Dal slides HoCo no-no into warm fuzzy Fiona memo | City | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Last year's Homecoming party, better known as HoCOVID, was both destructive party for selfish students and rare chance for disconnected youth to relax together.

Dal slides HoCo no-no into warm fuzzy Fiona memo

After thanking students for their help around the storm, university head Deep Saini makes threats about illegal street parties like Homecoming.

Dalhousie University president Deep Saini was busy Wednesday morning sending out good vibes and thank yous. In a Twitter thread, he put out a touching message about Dal’s resilience through both storm and plague : “We pulled together through the pandemic, and are pulling together after Fiona. It's a true characteristic trait of our Dal community that we're at our best when we are helping each other. In the days ahead, let’s continue to take care of yourselves, each other, and our community.”

Saini went deeper with an email memo titled “Caring for our community post-Fiona.” Sent to the “Dalhousie University community” and not yet published at Dal’s news site, the memo begins with a string of thanks. “Last weekend’s devastating storm, Fiona, has had many impacts on our students, faculty, and staff,” Saini writes. “I want to say a heartfelt thank you to the many Dal employees and teams who have been working tirelessly through the weekend’s events, spending time away from their own families and homes to ensure essential campus operations continued and that students had access to meals and other necessities.”

Staff in such areas as housing, security and athletics are thanked next. Then come the students, who are thanked for patience, understanding and the support they’ve given to others. “We recognize that, for many, this may have been their first significant weather event,” writes the president to the students, “and that it may have created stress in terms of meeting basic needs, while also navigating the normal stresses of university life.”

But there’s clearly something more on Saini’s mind than Dal showing its best side during adversity. And that would be the notorious annual Homecoming party, a drunken mob scene on the neigbourhood streets near Dal’s Studley campus in peninsula Halifax’s south end. HoCo tends to bring out Dal’s worst: Making Atlantic Canada’s largest post-secondary institution seem aloof and uncaring as it denies students a place to enjoy being students on-campus, then tells its furious neighbours that it has no responsibility for what students do off-campus.

Although Saini doesn’t mention it by name, he touches on HoCo. The message in the Twitter thread is gentle, reminding students that they are independent people who, before they go partying in an unsanctioned way, should consider how hard Fiona is making things for emergency workers.

“We ask students considering attending unsanctioned street parties to be mindful that our community is still recovering,” says Saini’s tweet. “Emergency and essential workers are working tirelessly and their capacity is stretched. Make responsible choices, and consider the impacts of your decisions.”

With the memo, Saini’s taking a much harsher tone. The encouraging Dal of Twitter is replaced by a watchful disciplinarian. In one paragraph, he makes it clear that Dal is monitoring campus chatter, and issues a preemptive warning in bold type about doing the sort of illegal things being rumoured. Then comes a second paragraph that implores mindfulness about both emergency workers and this holiday weekend’s significance—Friday September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Saturday October 1 is Treaty Day in Nova Scotia—before more bold type threatens that decisions have impacts.

“We have also heard indications of students considering attending an unsanctioned street gathering in Halifax this upcoming weekend, given last weekend’s interruptions,” Saini writes. “We want to remind students that organizing and attending an unsanctioned and illegal street party is unacceptable given our responsibilities to our shared Halifax community.

“We ask students considering attending to be mindful of the fact that our community is still recovering from the devasting impacts of Fiona. This includes our emergency and essential workers who have been working tirelessly over the past week and whose capacity is very stretched. We must also remember that we are heading into a long weekend marked by reflection, learning and a commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. Please make responsible choices, and carefully and critically consider the impacts of your decisions as outlined in our previous memo on the matter.”

That linked memo, issued before Fiona by Dal student affairs vice-president Rick Ezekiel, gets real about the police issuing fines and making arrests, and the possibility of sanctions from Dal itself: “Enforcement of illegal behaviour in the greater Halifax community is the responsibility of the Halifax Regional Police (HRP). In addition to major fines levied by HRP for noise infractions, disturbances, property damage and alcohol-related offences, students may also be arrested. Students who engage in harmful behaviours that fall within the jurisdiction of our Code of Student Conduct or Residence Community Living Standards also risk being sanctioned by Dalhousie through those mechanisms.”

The full text of Saini’s memo is below.

Last Saturday, while Fiona was still blowing through the region, The Coast came across a small party happening outside a house on Jennings Street, HoCo ground zero. We asked if this tame gathering was all that was happening for Homecoming this year, and we were told no, the hurricane had cancelled HoCo. “But don’t worry,” a student said in earnest inebriation, “it’ll be happening next week.”


MEMORANDUM

To: The Dalhousie University community
From: Deep Saini, President and Vice-Chancellor
Date: Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Re: Caring for our community post-Fiona

Last weekend’s devastating storm, Fiona, has had many impacts on our students, faculty, and staff. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to the many Dal employees and teams who have been working tirelessly through the weekend’s events, spending time away from their own families and homes to ensure essential campus operations continued and that students had access to meals and other necessities. A special thank you to staff in Housing, our Residence Life teams, Dal Security, Facilities Management, and to Athletics & Recreation for opening their doors to members of the community who needed to access electricity or hot showers.

Thank you to our students for your patience and understanding and for the support you have shown one another and our community in getting through this storm. We recognize that, for many, this may have been their first significant weather event, and that it may have created stress in terms of meeting basic needs, while also navigating the normal stresses of university life.

As we work hard to resume campus operations, there are many supports available should you need them:

  • Students may find support through Dalhousie’s Student Health & Wellness Centre, committed to providing quality primary and mental health-care services. Appointments may be booked online or by calling 902-494-2171 in Halifax or 902-893-6300 in Truro.
  • Students can also reach out to their instructors for course-specific information regarding synchronous academic delivery, deadlines etc. that may have been impacted by hurricane Fiona and our campus closure.
  • Faculty and staff supports are available through our Employee and Family Assistance Program, which can be accessed at workhealthlife.com, or through the enhanced mental health benefit from Blue Cross, or contact Accessible Employment at accessible.employment@dal.ca for additional support or resources.

We ask that members of our community continue to show kindness, patience and understanding to each other in the days ahead. We have also heard indications of students considering attending an unsanctioned street gathering in Halifax this upcoming weekend, given last weekend’s interruptions. We want to remind students that organizing and attending an unsanctioned and illegal street party is unacceptable given our responsibilities to our shared Halifax community.

We ask students considering attending to be mindful of the fact that our community is still recovering from the devasting impacts of Fiona. This includes our emergency and essential workers who have been working tirelessly over the past week and whose capacity is very stretched. We must also remember that we are heading into a long weekend marked by reflection, learning and a commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. Please make responsible choices, and carefully and critically consider the impacts of your decisions as outlined in our previous memo on the matter.

We pulled together through the COVID pandemic, and we are pulling together after Fiona. It is a true characteristic trait of our Dalhousie community that we are at our best when we are helping one another. In the days ahead, please continue to take care of our yourselves, each other, and our collective community.

Sincerely,

Deep

Deep Saini
President and Vice-Chancellor
Dalhousie University
deep.saini@dal.ca

About The Author

Kyle Shaw

Kyle is the editor of The Coast. He was a founding member of the newspaper in 1993 and was the paper’s first publisher. Kyle occasionally teaches creative nonfiction writing (think magazine-style #longreads) and copy editing at the University of King’s College School of Journalism.

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