Safeguarding students

No matter what your activity of choice, Queen’s has got you covered

Queen’s Walkhome employs 140 students and is the largest program of its kind in Canada.
Queen’s Walkhome employs 140 students and is the largest program of its kind in Canada.

Moving away from home means new friends, new experiences and new dangers. Rest assured that there are a number of university services that work to keep campus safe.

With night classes, midnight study groups at the library and the occasional downtown adventure lasting well into the morning, navigating the streets of a new city can seem daunting. Cab fares in Kingston, although not as hefty as in Montreal or Toronto, can add up to quite the expensive luxury item in no time at all.

Enter Walkhome, a student-run service offering safe walks to and from almost any destination you’d care to walk to. The best part?

It’s free.

With an average of 10,000 walks a year, Walkhome employs 140 students and is the largest program of its kind in Canada. The service is provided by the Alma Mater Society (AMS) and is open every night of the year—including the summer months—except for two weeks over the Christmas holidays.

In 2002, the Queen’s Walkhome service was included in the “What’s Hot” section of the Maclean’s University Edition. Walkhome Head Manager Colin Mcleod said he’s proud of how far Walkhome has come since its inception 20 years ago.

“I get lots of questions from other universities,” he said. “People look up to Queen’s Walkhome.”

The Alma Mater Society (AMS) established Walkhome in 1988 in response to a rise in off campus security incidents. It began as a temporary service offered by the Queen`s Student Constables, but as its popularity increased, Walkhome became its own service complete with paid staff.

McLeod said Walkhome and the Student Affairs office are discussing ways to attract a greater number of university faculty and staff to the program. “Faculty and staff work long hours and they have the right to a safe option for travelling after dark,” said Mcleod. “We want to provide a safe option for all.”

While feeling safe when you’re out and about in your community is very important, it’s also important that students look after themselves indoors as well. That’s where the Sexual Health Resource Centre (SHRC) comes in.

The SHRC is a confidential, non-judgemental, information and referral service regarding issues of sex, sexuality, and sexual health. It sells a number of safe-sex products and sex toys at cost and it also boasts an impressive array of books, pamphlets and free education sessions on everything from healthy relationships to pregnancy options to sexually transmitted infections. They advocate on a variety of issues and campaign against sexual assault.

The SHRC, originally called The Birth Control Center, is by far the fastest growing safety service at Queen’s. When it expanded into other issues of sexuality and sexual health, the name was changed to “Not Just The Birth Control Centre,” before finally becoming the Sexual Health Resource Centre. In the 90s, the SHRC decided to sell condoms at cost, marking a bold new course for the organization.

The SHRC is the only entirely student-run and student-funded organization of its kind in Canada Now pulling in 500 clients a month, the service has grown sevenfold in the last five years.

Visiting the SHRC can be daunting for students who expect it to be an awkward or embarrassing experience, but they needn’t worry. Sabrina Lemire-Rodger, SHRC Volunteer Coordinator, said she understands that it requires some courage to use the service.

“We want clients to feel safe coming to the centre,” she said. “We want them to know that their privacy will be respected and that they will be welcomed by a non-judgemental, non-assumptive volunteer.” Like the SHRC, the Campus Observation Room (COR) is staffed almost entirely by volunteers.

Eighteen years ago, Residence Life and Queen’s Health Counselling and Disability Services teamed up and created a space where intoxicated students could recover in a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere. Located in the basement of Victoria Hall, the COR assisted a total of 90 students last year.

In its first few years, the COR was only open during Orientation Week and Homecoming Weekend. As demand grew, the service began operating on weekends in the fall term. In the coming year the COR will also be open on two weekends in the winter term for the first time since it opened in 1990.

Lee-Fisher-Goodchild, director of the COR, said Queen’s is the only university in Canada with this kind of facility. The staff is trained to observe intoxicated students and is able to refer them to a medical facility if the situation warrants it.

“The COR is the least judgmental place on campus,” she said. “We know this stuff happens and want students to be safe.”

Last year, the COR saw an alarming increase in the number of students sent to the hospital—from two in 2006-7 to 10 this past year, Fisher-Goodchild said.

“The overconsumption of alcohol can lead to cardiac arrest,” she said. “But an even greater risk is that students could potentially choke on their own vomit.”

That’s why it’s important students know their limits when it comes to alcohol, and that when they don’t, there’s somewhere safe they can go.

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