Student drinking culture sparks counter initiative by former professor

Geoffrey Smith aims to pressure city and University officials to take action

Geoff Smith at his residence on William St. 
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“I live in the combat zone,” Geoffrey Smith, Queen’s professor emeritus, noted on Wednesday morning while walking around his block at Barrie and William Streets. 

This week, Smith — who taught physical education, health education and history at Queen’s for many years — launched an initiative he calls Kingston Against Drunken Students (KADS), and intends to pressure the city and the University to take official action against binge drinking. 

“We lived here for about 25 years and the people next door about 30,” he said, pointing to the houses inhabited by permanent residents rather than students. 

The University District is divided, according to the Queen’s University Property Locator Map, into six zones. 

The ‘Main Campus’ zone extends east to west from Albert to Barrie Street, extending to Collingwood Street south of Queen’s Crescent to encompass residence buildings. North to south it’s bordered by Earl and King streets. 

The surrounding zones each extend further out, with one specific to West Campus. 

According to the AMS, the official University District is bound by Nelson & Collingwood Street to the west, Princess Street to the north, Division & Barrie Street to the east, and King Street to the south. 

Over the time he’s lived near campus, he said increased enrollment has meant a wider spread of student housing. “The democracy is moving eastward, northward, westward, and southward like a cancer on Kingston’s face, and the students are carrying their parties with them,” he said. 

On main campus, the total headcount for undergraduate students rose from 16,182 in 2013-14 to 18,013 in 2015-16, according to each year’s enrollment report. However, in the City of Kingston’s neighborhood profiles from 2011, the total dwellings in the University’s zone — extending from Lake Ontario to Princess Street, and from Barrie to Albert streets — is only 580. 

Included in that number are 105 buildings with five or more stories, 45 semi-detached houses, 100 single houses, 30 row houses, 70 apartment duplexes, and 230 buildings with fewer than five stories. 

This number translated to 575 ‘households’ with an average number of two people per home. The vast majority of the population ranged from 20 to 24 years of age. 

In the Sydenham neighborhood — extending along from the lake to Princess Street again, this time from Barrie Street eastward — another 2,050 dwellings were accounted for, ranging in the number of persons inhabiting those. Here, the age range was more spread, but still largely concentrated between the ages of 20 and 34.

With the rising rate of enrollment and the unofficial expansion of the area students live in, Smith has noticed increasing trends of poor behaviour amongst drunk students in his neighborhood. While he says Queen’s has tried to contain the drinking and 

parties, he believes their efforts have done little to nothing. “Queen’s had an official sanctioned party for Homecoming? Well, what happened is that parties went elsewhere,” he said. 

Generally speaking, he said he makes a point to get to know his neighbours in order to get along. “99 per cent of you people are fine, and wonderful, and I love you,” he said. 

However, he believes the drinking culture that appears on events like Homecoming is a different story. “Students on Homecoming were out at 7:30 a.m. making their drinks. Should I say that’s wonderful? No, I think that’s disgusting,” he said. 

He believes that the University is responsible for these events, and for establishing an off-campus code of conduct for students. His goal is to see bylaws implemented in the city to counter binge drinking culture, focusing on the reduction of noise and stopping of outdoor drinking altogether.

“This is something that is going to have to be solved by a lot of people and the most important group in terms of solving the problem is students,” Smith said. 

In response to a Whig-Standard article on Smith’s initiative, AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Francis Campbell has set up meetings with Smith as well as City Councillor Peter Stroud, to brainstorm possible solutions to the concerns brought forward by KADS. 

“We are aware of the concerns associated with binge drinking on university campuses and will work with residents such as professor emeritus Smith to find a solution that best represents our students’ needs,” Campbell said in an email to The Journal. 

Campbell also wrote that “as the student government, we are always looking to further our relationship with the City and its residents.” To Smith, the work done by students like Campbell and the AMS is paramount. 

“This is not about me. This is about Queen’s, its students, and its future,” Smith said, looking onto William Street. “Are we a binge drinking institution? If so, let’s own up to it. And if we don’t want to be, let’s do something about it.” 

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