A step in the right direction

The Aberdeen Street party came and went with a few arrests, some broken bottles and horse droppings galore.

What was a street party in previous years became a lawn-and-sidewalk party this year, with the street reserved for police cars and the occasional officer on horseback. A bizarre stadium-like atmosphere ensued, with crowds on either side facing the street and riot police staring right back at them.

It’s encouraging only a couple thousand people at the most attended. The rain undoubtedly played a role in keeping people away from Aberdeen, but the weather’s probably getting too much credit. I’d like to think students understood the potentially destructive party wasn’t worth their time.

The event was more notable for its strong police presence than anything else. Police clearly came in with a mandate to keep crowds moving. Our reporters saw arrests for drinking on the grass, tickets for swearing and countless other acts of borderline brutality that became the norm for the night. One of our staff got shoved by police and told to “beat it.”

I don’t buy the argument that because the street party involved mostly non-Queen’s students, we shouldn’t shoulder the blame. Queen’s students started the Aberdeen street “tradition” and it’s always been our responsibility to end it. Students made a statement this year by staying away in droves compared to years past. While the street party may not be dead, it certainly took a hit this year.

There’s something to be said for the work-hard, play-hard attitude that comes with being a Queen’s student. Having a reputation as both an academic powerhouse and a party school is unique and a source of pride for me. The street party is the ugly side of that equation. I’m proud to be a Queen’s student, but it’s hard when my neighbourhood looks more like a G8 summit than a place of higher learning.

The University’s strategy of cancelling Homecoming and turning a blind eye to Aberdeen could have been disastrous. They likely would have had to answer to any serious injuries to their students. As it stands, they’ve come out clean on the other side.

Former Principal Tom Williams bit the bullet when he cancelled Homecoming. Whether he made the right decision or not, it was a difficult and unpopular one. But so far, it seems to be paying off.

If and when Homecoming returns, it’s inevitable partying will follow—Queen’s legendary spirit will make sure of that. When Principal Woolf reviews the Homecoming decision late next year, he would do well to consider the origins of the street party and provide a viable alternative for students and alumni so we don’t end up where we were in 2005.

Fauxcoming probably isn’t a thing of the past. It will likely rear its ugly head again next year, albeit hopefully with fewer visitors and less aggressive police officers. But Saturday was a step in the right direction.

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