Queen’s unveils Homecoming strategy

Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker spoke about the admin’s Homecoming plans Sept. 6.
Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker spoke about the admin’s Homecoming plans Sept. 6.

The administration revealed a new ad campaign aimed to diffuse tensions and try to prevent a repeat of last year’s Homecoming, at a press conference Wednesday.

Newspaper ads and posters around campus with slogans such as “Keep Queen’s reputation out of the gutter” and “It’s not a car, it’s your degree that’s getting trashed,” reference the Queen’s Code of Conduct and potential long-term effects of an unsanctioned street party. The ads are intended to encourage students to think twice before joining in, Patrick Deane, vice-principal (academic) said.

At the press conference, Principal Karen Hitchcock outlined two primary objectives for the weekend: to show that Homecoming is a safe event, and to continue to enrich Homecoming activities.

Overall, she said she’s optimistic about what will happen this Homecoming, predicting that it will be “probably one of the best ever.” Hitchcock said she wants the emphasis of these strategies to be on safety, rather than on punishment, should any problems arise.

“There is nothing wrong with partying, but dangerous situations need to be averted,” she said.

Jason Laker, dean of student affairs, said students have the intention to do well, but lose sight of good behaviour.

Laker added that he hopes the media campaign will give students other options.

Hitchcock also spoke of the importance of educating students about how to avoid dangerous situations.

“We’re not trying to control, [but] trying to inform the students of the consequences,” she said, adding that it’s not realistic to expect the administration to be able to control students’ actions.

Earlier in the summer, Hitchcock sent letters to all incoming frosh, detailing potential consequences of participating in illegal behaviour, Deane told a Senate meeting Tuesday. The same letter was later sent via e-mail to all Queen’s students.

In the letter, Hitchcock emphasized the importance of positive interactions and co-operation between students and the city.

The administration has funded initiatives including a civic responsibility award, a student symposium on Queen’s identity, the “Green Scheme” city beautification project and “Under the Kilt,” a student-led awareness campaign.

They are also instituting a student village initiative intended to improve the quality of life for students in the Ghetto and to encourage student pride in their living spaces, Deane said.

As well, Deane said the administration wants to address the Saturday night of Homecoming itself, and propose certain action to be taken to minimize the problems associated with a street party.

“The most recent of these measures that people will know about is working with the AMS to establish a partnership with the city to close the street to traffic the Saturday of Homecoming,” Deane said. Council approved the proposal in August.

Deane told the Journal this is something the administration has been working towards since last September.

“Our approach all year ... has been to try to find a long-term solution to the problem,” Deane said. “Our principal aim has been to maintain the safety of students and the general public and reduce the potential for friction and disruption.” A variety of different approaches were developed to contribute to the goal of safety.

“Some measures are intended to change the way in which [they] think about the neighbourhood in which they live. Other measures are intended to improve the level of co-operation between the city and the University. Others have to do with the judicial system, to streamline the way in which we deal with students who break the Code of Conduct,” Deane said.

Taking into account that students from outside of Queen’s contributed to some of the problems at last year’s Aberdeen Street party, Deane told the Journal the administration has also taken steps to discourage out-of-town visitors.

“The principal has written to the presidents and principals of other universities, particularly in Ontario ... I’ve been in touch with my counterparts at those universities too,” Deane said. “We’ve been asking for their cooperation in getting the message through to their students that attendance at Queen’s Homecoming will require them to abide by the laws, and conduct themselves in a civil and proper way, and those who don’t will run the risk, as was the case last year, of facing civil prosecution.”

At the press conference, Deane added that Queen’s has contacted Kingston-area high schools with similar messages.

However, Deane said that, just as there are limits to Queen’s ability to control the actions of its students, the administration at other schools is similarly restricted.

—With files from Rohit Aiyer and Michael Roger

How Queen’s is planning for next weekend

•Launching an advertisement campaign to inform students of the long-term consequences of public misdemeanours.

•Supporting student–led initiatives including a civic responsibility award and community programs “Under the Kilt” and “Green Scheme”–to foster co-operation with the city and a positive image of Queen’s role within the community.

•Sending letters to students encouraging appropriate behaviour and positive relations with the city of Kingston.

•Sending letters to administrators at other universities and local high schools asking them to discourage their students from coming to Queen’s on Homecoming weekend.

• Working with the AMS and the city to close Aberdeen Street to traffic.

•Working with the AMS Judicial Committee Chief Prosecutor to ensure students will be held accountable should they break the Code of Conduct.

•Prohibiting guests in residence.

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