Homecoming on hold

Woolf suspends Homecoming for three years

Samantha Jenkins, ArtSci ’11, said a university-sanctioned event could cut down on police presence.
Samantha Jenkins, ArtSci ’11, said a university-sanctioned event could cut down on police presence.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Fall Homecoming has been suspended for three more years in a decision made by Principal Daniel Woolf earlier this week.

Woolf said that even though attendance is shrinking, the Aberdeen Street Party, traditionally coinciding with Homecoming, is still too dangerous to warrant re-instating the Queen’s tradition.

“I would think that [it’s] for the same reasons Principal Williams decided to suspend it for the first two years,” Woolf said. “Those reasons still apply.”

On the night of Sept. 25, 2010 there were an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 individuals on Aberdeen St. celebrating Fauxcoming. By 1 a.m. police had dispersed the crowd bringing an end to the street party that traditionally continues for hours. Over the course of the weekend 95 people were arrested and over 200 charges were made.

The Aberdeen Street Party in 2008 drew a crowd of 6,000 to 7,000 people, resulting in Principal Tom William’s decision on Nov. 14, 2008 to cancel Homecoming for at least two years.

Woolf said the smaller numbers this year aren’t low enough to bring back the fall event.

“The numbers have gone down but they’re not, in my judgement, where they need to be in order to restore Homecoming,” he said. “Were we to put Homecoming back now, I think the inevitable consequence would be the numbers would spike up again.”

Queen’s reputation is another reason Homecoming was suspended until 2014, Woolf said.

“This is one of Canada’s premiere academic institutions. I would like us to be judged in the press by the achievements of our students, our alumni and our faculty and staff and not by one street party or a series of parties once a year that get out of control. We have had an inordinate amount of attention in the press over the last several years to this event,” he said. “The reputational damage … even with the last few years of non-Homecoming or Fauxcoming, the University is still continuing to suffer.”

When consulting with student representatives about the decision, Woolf said he made it clear that the Aberdeen Street Party had to stop for fall Homecoming to be restored.

“I had discussions with the alumni association leadership and with the students. I’ve made it very, very clear from the beginning and indeed even before Sept. 25 that the cycle of street parties had to be dead before I would consider restoring Homecoming,” he said, adding that he spoke to the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS), the Rector and the AMS.

“I have had a series of discussions again with the student leadership and they have indicated they are disappointed by the decision just as I am disappointed having to make that decision,” he said. “But they do understand and share my concern for safety.”

Woolf said the future of Homecoming is still up in the air, but if it is reinstated, he’d like it to coincide with the last home game of the football season.

“The next steps are we will continue to monitor the situation over the next three years. We will be working with the next generations of student leaders to see what form it can be brought back in and at what date,” he said. “I certainly, as an alumnus, would very much like to bring it back at some point but we must put the safety of our students and of Kingstonian citizens as our primary consideration.”

Between now and 2014, Woolf said student leaders will continue to be consulted in regards to Homecoming and the Aberdeen Street Party.

“Just as we’ve been working with them over the last two years on this issue, we will continue to discuss it with them. I’ve made a commitment to look at the situation again three years from now,” he said.

Woolf, Queen’s 20th Principal, is currently in the second year of a five year term.

“What we want is a sort of normal acceptable level of festive activity of the sort that has happened at Queen’s and every other university in the country in the past. So we’ll see where we are in three years.”

Samantha Jenkins, ArtSci ’11, said she’s disappointed by the decision because there are alternative solutions to cancelling Homecoming.

“They haven’t been handling it correctly in the past. If instead of doing nothing the Saturday of Homecoming they had a university sanctioned student event … where they check student cards at the door and had StuCons present,” she said. “It would deter students from other universities coming for the party of it and cut back on police presence necessary. A lot of it’s been escalated not because of the student body but because of others.”

AMS President Safiah Chowdhury promised to seek ways to bring back Homecoming as part of her campaign for AMS Executive in 2009.

“[But] the decision of Homecoming of course is always the Principal’s, which is why we consulted with him before to figure out exactly what was necessary to bring it back,” Chowdhury, ArtSci ’11, said. “He told us that the way to bring it back was for illegal and unsafe partying to stop.”

Chowdhury said student opinion seemed to favour the reinstatement of Homecoming so the AMS made student outreach prior to this year’s event a priority.

“Unfortunately despite our efforts to communicate to the students, it was still not met,” she said, adding that ultimately, whether or not Homecoming is re-instated, falls to the students.

“Every student makes a choice as to whether or not to engage in the street partying and what Homecoming really means to them. It does come down to individual decisions.”

Chowdhury said she’s hopeful fall Homecoming will be re-instated eventually.

“The numbers this year for street partying did go down significantly which is a really, really positive sign and gives us hope for the future,” she said. “Unfortunately the numbers were still large enough to not meet the Principal’s stipulation. We’re hoping that it continues to decrease to the point where the street partying is pretty much non-existent. I don’t want to speculate but if the numbers continue to decrease in the significant way that they have been, I definitely hope for a fall homecoming.”

To ensure the numbers continue to drop, Chowdhury said she’ll work with next year’s AMS executive.

“Transition is a big focus for our executive year. It’s something that we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on,” she said. “There needs to be an end to the unsafe street partying that happens and has been associated with Homecoming. Hopefully [next year’s AMS Executive] can continue this line with students. The Principal has told me that he’s committed to further his communication with the AMS for fall Homecoming so I expect and hope that my successors will continue along the same thread.”

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