Costume party deemed racist online: A series of photographs from a ‘Beerfest’ costume party surfaced on social media, sparking national media attention and heated debates about cultural appropriation and racism at Queen’s. Following the event, at which partygoers dressed according to cultural stereotypes, the debate was polarizing and signified a larger cultural issue regarding racism at Queen’s — an inability to approach students of colour’s experiences without being defensive. While it shouldn’t have taken these extremes, the subsequent uproar caused administration and student representatives to readjust their focus on anti-racism efforts.
Othello casting erases canonically Black lead: The Othello casting was a symbol of ignorance and, more importantly, a resistance to critique. By fixating on the experience of a character’s sexual identity, the production focused on one issue at the expense of racialized experience. The casting of Othello as a white female student overlooked the women of colour, particularly the Black women of colour, within the Drama department.
Exception made for Lockridge to run for AMS Executive: On Jan. 19 AMS Assembly changed the AMS Constitution, allowing the Speaker of Assembly to run for AMS Executive and thereby allowing Vice-President-elect Palmer Lockridge to assume his current position. The move spoke to the exclusionary nature of student government and appeared as the AMS bending the rules arbitrarily.
TAPS hazing results in student hospitalizations and vandalism: The TAPS hazing incident of fall semester brought the issue of hazing close to home. It pushed students and leaders to realize the negative consequences of power imbalances in the workplace and the toxic culture of initiation rituals. On the bright side, the TAPS scandal was an example of the AMS executive practicing transparency.
Whistle-blower professor, Morteza Shirkhanzadeh, fired: Following an 11-year-long case and hundreds of letters exchanged between him and administration, Professor Morteza Shirkhanzadeh was terminated from the University. The long case was a peek inside Queen’s administration and its priorities, signifying a resounding concern for reputational risk over the well-being of faculty.
Commission of Environmental Affairs disbanded: AMS Assembly voted to dissolve the CEA, while promising to ensure that sustainability efforts continue in the AMS. Despite this promise, there isn’t a clear enough plan of how exactly this will look going forward. With the mandate of the CEA being placed into lesser-paid positions with lesser responsibilities, sustainability won’t remain a priority.
AMS Board reverses decision to close TAPS for Homecoming: Following the TAPS hazing, the AMS Executive announced they would close the TAPS services for Homecoming, only to reverse this decision immediately afterwards. When the executive’s knee-jerk response to hazing was to close safe drinking spaces at the busiest drinking times of the year, it proved they were removed from the student experience.
Drunk Times Homecoming video sparks questions of consent: A video which surfaced the weekend after Homecoming, entitled “Drunk Times with College Girls: Queen’s Homecoming” included footage of female Queen’s students being asked inappropriate and often sexual questions. The video was a symptom of a larger question of consent and signified a complacency around rape culture and sexual assault.
ASUS elections team investigating complaints of threats: In the ASUS election, the candidates tackled each other rather than student issues. Out of the three executive team candidates, two teams took to Facebook to endorse another team as second choice on the winter elections ballot. One endorsement alleged threats by a member of the opposing team’s campaign, a situation which spoke to the unwelcoming nature of student politics.
Former BISC students discuss incidents of sexual misconduct: While progress has been made in recent months towards forwarding sexual violence prevention and response efforts on Queen’s campus, the same prioritization doesn’t seem to be the case halfway across the world. Without the same accountability by proximity, the administration is neglecting their responsibility to BISC students and failing their duty to protect them.
Queen’s Native Students Association holds their first conference: The first QNSA conference is an example of Indigenous students having louder voices and being more visible on campus. QNSA president Lauren Winkler also received a Tricolour Award for her efforts this year to promote visibility of Indigenous students. In a year that also produced a Queen’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation calls to actions, increased visibility of Indigenous students on campus is a step forwards.
The Tragically Hip’s final concert: The Tragically Hip concert this past summer made Kingston a focal point of unity between Queen’s students, alumni and Canadians across the country. The evening that filled the town square and saw PM Justin Trudeau wandering the streets isn’t something that will be forgotten in Kingston’s history anytime soon.
Health and Wellness Centre breaks ground: Mental health on campus is getting some much-needed attention with the new Health and Wellness centre breaking ground this year. The centre isn’t so much a win for the university, but rather one for advocates of mental health awareness on campus. It’s comforting to know that mental health resources for students at Queen’s won’t be based out of a single floor in La Salle for much longer. Moving forward, the onus is on the University to keep their focus on mental health.
Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion presents recommendations: The Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion formed this year in reaction to racially charged events and discussion on campus. The committee has succeeded in fulfilling its mandate of providing moderated discussion of race, diversity and inclusion on campus, through town hall meetings, extensive research and providing recommendations on how the university can approach these problems that persist.
Daniel Woolf’s response to the travel ban: Principal Woolf’s statement on the Trump administration’s proposed travel ban was a positive moment for the University. Our principal took a firm position and pledged to make a difference pro-actively. When he decides to use it, Woolf’s platform as principal gives him the ability to make real change. Hopefully, he will use that power more often.
Speakers visit campus: Queen’s is a privileged university to be able to host nationally-relevant speakers. Having a prime minister on campus more than once a year, and hearing speakers from different political parties provides students with a wealth of information to absorb. A focus on youth civic engagement from politicians is important, but also shows students that young adults are a part of the conversation of Canadian politics, and that our votes matter.
Vigil after Quebec shooting: The Quebec shooting reminded Canadians that our country isn’t immune to Islamophobia or hate speech; things have a way of spilling over no matter where you are. Here on campus and in Kingston, it’s important for students who’re isolated to see that they have the support of their peers and neighbors. The large turnout for the vigil in Market Square acknowledged the pain caused by the Quebec shootings, and reaffirmed that the Muslim community in Kingston and Canada isn’t alone.
Commerce rankings terminated: The ranking system is representative of a wider culture of competition and pressure within the Commerce program, but ferocious competition hardly promotes teamwork, and can be extremely damaging for students who are struggling. The termination of the ranking system will give students an opportunity to learn and evaluate their individual success, not their success in relation to others.
Bystander Intervention Training conducted by the AMS: Bystander Intervention Training is accessible to all students, and opens the floor to questions as much as it provides answers. It provides students with the tools to act responsibly and appropriately in a crucial role surrounding sexual assault or harassment. The training doesn’t downplay the uncomfortable realities of sexual assault, but addresses them head on.
— Journal Editorial Board
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