Kingston’s city council has approved a plan to shut down a sometimes-controversial Queen’s homecoming party.
The party takes place every year on Kingston’s Aberdeen Street. Last year, there were an estimated 6,000 people on the street and over 50 arrests. In 2005, the party turned into a full-scale riot. Outnumbered police were pelted with beer bottles, a car was flipped and set on fire and there was extensive vandalism. This week’s plan, submitted by a committee of city, university, and student representatives, called for the elimination of the party by 2009.
(Related stories: Last year, Joey Coleman looked at town-gown tensions, with a focus on the recent history of the Queen’s homecoming party. Last year’s party was deemed a success after “only” 54 arrests among the 6,000 partygoers.)
Paul Tye, the municipal affairs commissioner of the Queen’s Alma Mater Society (AMS), said that only about one in four revellers was a student at the university.
The committee included two student representatives — Tye and AMS president Talia Radcliffe — who were content with the report’s recommendations.
“One thing that the AMS continues to make very clear is that we want to see an end to this the same way that everyone does,” said Tye, the AMS municipal affairs commissioner. “It’s embarrassing for students, and it’s harmful to our reputation as Queen’s students.”
The university and Kingston police will share information about student arrests to, according to the report, “maximize the chances of successful prosecution of offenders both at law and under the Queen’s Code of Conduct.”
This means that students can face penalties under both the criminal code and their school’s own academic code of conduct. According to the AMS internal affairs commissioner, that is fine by most students.
“Our code of conduct holds Queen’s students to a higher standard than regular Ontario or Canadian laws, because the Queen’s community is a different community and we feel that it is important that we have really our own rules,” said commissioner Alexa Gendron-O’Donnell.
The code of conduct is administered by students through a judicial committee, not the school’s administration, and it is a complaints-based process. Most of the time, penalties are non-academic in nature.
“We try to be as restorative as possible, so a lot of our sanctions are community service, letters of apology,” said Gendron-O’Donnell. “And we’re not a punitive system at all, or we try not to be.”
Gendron-O’Donnell added that suspension and expulsion are rarely suggested to the administration. And no matter which penalty is recommended, the student-run judicial committee does not have final say, as that rests with the admin.
Student unions at other Ontario schools oppose non-academic codes of conduct. And the Canadian Federation of Students recently passed a motion at its semi-annual meeting condemning such codes, unless they met a very strict list of criteria.