Coroner wants change to alcohol approach

Investigation into student deaths prompt coroner to recommend review of campus alcohol policy

Principal Daniel Woolf announces plans to review how the University deals with alcohol-related issues at a press conference on Tuesday.
Principal Daniel Woolf announces plans to review how the University deals with alcohol-related issues at a press conference on Tuesday.

University officials announced plans to conduct an extensive review of campus alcohol policy at a press conference today.

The decision stemmed from recommendations made in a coroner's report. Coroner Roger Skinner investigated two fall-related deaths and recommended that Queen’s look into alcohol consumption in residences.

First-year students Cameron Bruce and Habib Khan both died as a result of falls from campus buildings. Bruce fell from his sixth-floor residence window last September. Khan died from a fall through a skylight in Duncan McArthur Hall.

Skinner also said alcohol-related issues shouldn’t be governed by peer groups. Currently, an AMS judicial body is responsible for disciplining students on non-academic matters.

“We have complied fully with the coroner’s recommendations … and we are moving forward immediately,” Principal Daniel Woolf told reporters. “That’s why we are in the process of performing a review of the campus alcohol policy.”

The alcohol policy outlines educational, management and legal frameworks the University uses when addressing alcohol consumption.

While Skinner's recommendation is made after investigating the two student deaths, Woolf wouldn’t say whether the falls were caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

“That is a question that is more appropriately addressed to the coroner and the coroner has ruled both deaths as accidental,” Woolf said.

Queen's performed security reviews of both rooftop access and window structure.

“The issue of the access to the rooftops was most immediately in our mind. That’s been addressed,” Woolf said. “We have designated a security officer specifically for residences and we already have dons doing routine patrols every night [during the school year].”

Associate Vice-Principal and Dean of Student Affairs John Pierce said additional restraints have been added to windows to ensure that they cannot be tampered with.

“Work on that will continue as we go on through the summer to ensure that those access points are all secure,” Pierce said.

While the University has no direct legal obligation to follow the coroner's report, Pierce said the coroner expects action to be taken. “The coroner has made it clear that he wishes to check back with us in a period of about six to eight months to see what kind of progress we’ve made in regards to these recommendations,” Pierce said.

Recently, Provost Bob Silverman banned six students from campus for the summer after they were caught on a campus building rooftop. Pierce said the coroner’s recommendations were not connected to Silverman’s decision.

“I can’t say too much more because it's just in progress, but I think we recognize that people on rooftops is not a good thing,” Pierce said.

AMS President Morgan Campbell said that as of right now, the AMS is still in charge of student non-academic discipline.

“This is basically just opening the door for us to have a longer conversation over how we’re handling our discipline system,” Campbell, ArtSci ’11, said. “It’s important that [all campus discipline systems] are coordinating correctly.”

Following the announcement of the coroner's recommendations, Campbell said the process of changing drinking culture at Queen’s needs to be a student-led initiative.

“I know that we are working on re-working our alcohol policy on campus,” she said.

—With files from Savoula Stylianou

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