On racism, diversity, and inclusion at Queen’s: Some thoughts and a proposed course of action

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This has been a difficult week for many Queen’s community members. Periodically, our relatively quiet campus explodes in controversy. I’ve seen it happen a handful of times since I’ve been principal, each situation unique in its own right, but each almost invariably magnified by the potent influence of social media.

Last week, reports emerged of a costume party attended by Queen’s students that involved the unacceptable misappropriation and stereotyping of numerous cultures. This has understandably caused both anxiety and anger for many; it has also rekindled an important conversation in our community about the degree to which Queen’s is a welcoming and inclusive community.

While we are much more diverse than we once were, this incident has acted as an urgent reminder that Queen’s still has much work to do on these issues, and in particular on sensitizing all our community members to actions and behaviours that may seem harmless fun to many but which marginalize some members and make them feel unwelcome at our university. Continue Reading »

Peace: the absence of fear and the presence of justice

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The following is a guest post from Queen’s University’s Inter-faith Chaplain, Kate Johnson, who delivered this speech on November 11th at a Peacequest event called “The World Remembers.” 

In my early teens I made my first faulty commitment to pacifism. At 28, I met the soldier who would eventually become my husband. He had learned of my claim to pacifism previously but was still interested in meeting me. Had I known he was a soldier I would not likely have seen the date through. Immediately, I was forced to admire his open mind and willingness to challenge his own prejudices – although one of his first questions felt more like a challenge to me.

He asked how a person of conscience could be willing to “do nothing” when the world was crying out for justice. I was confused – Continue Reading »

Finding ways to thrive at Queen’s

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I am grateful every day for the opportunity to serve the Queen’s community as its 20th Principal and Vice-Chancellor. It is a privilege to work alongside some of the most talented and intelligent individuals I’ve ever met, and I am incredibly proud of the students we attract, teach, and graduate. And yet, as wonderful as this position is to hold, there are elements of my work life that are inherently stressful.

I would confidently assume that my counterparts at other post-secondary institutions similarly manage conflicting deadlines and extended work hours while making quality time for family. There is also that underlying feeling – a similar one to when you become a parent – of discomfort that when things are going well, the other shoe might be about to drop. I don’t even believe these stressors are unique to this type of position; Continue Reading »

My First Ten Days at Queen’s (Part Two)

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(For part one of this blog see here)

Day Six: Thursday, September 16

In the afternoon, we get our sectioning envelopes back with classes that have now been assigned by some mysterious process unknown to us. I’m a little disappointed as I have classes pretty much every day of the week, and my last class, History 121, won’t finish till 2:30 on Friday. I’m told that one can request a section change and I knock on a couple of doors in History, ultimately ending up chatting with the pipe puffing Professor William McCready, undergraduate coordinator in History, who patiently explains why sections are evenly balanced and that a move is not likely unless I find someone who wants to switch. Apparently, the timetabling is not done for my convenience! It will turn out that I will love my section and my History instructor, Continue Reading »

My First Ten Days at Queen’s (Part One)

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Move in day is always a special time. It’s manifestly a huge day for new students and their parents, with a lot of goodbyes, hugs, some tears and a lot of hellos. It’s a big day for dons and residence staff, and for orientation leaders many of whom volunteer on move in even though the faculty part of the week doesn’t begin until Wednesday. Alumni even enjoy watching it and thinking back to their own arrival.

That’s always the case for me. On move in day I am usually to be seen along with my wife Julie wandering the residence halls and stairways randomly greeting new students and their families. And I always visit my old floor and room in Brockington House.

This year is special for me personally, as I mark 40 years since the day I first set foot on this campus. Continue Reading »