Students flood University Ave for fourth move-in day in a row

AMS and Kingston Police jointly work to reduce safety risks

University Ave. on move-in day in 2016.
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For the last four years, Queen’s students have been dangerously crowding University Avenue on the night of move-in day, much to the concern of members of the University and Kingston community.

“As a fifth-year student, I have certainly witnessed my fair share of block parties in the University District,” Stefano Hollands, AMS Commissioner of Municipal Affairs wrote in an email to The Journal. “In recent years, however, we have seen an additional regular emergence of block parties resulting in unplanned street closures on University Avenue.”

This year, on September 3, University Avenue saw “2,000-3,000” party goers attend unsanctioned parties in the university district, according to the Kingston Whig-Standard. While the proceedings were generally tame, one person was arrested and another was taken to the hospital with a minor injury.  

In an email to The Journal, Media Officer Kim Siemonsen of the Kingston Police expressed some safety concerns as she felt students tend to forget concerning block parties. 

“Security and safety risks would be mostly for students who are under the influence of alcohol. They are at risk of falling, stepping onto the street and being hit by a car, alcohol poisoning and being a victim of sexual assault,” Siemonsen wrote.

On the night of September 3, the university district was patrolled by members of Kingston Police. Ten officers were assigned specifically for the purpose of maintaining safety and meeting risks immediately at the parties themselves. 

“I worked Saturday [September 2] and it was quieter. I stopped at parties I thought were getting loud because a complaint was called in,” Siemonsen recalled. “The following Tuesday [September 5] I worked, the crowds were so large that the Sergeant on duty decided to block Aberdeen and University Avenue.” 

Siemonsen added that students in the crowds on Aberdeen were seen throwing unidentified objects towards the officers and their cruisers. 

As the issue of Queen’s students and their presence in the Kingston community becomes more pressing, collaboration between the university and the Kingston Police has become necessary. 

“I was personally involved with two meetings with the AMS to discuss, prior to move-in day and frosh week, how we could use social media to make students aware of the rules and consequences of breaking the law,” Siemonsen said. 

Hollands added that following their collaboration, an AMS-Kingston Police joint statement was released urging students to remain off University Avenue, as it is a prominent ambulance route. 

The joint statement, released on September 3, urged students to keep “major roads in the University District clear.”

“Queen’s University must always weigh the community impact of student behaviour when planning its events. After the move-in night street party in 2015, Principal Daniel Woolf had to consider the cancellation of Homecoming in that year. It is crucial that the actions of students today do not endanger the future enjoyment of programming by students and residents alike,” the statement read.

“Our aim was to show unity between students and the city and to offer student-led support,” Hollands wrote about the joint statement. 

The presence of street parties continues to also affect members of the Kingston community through issues like excessive waste and noise. 

“Many residents that I’ve spoken to understand that Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are strong traditions at Queen’s, even if they ideally could live without those events occurring,” Hollands wrote. “What creates tension in the community, however, is when a select few students act out.” 

While both the AMS and Kingston Police acknowledged the trend of block parties to be consistent with the student experience at Queen’s and in-line with its traditions, the concerns surrounding safety of students and maintaining a clear ambulance route for the community remain constant. 

“We aren’t necessarily targeting a reversal of Aberdeen block parties on Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day,” Hollands wrote. “Our focus for these events shifts towards safety, responsibility and accountability.”

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