The City of Kingston shouldn’t turn to Queen’s to recover costs incurred on Aberdeen Street.
On Wednesday, city council decided to hold the University responsible for the full costs incurred on Aberdeen Street on the night of Oct. 13, 2007.
There are many reasons why the University shouldn’t be responsible for the full costs of the party.
First, there’s no contract between the University and the city stating that the University will be responsible for any costs that would occur on Aberdeen Street. At no time did the University advertise to any students to go to Aberdeen Street, nor did the University endorse it in any way. It was the will of the 6,000 free-minded individuals who made the decision to gather on the street, and not that of the University.
Second, charging the University for $224,000 of expenses is no different than transferring funds from one governmental institution to another. The majority of funding Queen’s receives is through the taxes the government collects, and this money will eventually come back to the residents of Kingston through taxes and other fees in the long run. Consider the additional tuition the residents would have to pay, or the reversal of the benefits that have governments choosing to fund academic institutions in the first place—it doesn’t make any sense to charge the University. The only effect of charging the University is a temporary cash flow, and really would have no true “punishment” effect, if that is what the city seeks.
Third, by temporarily depriving the University of $224,000 in cash flow, the City of Kingston is doing more harm to itself than good. Considering the fact that the University attracts the top students and researchers from around the world, removing $224,000 from its day-to-day activities will only contribute to removing its ability to run as a high-quality university. Compound the $224,000 every year and one would end up with a mediocre university, a bunch of average students and mundane research, which would not be in the city’s economic interests. The other way to look at this is the economic investment the University brings to the city. $224,000 is roughly equivalent to the annual salaries of five University staff members. With the charge proposed by the city, five Kingston residents who would otherwise have been employed by the University in some sort of on-campus development would be left without a job.
The City of Kingston is also mistaken to think the University will transfer the cost to students, as the University is unable to increase tuition fees any more than it has this year due to the five per cent annual cap on tuition fees set up by the provincial government.
Lastly, Queen’s students were a minority on that street. According to a survey conducted for the Commerce Society by a group of volunteers who surveyed 323 people, approximately 37 per cent of students on the street were Queen’s students and 39 per cent of students were students from other universities. There were some Kingston residents, and the rest were a mix of individuals, workers and other non-students from out of town.
If Kingston is looking for someone to turn to for money, it should be considering the provincial government, federal government, or in the case of the efforts made to arrest one member of the U.S. military on Aberdeen Street, the U.S. Department of Defence. The city should also be thinking about other perpetrators: the alcohol suppliers such as the LCBO and the Beer Store, or the illegal partiers and ruthless people from out of town. Perhaps further taxes, in the case of the LCBO, or heavier fines, in the case of partiers breaking the law, should be levied on them to make up for policing costs.
One has to ask whether it’s more effective to have the charge diluted over 15,000 innocent students, staff and residents, or if it’s more effective to have the charge targeted directly at the guilty parties.
The city needs to make sure the decisions it makes do not hurt the innocent and powerless. By deciding that Queen’s University as an institution should pay the bill, they are making a decision that will hurt Queen’s and the people who rely on it as an institution and the powerless, innocent people who have no control over the actions of individuals on that street, of which the majority aren’t Queen’s students.
As seen from the talks and discussions and the limited actions it can take, the University as an institution has done everything it can do on its part—it does not deserve to be punished.
Eddie Ho is ComSoc vice-president (external).
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