Monday, September 26, 2005

QUEENS' HOMECOMING AFTERMATH

There are a lot of different issues that could be discussed surrounding the events of this past weekend's Homecoming at Queen's University.

How to maintain this spirit, while minimizing these disturbances is probably the main issue. The argument between the students, the school, the police and the residents, over who is to blame for Saturday nights events will likely continue for some time.

Right now I am certain of two things.

1. Homecoming will not continue as it did this year.

When your university and town make headlines on news outlets described as the scene of a "drunken street brawl," that is not good. Saturday night's Homecoming events were featured on page A1, below the fold, and A16 of today's Toronto Star; on the hourly CBC radio news this morning; and all day at Bourque.org linking to the Kingston Whig-Standard's coverage.

In an age when branding and public relations are at the top of the agenda for most organizations, not to mention publically funded universities and town-councils trying to attract tourists, this is exactly the type of media coverage that drives administrators and public officials into crackdown mode.

Given the amount of planning and co-operation between the city, police, school administrators and student organizations, in an attempt to avoid exactly what happened on Saturday night a new and stricter approach is almost assurred next year.

The onus will likely first be on the school to re-organize Homecoming. When Queen's vice-president and dean of students Janice Deakin was asked if Homecoming would continue next year her reply was that “All options are on the table.” While I doubt Homecoming will be cancelled the fact that the idea was not summarily ruled out is telling.

If the city and police are not satisfied with how the school plans on approaching the event next year I expect a significant crackdown on any attempt to re-create the Aberdeen party of the past few years. To the many students who I have heard say, "there's nothing the police can do," I seriously doubt that they are familiar with the business ends of pepper spray, tear gas, tazers, truncheons, and a phalanx of police officers in riot gear. No one wants the situation to escalate to that level but after this year I think the police are losing their patience.

2. Saturday's Aberdeen party crossed the line between extraordinary but acceptable rowdiness and dangerous disturbance of the peace.

The fact that a car was overturned, danced upon and lit on fire pretty much speaks for itself. That the car, as I believe, was deliberately abandoned on the street with the intent that it would be used to cause greater destruction serves to emphasize the pre-mediated nature of much of the night's disorder.

When emergency vehicles are impeded and police officers have glass bottles thrown at them there is enough cause right there to bring in a riot squad. That the police didnot attempt to disperse the crowd using methods appropriate to a riot speaks to their good judgement and restraint. As I said already, student's likely shouldn't expect the same treatment next year.

Who is to blame?

Blame for Saturday night's events falls in various degrees on many different heads but all who went to the Aberdeen party contributed to its excess, including myself, simply by attending. Allthough in past years Aberdeen may have been a technically illegal but relatively harmless mega-party it has gone beyond the 'technically' and 'relatively' categories. Queens' students need to privately and publically condemn the actions of those who engaged in specifically illegal activities but also assess the seemingly prevalent attitude that being a student at homcoming is an excuse for generally careless and reckless behaviour.

Posted by Matthew @ 6:18 PM

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I also fear for the future of homecoming at Queen's but as history has shown Aberdeen may simply be replaced with another street only to see such problems and chaos arise again. I hope this will not be the case and the student body and the Kingston community (including the police) can begin to improve their poor relationship.

Posted by Anonymous David Zarnett @ September 28, 2005 1:07 AM #
 
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