Queen’s cracks down on jacket bars

Engineering faculty and police introduce patrols to end the Beers on the Pier challenge

The Beers on the Pier jacket bar.
The Beers on the Pier jacket bar.
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A sign by the pier near the Queen’s campus.
A sign by the pier near the Queen’s campus.
Photo: 

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is discouraging students from pursuing jacket bars involving alcohol this year, starting with the “Beers on the Pier” challenge.

Since the first week of September, Kingston Police Force (KPF) officers have been patrolling the pier near Collingwood St. and King St. West on Thursday nights to watch for students attempting Beers on the Pier.

Beers on the Pier — one of the many bars engineering students can sew onto their leather Queen’s jackets — requires students to drink a can of beer before jumping off the pier into Lake Ontario.

Members of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science met with Kingston police this summer to discuss concerns about pier safety, according to Kimberly Woodhouse, the Faculty dean.

“We discussed measures that could be put into place to help students make wise choices about Beers on the Pier, with the assumption that jumping off the pier when you’ve had alcohol is not a good idea,” Woodhouse said.

Some jacket bars contain information like a student’s program and year, symbols like a country’s national flag or phrases that represent the completion of specific challenges.

To earn the “Beers on the Pier” bar, a student must drink a beer and jump off the pier every Thursday during the first semester of classes.

Woodhouse said the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science implemented two safety measures for the pier. The first was having the police monitor the pier area.

The second measure was asking Engineering Society (ENGSOC) FRECs — the Society’s orientation leaders — to discourage the bar, she said.

Frosh Regulation Enforcement Committee (FREC) leaders run orientation events for first-year engineering students during the first week of September.

“One of the things that I stressed was to the FRECs, that they should think about actively discouraging this bar, because it was unsafe,” Woodhouse said.

“The FRECs, who are positive role models for the students, can discourage beers on the pier themselves. And that’s what I asked. I didn’t tell, I didn’t lecture.”

According to Woodhouse, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science actively tries to discourage “any bars that are related to or associated with unsafe, risky or unprofessional behaviour”, such as the high consumption of alcohol. Woodhouse said the Blue Lights bar — which requires students to shotgun a beer at every campus Blue Light — is another jacket bar that encourages risky behaviour.

Blue Lights, which are placed throughout campus, indicate places where students can press a button to receive immediate assistance from Campus Security. In January 2013, Campus Security reported a spike in false alarms, which the University attributed to students pressing the buttons for the Blue Light challenge.

“If you would be embarrassed to explain [a jacket bar] to a future employer, it would probably be inappropriate,” Woodhouse said.

The faculty may take their stance on jacket bars further by introducing a dress policy for engineering students at interuniversity competitions or conferences, according to Woodhouse.

She said this policy may ban some bars from being worn at conferences and competitions.

However, the policy is currently under discussion, she said, and any specific details would be decided after consultation with students.

Inappropriate jacket bars don’t provide a positive image for students or the university, Woodhouse said.

“We are exploring ways to ensure how the positive image can be portrayed,” she said. “[The issue] is the tradition of inappropriate bars that do not reflect the values of the faculty or the majority of students in this faculty.”

She said there’s no particular reason why the Faculty decided this year to introduce these measures.

“We said ‘how can we continue to improve communication and where’s an area of really big concern?’” she said. “It’s my job as a dean to keep students safe.”

Traditions associated with engineering students can change over time, she added.

“I would challenge the presumption that trying to manage or get people to stop wearing inappropriate bars is challenging the tradition of this faculty,” she said.

“The grease pole is not the same thing it was in 1959. It’s changed. We have to make sure that the bar tradition continues the tradition of pride and respect and not a tradition of negative images and unsafe behaviour.”

Carolyn Fisher, the president of ENGSOC, said the student society doesn’t support the pursuit of any jacket bars.

“The Engineering Society does not actively condone or support any jacket bars and we believe that all students should be able to make choices about what is appropriate behaviour,” she told the Journal via email.

Fisher, Sci ’15, said ENGSOC was consulted by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for a student perspective on Beers on the Pier, but they weren’t made aware of details coming from the Faculty’s meetings with the KPF.

They also haven’t been involved in active discussions about the bars, although they were “made aware of bars that the Faculty feels were a concern” in the last year, Fisher said.

Fisher didn’t specify why the Society doesn’t condone jacket bars or which bars were discussed at their meetings with the Faculty, and told the Journal that ENGSOC was unavailable to respond to follow-up questions by deadline.

Const. Steve Koopman, KPF media relations officer, said the police had a larger presence at the pier during frosh week in September, and will continue to station officers there.

He said the pier has been “an issue” this year, although that hasn’t been related specifically to Beers on the Pier or engineering students, he added, but Queen’s as a whole.

“There’s nothing wrong with hanging out on the pier as long as no alcohol is involved, and we just don’t want to see any dangerous activities occur from that,” Koopman said.

The Queen’s bookstore doesn’t sell jacket bars that represent high alcohol consumption, but students often order unsanctioned bars from a UPS Store on Princess St. QTradition, which is located at the UPS Store, offers customized orders of bars and popular individual bars, according to the company’s website.

The website states that its founders are students that “have encountered the obstacles currently present in acquiring bars and patches.” The slogan “Preserving Tradition” is featured prominently on the website’s home page.

A second-year engineering student, who requested that his name be omitted from this story, said it’s common knowledge among engineering students that police are patroling the pier area.

After being interviewed, the student requested anonymity due to concerns that his comments would put his job in a campus organization at risk.

Many of his friends attempted Beers on the Pier in their first year at Queen’s, he said, adding that he would prefer if a lifeguard or another safety professional was stationed at the pier rather than police officers.

“You know kids are going to do it, but it would be great to have someone there who is trained to help them if they get hurt,” the student said.

Matthew Tereposky, Sci ’18, said his FRECs warned first-year students that police would be at the pier on Thursdays and told him that ENGSOC had forbidden them from visibly displaying Beers on the Pier bars during Orientation Week.

He didn’t believe the FRECs were being serious, he said, until students headed to the pier on the Thursday of frosh week.

“Everyone headed down and sure enough, there was a police officer there and everyone was really surprised,” Tereposky said.

Students should be more educated about the risks of jacket bar challenges and alcohol, Tereposky said, such as through workshops or seminars. Now that the police monitor the pier, students still try the Beers on the Pier challenge, he said, but they go alone at 2 a.m. on different days instead of going with a group on Thursdays.

Tereposky said he’d prefer that Queen’s station a lifeguard at the pier, adding that police surveillance isn’t working.

“I think that the Beers on the Pier is the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “It’s the beginning. They will try to intervene a lot more on our traditions.”

This story has been updated to reflect the following correction: Carolyn Fisher is Sci '15, not '16.

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