Campus Diaries: “University students can be really stupid. That’s part of the experience”

Campus Diaries: “University students can be really stupid. That’s part of the experience”

Memoirs from the weirdest university year ever

Photo by Claudine Baltazar

Who: Ben Greenberg, 18
What: Undeclared, first year
Queen’s University
Hometown: Toronto

The Campus Diaries

I know a lot of people my age felt like they missed out on a lot because of Covid, but I’m a homebody—I loved spending time with my family. At university, it helps that a lot of my friends from summer camp are here too. I live in residence across the hall from my best friend since grade school. Omicron changed things fast—all our exams were online—but when I arrived for the first time in September, things were pretty normal. You had to wear masks in class and there were some rules around social distancing in the cafeteria, but that was no big deal, or at least we got used to it. It was pretty sucky to have to wear a mask playing dodgeball. Probably the biggest thing was that the official Frosh Week was so toned down. Organizers booked us into groups of 20 over two weekends to control the crowds and it was pretty lame overall. We were playing games like putting balls into cups—so basically beer pong but with no beer. It definitely wasn’t the raging party I had envisioned. That sort of thing was happening off campus, though, away from residence assistants and security.

A few of my friends live in a house a five-minute walk from campus. That’s where most of the parties were. It was the same thing every weekend: 100 or so kids, all packed into this small space—basically the exact opposite of social distancing, and definitely no masks. It was really loud, mostly rap and then some early-2000s classics like “Mr. Brightside.” The room was hot and sweaty, and the later it got, the more people were stumbling around. I would usually go to the backyard so I could breathe and hear people talk.

On homecoming weekend, the house was even more crowded than usual with kids from Western and U of T visiting. People were spilling out the door, and I didn’t even try to get inside. I was around back when the cops showed up. It was a little after midnight and someone leaned out the door yelling “The cops are here!” Everyone scattered. The rule in Ontario at the time was no indoor gatherings of more than 25 people, so we were definitely in violation. At one point, I realized I had left my phone behind, so I tried to go back, but one of the officers said that if I was on the property, I could get fined.

The next day, we heard that each of the five guys who lived there got a $2,000 ticket, so that’s $10,000 just for doing something that is pretty normal. I understand that these are abnormal times—and who knows how Omicron will change things—but I think the attitude with a lot of my peers is that we’re vaccinated, we’ve missed out on a lot, and life has to go on. I don’t think it’s very effective to fine university students who don’t have much money. I guess the thinking is that the huge fines will act as a deterrent, but they’re forgetting one important thing: university students can be really stupid. That’s sort of part of the experience.

This story appears in the February 2022 issue of Toronto Life magazine. To subscribe for just $24.99 a year, click here.