Deakin cancels Frosh parties

Dean of Student Affairs cites liability, underage drinking as reasons for ban

A frosh leader can no longer host his or her traditional parties for first-year students during Frosh Week after a decision made by Janice Deakin, outgoing dean of student affairs.

Amy Gingrich, Sci ’07 and Senate Orientation Activities Review Board (SOARB) co-chair, said she and the other members thought they would have some say in the decision at the group’s June 20 meeting, only to find the decision had already been made.

“What a lot of the students were under the impression of was that we were going to debate and vote on the issue,” she said. “Really, [Deakin] had already decided to cancel the house parties. The debate was more about whether [she], as the dean of student affairs, has the authority to make a decision like this. We weren’t really sure who to check with on that.”

Deakin told them that since Orientation ultimately falls under the responsibilities of the dean of student affairs, she has the authority to make the decision, Gingrich said.

“She believes she has the authority,” Gingrich said. “I don’t agree with the timing, with doing it in the summer when there are not many students around and not enough time to plan alternate events … I think we need to clarify who has authority.”

This is not the first time Deakin has raised the issue of house parties being a problem, Gingrich said.

“[Deakin] took her name off last year’s SOARB report because she did not agree with the recommendations we made.” In a letter she sent to the board on May 30, Deakin cited two significant risks to the University as her reasons for the decision: the lack of an appropriate system of approval for the specific residences at which the parties would be held, and the possibility of providing alcohol to underage students.

In an e-mail to the Journal, Deakin said these events put the institution at risk.

“I outlined the concerns raised in my letter to SOARB, highlighting the particularly problematic issue of sanctioning what are stated to be alcohol free events, while having knowledge that these events are not alcohol free, in the absence of any sort of process that would reduce the risk to the individual and the institution.”

Deakin was unavailable for further comment.

Connor Langford, the president of EngSoc, said although he understands the liability issues behind Deakin’s decision, he is concerned about the manner in which the decision was made.

“I feel that any Senate body that can be overridden by a unilateral decision is not effective,” he said. “Promoting discussion in a timely manner so that suggestions can be generated is an important part of any process, and I feel that SOARB should have been used to that effect.”

Langford said EngSoc will be looking into alternatives to house gatherings and “Eng Cuts”—haircuts FRECs traditionally give their frosh at house parties—for this upcoming Frosh Week.

“We want the Orientation leaders and first-year students to be able to bond and get to know each other on a personal level, and also enjoy the cool factor of getting a FREC haircut,” he said.

Kyle Abrey, ASUS vice-president, said he had hoped before the June 20 meeting that SOARB would reinstate house parties.

“Our position is that house parties are an important social part of Frosh Week, and an important time for frosh to interact with Gaels and each other,” he said. “Maybe [members of the administration] don’t understand how important these events are.”

Sarah Porisky, ArtSci ’07 and Head Gael for this year, echoed Abrey’s sentiments about the importance of house parties for frosh.

“We still feel that house parties are important,” she said. “It was an upsetting decision for us, one that we wish had been made through SOARB,” she said. “The decision … is not one that we necessarily agree with, but we have to respect [Deakin’s] decision.”

Gingrich added that SOARB is investigating who has jurisdiction over this issue and how they can proceed from here.

Incoming Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said he won’t revisit the decision when he assumes his post on July 1.

“I respect that my colleague Dr. Deakin has made this decision according to her stewardship obligations as Dean, and thus I will not presume to revisit it,” he told the Journal via e-mail.

He also said he will focus on working with SOARB to develop other means of connecting first-year students with the Queen’s community.

“I plan to dedicate time to collaborate with SOARB and the various orientation planning groups to identify additional viable means of connecting returning and new students so that they can form mentoring and support networks, and prepare to be successful students at Queen’s.”

Gingrich said SOARB’s main focus right now should be helping the Orientation committees implement alternatives to frosh week’s house parties.

“Annette [Bergeron, SOARB’s non-student co-chair] and I are going to draft a letter to send to the Faculty Society Orientation Committee and the faculty societies themselves, saying that SOARB is there to help develop alternate activities,” she said. “The Dean of Student Affairs’ office will be providing some funding, but we are not sure how much yet.”

Porisky said she doesn’t know what alternatives can replace house parties this Frosh Week.

“It gives incoming students less time to interact with their Gaels in a natural setting,” she said. “There is less of an opportunity for Gaels to form bonds with their frosh.”

Although Langford said he’s unhappy with the decision, he said he’s investigating alternatives.

“My biggest concern with this move is that it will drastically change the dynamic of the week,” he said. “First-year students will have limited off-campus experience going into Homecoming weekend, and I view this as a set-back we will have to address.”

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