Queen’s administrators discuss equity at town hall

Students ask questions at panel hosted by AMS Social Issues Commission 

The panel included Principal Patrick Deane.
Queen’s administrators discussed police presence during large events, sexual assault on campus, and supporting Palestinian students at the Equity Town Hall hosted by the AMS Social Issues Commission.
Queen’s students were offered a seat at the table to discuss equity issues on campus with senior administrators on Feb. 9 in Mitchell Hall. The event was chaired by Meena Waseem, Comm ’23, who asked the panel questions submitted anonymously by students. 
The panel consisted of Principal Patrick Deane, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) Nick Mosey, Assistant Dean (Student Life and Learning) Corinna Fitzgerald, Director of the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre Kandice Baptiste, and Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion) Stephanie Simpson.
With St. Patrick’s Day celebrations next month, students expressed concerns about the police presence in the University district. 
“This year, [the City of] Kingston has hired an equity and inclusion role. We’ve been working really closely with them about the feedback we heard last year from students around over policing,” Fitzgerald said. 
Fitzgerald pointed to changes in bag checking at the ARC and less students being stopped unnecessarily during community events as evidence of the University implementing student feedback. Queen’s administration is in communication with Kingston Police about the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day weekend, according to administrators.
“It’s trying to find that balance [with police and security]. I’m hearing we don’t have it entirely struck right for students, but we continue to strive for that,” Fitzgerald added. 
Students expressed concerns about sexual violence on campus, specifically relating to the incident of sexual assault in Stauffer Library earlier this month. 
“There are structures in place where we consult with students. In particular, the Sexual Violence and Prevention Task Force is one of the main places where we have conversations like that,” Fitzgerald said.
Queen’s recommends students download the Secure app to receive notices from Campus Security. According to the panel, Queen’s response to incidences of sexual violence is tailored to the situation the particular student has to navigate.
When asked how Queen’s is listening to Palestinian students, Deane emphasized the University’s focus is on education, not politics.
“There are many sides to the political question, many of which are represented in the body of the University. We try to focus on the students experience and providing the supports and educational resources that are necessary,” Deane said. 
Advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion at Queen’s is not without obstacles, even for administrators.
“When I’m talking to students who are doing equity work, and who are running up against the same colonial structures that I run up against, I find it’s what drives you,” Baptiste said. 
All members of the panel stressed the importance of students’ involvement in making Queen’s an equitable environment.
“I do appreciate, first and foremost, all of the work students do, particularly in terms of creating community for your peers and making it possible for people to feel welcomed and to survive, in what is sometimes a difficult climate for folks,” Simpson said.
Unanimously, panel members agreed the best way for senior administrators to hear students’ voices is through the AMS.
Despite the equity work being done behind the scenes, the panel admitted Queen’s administration lacks transparent lines of communication with students.
“[Students and administrators] are not always in dialogue with each other,” Baptiste said. “I think that as somebody who works in the office who feels like we’re all doing our best—but then nobody knows what we’re doing—this [town hall] is a really good opportunity.”

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