Community Engagement on Street Party Culture



Update, October 2: Read the statement from President Deep Saini on unsanctioned street parties near Studley campus.

Update, September 16: Read the statement regarding unsanctioned "HOCO" off‑campus street party next weekend (Sept 24-25)

Large unsanctioned street parties and high-risk party culture, fueled by social media, are a growing issue in communities across the country. In terms of mitigation, there is no short-term fix, nor is there a single solution. This complex issue requires sustained cooperation aimed at addressing the root causes of this growing trend and finding alternative ways for students to feel connected to each other and their community. 

Dalhousie has been researching other jurisdictions, meeting with our community partners, and hearing from students and community members. Many have expressed the desire to have a forum for regular dialogue for creating shared understanding of the problem. 

We are deeply committed to bringing the same innovative and creative thinking that takes place in our classrooms to supporting our collective efforts to create positive outcomes in our shared Halifax community. Earlier this year, Dalhousie and partners began convening a multi-stakeholder collaborative framework to address unsanctioned street parties in our shared neighbourhood. This work is supported by a dedicated team of Dalhousie staff and an external facilitator.

About the Multi-stakeholder Collaborative Framework

This framework is specifically designed to bring forward multiple stakeholders from different sectors to develop a common agenda for solving a specific social problem. Sometimes this is called a collective impact framework. Generally, the core elements are:

  • the development of a common agenda;
  • using shared measurement to understand progress;
  • building on mutually reinforcing activities;
  • engaging in continuous communications; and
  • providing a backbone to move the work forward (a dedicated team).

Facilitator

Inspiring Communities, a not-for-profit organization based in Nova Scotia that works to build collaborative relationships for social change in Atlantic Canada. Their team leads collective impact frameworks in several communities across Nova Scotia where they engage with community to identify shared priorities of focus, and to convene residents, community organizations, government and business around these priorities. 

Process to date & report

To increase capacity for the project, coordination and resources were shared by Inspiring Communities and Dalhousie Community Engagement and Student Affairs staff; however, the final report was produced independently by Inspiring Communities. This process began in spring in 2022 with:

  • A literature review 
  • Media & social media scan
  • Survey: 183 completed responses
  • 13 interviews: Dalhousie security, DSU, a researcher from Queens, staff from HRM/HPD, and five community members (Dal neighbours)
  • A two-day Community Strategies Lab on June 24/25

We want to thank Inspiring Communities for their tremendous efforts on this project and to all the stakeholders for giving their time and participating in this process.

What resounded through this process was that while students are welcomed members of the community who bring diversity and vibrancy to the neighbourhood, there is a growing concern, particularly over the last 5-10 years, that party culture has become increasingly toxic, uncivil and destructive. Unsanctioned street parties are the pinnacle of this behaviour with serious risks for both student and community safety and wellbeing. While there have been many attempts and initiatives to help make progress on this front, the recent conversations facilitated as part of this process centered on ideas for doing things differently moving forward. Of particular focus was how to establish a more coordinated approach in our community and across the country.

High level recommendations from the report include:

Continue the collective impact process

  • Engage students, maintain regular contact with neighbors and other stakeholders, and formalize the collective impact process (assign a backbone team). Continue to invite the missing stakeholders. Support neighbours in formalizing a neighbourhood group to strengthen their presence in the process.

Improve ongoing communication with all stakeholders

  • Build on current communication efforts by developing a shared communications plan that connects administration and students with the neighborhood and engages service stakeholders including health, police and HRM bylaws. Find a workable structure for a two-way dialogue space.

Provide new and expanded alternatives to draw some energy from big parties

  • Dalhousie should engage departments, students, societies, DSU, residence, and wider community partners to host more activities particularly around the trouble periods (fall, Munro Day and St. Patrick’s Day).

Engage the academic community at Dalhousie and peer universities in solution-building

  • Engage students and faculties through competitions, courses, Dal Policy Labs and multi-university policy labs; and engage researchers in exploring the aspects of high-risk street party culture growing across the country and the ways it might be addressed.

Leverage position to advocate for change among other stakeholders

  • Use Dalhousie’s position in the community to bring other stakeholders onboard.

Practical & Tactical Suggestions

  • More waste receptacles, portable toilets, inexpensive food options and better communication as practical ways to mitigate damage.

The full report can be downloaded here. [PDF 499kb]

 

Student Involvement

Students’ voices are fundamental to this process. Student representatives will be key stakeholders at the table of this process to ensure that students are part of the solutions and alternatives that support our entire community. In addition, a multi-year student engagement process led by Dalhousie in partnership with the DSU is underway. This will create deeper conversations with students about strengthening harm reduction tactics and identifying alternatives to unsanctioned street parties. 

Timeline – Fall 2022 and onward

Cultural shifts take time and this framework is designed to support collaboration over a number of years. In the shorter term, where feasible, Dalhousie will be incorporating some these recommendations for the Fall 2022 semester.

Approach to Fall 2022

One thing that we heard throughout the Inspiring Communities process was that Dalhousie needs to support better awareness of its current efforts and approach to high-risk party culture and unsanctioned street parties. In terms of the fall approach, Dalhousie will continue to prioritize the reduction of physical, medical, psychological, and sexualized violence harms. As such, Dalhousie will be working with partners to strengthen our ongoing efforts in the following areas:

Response and organization

  • Dalhousie organizes an integrated response team to unsanctioned street parties that is designated to help address and mitigate the potential impacts. This is done in close partnership with the Halifax Regional Police (HRP), HRM and emergency services. 
  • Dalhousie works with both on- and off-campus partners to monitor and share information that informs approach to planning, mitigation and response.

Safety & mitigation

  • When unsanctioned events pose a serious threat to student health and safety, our neighbours’ well-being and community as a whole, we consult with our community partners to designate additional emergency resources required to help keep students and our community safe.
  • We have increased security measures, training and student leaders in Dalhousie Residences.
  • We have Increased capacity for on-campus security
  • We help training and coordinate with Dalhousie Campus Medical Response Team to provide support for student safety.

Student education

  • We have refreshed and amplified good neighbour/community member educational content through new strategies, programming and expanded channels. This includes formal memos to students, Dal Mobile content, New-to-Dal learning modules on good citizenship and the Code of Student Conduct, post card campaigns, Community Calendars and Family and Friends specific communication and programming that emphasize student support systems.
  • Halifax Regional Police is delivering Operation Fallback education throughout September. 

Student engagement 

  • Students’ voices are fundamental to this process. Dalhousie is leading a multi-year student engagement process in partnership with the DSU that will hold deeper conversations with students around the student experience, extra-curricular activities, and street parties. This process is underway.

Harm reduction

  • Dal held Substance Use Awareness Week Campaign & Programming, September 24-October 1.
  • Dalhousie delivered harm reduction programming through booths on campus in partnership with Student Health & Wellness Nursing staff, offering education and information on how to access support services.

Community communication & engagement 

  • We have updated the Community Engagement pages of Dal.ca with Inspiring Communities report, and an expanded FAQS to help address community questions.
  • We delivered printed postcards to households around the Dalhousie campus.
  • A community “Get to know your neighbour” event was organized for community members and students.
  • We have delivered the 2022/2023 Community Calendar with important phone-numbers and reminders.
  • We are planning for a follow up Strategies Lab in late 2022 to flesh out 5-year plan and hear from student engagement process launching fall 2022 and will build on Inspiring Communities’ recommendation to keep inviting the missing stakeholders.

Alternative programming 

For more information about Unsanctioned Street Parties and Dal’s approach to student behaviour off-campus, please see our FAQs.

Get Involved

We will keep our community informed through this website, community updates distributed in our neighbourhoods and our Dal channels (web, social and Dal news).

Please contact community.engagement@dal.ca with questions or comments.