I am writing this letter as the Speaker of the Alma Mater Society Assembly, the highest legislative body in the undergraduate student government. This body, which is comprised of representatives from 10 faculty societies representing over 16,000 undergraduate and professional students, voted unanimously to direct me to write this letter expressing the body’s strong support for the ReUnion Street Festival.
The motion read, “That the AMS Assembly direct the Speaker to write a letter to the Principal expressing its strong support for the Reunion Street Festival and its critical role in enhancing the student, alumni, and broader university communities; and calling on the University to provide funding in support of the Festival in an amount not less than $75,000.”
As the Speaker of AMS Assembly, I am inherently impartial regarding the issues discussed by this body. The views and opinions within this letter capture the consensus reached by Assembly members.
The discussion over the Festival generated the strongest and most passionate engagement by the AMS Assembly this year, signaling the ability of this event to not only unite students and alumni, but to unite historically disparate faculty societies as well.
The members of Assembly were acutely aware of the many benefits that the Festival brought not only to students, but to alumni, the University and to the City of Kingston as well.
Student safety was a top priority throughout the conversation. President Gallagher, representing the Computing Students’ Association, expressed how the events that have historically occurred on Homecoming prior to the Festival have been extremely dangerous to students. Many other members echoed these concerns, as well as acknowledging that it has been these dangerous events that have adversely affected the reputation of Queen’s University not only within the Kingston community, but also nationally.
It was from the discussion of previous Homecomings that the successes of the Festival were contrasted. As the AMS Executive explained, over 10,000 people cycled through the event without a single incident.
Additionally, President Utioh, representing the Residence Society, noted the immense value the event created for first-year students. As the majority of first-year students are underage, the Festival provides a dry and safe venue for them to partake in the Homecoming celebrations.
It became very evident that instead of actions such as paying reparations towards the City of Kingston for increased policing costs, AMS Assembly felt that students deserved a proactive solution towards the issues surrounding Homecoming. The Festival is the only proactive solution that has been suggested and it has proven to be an effective one.
The discussion also revealed the success of the Festival on Town-Gown relations. Municipal Affairs Commissioner Aguilar reported that the Festival was incredibly well received by members of the municipal government and the Kingston community.
He saw the Festival as the start of a much more positive relationship between the University and the neighbouring community, not simply on issues surrounding Homecoming, but our Town-Gown relations as a whole.
The first conclusion from AMS Assembly was the sentiment that the Festival was a resounding success in numerous ways. The Festival provided a safe environment for students to engage with alumni in an event that ultimately captured the ethos of the Homecoming tradition, which is to celebrate the vibrant history, community and campus that is Queen’s University.
The second conclusion was that Assembly had strong opposition towards students paying a fee any more than $12.50, and that the University had a responsibility to provide meaningful financial support for the Festival.
The AMS Executive acknowledged and appreciated the fantastic in-kind support that the AMS received this year from the University in organizing the Festival. That said, they explained how without a greater financial contribution from University, the Festival would not be able to continue.
There was an overwhelming consensus that students are willing to invest in the future of this Festival, but only if the University agrees to contribute their fair share. Through heightened advancement support and a strengthened reputation, it is clear that the Festival benefits the University just as much as students.
Yet the future of this Festival is contingent upon the financial contributions of the University. Multiple Assembly members articulated that the University would be doing a disservice to students, the alumni and the Kingston community, not to mention the history of this institution, to “walk away” from the only proposed solution for a decades-old problem.
Chairperson Chishti remarked that the level of participation and passionate debate ignited by the conversation surrounding the ReUnion Street Festival is unparalleled to any discussion in the past few years. As an impartial observer to the entire Assembly, I can safely say that her sentiment was accurate.
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