Conversations about Homecoming’s future are in the works after University Council voted to recommend Principal Daniel Woolf reinstate the event next year.
The motion called for Woolf to restore Homecoming for fall 2013, rather than in 2014 as initially planned. The motion passed at University Council on May 5 with approximately 130 council members in favour, three against and seven abstentions.
With the return of the annual reunion in sight, students and Kingstonians have voiced differing views on how the University should handle the event.
On May 2, the University announced Woolf’s intention to create a dialogue between student leaders, city representatives and other members of the Queen’s community about remodeling alumni reunions.
“We’ve actually been working on this for some time,” Woolf told the Journal earlier this month. “Consultation has taken place at a preliminary level with [students] and we’ve touched base with the city.”
He added that Homecoming could be rebranded if it’s to return in 2013. Woolf declined to comment on the details of the remodeling.
“Ultimately this is not a University decision,” he said. “The decision rests with me as it did four years ago when the original decision was made and I would prefer some discretion on the subject.”
Rector Nick Francis said discussions on developing a plan for a safe and fun fall reunion began in March at President’s Caucus, which is comprised of the president of each faculty society.
“These discussions were really just a sounding board for ideas,” Francis, ArtSci’13 said. “I opened it up and asked them what they think needs to be addressed and how they think they should solve the issue of a massive street party that goes off the wire.”
Following Homecoming 2008, the event was cancelled for two years by then-Principal Tom Williams. In 2010, Woolf extended the cancellation for an additional three years until 2014.
According to Francis, the faculty society presidents were wary of the Aberdeen street party returning if Homecoming were restored.
“[They] talked about how it’s not good for anybody, it’s not safe, specifically an unsupervised massive street party,” he said.
He said the plan to reinstate a fall reunion is being taken seriously because of the strong alumni support for its return.
“The whole tradition needs to be revitalized,” he said. “There are compromises that have to be made. In order to safely restore and revitalize it we’re going to have to do it differently.”
Save Our Neighbourhood Action Group (SONAG) creator Don Rogers said he thinks there needs to be stronger policing at the event in order to make it safe for students and alumni. SONAG is comprised of Kingston residents “who are fed up with the unacceptable behaviour of many Queen’s students,” according to their website.
“A large part of the responsibility lies with the police,” Rogers said. “If they are more consistent [than] they had been in past years by issuing tickets they’d be able to control the minority that push the limits”
Rogers has lived in his Sydenham District home since 1979. He said Homecoming celebrations in the 1990s were calmer than it was in the 2000s, due to what he sees as greater control and organization.
“To be able to get back to having a safe Homecoming we need to explore ways to control that small minority that causes these problems,” he said.
Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen said he’s spoken with Principal Woolf about making Homecoming a safer event in the future.
“What needs to happen is that the city and the police have to work collaboratively with the University so that we can minimize the impact that the Aberdeen situation has with the taxpayers.”
He added that along with Queen’s alumni relations, the city of Kingston has suffered economically since Homecoming was banned in 2008.
“It’s affected tourism into the city and with that comes effects on hotels, restaurants, businesses in the downtown area and the spin-off effects that all those have,” he said. “However, at the same time, we’ve benefited because we don’t have to spend upward [of] $400,000 or $500,000 on having to police the event.”