Aberdeen reputation unwarranted

University should play up positive aspects of Homecoming

One of the ‘Red Hat’ volunteers hands a bottle of water to an Aberdeen party-goer.
One of the ‘Red Hat’ volunteers hands a bottle of water to an Aberdeen party-goer.
Alex Schwenger, ArtSci ’10
Alex Schwenger, ArtSci ’10

For me, this weekend’s Aberdeen Street party was like the Mona Lisa. Not because it was priceless or ugly or surrounded by a heavy police presence, but because of its legend. Before venturing into the Louvre for the first time to view what is arguably the most famous painting in the world, countless people will warn you not to be disappointed; “It’s about the size of a postage stamp and nearly as exciting,” and “Don’t expect too much, or you’ll be let down,” were the most common sentiments. Aberdeen, on the other hand, came with no such warning—but I wish it had.

This year was my very first Homecoming and I was so excited that even the countless e-mails and posters warning me of the dangers only served to heighten my excitement. From the way everyone carried on, I was expecting something big. But the Aberdeen Street party didn’t live up to my expectations.

Of course, my perspective is that of a student, not a law enforcement official, or a Queen’s administrator or a member of the Kingston community, so my viewpoint may be skewed; but this weekend, I saw nothing that made me ashamed to be a Queen’s student. If anything, it made me even prouder to be a student here, at a place that is fondly remembered by generations of alumni who make the pilgrimage back to show Queen’s off to their families and reunite with old friends and classmates.

Yes, this weekend there was most definitely a lot more partying than usually happens in the Ghetto. And yes, along with it, probably quite a few rules were broken, but sometimes allowances need to be made for the sake of tradition. The trick, however, is to create a balance between festivities and safety. I must say I think the University did an excellent job. “ ... this weekend, I saw nothing that made me ashamed to be a Queen’s student. If anything, it made me even prouder to be a student here ... ”

Throughout the whole weekend, there was a strong police presence in the Ghetto as well as any army of ‘Red Hat’ volunteers giving out plastic cups and water, and the sheer number of people out, instead of being intimidating, only served to make me feel safer in my own neighborhood.

Most of the greatest festivals in the world—the Running of the Bulls in Spain, Carnivale in Brazil, Oktoberfest in Germany—contain certain elements of risk. In fact, today, in our world of liabilities and lawsuits, even stepping out of your door in the morning poses a threat. Queen’s does hold an enormous amount of liability where Homecoming is concerned. If anything at all does happen, the media coverage of it can be detrimental to the University’s carefully crafted reputation. But what others options do they have?

Cancelling Homecoming or trying to stop the Aberdeen Street party would be a devastating blow to school spirit and would most likely bring about so much resistance and defiance that it would be ineffective anyway.

Conversely, trying to regulate and sanitize Homecoming by limiting it to Queen’s students or forbidding alcohol would create a logistical nightmare.

The University should focus on the positive aspects of Homecoming—the traditions behind it, and the sense of school spirit and community it fosters among current Queen’s students—and use it to create awareness of the issues brought up about Homecoming such as respect for the property of others, the delicate balance of the “town-gown” relationship and the effects of excessive drinking.

These issues lurk behind the surface at all times and only become evident at times such as Homecoming, when they become blatantly obvious; yet little is done about them at other times.

Instead of focusing on the negative, the University should look to accentuate the positive and create constructive awareness about Queen’s. Like the Mona Lisa’s status as the most recognizable painting in the world, Aberdeen’s reign as the supreme street party of the year is not likely to end any time soon.

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