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Administration plans alternative BSD events to commemorate murder victims

By Alesia Sullivan, February 5 2015 —

The University of Calgary will host alternative events during April’s Bermuda Shorts Day to commemorate the lives of five university students who were killed at a house party in Brentwood after last year’s event.

The U of C will host commemorative services, a UCalgary Strong festival and make minor changes to Lot 32’s beer gardens on BSD.

The new events mark the first notable changes to BSD since last year’s tragedy.

Vice-provost student experience Susan Barker said it was important to have something that recognizes the anniversary of the students’ deaths.

“When we look at how people grieve and how people cope with loss, anniversaries are really milestones in the experience and coming to terms with the significant tragedy,” Barker said.

Administration established the UCalgary Strong festival after last year’s murders. Barker said the festival will focus on positive mental health and physical activity without the distraction of alcohol.

“It will be a series of events tied in with the philosophy of UCalgary Strong, which is about positive health, mental well-being, resilience, sense of community,” Barker said.

Administration hasn’t planned the commemorative service yet. However, members of the community have questioned why BSD was not cancelled in light of last year’s murders.

“People have asked for BSD to be cancelled. The community has concerns about it,” Barker said. “The Students’ Union feels that it’s important to continue with [BSD], that it’s an important tradition. And we as an institution permit and work with the Students’ Union to provide that event.”

BSD beer gardens have only been cancelled once in the event’s 54-year history. That was in 1988 because university administration said bringing alcohol to campus at any time was unacceptable. The previous year, two students suffered eye injuries in water balloon accidents.

Students’ Union vice-president student life Jonah Ardiel felt cancelling BSD wasn’t necessary, adding that BSD is ingrained within student culture. He said trouble is more likely without a central place for students to celebrate on campus.

Both Barker and Ardiel shared advice on how to stay safe during BSD. While Barker said that looking after your friends is “absolutely critical,” Ardiel suggested students should monitor themselves.

“Take advantage of the free water, take advantage of the food that’s going to be there. Have fun, but do it in a safe manner. You can control yourself,” Ardiel said.

While BSD’s beer gardens are solely for undergraduate students, the commemorative events and festival will be open to everyone. Barker hopes this will strengthen the sense of community as people reflect on last year’s tragedy.

“People are going to feel a little lost on that day, with it being April 15,” Barker said. “So by having something to focus on, we think that that will really help.”

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