Principal Daniel Woolf is suspending Queen’s fall Homecoming for a further three years.
The Principal made the announcement in a statement posted to his website.
“As an alumnus who has enjoyed Homecoming in past years, I would personally like to see its return to the autumn in the future,” he says. “In order to do so, I must be satisfied that the cycle of annual street gatherings has truly been broken.”
The Principal thanked those students and alumni who have stayed away and noted the progress made over the last two years – smaller crowds, no serious injuries, and fewer arrests and charges laid against students and alumni. But despite the leadership and encouragement of the AMS, SGPS and Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA), he noted disappointingly large numbers of individuals have still gathered around Aberdeen Street. There were an estimated 1,500-2,000 people on the streets – the majority of whom appeared to be connected to Queen’s. There were 95 arrests and 255 charges laid.
The Principal says he considered the safety of students, alumni and community members as paramount and noted the Chief of Police has said more time is needed.
“I remain concerned that if the University’s homecoming is reinstated next fall, not enough time will have passed to truly break the cycle. The potential consequences of the return of dangerous street gatherings far outweigh those of delaying the return of Homecoming for another few years.”
The Principal also assessed the reputational impact of past Aberdeen-street events.
“The vast majority of Queen’s students are responsible and civic-minded and contribute positively to the life of this community and the university,” he says. “However, the negative national media coverage Queen’s has received over the years related to these events has threatened to undermine their academic accomplishments and community involvement. This issue has also affected our relationship with the city and Kingston residents. We cannot permit this to continue.”
AMS President Safiah Chowdhury says she met with the Principal several times this fall and understands the decision.
“We communicated widely to students but the significant turnout of Queen’s students did not meet the requirements set by the Principal before the weekend,” she says. “We believe it is the Principal’s job to make decisions in the best interest of the University and community and he has made his decision in accordance with that. He has committed to work with the AMS to ensure a safe and sustainable Homecoming for 2014 onwards. As students who love the opportunity to engage with alumni and as future alumni of Queen’s, we are committed to ensuring that Fall Homecoming returns.”
The decision will be reassessed late in 2013.
“I understand the Principal’s decision to cancel Homecoming for the next few years,” says Jawad Qureshy, President of the Society of Graduate and Professional Students. “It is unfortunate that much of the good work that Queen’s students – particularly graduate and professional students – do around Kingston, is overshadowed by the sensationalism around Homecoming. I hope this decision will allow some of our positive engagement with the Kingston community and our research contributions to shine through instead.”
When fall Homecoming eventually returns, the Principal says he’s convinced it should be moved to October to coincide with the season’s last home football game.
“Homecoming has long been a wonderful and spirited Queen’s tradition,” says Heather Black, President of the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA). “So too are academic excellence, respect and safety. While the QUAA Board is disappointed that Homecoming remains suspended, we understand why this decision was considered necessary. We optimistically look forward to turning over a new leaf with an October Homecoming in 2014.”
In the meantime, Spring Reunion and Mini-U will continue to be held in late May. The 2011 dates are May 27-29.