Long gone are the days of need to fight for your right to rock- Western University students are fighting for their right to party.
It has been one week since FOCO – or ‘Fake Homecoming’- took over Broughdale Avenue.
This year, crowds reached the highest number of any Western homecoming, real or fake, in recent memory- 20,000 people are estimated to have gathered on the quiet side street that lies parallel to Main Drive.
The one day celebration has been an annual tradition amongst Western University students since 2016.
In its inaugural year, FOCO took part as an act of defiance to administration’s decision to push back the Homecoming date to late October.
The defiance doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon.
Originally, administration defended the decision to move Homecoming by saying that the move was intended to keep students’ safe, as unsanctioned street parties were getting out of control.
Three years later, and the parties are more out of control than ever.
The year before the decision to move Homecoming, reports claimed Broughdale had calmed down, 7,000 people were estimated to have attended in 2015.
Whereas chaos was on the decline, in three years’ time, the event has nearly tripled in size.
This year’s events resulted in 52 people transported to hospital, 134 charges laid – 120 which were issued to Western students, and 3,100+ warnings given.
The event of students’ day-drinking is not unique to Western.
Just last month, a female was trampled by a police horse during McMaster University’s Homecoming celebrations.
What sets FOCO apart is its origins – FOCO represents a resistance to authority.
Brooke Wile experienced the last real Homecoming in her first year at Western. Now in her 4thyear, she says that FOCO has become something more than what Homecoming ever was.
“Before, Homecoming was celebrated- but nothing like FOCO is. It wouldn’t have gotten as big as it is without the controversy. The event blew up and is now advertised to students, by students, and everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Tori Strike is in her 3rdyear, so all she’s ever known is FOCO.
“When I was in first year, we were told that we have FOCO because they moved hoco because the students got too crazy, but no matter what, Western students are going to get crazy.”
Strike thinks this never would have happened if the original date of Homecoming stayed.
“It’s a rebellion against the school. Western has literally created the mess of FOCO, and since first year it’s gotten more and more crazy with this year at its peak.”
The London Police Service is not blaming Western University for FOCO, but John Pare isn’t letting them off the hook either.
“I ask that Western administration take steps to hold their students accountable for inappropriate behavior that is impacting our entire community.”
Pare suggested holding onto academic transcripts, as fines have proven to not be enough to discourage students from taking part in the day.
Western University has not commented on whether they’ll be taking extra measures to prevent the off-campus street party.
The good news is that FOCO happens once a year.
When Western’s real Homecoming date takes place this month, Broughdale is expected to be empty as students are in the swing of midterms.
The school has just under 12 months to figure out a way for FOCO to have the same turnout.