Letters to the Editors

Time to move past Homecoming and Mercier’s statements

Dear Editors,

At any point in the debate regarding the Homecoming fiasco will we move past the finger pointing? How about simply moving on in general? Was the letter Mercier wrote filled with some inappropriate choices for reference? Well yes. In general, avoidance of Hitler/Holocaust references in contemporary contexts is preferable. Was she right about the well educated youth of this fine establishment turning into rampant destructive idiots? Well, yes, that too. I don’t need a research grant to tell you that [a] massive amount of alcohol plus a large outdoor crowd equals the potential for destruction of property. I’ll take one, but I don’t need it. So let’s find the middle ground. Accept that she had a valid point but that the presentation of it was inappropriate.

Once this has been completed, let’s either search for a plausible solution to next year’s soon-to-be-front-page event or turn our attention to something slightly more important. I’m aware that the matter can’t be simply swept under the rug, but there are several events which should be given at least equal weighting. I believe there are a few plights in Africa, Pakistan and Guatemala, to name a few, that could benefit from our collective efforts. Queen’s shot itself in the foot on Homecoming weekend and arguing incessantly about what caliber the gun was won’t help.

Andrew James Collins
ArtSci ’07

Gratitude for Mercier’s critical reflection

Dear Editors,

A few friends and I were talking last night about the whole Homecoming situation and what will come of it this year and next. We also discussed how wonderful it was to have Mercier say what she did, both in the provincial and local press. Most importantly, we wanted to thank her for her amazing words in the letters to the Journal.

From a few graduate students in the department of sociology, we would just like to wish Mercier the best and say we stand strong behind her message and others that continue to teach, and speak, for any sort of critical thinking and self-reflection at this increasingly privileged and privatized campus. We too have noticed the sort of vacuous attitude reflected in many student responses to Mercier’s letters in the Journal—and never mind what actually happened on Aberdeen.

In our classrooms—and beyond—we hope to continue to provide spaces for all students to not only reflect on what transpired a few weeks ago, but also to think about how many of the dismissive and self-contained attitudes on the part of some students are undoubtedly a small snapshot of a more polarized world.

Christopher Canning
PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

An open letter to Adèle Mercier

Dear Prof. Mercier,

I read about the letter you wrote in the Journal and I wanted to e-mail to thank you and commend you for your comments. All of them were dead on.

I went to Queen’s for my first year of undergrad in philosophy a few years ago, but ended up transferring to U of T. A large part of my decision to transfer was because of the factors you pointed out in your interview with the Journal.

I originally chose Queen’s because of its great reputation and was expecting to find a student body reflective of that reputation. Sure, I did meet a few awesome people (I still keep in touch with the friends I made during my time there, and my partner is a Queen’s grad), but they were definitely in the minority. Aside from these few, I found an overwhelming culture of self-entitlement, thoughtlessness and ignorance. It seemed like many people were there just to party and only go to school on the side. So, I was completely unsurprised when I read about the Homecoming incident. Really, anyone who has walked through the Hub or the Ghetto on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night would probably not be surprised at the Homecoming incident.

Initially, I thought the Homecoming incident would finally open up these problems for some serious discussion. But how has the AMS responded so far? They’ve spent more time and energy lambasting you for speaking the terrible truth than they have actually doing something about the attitudes that led to the Homecoming incident.

It’s quite telling that the AMS is more outraged at you for speaking the truth and tarnishing their image than they are at those involved in the Homecoming incident. The AMS doesn’t seem to realize it wasn’t you who did the tarnishing.

I have to say, the AMS has made it quite clear that they’re part of the problem—their thoughtless, self-important and entirely unreflective attitude combined with their complete unwillingness to take any measure of responsibility are quite demonstrative of the culture and mentality that led to the Homecoming incident.

I really hope things change at Queen’s. There are some wonderful professors and the campus is beautiful.

Queen’s is really hurting itself because the current student culture repels smart, thoughtful and outward-looking students. I also hope your letter and comments compel others to speak out and the administration to take action.

Kate Raynes-Goldie
Former ArtSci ’04

AMS reaction typical

Dear Editors,

“Unsurprised” is probably the most accurate term with which to characterize my reaction to the Aberdeen debacle. I was a little more astonished to discover Adèle Mercier’s candid response to the event.

In my four years at Queen’s, I found that frank appraisals of the dominant student ethos to be rare indeed.

The reaction of the AMS to Mercier’s statements is a lot more familiar to me. These people are either blind, in denial or completely withdrawn from student behaviour. Are all Queen’s students privileged? Are they all irresponsible? Of course not.

During my degree, I met many smart, empathetic peers from a variety of backgrounds. At the same time, it doesn’t take much to realize that the majority of students are in their own little over-homogenized, consequence-free, booze-hounding “Bubble” universe.

Just wander the Ghetto on a Thursday night. Swing by the Hub. It doesn’t take much. Or, try partaking in some Homecoming festivities.

The AMS claims to be representing students, who were allegedly offended by Mercier’s comments. No doubt, many of them were. However, many most assuredly were not, and I would count myself amongst their ranks were I still at Queen’s.

So how is the AMS defending the interests of these students? With knee-jerk reactions, rather than reasonable discourse? Most students learn the basics of critical thinking in first-year courses. They learn that you can’t refute a claim with a simple “No—so there!”

Mercier’s claims did not come out of a vacuum. The events on Aberdeen were nothing short of an atrocity, and surely no one is so ignorant to believe that those came from a vacuum either.

There are bad apples at every school—riots do not typically ensue. There is clearly a real problem here, but no change will ever come if school leaders seek to shut down controversy rather than engage in some much-needed introspection.

David Fono
ArtSci ’04

Students right in criticism of Mercier

Dear Editors,

While I understand Adèle Mercier’s right to freedom of speech, she is bringing the wrath on herself. Professor Mercier, stop dragging this out.

If you are not going to print a retraction, at the very least please stop printing.

Clearly, Professor Mercier does not understand the gravity of her remarks about “Hitler youth” etc., and therefore, should cease to use such terminology.

I feel Professor Mercier is using her philosophy background to turn this into a full-blown philosophical debate.

Frankly, it is becoming ridiculous. I’m tired of reading about it and being compared to something that I most definitely am not. Calling students “Hitler youth” is not only offensive, it undermines what Hitler and the Hitler youth actually did.

I commend my fellow students for calling Professor Mercier on her foolishness for continuing this, because that is what this is turning out to be: one big foolish escapade on the part of an otherwise passionate professor.

Lauren Goldstein
ArtSci ’07

Alum upset with Homecoming

Dear Editors,

It is with conflicted emotions that I write this letter. I am a proud Queen’s alumnus—in fact I am the permanent president of the ArtSci Class of 1997.

Looking ahead to our 10-year Homecoming is now not the same. The reactions of current students after the Aberdeen party leave me dismayed and ashamed.

It seems to me that students are more proud of their attendance at the Aberdeen party than they are of what this has done to the Queen’s reputation.

Civil disobedience and disrespect for your community is not a “right”—nor is Homecoming. Queen’s students need to get their priorities in line.

Agreed, the majority of out-of-control behaviour can be attributed to a few drunken fools who should stand up and take account for their actions. However, what I am more concerned about is the attitude expressed by the thousands of others who were there. You have splashed your self-righteous “I am special because I go to Queen’s” attitude across Canada, and in the process you have made a mockery of Queen’s on a national, if not international, scale.

Yes, part of the reputation of Queen’s is for our legendary parties (work hard, study hard, party hard) but where is the accountability? Where is the leadership?

The reports that I have read all seem concerned about deflecting blame because you certainly would not want to mess with tradition. What kind of tradition is Aberdeen? Is that the image you want, or do you want to graduate with a degree that garners respect?

Think about why you chose Queen’s, and why Queen’s chose you.

My initial reaction after hearing about the response to Homecoming was to bring forward my resignation. I know that I certainly do not wish to associate my personal reputation and my presence with the self-righteous attitude being expressed by Queen’s students in the press.

Instead I am willing to watch what actions the students and administration take in the coming year before making a decision.

Part of what makes Queen’s so special is the relationship that you take away from campus and into the community at large. Next time you try to deflect blame and claim that street parties are somehow a “right” inferred upon those living in the Ghetto, I encourage you to ask yourself this: What type of Homecoming and alumni support would you have if the alumni and our financial contributions stopped coming?

Melanie Rushworth
ArtSci ’97 Class President

Many positive acts on Homecoming weekend

Dear Editors,

With the Hitler reference by a professor, and a student being quoted as saying that the family on Aberdeen should move (I wouldn’t be surprised if he was quoted out of context—so many people were), I think we have had enough fighting.

I understand that Professor Mercier is trying to make a point, but using a reference to Hitler is inappropriate, and it makes her argument offensive and hurtful for many because it brings back many bad memories for people who were affected by Hitler.

Should she apologize? I don’t want to go into it, but what I do know is this: not all was as dark and evil as most people may believe on Homecoming night.

I was working at Walkhome and I saw and spoke to many people who were not happy with what was going on and felt bad for the cops and the permanent residents.

I also saw people stopping and taking time out of their lives at 4 a.m. to help individuals who were “under the weather,” as well as two students who found a cat outside the JDUC and wanted to make sure that it got to the Humane Society and then its owner.

I was not proud of the people who jumped on the car or who were being irresponsible and gave Queen’s a bad name, but not all students acted in this way.

We need to stop fighting over what happened and what did not happen in an unconstructive way. We need to have a proper discussion on what to do for next year—the essay contest is a good idea.

I am sure we have enough sociology, philosophy, psychology and anthropology professors who can work with the school and AMS to figure out what happened and ways to counter it.

And to the jerks who ruined Homecoming: thanks for nothing.

On the issue of race and racism, I am not white, my first language is not even English, and I have not been a target of racism at Queen’s—ever.

I would also like to take a moment to thank all those people including professors, my frosh and Walkhome staff who are helping me raise money for Pakistan earthquake relief, and special thanks to all the people who have given time and good ideas.

My memories of Queen’s will be mostly of all the good causes students at Queen’s have taken on: raising money for CF, KGH kids, AD, the Cancer Society, the Terry Fox run—the list goes on and on.

Salman Klar
ArtSci ’08

Jaywalking op-ed lacks sense of perspective

Dear Editors,

RE: “Walking on the wild side isn’t all it’s cracked up to be” (Journal, Oct. 14, 2005).

Brian, you jaywalked. It’s illegal. A police officer was there, and saw it. He gave you a ticket. I doubt very much that this incident diverted attention from other investigations, such as that into the recent murder of a Kingston woman.

You wrote that the police officer emerged “reeking of ... authority.” Guess what, police officers do have authority. Or, at least they should. The police officers in Kingston seem to be in a no-win situation. Do nothing, get criticized for letting things get out of hand. Do something, get criticized for unnecessary harshness.

Mr. Kuchar felt the need to write an entire opinion piece about what he saw as his undeserved loss of fifty dollars. An article on the front page mentioned a Queen’s student who lost fifteen family members in the recent earthquake. I think a sense of perspective is sorely missing here.

Jane Schlech
ArtSci ’06

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