Principal Tom Williams announced this morning that Homecoming as students and alumni now know it has been cancelled. The event will be replaced by a Homecoming-style “Spring Reunion,” held in May. The change will stand for at least two years.
At a press conference attended by Mayor Harvey Rosen, city councillor Bill Glover and chief of police Stephen Tanner, Williams said Homecoming 2009 will be held from May 22 to 24.
The event had originally been planned for Sept. 25, 26 and 27.
Williams said the decision was based on a concern for public safety.
“The Aberdeen Street party poses a very real threat to personal safety,” he said.
Concern that the University’s national reputation was being jeopardized by the annual street party was also a factor, Williams said.
“It is absolutely essential that the reputation of Queen’s be recognized as being based on quality, not on parties on Aberdeen Street. … You don’t play around with that reputation.”
Williams added that spring Homecoming is the tradition at several American universities.
The University considered several other courses of action, Williams said, such as cancelling Homecoming, moving it to later in the fall or holding a “distributed Homecoming” in which each faculty would have its own reunion on a different weekend during the school year.
Williams said Homecoming could potentially be moved back to the fall, but no decision has yet been made regarding the event’s permanent status.
“We will decide when or if we will reintroduce a fall Homecoming sometime in the future,” he said.
A letter explaining the decision was e-mailed to alumni after the announcement was made.
Williams also announced Queen’s will be contributing $175,000 to the city of Kingston to pay for the increased police presence on Aberdeen Street at Homecoming 2008―the University paid the city the same amount after last year’s Homecoming.
AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Paul Tye acknowledged that moving the official event won’t necessarily prevent students from partying on the street either in May or next September.
“There’s certainly the risk however the important thing is what the decision today was about was removing the Queen’s link,” he said. “If an event like that was organized it would be separate from this.”
Tye said this is the first step in ending the street party.
“The University can definitely stand firm and say they have taken very drastic steps to separate themselves from it,” he said.
Vice-Principal (Advancement) David Mitchell said his consultation with alumni about the issues surrounding Homecoming convinced him that a change was necessary.
“There was a recognition that the status quo was risky for the University.”
Mitchell acknowledged the move would have a significant effect on the Homecoming experience because so few current students will be on campus that weekend.
“It will have an impact,” he said. “Alumni … won’t have the opportunity to interact with students in the same way.”
—With files from Erin Flegg
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