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Responding to youth/student behaviour around UNB campuses

Author: Dr. Paul J. Mazerolle

Posted on Oct 7, 2022

Category: UNB Fredericton , UNB Saint John

Editor’s note: The following is a commentary written by Dr. Paul J. Mazerolle in response to the unsanctioned street parties.

Recent street parties adjacent to the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) Fredericton campus and attended by hundreds of young people are of significant concern. As an institution, we share the community's frustration and outrage at the irresponsible, reckless, and criminal behaviour displayed over the September period. UNB will continue to work to address these unsanctioned parties and call on our students to help us curb this behaviour.

Fortunately, this past weekend appeared to be a milder occasion which does not mitigate against the need for developing a comprehensive response to address the scale of inappropriate conduct over the past month. It is understandable that young people want to socialize, connect with new and old friends, and “have fun.” Social gatherings of students and young people is a long-standing issue that occurs every fall on or adjacent to many university campuses across the country. Although speculative, the scale and scope of the partying have escalated this year, which may relate to our current COVID-19 context.

However we have come to understand this issue does not alleviate the fact that the conduct over the past month has been reckless, irresponsible, and in some cases, criminal. The evidence is irrefutable regarding excessive alcohol consumption in public spaces—it leads to violence, including physical and sexual assaults, community destruction, fires, various forms of property destruction, excessive litter and unruly behaviour. This is unacceptable behaviour for our university and our community.

So, what can be done to address these issues in the short term and long term? There are things that can be undertaken on campus—more activities, more engagement, and ongoing education about the responsible use of alcohol, as well as the associated risks of alcohol consumption. This requires planning, resources, and effective partnerships with the UNB Student Union, which has a very important role to play. The university can also invoke a range of student discipline provisions for conduct that violates the Student Disciplinary Code. As important as it is to raise the activities on campus and apply student discipline where applicable, it will not eliminate activities off campus, partly because these issues affect many young people, not just UNB students.

Addressing the scourge of large off-campus parties requires partnerships, planning, as well as a range of creative responses. We are working with city authorities to address the current circumstances and to better plan for the future. Ultimately, we need to embrace education, preventive strategies, and a range of enforcement responses. There are clear limits to how a university responds to unruly and, indeed, criminal behaviour off campus, but working with local authorities can and will reveal best practices. These will undoubtedly include a mix of criminal and civil penalties applying law enforcement in accountable ways to curb illegal and uncivil behaviour. There is undoubtedly a range of other remedies, including regulatory responses, that can be brought down on landlords and homeowners who allow or enable such activity. UNB will be steadfast in our commitment to work in partnership with city officials to address this public health and safety issue.

Paul J. Mazerolle
President and Vice-Chancellor