‘[T]he fate of Fall 2021 & Winter 2022 lies in [the students’] hands’

In “Mask Up or Pack Up” initiative, Queen’s student leaders urge peers to act safely during the pandemic

The initiative was launched Oct. 2.

A peer-to-peer initiative was launched by Queen’s students Oct. 2, urging students to comply with public health regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The two videos feature several students wearing masks and asking peers to keep the Kingston community safe during the pandemic—using the slogans “mask up or pack up” and “space out or move out.”

“In my role of ASUS Vice President, I have been engaged in many broad conversations with the Dean of Arts and Science, as well as other University administrators about the poor behaviour of students on and off campus in the University District that puts other students and community members’ health and safety at risk,” Matt D’Alessandro, ASUS vice president, told The Journal.

“I get it. After such an isolating summer, students want nothing more than to see their friends and have fun. But we must redefine what fun looks like.”

Rector Sam Hiemstra, who also appears in the videos, said the concerns voiced by local Kingston residents inspired him to partake in the video.

READ MORE:Kingston Police called to 40-person party in University District

“It’s really difficult to be a part of conversations with external community members to Queen’s and hearing how anxious and worried they are,” Hiemstra told The Journal in an interview.

“My main rationale for participating in this campaign is to remind students that we are all in this together, and that the majority of the students are following the guidelines should be commended for doing so, but that it really does have to be all of us coming together and fighting this thing as a whole.”

Hiemstra said he hopes students continue to follow the guidelines and that students who haven’t been doing so “re-evaluate the interactions they’ve been having.”

“It’s really difficult to be in small social bubbles, and so I’m hoping that students are able to find creative ways to engage with other students that are both safe and keep in line with what Queen’s is as an institution and as an experience.”

Hiemstra told The Journal the “Mask Up or Pack Up” initiative is the first action being put into place by student leaders encouraging students to comply with physical distancing protocols.

 “This is only the beginning of the project. There are more initiatives and events in the works for the coming weeks as we enter into close territory with Thanksgiving weekend and reading week to prepare for the possibility of students returning home to visit family and friends before returning back to Kingston, just to ensure that students are following proper guidelines.”

Hiemstra said student leaders continue to experience tension from the external Kingston community and the student body.

READ MORE:Heading home for Thanksgiving? Provost reminds students to travel safely

“There has still been a negative reaction with external members of the Queen’s community,” Hiemstra said. “Community members outside of Queen’s are still quite concerned with the number of [COVID-19] cases going up and with the number of larger gatherings still occurring.”

“I’ve quite candidly heard that it is frustrating to see continuous calls to action from the University on its student population. It’s tiring to hear this all the time, and it’s difficult to engage in these conversations with people within our circles, but I think it’s an important one to be having.”

He also said students need to understand the risks associated with coming back to Kingston for their education.

“Student government and university administration really have the best interests of students on their mind when creating initiatives like this.”

D’Alessandro also said students need to recognize their role in determining the future of their university experience.

“From this campaign, I hope that students realize that the fate of Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 lies in their hands,” D’Alessandro wrote.

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