Frown due to Homecoming shakedown

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The University’s plan to pay the City of Kingston $100,000 a year for the next three years in order to cover “policing costs” is a mistake.

While the City and local residents have legitimate concerns about street parties, the payments set a bad precedent and were determined in an unfortunate political context.

Why should Queen’s pay for the costs associated with something it has consistently tried to curtail? A large percentage of Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day revelers aren’t Queen’s students and only a small percentage of Queen’s students actually participate.

A contribution of $100,000 per year when total police costs for this year’s Homecoming were $104,000 is ridiculous.

However you look at it, the $100,000 is excessive. Why is this new scheme being implemented in the wake of what was universally considered to be a relatively smooth Homecoming?

Another major problem with the arrangement is its lack of transparency. Students already pay a huge amount in tuition and fees, and we’re not sure where exactly this money is coming from. It’s Principal Daniel Woolf’s responsibility to make this clear to students.

In addition to being opaque, the agreement sets an awkward precedent. What happens if the costs of policing St. Patrick’s Day and Homecoming change in the coming years? Will Queen’s match the new costs in three year intervals? The City can’t be allowed to treat short-term fluctuations in student behaviour as a cash cow.

Instead of being opportunistic, the City should embrace Homecoming as an event that benefits the local economy.

That said, if Queen’s wants Kingston to embrace Homecoming, then it should continue to search for alternative solutions. Queen’s should consider sanctioning the Homecoming street party and managing it, as this would remove ambiguity about responsibility and would be less expensive than the current arrangement.

Even if Queen’s doesn’t directly sanction street parties, now that it’s effectively paying for them, will police behaviour change? The possibility that Kingston Police might curtail their sometimes rough and arbitrary treatment of students is a welcome one.

More than anything, this agreement should be seen as an attempt to pacify relations with Kingston’s mayor. For Mayor Mark Gerretsen, bad town-gown relations are good politics. In the lead up to the 2014 municipal elections, Gerretsen will probably tout this shakedown as a major achievement. While these exorbitant payments might buy a stalemate between Queen’s and the City, they don’t solve the underlying problems.

Principal Woolf shouldn’t have given in to Gerretsen’s demands for compensation. He hasn’t been transparent, even though he’s committed Queen’s students to paying for things they are not 100 per cent responsible for.

This agreement raises many issues, and we don’t see it leading to any improvement in town-gown relations.

— Journal Editorial Board

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