Students advocate avoiding Aberdeen

Media-free forum opens floor to student solutions

Anyone attending the latest forum discussing issues surrounding Homecoming’s unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party may have noticed a distinct lack of journalists busy scribbling notes.

The forum, entitled “Aberdeen: Moving Forward,” was designated as student-only and media-free. Student ID cards were required for anyone wishing to enter the forum, which took place Tuesday evening in Grant Hall.

People interviewed by the Journal after the event had varied estimates of the turnout, ranging between 50 and 100 students. They said the forum lasted about two hours.

Rector Grant Bishop, the forum’s organizer and moderator, said excluding the media was meant to encourage students to express themselves freely.

“The idea of a media-free forum was that it would provide students the opportunity to discuss the issue and achieve a resolution in an in-camera manner,” Bishop said, “One where people could speak freely without having to censor themselves for quotation.”

EngSoc president Chris Zabaneh, who attended the forum, agreed.

“The philosophy behind that was that people could speak freely without fear of reprisal or being singled out,” he said. “Not all of us are comfortable with being quoted in the Journal.”

Zabaneh said he thought this forum was successful in allowing students to voice their views.

“This [forum] felt more positive and constructive, mainly because it was students talking about a student solution amongst themselves,” he said. “Sometimes, having too many groups in a room can lead to confrontation and over-justification, as opposed to something constructive.” Bradley Hammond, ASUS president, said the forum was prefaced with two broad questions: the identification of problematic issues surrounding Aberdeen, and possible solutions to these problems.

“I would certainly say there were some very strong opinions said,” Hammond said. “Certainly a lot of new perspectives that I have not heard before.”

Bishop said a common sentiment expressed was the need for the dispersion of the activities of Homecoming to a wide range of venues outside of Aberdeen Street.

“It must be a concerted effort to stay away from Aberdeen,” he said, “[and] recognizing the shame it cast on our student community this year and the blight on our reputation this represented.”

Fran Darwin, ArtSci ’06, said she liked the forum.

“I thought it was a good step in the right direction,” she said.

“There were a lot of practical solutions that were being suggested. As to what will happen with those solutions, that wasn’t really discussed.” She said one student voiced concerns that the forum was a waste of time.

“[He said] the people that mattered weren’t there, and they don’t care,” Darwin said. “My question would be, why don’t they care?”

Darwin said that while many of the students she saw at the forum are normally very involved in the Queen’s community, a variety of views were aired.

“I was really happy to see that there was more than just student government [present],” she said. “A lot of people had a lot to say.” Darwin said she was concerned that the possibility of another similar forum was not mentioned.

“This kind of discussion can happen on an ongoing basis,” she said. “I think this is just the beginning.”

Darwin said she is planning a similar student forum that will take place next semester, focusing primarily on Queen’s culture.

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