Queen's: The inside scoop on a campus driven by school spirit

MACLEANS-QUEENS-10.02.13-KINGSTON, ON: Goodes Hall at the Queens University School of Business in Kingston, ON.  Photogrpah by Cole Garside

Photograph by Cole Garside

Vincent Matak, 22

I’ve never been one for school spirit. When I first came to Queen’s University, the tricolour-bleeding culture was overwhelming at first. It took me a while to get with it.

The Queen’s experience is dominated by tradition. At the end of their first week, first-year students are awarded one of the university’s most recognizable symbols: a Queen’s tam, marking their induction to the school. The Oil Thigh, the university’s fighting song—written in Gaelic—is typically sung afterward, and is frequently heard at parties and sports games alike.

Taking part in these traditions, which vary according to each faculty society, seemed arbitrary. It wasn’t until I found my footing as a writer for the university newspaper that it finally sunk in: it’s about more than school colours. The Queen’s tradition is one of involvement.

While mental- and physical-health resources, as well as on-campus residences, are struggling to support an expansion in enrolment spurred by the administration, the Queen’s student government continues to aggressively lobby for the best interests of students. It’s a testament to the dedication Queen’s students have to their community.

Throughout my time at Queen’s, I went from being a withdrawn first year to becoming deeply involved in the welfare of my fellow students. It’s a transition all students make to some degree, regardless of their activities. And it’s what makes the Queen’s experience, in my opinion, unparalleled.

The student government, Alma Mater Society, boasts an impressive level of operational autonomy. With six commissions governing all aspects of student life, including its own non-academic discipline system, 10 corporate services, and over 450 clubs, students can gain valuable job skills for when they graduate. The AMS abides by a yearly turnover rate for all hired positions, as well as a no-experience-necessary hiring policy, making experience easily attainable for students who seek it.

City Vibe
Much of Kingston is made up of suburban sprawl, but downtown exudes a small-town, historic charm. Culturally, there isn’t a lot going on. Most of the festivals, like Kingston Busker’s Fest and Wolfe Island Music Festival, happen in the summer, so most of the time students miss out on the city’s best offerings.

The nightlife in Kingston isn’t all that much better, with only three main nightclubs drawing students. The bar scene, however, is diverse.

The small-town feel can be cozy. Running into people you know downtown only reinforces the sense of community at Queen’s.

Kingston is equidistant from Toronto and Montreal—roughly a three-hour drive—and it’s only a two-hour drive to Ottawa. If you’re craving more culture or excitement, it’s not that far away.

The Skinny
QueensJournal.ca and QueensEvents.ca.