I spent the first two years of my university career on the Western Varsity Fencing team. I appreciate the tradition and pride embodied in homecoming, and I fully understand why we get so excited about it. Western boasts the best student experience in Canada, and at the core of this is our amazing student community. Yet unfortunately, this same community is very isolated. The Western bubble is very real and it is that disconnect between our amazing student community and the greater London community that leads to clashes between the lifestyles of students and Londoners and policies like project LEARN.
Calling last year’s Police-Student relations rough would be a serious understatement. The city held meetings to try and come to a compromise on the issue of project LEARN. But for every student calling the project unreasonable, there were five Londoners calling for harsher laws.
Last Thursday I went on a ride-along with project LEARN’s supervising sergeant Tyler Cowan. I approached this opportunity with low expectations. Riding around with the cops for five hours giving students a hard time is not my ideal Thursday night. However, the ride-along was actually a progressive experience. This was the first time I was able to engage in real dialogue about project LEARN. Sergeant Cowan told us that the main concern of the London Police Service is promoting community safety, not simply laying charges. As a student it is easy to assume the police are out to get you. Hearing the police and city perspectives has helped me gain an appreciation for the complexity of this issue.
The reality is that Western’s population is growing and this has an effect on the city of London. This growth is not always beneficial for our neighbours, especially when students do not respect their neighbours’ property. At the end of the day Western is part of London. We should be able to count Londoners for some support and tolerance, but this comes with an onus of responsibility and respect towards our greater community.
When you go out to show your Western Pride on Saturday you have every right to party hard, but you also owe it to your community to show some respect for your fellow citizens and their property. Our “arch-enemy” Queens lost the privilege of having a homecoming for four years because of their inability to respect their neighbours, but we don’t have to. Let’s learn from their mistakes. This homecoming lets go beyond being proud to being Mustangs and lets make London proud to have the Mustangs! Party hard, party smart, party safely and responsibly.