Searching for solutions to Aberdeen

Lights, cameras and letters home among committee’s recommendations to address Homecoming 2006

The Committee for the Safe and Legal Use of Public and Private Space will present its recommendations to city council in July.
The Committee for the Safe and Legal Use of Public and Private Space will present its recommendations to city council in July.
Journal File Photo

From changing provincial liquor laws to sending letters home to students’ parents, the Committee for the Safe and Legal Use of Public and Private Space has plenty of ideas on how to save Homecoming and town-gown relations.

The committee has met periodically since November to address issues arising from Homecoming 2005. It will present its final recommendations to city council in July.

The tentatively approved list of 16 recommendations includes lobbying the provincial government to “curb the sale of large quantities of alcoholic beverages” to persons without a licence, and installing lights and cameras on Aberdeen street around Homecoming weekend.

Floyd Patterson, councillor for Sydenham Ward and chairperson of the committee, said he thinks limiting the amount of alcohol a person can buy would help curb the problem of excessive drinking which fuels incidents like the unsanctioned Aberdeen street party.

“If you could get a cap on that, that would really help a lot of the illegal drinking and problem drinking that goes on,” he said. “It would be to the health benefit and to the legal benefit of the students themselves.”

Patterson said although there will be some opposition to this suggestion, he thinks the committee will keep it in the final list of recommendations to the city.

“There would probably be people in fringe organizations who would not be able to buy large quantities [of alcohol] who would probably resent that,” he said, adding that the committee has not yet decided what it would recommend the limit to be.

“It would be framed in such a way that it wouldn’t interfere with social conventions.”

Ryan Quinlan-Keech, AMS municipal affairs commissioner, said he opposes this recommendation.

“I don’t think it gets at the root of the problem,” he said. “I don’t think that regulating the sale of kegs is, perhaps, the best use of resources in tackling this issue.”

Janice Deakin, acting dean of student affairs, said she thinks the majority of the committee favours the recommendation to have video surveillance and brighter lighting on Aberdeen Street during the weeks surrounding Homecoming weekend.

“My sense is that the majority of the committee feels that is a good idea,” she said. “The lighting, certainly, will be an asset in terms of issues of safety … I think the cameras will provide information that may well be of use as we go forward.”

Quinlan-Keech said he thinks opposition to camera surveillance is a “knee-jerk” reaction.

“The motivations for people putting cameras there really are honest,” he said. “They’re there to protect the safety of anyone on that street, whether they’re students or emergency workers, etc. The cameras really aren’t there to pick out, ‘This student attended the street party this night, and we’re going to throw the book at this student.’”

Another recommendation that sparked debate was the idea of sending letters home to the parents of Queen’s students, informing them of issues surrounding Homecoming and the Queen’s Code of Conduct.

Sociology professor Vince Sacco told the committee he’s in favour of sending a letter home, as long as it’s informative and free of negative or threatening language.

“Writing home to the parents of an honours student, saying, ‘Your kid better watch it this year,’ is not what we want to do,” he told the committee.

Quinlan-Keech opposed the idea of a letter, however, saying it assumes that all students have parents who actively care about their activities at university, and wield a certain amount of control over them.

“It’s a completely outdated, stereotypical assumption,” he said. “[Parents will say,] ‘Why the hell are you sending me this letter?’”

Principal Karen Hitchcock has previously mentioned the possibility of the administration sending letters to the parents of students, but Deakin said she thinks plans in this direction are still in the works.

“I don’t have knowledge of them being finalized,” she said.

Some more long-term plans looked at making the Ghetto a “village” that students and residents could work together at preserving.

Richard Strong, a non-student resident and committee member, told the committee that if students and permanent residents lived together in the same neighbourhoods, it would create a healthier community and make a recurrence of the unsanctioned Aberdeen street party less likely to occur.

“People still put up with a little bit of nonsense if it’s still a great place to live,” Strong said, adding there’s a “tipping point” that, once crossed, makes community relations much more tense.

One suggestion to improve the housing standards in the Ghetto for both students and permanent residents is to designate it as a heritage area.

“Anything that could make the area viable for a lot of people, I think, is a good thing,” Strong said.

Keech told the committee he doesn’t think this would help students, however, and that making the Ghetto a heritage neighbourhood would gentrify it.

“When you gentrify the neighbourhood, I think you end up displacing the students,” he said. “Yes, we want to make this area diverse … but I don’t think heritage designation is the way to go.”

The committee is scheduled to meet once more on July 6, when it will vote on the recommendations and create a preamble to them. The recommendations will be presented to city council at its July meeting.

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