‘How are we different ... ?’

Students allege discriminatory treatment on Kingston Field

For Rodric Kemane, Sci ’11, it was Athletics and Recreation and not the weather that ruined his recreational soccer game on Oct. 3.

Kemane and his friends, a group of international students from Botswana, were forced off Kingston Field by two Queen’s employees in an incident he and other witnesses said was racially motivated.

Earlier in the afternoon, Kemane’s group had been playing soccer at West Campus when two Athletics and Recreation employees asked them to leave to protect the field for competition.

“I went to the PEC to ask to use Kingston Field and CSR [customer service representative] told us to go and use it,” he said. “We got to Kingston Field, there were students there.”

Before their game started, the same Athletics and Recreation employees approached the group and told them to leave.

When Kemane refused, the employees called Campus Security.

It’s standard procedure for Athletics employees to call Campus Security when students refuse to leave playing fields, Athletics and Recreation Director Leslie Dal Cin said.

“Because it’s artificial turf fields, we need to protect all our fields because they’re competition fields.”

Dal Cin said she thinks the incident was largely the result of a communication error because the PEC staff member told Kemane incorrectly that his group could use the field.

She said the department has apologized to Kemane for giving him inaccurate information.

Dal Cin said Athletics and Recreation employees go through professional development training but right now there’s no specific equity training.

“We will always look to improve our customer service delivery and I would think that interacting with the public on any of those issues would be a part of our training,” she said. “We have staff who have been here for some 30-odd years.”

She said she has been told the Athletics and Recreation employees and Campus Security duty supervisor attempted to clear the field of all the players.

“My understanding is that all the groups were asked to move on and leave the fields,” she said.

Kemane said another group of students was visibly playing on Kingston Field while he and the Queen’s employees were talking.

“I asked why I couldn’t use it when other students could,” he said. “Our problem wasn’t to leave the field; it was that they were watching people play but as soon as we stepped on the field, they told us to leave.”

Kemane said this is the first time he’s experienced discrimination at Queen’s, adding that he plans to file a complaint with the Human Rights Office.

“How are we different from them?”

Jawad Qureshy, MA ’11, and Dave Francoeur, ArtSci ’08, said they were playing soccer on Kingston Field and witnessed the incident.

When they saw a Campus Security official had been called in, they walked over to the group to ask what was happening.

“Campus Security was telling them there’s a policy saying they couldn’t play and all this time we were still playing,” Qureshy said, adding that the group he was with was visibly lighter skinned than Kemane’s.

“In fact, I was sitting on the bench and all white guys were playing,” he said. “The only difference I can think of is the colour and, I mean, that’s the only obvious difference between our groups.”

Francoeur said he asked the University employees what was going on, adding that he expected them to ask his group to leave as well.

“Campus Security didn’t even look at us,” he said. “It was obviously a case of some kind of profiling.”

Qureshy said his group and Kemane’s eventually left the field but his group was never approached by a Queen’s employee to do so.

He said he’s heard of racist incidents happening at Queen’s before arriving on campus.

“It’s one thing to have a bunch of drunk students doing this, but it’s quite a different thing to have Queen’s employees do this,” he said. “It seems like the only rule Rodric’s group has broken is they don’t fit the ideal image of what a Queen’s student should look like.”

—With files from Rachel Kuper

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