FOCO isn’t as bad as you think, and that’s what we’ve been trying to tell you for years.
by Greg Bowman
Well, another year of Fake Homecoming (FOCO) has come and gone. Broughdale is still standing. Nobody got seriously injured. Dare I say, people had fun?
The months leading up to this year’s annual bash generated all sorts of concerns from the Western University community, the City of London, and even the province. Mayor Ed Holder promised there would be “blood on our hands” if policies weren’t changed. The university modified the Student Code of Conduct and tried to host an alternative event on the same day (remember that time ASAP Rocky ghosted us on the eve of PurpleFest?). With PurpleFest in shambles just hours before students were getting on their purple t-shirts and sweaters, Broughdale Avenue could have erupted into a warzone on Saturday (I genuinely thought there would be a riot).
But it wasn’t.
There were 5,000 more students in purple-clad attire galavanting through the streets compared to last year’s 20,000. Yet, there were over 50% less provincial tickets issued, with almost a third of the number of people being taken to hospital, according to the London Free Press. And for those who were tasked with the cleanup from the bash - it took all of 30 minutes.
Is it possible that Western students actually partied responsibly? Don’t answer that, it’s a loaded question.
What is possible though, is that the year-long conversations which included task forces, surveillance efforts and Facebook messages from police officers, all helped to actually make the party safer. It was a matter of all parties (pun intended) involved to be on the same page. In years previous, Western refused to take any responsibility for the party, which left the city and it’s emergency services out on their own to deal with students’ shenanigans. That is obviously not fair for taxpayers of the region, with hundreds of thousands of dollars being funneled towards first responders and police (not to mention that none of these tax dollars come from Western students renting in London!)
This year, everyone thought ahead. $300,000 was spent to police the event, bringing in officers from the York and Hamilton regions. Richmond Street was barricaded off from Huron Street and Epworth Avenue in an effort to contain the festivities, even bus routes along Richmond were canceled to suppress partiers from overcrowding public transit. Steeper fines were also levied for raucous street parties, of which 12 tickets were issued to residents. The takeaway from all of this is that when we work together, great things can happen.
However, we’re not totally out of the woods just yet. The fallout from this year’s parties was focused around addressing several sexist and misogynistic signs hung outside houses along Broughdale. Yes, these reflect poorly on students, and there should be no place for this kind of ignorance on campus or in the community. But the point remains that the signs were the most controversial thing that happened at FOCO - not any injuries, or strained emergency services.
Don’t forget why we have to talk about this. Western started it. Homecoming was a tradition for many years before FOCO. When Western tried to end the tradition, students kept it alive. Many of us are still left wondering why Western didn’t bring back the original Homecoming date if they wanted to stop FOCO? At least until next year, Western will continue to be one of the only schools in the province with two homecomings.