What’s in a name?

AMS tries again to change the ‘painful and offensive’ term the Ghetto to the Village

Students may soon find ubiquitous references to the student Ghetto as ‘the Village’ on AMS websites.

Municipal Affairs Commissioner Paul Tye said the AMS is encouraging all students to adopt the term into their vocabulary by removing all institutional references to the Ghetto.

The Journal first reported the official name change of the Ghetto to the ‘Student Village’ by 1998 AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Sarah Corman. Other names considered by past AMS councils included the ‘Q-Zone’ and Student Housing at Queen’s (SHAQ). Corman told the Journal the term enabled landlords and tenants to “treat the area as a real ghetto.”

Tye, ArtSci ’09, said past attempts to change the Ghetto name was unsuccessful due to resistance met by students, adding that this year’s initiative is less aggressive than any campaigns by past AMS councils.

“Our campaign is different in the sense that we’re not trying to correct what anyone’s language is, but trying to, as a student government, not use the term in the hopes eventually it’ll slowly work its way out in a very non-confrontational way,” he said. “We don’t want to be like, ‘Don’t use this word, because when you use it you’re a bad person.’ It’s just more of a, as a government, as a representative of all students.”

Tye said the negative connotations associated with the term Ghetto carry a lot of baggage and don’t illustrate the area outside Queen’s accurately.

“For a lot of people it’s really painful and offensive. Also because it isn’t a ghetto. … There are homes with values averaging around half a million dollars,” he said. “It’s a diverse neighbourhood from young families to retired professionals to students.”

Bri Botsford, PhysEd ’09, said she thinks ‘the Village’ is a better name for the student areas outside Queen’s.

“I agree with the AMS. I thought about it a couple of days ago. I mean the Village sounds a lot better. Ghetto is just a tradition—some people may be ticked off, but I don’t really care.”

She added, “I like the change.”

Botsford said the term ‘Ghetto’ can be abrasive for some people.

“It doesn’t affect me too much, but I remember having a friend come in first year and she was like, ‘Should we lock the doors?’ and we were in a car. [Ghetto] has a negative connotation. [The Village] sounds cuter and more trendy.”

Tye said the steps to change are gradual, and noted there are no plans to market or campaign the name change aggressively.

“Most of what we’ve done is talking to orientation groups. We’ve removed formal references we know as the [Ghetto], and that as a council and as the AMS government it’s not a term we use.”

Tye said AMS-sponsored initiatives such as ghettohouse.ca, the Guide to Queen’s agenda, the Key to the Ghetto, Ghetto Greenup, and Queen’s housing pamphlets have removed all references to the term.

A policy was implemented by the AMS in 1991 to officially call the neighbourhood “the Village.” “You don’t need to put a policy that says we’re not going to call anything ghetto the same way you don’t have a policy that says we’re not going to use racist language,” he said.

Konrad Piskorz, Sci ’09, said the ‘Village’ renaming is a poor alternative to the more difficult problems of student housing.

“I hate that they’re trying to improve the image of the Ghetto without actually putting any improvements. Putting a different label isn’t any better. It is called the Ghetto because that’s what it is: the student slums. It’s not like the landlords actually give a shit about them.”

He added the Ghetto is an accurate description of student housing in Kingston.

“A village is a nice place. Everything labeled a village is nice—well-maintained. It’s not like crappy houses with mould everywhere and broken beer bottles,” he said. “I won’t call it the Village until they raze all the houses and rebuild them with proper standards. Calling it the Village will only bring more disappointment to students who come here.”

Ken Wong, a professor in the School of Business, said past campaigns to advertise the name change were unsuccessful due to a lack of rationale behind the advertising campaigns.

“Ads work best when it presents a reason for behaviour. If you want to rename the Ghetto into the Village, then you need to be doing something purposive to make that area a ‘Village’ and not a ‘Ghetto,’” he said. “For example, are they going to do something to encourage community, clean up the appearance or encourage students to meet their neighbours? Are they going to offer a sense of demarcation—a physical sign that people are entering the area? There has to be a substantial sign more than mere media renaming.”

Wong said the word ‘Village’ is still poorly-defined.

“If Village is just another word for Ghetto, with more positive-sounding associations, the campaign will fail. If the AMS is doing something to make [the Village] occur, it’s a different story,” he said. “For example, are they going to have town hall meetings with residents? It depends on what the AMS thinks makes the Village the right moniker. If those things are not in place, then how can they call it a Village?”

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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