill said.
Some RAs insisted on attending the parties in an effort to protect first year students. They were told again not to attend, as their jurisdiction doesn’t extend outside of the residences.
While RAs and dons are employees of the university, residence executive members are not, and Student Life does not have the authority to control their actions.
“I don’t want to say, ‘You shall not,’ because that does nothing,” Churchill said. “That just drives things underground.”
But certain executive members thought the actions of Student Life were more coercive than persuasive.
“What Student Life has done is take away the tools to make it a safe event for first years,” said Dylan Wooley-Berry, president of Harper Hall.
Following the trsining session, executive members met to discuss alternatives, but they decided to exclude first years when they heard police might show up.
According to multiple executive members, Student Life knew the addresses of the Harper, Campbell, and Bigelow parties, due to their Facebook invitations.
“If they didn’t come online, it wasn’t me stopping them,” Churchill said. She said she was not involved in stopping any parties.