Students need to prepare themselves for Homecoming weekend beyond making Jell-O shots.
An AMS social media campaign called “Know Your Rights” is raising awareness about the University District Safety Initiative (UDSI) and other aspects of interacting with police on campus. The campaign is run by the AMS Social Issues Commission (SIC).
Scheduled for release before Friday on the SIC and Yellow House Instagram pages, those involved with the campaign hope they can reach as many students as possible before Homecoming weekend.
“With students outside [potentially] drinking we could have police officers who interact with students in ways that aren’t necessarily friendly, with maybe excessive force in some instances,” Social Issues Commissioner (Internal) Ruth Osunde said in an interview with The Journal.
The campaign, posted on the SIC Instagram as a multi-slide infographic post, aims to equip students with knowledge on navigating police interactions. Students can learn what their rights are when speaking with police, how to take officers’ badge numbers, and where to get help if there are issues with an interaction.
For Osunde, who has researched and led the campaign, learning how to speak to police is an important skill for students. Students often don’t know the difference between being detained and being arrested, nor how to communicate with officers by asking if they’re free to go.
“I think it’s really important to know what language you’re allowed to use with police officers, and what language produces the most clarity,” Osunde said.
This year’s social media campaign will work in collaboration with the Yellow House, a centre for equity and inclusion at Queen’s. The partnership is close to Osunde’s heart.
“We do recognize that racialized students are more likely to have negative encounters with police officers and we want to mitigate that as much as possible,” Osunde said.
The Yellow House social media has an audience Osunde believes the AMS might not be able to reach. Leaving no student behind is vital for this campaign to be effective, and Osunde believes the Yellow House is an important support system for QTBIPOC students on campus.
Osunde has found the police presence on campus unsettling. She mentioned she can feel the difference in environment at Queen’s compared to her high school’s campus due to this presence—especially during Homecoming.
“Despite knowing my rights, [the police presence] is still something that makes me uncomfortable,” Osunde said. “In those instances, I’m not just a student, I’m very aware of the fact that I’m a racialized student. I am a Black woman on campus.”
Though Osunde understands the University and the City of Kingston are attempting to mitigate potential harm and damage associated with Homecoming, she’s not sure if increasing police on campus is the answer.
The City is collaborating with the AMS and Queen’s University on Homecoming.
“The City has had conversations with community partners including both Queen’s and the AMS about the UDSI and Homecoming,” the City of Kingston said in a statement to The Journal.
The SIC has run the campaign for the past three years, but it hasn’t coincided with Homecoming weekend. With the UDSI raising the stakes for students in the University District, there’s an increased need for students to know their rights.
“This year, it’s different because we recognize that there are some changes to the University District Safety Initiative and we’re hoping that with releasing this earlier, we can give students enough time to actually take in this information,” Osunde said.
The University Safety District Safety Initiative (UDSI) will remain in effect until Nov. 1, meaning students could face higher penalties for violating bylaws during Homecoming weekend.
Violations of Ontario’s liquor laws could mean students have to appear in court. In September, 756 students were set to appear in court for violating liquor laws.
The Know Your Rights Campaign post will include resources to educate students of consequences beyond bylaw violations, highlighting what non-academic misconduct policies could apply, and supplying links to Queen’s Legal Aid.
For Osunde, the Know Your Rights campaign isn’t just about students protecting themselves, but about students protecting each other, both this weekend and year-round.
“Sometimes you freeze up in these moments of high stress, and if another student happened to see the Know Your Rights campaign, they might be able to intervene on your behalf and potentially mitigate a negative situation from taking place,” Osunde said.
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