Aberdeen strategy questioned

In the aftermath of one of the largest, wildest and most heavily policed Aberdeen Street Homecoming parties of recent years, organizations who worked together over the past year in an effort to scale down illegal activity have committed themselves to figuring out what went wrong.

“It’s obvious that despite tremendous efforts by the administration and the student government ... something went terribly awry,” said AMS President Ethan Rabidoux. “Last year you had a big Aberdeen street party with 5,000 people. I don’t know if this [party] was actually bigger, but it was definitely worse.

“So that’s why whatever approach we took this year did not resonate, did not work.”

Although the University held a sold-out, free-for-students concert Saturday night on campus, Kingston police made more than 35 arrests and laid a minimum of 225 charges for liquor licence infractions in the Ghetto attributable to the unsanctioned festivities.

Standing on William Street near Aberdeen Street on early Sunday morning as the events took place, Vice-Principal (Advancement) George Hood told the Journal the groups had examined many alternatives to prevent the scene occurring in front of him.

“It wasn’t for lack of police co-operation or the student government [this happened],” he said.

Hood said the University has committed itself to assessing the weekend after it ended and will look for direction for the future.

“I cannot imagine now that every option would not be explored,” Hood said. “This isn’t Homecoming.”

Rabidoux said the AMS condemned the illegal actions of the people who gathered on the street.

“The actions on Aberdeen were reprehensible,” he said. “Under no circumstances can anyone justify the flipping and burning of a car or the whipping of beer bottles at police officers and horses.” He said on Sunday afternoon, the AMS held an emergency council meeting, followed by an emergency president’s caucus, which he ran.

Shortly afterward, the AMS and student societies issued a joint statement asking that the issues arising from the weekend be “addressed in a pragmatic, thoughtful, constructive and forward-thinking manner.”

“It is important before we go into the [meeting] with both guns blazing that we take a deep breath, we take a step back and we look at what happened, why it happened and who did it,” Rabidoux said.

Principal Karen Hitchcock also released a statement condemning and apologizing for the negative activities associated with Homecoming.

The statement says the University will take all steps necessary to prevent a recurrence of the behaviour displayed Saturday night, including co-operating fully with Kingston Police in any criminal investigations.

“To the extent that these include Queen’s students, we will rigorously pursue all avenues of student discipline available to the University for breaches of our Code of Conduct, including suspension and expulsion,” the statement says.

Hood said all parties need to sit down and reflect on the situation.

“The interesting question is, how does the AMS respond to this? Especially with the scrutiny they are facing with non-academic discipline,” he said.

Rabidoux said he has total confidence in the system.

“I urge everyone, that if you did see or if you have any info on the events that happened during Homecoming, whether on Aberdeen or elsewhere, to please contact [the AMS],” he said. “We are and we want to be productive on this, and to be sure that anyone who was out there breaking the Code of Conduct and not living up to the standards that they agreed to when they came to Queen’s—they need to go through the process.

“They need to be disciplined, and that’s the way to go, instead of some pan condemnation of Queen’s students. [A blanket condemnation] is not the way to do this, it’s not fair, nor is it accurate, nor is it constructive. It’s not going to solve anything.”

Rabidoux added he disagreed with the people he’s heard arguing that this year’s Homecoming proves the system doesn’t work.

“The system did not fail at Homecoming,” he said. “The system hasn’t been used yet. Now is when the system kicks into progress.”

Kingston Police Insp. Brian Cookman, who oversaw the police presence over the weekend, described the night’s events yesterday morning as an “abysmal failure.”

“It was a failure of the people that were at the event, they were the failure,” he said. “This could have led to a tragedy—it doesn’t take someone that works within policing to know that the next level is force.”

He said all groups involved in the co-operative planning of this year’s activities will have to sit down to decide what will be the next plan of action.

“But for the police ... we can’t go any further with the type of policing we were doing [Saturday night] without resorting to force,” he said. “If we have to resort to force, that is a sad, sad day.”

Cookman said he did have a note of thanks.

“I want to say thank you to the students and the others ... who’ve come to [the police] that night, and left voice mails for me, saying they apologize for the behaviour of their peers,” he said.

Hitchcock’s statement made a similar point.

“Numerous Queen’s students were in the community on Sunday morning cleaning up the neighbourhood, confirming that most of our students reacted as strongly against such deplorable behaviour as did all other members of the community,” the statement says.

The AMS are holding an emergency assembly meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. The location had not been determined by press time.

According to an e-mail from Adrienne Smith, AMS commissioner of internal affairs, there will be two items on the agenda.

This first item is a motion to reaffirm assembly’s commitment to the AMS student-run non-academic discipline system, the second is a discussion period focused on the weekend’s events.

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