A sustainable Homecoming

Only by accepting responsibility for the past will we be able to bring back fall Homecoming

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Earlier this summer, a group of Queen’s administrators gathered at a meeting to discuss what they see when they think of Queen’s.

If asked to distil this University into a handful of words, images or ideas, what comes to mind?

The responses from those around the table were uplifting and encouraging. They thought of the brightest minds in the country, the engaged and passionate students and alumni, but most of all they thought of a tight-knit community like no other.

Everyone agreed that one of the best examples of this community was the annual fall Homecoming traditions. Traditions like the football game, patio ritual at Clark and the opportunity for spontaneous interactions between students and alumni.

Nowhere on this list was the Aberdeen Street party.

The annual street gathering on Aberdeen is a relatively recent phenomenon in our school’s long and storied history, yet in recent years this party has been strongly—and wrongly—identified as the “nexus” of the Queen’s experience.

It’s easy to blame people from out of town or students with no connection to our University for the Aberdeen St. events that caused the official Homecoming suspension.

But it’s time for Queen’s students to recognize the role we played in the suspension. It is our actions that will determine if Homecoming will be returned next fall.

Let’s face it, while those from outside our community comprised many of the arrests in past years, at the end of the day they were sleeping on our couches.

Regardless of who is responsible for the problems we face, if we as students can do something to better the situation — if for no other reason than to maintain the value of our degrees — why wouldn’t we?

I’ll be the first to admit that last year I spent the Saturday night of what would have been Homecoming weekend with a small group of friends on a porch on Aberdeen.

I didn’t understand how this could be perceived as contributing to the chaos of an unsanctioned Aberdeen Street; I wasn’t belligerent, rude to the police, or breaking any laws.

But my presence contributed to the permissive attitude present on the street that night, and what I imagine was felt on similar nights in the recent past.

Simply put, I didn’t understand the role of the bystander in perpetuating the Aberdeen Street party.

My presence, and the presence of all curious bystanders, abetted those who treat the event as a blank cheque for mayhem.

I’ve now realized the full extent of the role that bystanders play in this event, both in our actions and in the actions of which we are permissive.

I didn’t perceive myself as part of the problem, but now I realize I wasn’t part of the solution. This year, I intend to be.

I’ve noticed many things in the past five months, not the least of which is the palpable change in how Homecoming is viewed by many people in our community. Homecoming should be a chance for alumni to return to a thriving campus, to celebrate their Queen’s experiences and leave a positive and lasting impression on current students.

We have lost sight of what this weekend is meant to be: a weekend to welcome back a uniquely engaged community of Alumni to our campus.

This is the Homecoming I want back — this is what I see when I think of Queen’s.

Students in first and second year have not seen the true embodiment of Queen’s spirit that a fall Homecoming brings.

I believe it would truly be a shame for them to graduate from this university without that experience.

We all have a role to play in the return of a fall Homecoming.

This weekend we have the opportunity to take ownership of the issue, empower Queen’s to make the decisions our community is looking for and bring back a safe, sustainable fall Homecoming.

Hilary Windrem is AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner

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