*This is an extension of this post discussing the riot that happened on Fleming Drive on St. Patrick’s Day.

In my last post I reflected on the riot that happened this weekend, and where we as a community and city go from here. The Mayor and Chief of Police held a press conference yesterday to address concerns about what has happened and suggest strategies for what can be done. Through it all, Fanshawe College has been very quiet about the event, until it was announced yesterday afternoon that Fanshawe College President Howard Rundle would be holding a press conference this morning at 10am.

Today Fanshawe President Rundle spoke to media to address the riot that happened close to the college campus. Articles on the conference are available here, here and here. Here are the main points I collected from the conference:

Rundle:

  • Extremely disappointed, maybe even angered, with those involved in the incident. Sorry it happened in community, and that it detracts from the reputation of Fanshawe, one of the finest schools in Canada.
  • 6 interim student suspensions due to charges, 2 more students suspended today.
  • Investigating under the student code of conduct, allows them to reach into community if safety and health of college community effected.
  • Students endangered themselves as well as others, health and safety of entire community an important consideration.
  • Not tolerated or excused, those people involved won’t continue to be students of Fanshawe.
  • Applaud information being presented, but request that citizens allow police to investigate using the information provided by community.
  • Project LEARN and FSU initiatives have been working.
  • Hundreds of Fanshawe students involved, but many other secondary and post-secondary students and citizens involved.
  • Student enclave attracts others. Rundle challenging some property owners on Fleming to take some of the blame.
  • Fanshawe has almost 17,000 full time students, proud of students and alumni. Today Fanshawe starts to take back the reputation of an exceptional college.

President of Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) Veronica Barahona:

  • Work hard to teach students responsibility for their actions.
  • Share Fleming area students with city by-laws. Many families still in neighbourhood, they also need to be considered.
  • Taking situation very seriously, courts should take appropriate action. Accept that this will reflect badly on students, will work to restore image and find solutions for ongoing situation on Fleming Drive.

Q&A (paraphrased).

Q: About the Open House happening next weekend – what is message to new students and their families?

A: This is and continues to be one of the finest colleges in Canada. Fleming is a student enclave, encourage students to live elsewhere including student residence controlled by campus.

Q: Project LEARN has been happening for years, have precautions been made?

A: Yes College did meet with LPS, they meet several times a year to discuss how to best plan. In hindsight, they’re going to ask how it is going to be addressed going forward, St. Patrick’s Day inordinately celebrated in London. There were a number of plans in place, but didn’t realize the extent of what would happen.

Q: Will students be expelled for criminal behavior? Is this new?

A: This isn’t an absolute first, student code of conduct allows for consideration of behavior in community. Has to be significant – throwing bricks, setting fires. Danger to the student community.

Q: Does FSU have problems with this approach?

A: They will move forward with College decision. Health and safety are major considerations.

Q: Has the college met with suspended students? Do we know how things got so out of hand?

A: Students will have a chance to meet with a college rep that is trained in situations like this, hasn’t happened yet but will soon.

Q: The college has a large residence, and bought townhouses across from the college. How does Fanshawe propose to deal with the situation on Fleming?

A: Would probably be expensive to rush in and buy houses, but can examine city by-laws, city may have tools that can discourage absentee landlords. Wouldn’t totally rule out possible residences in that area, real long term solution is breaking up the enclave. We all have tools available. Deeper social issues, tolerance of binge drinking, notion that St. Patrick’s should be a “big booze-up”, can’t individually deal with those, but we can all step back from this and look at it more deeply, are parents of children involved aware of how their children are acting? Deeper social issues exposed by this.

With this last question, the press conference concluded.

The question is, where do we go from here?

Many people are stating that criminal charges absolutely have to be laid against those responsible, but question is expulsion from Fanshawe is the answer, or will only set society as a whole back by limiting their futures and likely leading to further crime and social issues. I absolutely agree with the former though I struggle with the latter – I don’t envy the college their job. As Rundle and Barahona stated, they have people trained to deal with these kinds of situations and meet with the students that were arrested and suspended/expelled. The question is, how to strike the right balance – rehabilitating those involved and aiding them in moving forward, without adversely affecting the student and community population in and around Fanshawe. Those that graduate from a school go into the world as a representative – as Fanshawe president Howard Rundle is responsible both for the health and welfare of all students, and the reputation of the college.

I think the eventual solution to this will take time and careful consideration. What I take away from this press conference is the fact that the college accepts that they have a responsibility to their students and community, and that there was much more involved than simply good weather, alcohol and young people. My hope is that the city, college and community can connect and work towards real solutions to this persistent problem, and that this will be a wake-up call that much more than the current response is needed. it seems the solutions until now have been mostly reactive; though much more difficult, I hope that strategies can be built that aim to change the underlying causes. I believe President Rundle’s comments express a desire by the college to do that.

But what will the solutions looks like? Will that simply involve an even larger police presence/installation of cameras, purchase of the area by the college/residence, more involvement in area by community groups, more options of things to do for students in the area? All or none of these? Time will tell.

*I will continue to update this throughout the day as more information is available.

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