Hitchcock addresses Aberdeen residents

Student residents of Aberdeen Street exit a private meeting held yesterday by Principal Hitchcock, who expressed her concerns about the unsanctioned Homecoming street party.
Student residents of Aberdeen Street exit a private meeting held yesterday by Principal Hitchcock, who expressed her concerns about the unsanctioned Homecoming street party.

Principal Karen Hitchcock spoke to a group of about 50 Aberdeen Street student residents yesterday evening in Richardson Hall.

Students were called to the meeting via a personally addressed letter.

“I think it is necessary that you hear, directly from me, my serious concerns regarding these events,” Hitchcock said in the letter, referring to the events of Sept. 24 when between 5,000 to 7,000 people gathered on Aberdeen Street during Homecoming weekend.

Reporters from the Journal and another student who wasn’t an Aberdeen resident weren’t permitted to attend the meeting. Names of summoned attendees were cross-checked against a list of known residents.

Steve Gray, Sci ’07, said he didn’t plan on attending the meeting until he received an e-mail from Tom Harris, dean of Applied Science.

“When we got the letter, I called the Principal’s office,” Gray said. “I had told the Principal’s office that I was going golfing.

“[Then] I got an e-mail from Dean Harris—[it] caught me off guard,” he said. “They went to the trouble of looking me up.”

Hitchcock and Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane ran the meeting, which started at 5:35 p.m. and lasted for 15 minutes. Approximately 15 students who were invited but arrived late were told they couldn’t enter the room. They were told by staff that they would disrupt the meeting if allowed entry.

After the meeting ended, Hitchcock told the Journal about the purpose of the meeting.

“Today was to let the students in that room know how I feel about what happened and to talk to them about working together to move forward,” she said. “I hasten to add that we are going to have meetings with all the students, we are going to have town halls, we are going to work with the students on forums they want to have.”

Hitchcock explained that access to the meeting was limited because the meeting was specifically called for the residents of Aberdeen Street.

“This was really a meeting called for the students that are geographically associated to the events,” she said. “They are also people with a particular perspective on the situation and hopefully [they] can be students who can help us come to some good solutions.

“There is a thing that binds them [to the situation] and that is their residence on Aberdeen Street.”

Nick Lato, ArtSci ’06 and Aberdeen Street resident, said he didn’t learn anything new from the meeting.

“I guess it was nice, but it wasn’t anything I didn’t know,” he said. “I was expecting open dialogue. We didn’t get any.” Hitchcock said she wanted the students to understand the risks associated with the street party.

“The general message today was that the institution takes this extremely seriously,” she said. “It is behaviour that could have led to death of our students and others.

“Alcohol poisoning can and often does lead to death, and we were fortunate in that [no one died].”

Gray said he felt students were lectured at the meeting.

“She was the only one talking,” he said.

Sean Gill, ComSci ’07 and another Aberdeen resident, said he believed Hitchcock was not interested in discussing the events.

“Basically she came in, and the first thing she said was, ‘We aren’t here to have a discussion,’” he said. “Basically she wanted [to share with students] her point of view on how Aberdeen reflects on Queen’s.”

Gill added that Hitchcock talked about her concern for students and said this meeting wasn’t about not about preventing students from having fun.

“[Hitchcock was] talking about how ... it’s not about stopping [fun]—she doesn’t want anyone to die,” he said.

Rose Patterson, Nurs ’07, said she thought her peers were disappointed with the lack of discussion, but said Hitchcock outlined ways students could have their voices heard.

“Some people were upset [Hitchcock] did not offer any commenting period,” she said. “[Hitchcock] welcomed any comments later, [students can] go up to her office, go to [Deane].”

Gill said the discussion turned to the possible repercussions for students because of the damage done by the street party.

“[Hitchcock] said she wasn’t here to point fingers, [but] she did bring up how people would be suspended or expelled, not just Aberdeen [people],” he said.

Hitchcock told the Journal disciplinary actions are being considered in the short term but that they would not be without evidence.

“In the short term we have to talk about imposing sanctions where evidence and due process warrant them and that those sanctions will be anything up to and including suspension and expulsion,” she said. “A major message is that [it was] students who were the ones involved in discrediting the name of the institution nationally, and students will ... be the ones who will help us move through this.”

Gill said he has mixed feelings about the meeting.

“I am still up in the air about how I feel about it,” he said.

Kathy Stewart, ArtSci ’07, said she thought the meeting was “ridiculous,” but is more concerned with an increased police presence since last weekend.

“The police drive down our street eight times a day,” she said. “They won't let us play catch.”

Hitchcock said she hopes the University can move beyond the Aberdeen Street party.

“The point is that we can move forward from this, but we have to do it together, and it’s got to be with the whole respect for students’ behaviours that are not life threatening,” she said.

“We are stewards of this institution ... and on our watch we can’t have the reputation of Queen’s be damaged.”

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