AMS lobbies Queen’s for ReUnion Street Festival funding

Woolf says University already provides in-kind and monetary support for Homecoming

The inaugural ReUnion Street Festival was deemed a general success by various stakeholders, including the AMS and the University.
The inaugural ReUnion Street Festival was deemed a general success by various stakeholders, including the AMS and the University.
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Though Principal Daniel Woolf expressed hope last fall that the ReUnion Street Festival would become a new Homecoming tradition, the University is refusing to provide the AMS with funding to support the festival.

AMS Assembly decided last week to send an open letter to Principal Woolf in an effort to have the University provide at least $75,000 in funding for the festival.

EngSoc President Carolyn Fisher proposed a motion for Speaker Chris Casher to write the letter. There was widespread agreement among members present at the meeting that the University should have a role in financing the festival.

The letter, which was received by Woolf on Monday, was also released to campus media outlets at the Speaker’s discretion.

Funding for the inaugural ReUnion Street Festival in October, which cost $250,000, came primarily from the AMS Advantage Fund, where the profits and losses from the AMS’s investments go. The AMS received about $400 in outside sponsorship.

The University didn’t provide financial support for the 2014 festival — one of its conditions for festival approval was that the AMS secure all funding for the first year of the event.

During the Jan. 29 Assembly, Vice-President of University Affairs Philip Lloyd said the finances and optics of supporting a street party were two reasons given by the University for not funding the festival.

In an information package distributed to Assembly members, the executive proposed that the majority of funding for the festival come from a $12.50 student fee and a $75,000 University contribution. The rest of the funding would be made up by $12,500 in ticket sales and $15,000 in sponsorship, with all festival funding totaling $311,250.

The student fee would have to be approved at the Feb. 12 Assembly meeting and confirmed at the AMS Annual General Meeting on March 10.

AMS President Allison Williams said the AMS approached the University before drafting the proposal and indicated that “some form” of support from the University would be required.

“That’s when we were told that that money was unavailable and also that there was a negative perception around funding an event of this nature, that budgets were tight,” said Williams, ArtSci ’14.

“We gave an option where they would contribute $100,000 and one where they would contribute $75,000. Even after, they said that they could not contribute anything.”

The University maintained the position that they wouldn’t be able to provide funding for the festival, she said.

Williams said the AMS meets frequently with the Principal and the Provost, but “nothing has changed” after the most recent meeting with the University, which took place after Thursday’s Assembly.

“The conversation is still around the allocation of that money away from other services, the perception of allocating that money, the perception of the University funding a street party — which, of course, we know it’s more than a street party,” she said.

In spite of a lack of financial support, Williams repeatedly noted that in-kind support from Campus Security, Environmental Health and Safety and vice-principals chairing oversight committees was provided for Homecoming 2014, and that the University has reiterated its commitment to providing this type of support in future years.

“This event couldn’t have gone forward without their approval, but also all the time and all the resources they did put in to making it a success this year,” she said.

“However, it is our belief that for this event to move forward, it must have a contribution outside of the student fee.”

Principal Woolf told the Journal via email that safety has been the University’s “primary concern” since Homecoming’s reinstatement, and that in-kind resources and a “considerable amount of money” have been invested into Homecoming, including staff time totaling hundreds of hours.

“While the AMS Festival itself was a well-organized and well-attended event, there were still far too many people on city streets, most noticeably on Aberdeen,” he said, adding that the Kingston Police Force gave over 150 tickets and made 24 arrests during Homecoming weekend.

“There also remain concerns about Homecoming from some of our community partners; these concerns require ongoing consideration,” he added.

Woolf said he had not been able to review the letter “in detail” before commenting to the Journal, but added that he’s spoken to the executive about why the University won’t support the festival financially.

He said the hundreds of hours in staff time represent one way the University supports the festival, and added that Queen’s also contributes $100,000 annually toward community policing, including for Homecoming.

“$75,000 towards the festival means taking that $75,000 from another university priority,” Woolf said.

“We have to consider what else could be done with that amount of money — things like investments in shared services or mental health — and determine our priorities based on those needs … The reality is, we have to live within our budget.”

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