Aberdeen & agony

A story published Nov. 26 on queensjournal.ca detailed Principal Daniel Woolf’s decision to suspend Fall Homecoming for a further three years.

Woolf cited ongoing concerns about the annual unsanctioned Aberdeen Street Party as influencing his decision. While he acknowledged that attendance is down, he indicated his belief that any reversal of the suspension would simply encourage large crowds to return and continue to threaten public safety and the University’s reputation.

Principal Woolf faced a daunting decision. There are many different perspectives on the issues surrounding Homecoming weekend, and satisfying everyone was never a possibility.

Despite being a separate event, Homecoming Weekend has become synonymous with the Aberdeen Street Party. It’s disappointing that an outright cancellation of the former is the current solution to the problems posed by the latter.

There are some unexplored avenues which could help the University and the City of Kingston negotiate the issues posed by the street party, such as attracting crowds to other venues in the city, or continuing to present a strong police presence on Aberdeen Street without cancelling Homecoming Weekend—both of which would help underscore that the two are not interchangeable.

However, previous attempts at accommodation—including road closures and harm reduction—ended in failure. In light of the street party’s high profile, it would be counter-productive for the University to take any steps that might encourage attendance on Aberdeen Street. The window for a university-sanctioned event has closed—at least for the foreseeable future.

In reality, “solving” the Aberdeen Street problem isn’t the University’s responsibility. Well-intentioned emails from the administration—and a strong police presence—have failed to drop attendance to zero. The responsiblity is on the shoulders of anyone who shows up on Aberdeen Street, even those who claim that they just want to see the spectacle. This behaviour only draws attention to the Aberdeen issue—from both the public and the media. Students and alumni who decry the cancellation as an assault on tradition are right to complain. But Homecoming Weekend has ceased to be about the traditions of one’s alma mater, eclipsed instead by a tradition of shameful behaviour and resultant bad press.

Regardless of whether or not the problems originate from Queen’s students as a group, they will ultimately face most of the consequences. While the loss of a tradition is a tragedy, it’s a greater tragedy that current and future generations of students suffer because of the actions of a select few. Students and alumni alike should embrace other routes of getting in touch with the Queen’s community of the past and present, and form traditions that haven’t been stained by memories of flipped cars and students in handcuffs.

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