Hitchcock talks with student leaders

‘Divide between administration and students’ a hot topic during meeting

Principal Hitchcock met with student leaders to discuss preventing illegal activities on Aberdeen Street next year. On Sept. 24, several officers on horseback patrolled the street.
Principal Hitchcock met with student leaders to discuss preventing illegal activities on Aberdeen Street next year. On Sept. 24, several officers on horseback patrolled the street.

There was tension in the air at Wallace Hall on Monday, as Principal Karen Hitchcock met with students to discuss how they can improve relations with the Kingston community in the aftermath of the unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party.

The approximately 25 students who attended the meeting received an e-mail invitation from Hitchcock. According to the Principal’s Office, approximately 350 students were invited because of their positions of leadership with student government, faculty societies, clubs, DSCs, intramurals or intercollegiate sports.

“One of the reasons to call all of you together was your role as student leaders ... because of the reach you have especially as discussion on changing perspectives goes on,” Hitchcock told the group.

She said she wants to initiate a dialogue on how the student body can make a statement to the Kingston community condemning the illegal activities on Aberdeen Street that stretched into the early hours of Sept. 25.

Kingston police made 36 arrests and laid at least 324 charges for liquor licence infractions in the Ghetto that weekend.

“What they [the community] are lacking ... is a statement it isn’t all of the students,” Hitchcock told those in attendance. “It’s a statement of what you believe in. There needs to be an expression of the whole.

“Help me with something that will show that ... We can’t afford another Aberdeen next year.” Hitchcock suggested that next year, students show they are against partying in the streets during Homecoming by wearing a wristband as a statement.

The concept spurred a negative reaction from some in the audience.

“It’s a cheap band-aid solution,” ASUS President Bradley Hammond said of the wristbands. “Queen’s students already do so much that is unrecognized [by the Kingston community] ... to me it’s not that easy.”

Hitchcock acknowledged the wristband concept was not “resonating” with the audience and asked those in attendance for suggestions on other ways to make a statement to the Kingston community.

While some in attendance suggested student leaders use e-mail listservs to advertise parties and events as alternatives to going to Aberdeen, others said they believe the University administration should be more concerned about the student community in the wake of Aberdeen.

Hammond said he believes students feel “adrift” and abandoned by the administration while the reputation of Queen’s students has been under attack. “There hasn’t been a mass e-mail from your office,” Hammond told Hitchcock. “There hasn’t been enough [done] in the general students’ eyes.”

EngSoc President Chris Zabaneh said students will feel demoralized until the University changes its approach.

“I need to see some more support from the city and from the University,” Zabaneh said.

Hitchcock said she has met with Mayor Harvey Rosen to discuss student concerns.

“I have spoken with the mayor more than once about this,” Hitchcock said.

She also said there are legal reasons why the University cannot speak publicly about some issues surrounding what happened on Aberdeen Street, but did not elaborate on those reasons. The principal could not be reached for comment after the meeting.

Hitchcock added that some of the attitudes of the Kingston police can be attributed to their inexperience with such large crowds.

“How many of the Kingston police have experience with 7,500 people?” Hitchcock said. “There was a feeling of fear.”

During the meeting, Hitchcock also said that she regularly receives complaints from permanent residents about student behaviour and vandalism, such as mailboxes being destroyed. She said negative examples of student behaviour need to be addressed.

“We’re out of time with regard to the city,” she said. “It doesn’t matter, when people have vomit all over their front porch.”

Hitchcock also said that student safety is the University’s “absolute first concern.”

Dean of Student Affairs Janice Deakin, who also attended the meeting, echoed Hitchcock’s statement in an interview after the meeting.

“We are terribly concerned about the safety of students,” Deakin said. “People were at risk and we were very, very lucky we didn’t have serious injuries or worse [on Aberdeen].” Deakin said the meeting was held so Hitchcock could learn more about student perspectives.

“The principal was exploring what students’ views are on that issue, knowing from her experience what the community take on that is at the moment,” Deakin said. “I think it’s important for Queen’s students to understand the varying perspectives of what went on, and ultimately it will be Queen’s students who decide what actions they will take.” Heather Cameron, ArtSci ’06, said she believed she received an invitation to the meeting because she is a member of the Canadian studies department’s student council. She said she felt the meeting went well, but no plan of action was devised.

“Most people seem to be focused on the perceived divide between administration and students,” she said. “There’s a lot of points brought up saying students don’t feel the administration is supporting them. Students feel they’re being vilified and the administration was saying ‘No, we’re trying to defend you.’ ”

Cameron said she believes there may be good reasons for why the administration hasn’t taken a stronger stance to support students, but those reasons haven’t been articulated to students.

“I think it could be a very valid point for explaining some of the [University’s] actions.”

Cameron said she hopes the Queen’s community can move forward.

“Nobody’s willing to make the first move, and maybe students should be the bigger [people].”

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