FOCO 2017: Trainwreck or Tradition?

One year after the Western University administration’s decision to change the date of the school’s Homecoming, ‘Faux Hoco’ (lovingly termed FOCO by students) is still in full force.

Delaying the event to the colder, academically busier second weekend of October was meant to remedy safety issues that the unsanctioned street party on Broughdale Avenue causes every homecoming. Admittedly, safety issues do increase in large crowds of intoxicated, young individuals, forcing “University administration, [the] London Police Service, Middlesex-London Emergency Medical Services, City of London officials, and hospital medical staff” to hold several meetings on this over the past four years. In the past, the university’s efforts to decrease attendance at the street party included hosting events like #HOCOonthehill’s on-campus shows (where popular artists such as DVBBS and Our Lady Peace performed in 2015).

In lieu of these efforts, and a notable decrease in dangerous, violent, and criminal actions during the unofficial Homecoming celebrations (labelled the calmest in years by London CTV news and local police), the date was changed and #FOCO was born.

FOCO 2017 boasted an even larger number of attendants than 2016, with 11,000 purple-clad people (students and alumni alike) reportedly crowding Broughdale Avenue. As promised, another year of heavy police presence greeted revellers with smiles, warnings and a number of charges, including those for public urination and drinking off of private property. The London Police had issued an official statement on their plans for the event, saying that they would have “a strict but fair approach,” and they certainly held true to their promise.

Photo provided by The London Free Press

Despite best efforts by law enforcement, London locals, and admittedly some students, there were a number of emergencies reported from the FOCO area by noon. The day ended with a grand total of 33 phone calls for 911 assistance, with four sets of paramedics completely unable to drive to the area and forced to walk through the crowds to provide emergency assistance.

London Police will follow their habit of disclosing the total number of HOCO-related arrests, charges and tickets on the Tuesday following Homecoming weekend (October 3rd). These numbers will aid in evaluating the apparent success or failure of the University, City of London and London police efforts to curb the unsanctioned festivities.

With all the facts of September 30th on the table (or more accurately, on our news feeds), one of the most entertaining recaps of the day can be found in the comments posted to several of the published articles covering the event, notably The London Free Press’ article “Western Students Fight for Right to Party.”

LndFreePress Girl In Crowd.jpg

Photo provided by The London Free Press

Seemingly, local Londoners following the FOCO celebrations were quick to condemn the actions of all Western students — despite only 11,000 out of approximately 30,000 Western undergraduates attending (and excluding any non-Western partygoers from any blame). Infantilizing comments about students wasting their parent’s money, throwing away municipal tax dollars, and their unmoderated property damage and littering dominate the response to the article.

Only a few commentators admit to some of the realities behind the student activities at FOCO (or past official Homecomings), such as local Londoner Christopher James who writes:

“I have to say this is quite hilarious, I never went to Western or to a ‘party’ school, but I have to say for this [one] day a year what is the big deal[?] I honestly don't get it, the amount of good this school brings to London versus the one or two issues a year is not worth people getting so wound up. I wouldn't ever begrudge these kids a chance to enjoy themselves -  people forget that they did things when they were younger. If they overstep the line cite them or arrest, otherwise let them be.”

*cited with permission, comment can be found in the comment thread of the London Free Press article posted on their Facebook page.

 

What do you think? Homecoming has made its way into the collective Western psyche as a time-honoured ritual, but are students truly abusing the tradition as some Londoners seem to believe? Are a few overly-excitable students ruining the official coverage of FOCO, or is the media treating Western students fairly in their reporting?

On a lighter note, check out Western TV’s video coverage of FOCO 2017 here.

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