Coronavirus party shows Queen’s hasn’t learned from its past

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An inappropriately-themed party on campus last weekend, and the subsequent response, demonstrated that Queen’s still has a long way to go when it comes to addressing insensitivity and discrimination in our community.
 
The Journal reported that on Feb. 1, Undergraduate Trustee Tyler Macintyre was among Queen’s students who attended a Coronavirus-themed party. Attendees drank Corona beers, wore surgical face masks, and decorated with biohazard symbols. On Wednesday, after media coverage of the event increased, Macintyre announced his immediate resignation.
 
Undergraduate trustees represent and serve the entire Queen’s student population. As trustee, Macintyre’s actions were unacceptable, and reflect badly on our school and community.
 
But it’s not only the undergraduate trustee who’s responsible for the campus atmosphere—it’s incumbent on every member of the Queen’s community to ensure they don’t create an environment where others feel unwelcome, unwanted, or unsafe. Every student at last weekend’s party made light of a serious health emergency, hurting those whose lives are impacted by Coronavirus and related stigma. 
 
Many Queen’s students’ families and cities are being affected by the spreading Coronavirus in China. The theme party was not only insensitive, but the students in attendance demonstrated a complete lack of empathy for their peers and those who comprise more than 30 thousand cases of Coronavirus worldwide. 
 
Partygoers flaunted surgical masks when just days before, The Journal reported that students from Wuhan organized a drive to collect and send medical supplies to hospitals back home.
 
Trivializing a global issue as serious as the Coronavirus illustrates the privilege and ignorance that continue to run unchecked in the Queen’s community. This school has a reputation for insensitivity and intolerance, and it’s been fairly earned.
 
In 2016, students hosted a costume party in the University District where students dressed as racist stereotypes. This past fall, a racist and homophobic note threatening violence against residents was posted in Chown Hall. Last week, Chinese New Year couplets hanging in Victoria Hall were torn down.
 
Queen’s students have once again failed to learn from our past behaviour. These recent actions  have alienated groups on campus, and too little has been done by their peers to demonstrate solidarity against insensitivity and discrimination.
 
Students can’t continue to be passive about the image we’ve created for our school. Allowing voices of ignorance and hatred to dominate these conversations fails our fellow students who were made uncomfortable by last weekend’s party and the subsequent fallout.
 
Every student at Queen’s should recognize the harmful impact of the Coronavirus-themed party, whether they attended or not. And, critically, we should all consider the privilege and attitudes that allowed students to think hosting and attending the party was appropriate in the first place.
 
 

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