'[It's] off the table': Queen's students condemn frosh week partying

Students share similar concerns about an outbreak with the University, the City

Each student said they don’t blame locals for being concerned a COVID-19 outbreak.
Each student said they don’t blame locals for being concerned a COVID-19 outbreak.

Following warnings from the University and the City of Kingston, some Queen’s students are doing what they can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In response to large gatherings of students during Frosh Week, the City closed the Gord Downie Pier and Breakwater Park Beach Area on Sept. 5. The emergency order was made in consultation with Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health.

Cassidy McMackon, ArtSci ’21, told The Journal she thinks closing the pier was a “good move.” 

She said she’s been wearing a mask everywhere she goes, constantly sanitizing, and has had “minimal” contact with people from outside of her immediate social circle.

McMackon said she thinks small gatherings are okay, but larger parties worry her.

READ MORE:City closes Gord Downie Pier & Breakwater Park Beach Area

“The masses of people coming in from all kinds of locations and intermingling with people from other locations—it’s scary,” McMackon said. “I think anyone coming into a community that they don’t live in full time [has] to be careful and respect full-time residents.”

Rayan Rahal, ArtSci ’22, told The Journal he thinks partying is “off the table.” He’s been avoiding seeing people indoors altogether, except for his housemates. He plans to wait two weeks to see if Kingston has an outbreak of the virus, and then re-evaluate. 

Rahal said he’s witnessed several large parties on University Ave. over the past week—not
as large as last year’s Frosh Week parties, but still large enough to break current social gathering rules.

“It’s f—ed up,” he said. “These guys are putting so many people at risk […] I feel almost a selfish bitterness that people aren’t making the same sacrifices that I and so many people I know are, and they’re basically making [the sacrifices] for nothing.”

Rahal said he’s seen police officers on University Ave. while these parties are happening, observing but not intervening.

“I’m not anti-party,” he added. “I’m just anti-being an irresponsible dick.”

Sarah Mallen, ArtSci ’22, told The Journal she doesn’t plan on partying this year either. She said that, as a person who works in the service sector, she’s careful to follow all public health guidelines.

“There’s a part of me that is empathetic, that understands that […] partying is such a big part of the university experience,” Mallen said. “But the other part of it is there is a pandemic, these are not normal circumstances, and to pretend anything otherwise is selfish.”

READ MORE: Move-in week sees Queen’s residences open for business

Mallen said she noticed a “massive” house party on Monday night, but hasn’t seen many large gatherings other than that.

“It’s really about rising to the challenge that public health has given us, that this community has given us, and right now, as a Queen’s community, we are failing,” she said.

McMackon, Rahal, and Mallen all said they don’t blame Kingston locals for being concerned about a possible COVID-19 outbreak amongst the student population.

“I don’t think it’s fair to blame every Queen’s student because it’s not every Queen’s student that’s participating in these things, but I think the reason for concern is absolutely warranted,” Mallen said.

Jeff Masuda, associate professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, submitted a letter of concern to Queen’s senior administration on Sept. 6.

READ MORE:City to enforce restrictions on social gatherings during pandemic

“[Students] have, epidemiologically speaking, turned the entire university district into some kind of pandemic outbreak incubator,” he wrote.

According to the letter, Masuda observed several “pods” of students engaged in “network partying,” moving between house parties in small groups. 

“I fear we are too late to prevent the outbreak that will result from these (in)actions,” he wrote.

“More ought to have been done, but the ship has sailed. Now is the time
for Queen’s to take urgent and radical measures, whatever these may be.”

Rector Sam Hiemstra, SGPS President Justine Aman, AMS President Jared den Otter, and Principal Patrick Deane released a joint welcome message on Sept. 4 to provide recommendations regarding COVID-19 safety.

“We need your help to continue to keep this virus at bay,” they wrote. “Outbreaks within our student population will be disastrous, not only for us but for many others. We do not want to see the university forced to close its doors and students leaving the City as we saw in March.”

According to the message, the University “supports” the efforts of campus security, the City, and Kingston Police, who will be handing out fines to students who break social gathering restrictions.

“Please familiarize yourself with the public health requirements as they will be enforced and penalties for failing to abide by them will be utilized,” they wrote. “We cannot afford to let COVID-19 get the upper hand.”

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