Town-gown relations still matter outside of Homecoming

Queen’s students aren’t isolated from Kingston as a whole and we ought to stop acting like we are, minus the few times a year it benefits us.

Living arrangements in a University town can be complicated. In my second year, I lived in one of the main areas of the University District — right at the crossroads of Earl and Barrie, a skip and a dash from the ARC. To me, at the time, the world outside of Queen’s was utterly irrelevant. I know I’m not alone in that mentality, especially as the temperature drops down low, and students tend to stay indoors more often.

But, nearly two years ago now, my housemates and I packed up and moved to a residential neighbourhood north of Princess Street. Our new space, though lovely, was jarring.

Living there, we were met with the abrupt realization that we lived in Kingston, not just at Queen’s. It sounds like an obvious realization, but when town-gown relations are reduced for many students to three annual promises to behave — before Homecoming, St. Pat’s and Orientation Week — it’s easy to forget.

For three short times each year we see hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled to local police, and appeals filed through the City for noise exemptions — under the solemn promise that we’ll keep tomfoolery to a minimum. Then someone slaps a horse. Or rocks a vehicle. Or pukes on a residential lawn.

Despite incidents to the contrary, there’s been a fairly widespread consensus among Queen’s students that our behaviour has to improve on these days if we’re going to keep them. “Flip cups, not cars.” But here’s the thing: concern for municipal affairs can’t be concentrated to three days.

At a City Hall meeting this week, anti-student rhetoric was thrown around the chambers during a debate over a housing bylaw that could potentially restrict student housing additions. Student housing was labelled by some speakers at the meeting as deteriorating, and a threat to family living conditions.

Those comments weren’t because, years ago, someone ignited a police cruiser during Homecoming weekend. They’re born from an impression of everyday indifference, seeing students disengage from the city they call home — often for years at a time.

There needs to be a more concerted effort, on a sustained and daily level, to engage students in city life and municipal affairs. I’m not proposing each student attend monthly council meetings, but having a basic understanding of Kingston could improve respect for its operations.

AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Francis Campbell’s organization of a University District Summit — targeting the everyday issues regarding off-campus students — should be applauded, as a practical and tangible step towards engagement between the City and the student body.

But the onus can’t stay on student leaders, who’re appointed specifically to deal with town-gown relations. The onus needs to shift onto the student body at large, to smarten up and care even when it doesn’t benefit us.

We depend on this city for a lot, and it’s time to act like it.

Victoria is The Journal’s News Editor. She’s a fourth-year English and Drama medial.

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