ANTIGONISH: Two students who climbed on top of an ambulance responding to an emergency call at StFX University in early September have been disciplined, the university says.
“Following the incident, we opened an investigation and we have identified the students,” StFX Vice-President of Students Elizabeth Yeo told The Reporter. “And it is working its way through our disciplinary process now.”
While the two student’s names and the outcome of the disciplinary process can’t be disclosed due to personal privacy reasons, Yeo explained the two were not residents of MacIsaac Hall and stated that the university has zero tolerance for such behaviour, especially when it involves disrespect to first responders.
In a Snapchat video that was posted to social media on Sept. 5, with a MacIsaac Hall filter placed on the video that reads “Welcome to the Jungle,” the residence’s slogan, two male individuals are seen climbing on top of an Emergency Health Services ambulance, while being cheered on by a crowd of people.
According to a statement released Sept. 7, by the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 727, the situation developed while paramedics were on scene to respond to a call at the university.
Yeo said the university does not tolerate anyone showing a lack of respect toward others or property, and this case in particular, where the incident involved first responders, they take this very seriously.
“Our first responders have been strained by this pandemic, especially our ambulance crews; we know that they may be called to respond to someone who may be having COVID-19 symptoms,” she said. “From our perspective, this incident did not reflect the respect and gratitude, which the university holds our health care workers and our first responders.”
Yeo’s message, which was released to the campus community on Oct. 1, as the university headed into what would traditionally be its homecoming weekend, would go on to remind students of recent incidents of “poor judgment” and “unacceptable behaviour” during Dalhousie University’s homecoming in Halifax, a week prior.
“As reported, students gathered by the thousands, leading to arrests by law authorities, a requirement to stay home from classes (risking academic success), and further conduct charges from the institution,” she said. “This celebration also resulted in strained relationships and a loss of trust between the institution, its students, and the surrounding community. What may have started as an exciting party to some, wound up as an unnecessary disaster for everyone.”
Yeo went on to advise students that if they were going to be socializing during homecoming weekend, it had to be done in a safe manner and in accordance to provincial and local laws, along with the university’s Code of Conduct.
“Those found in violation will be subject to significant fines and to our disciplinary process,” she said. “In fact, within the last year, the university has suspended nine students from residence and/or the university altogether, in relation to violation of COVID-19 protocols.”
While the university continued to ask their students to do their part, they followed suit by suspending the in-person events associated with homecoming this year.
“We took these extra steps to reinforce that socializing can happen, it just needed to stay within the permitted gathering sizes,” Yeo said. “And I’m happy to report that students were, for the most part, respectful and there were no big incidents to report. The town was busy but there were no major reports.”
Despite cancelling all in-person activities associated with their homecoming weekend, local RCMP still found themselves relatively busy throughout the town.
“From our perspective, homecoming weekend went quite well, all things considered. Our biggest concern and I think the community’s biggest concern was gathering limits and health protection of COVID-19,” Sgt. Warren McBeath told The Reporter. “We didn’t want the potential in having a super spreader event with large, unauthorized, unsanctioned gatherings, similar to what Dalhousie experienced, and we didn’t have any of those, which was nice.”
Unfortunately, he said there was a number of infractions they had to enforce and Antigonish RCMP officers issued 85 tickets, in the 36 hours from Friday at midnight until Sunday at noon, something he would consider of the norm for homecoming weekend.
“Overall I would say it was a success,” McBeath said. “All of their official alumni events were switched to online this year, so we definitely didn’t see the influx of alumni and previous students, but the existing study population still went ahead with their business as normal.”
RCMP officers issued 40 tickets under the Liquor Control Act, which includes the charges of illegally possessing liquor, being intoxicated in public and underage drinking; 20 for vehicle window tint and license plate obstructions; eight were issued for failure to wear a seatbelt or helmet; six under the municipal bylaw for excessive noise; six under other Motor Vehicle Act infractions; five for excessive muffler noise; and 18 intoxicated students were held in cells.
Yeo added the majority of students are continuing to demonstrate they are being a good neighbour, adhering to the public health guidelines and showing care for others, and expressed appreciation towards the outdoor recreation society; a student led group which went out early Sunday morning to clean up garbage and recyclables throughout the town and on campus.
“We’re really grateful for their showing of care for the community.”