In support of Patrick Deane

Two Queen’s alumni share their positive experience with the Principal-designate

Patrick Deane speaking at Stauffer Library on Monday.

As former student leaders who worked with incoming Principal Patrick Deane during his time as Vice-Principal (Academic), we can say with full confidence that his appointment represents an opportunity for Queen’s to rediscover and nurture its unique undergraduate learning experience.

What students need in a principal goes beyond their financial and sector knowledge, or their capacity to bring in endless donations. The principal should be someone who listens to students—showing empathy, respect, and humility—and who values diversity and inclusion, in addition to understanding the academic experience at Queen’s and where it’s lacking. 

More importantly, the principal should utilize the special role Queen’s students play in constructing a broader learning environment. In the most recent Maclean’s Student Satisfaction Survey and the National Survey of Student Engagement, Queen’s is distinguished by extracurricular activities and the overall campus experience.

In our experience, Patrick always listened. Regardless of the issue, he valued student input and made sure his door was open. 

While we didn’t always agree, Patrick kept an open mind and conducted himself with warmth and respect, embracing the unique and critical role that students play in university governance at Queen’s.

When Homecoming parties on Aberdeen Street drew national media attention, he resisted calls for a harsh university response, opting instead to work collaboratively with the AMS, the City of Kingston, and the police to address the issue over a number of years. “We support the AMS in their approach to keep the street safe,” he told The Journal at the time. 

Patrick also supported a more diverse and inclusive Queen’s community. He was open about  the culture of whiteness at Queen’s that harms both individuals and “the intellectual good of the institution.” 

Always open to new perspectives, he actively participated in events on campus such the accessibility-themed Deaf for a Day. 

When it came to academics, Patrick worked with student leaders in an attempt to spread new approaches to teaching and learning that would better serve students. 

Shortly after leaving to become President of McMaster University, Patrick wrote about the need for a “radical re-conceptualizing of the teaching and learning process” and called on all universities to “lift ourselves above the instructor-instructed dialectic” and “imagine a wider, possibly infinite, range of models  for learning.”

In comparison, the current Queen’s Strategic Framework lacks aspirations of this magnitude. Its focus on more “experiential and entrepreneurial learning” is welcome, but it leaves out so much of what’s needed to transform the student learning experience. 

It also neglects to reference the broader learning environment as Queen’s greatest strength and most distinct feature, or the role of students in university governance—shaping the past and the future of Queen’s. 

Due in part to student advocacy, previous Queen’s strategic plans have aimed to capitalize on this strength. 

For example, the 2006 plan, Engaging the World, released while Patrick was Vice-President (Academic), explicitly recognized the contribution that students make to university governance, highlighting “the Queen’s legacy of student engagement as expressed through the oldest student government in the country, the large number of student-led clubs and services […] and other co-curricular learning experiences for students.”

Patrick Deane saw the broader learning environment as central to the fabric of Queen’s and the success of its students. His return ensures this idea will thrive.

It’s our belief that he’ll reinvigorate critical reflection and change at the university, nurturing the role that students play in facilitating the best parts of the Queen’s experience. 

However, it’s ultimately up to students to seek and earn a stronger role in this next chapter. With Patrick at the helm, we are envious of the opportunity you have. Take it. 

Alexi White was AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner in 2007-08 and OUSA Executive Director from 2009-11. Kingsley Chak was AMS President in 2007-08 and former student representative on the Queen’s Board of Trustees.


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