As I’ve said many times, the full name of our university is Queen’s University at Kingston, and the school and the city are quite inextricably joined. A taxi driver expressed to me just last week how much he looks forward to the return of the majority of students in the fall. We all know what benefits the university enjoys by its situation in a lovely, lakeside community relatively close to several larger cities; and the city in turn profits from the economic activity and voluntarism of the university’s students, staff and faculty.
Of course, agendas can diverge, and differences can arise on particular issues. One of my priorities as Principal has been to build better bridges with our colleagues at City Hall, both at the political level (Mayor and Councillors) and administrative level (the CAO and commissioners and their staff). Thanks to a great deal of hard work in our Provost’s office in particular, and engagement by senior administrators with city officials on a wide variety of files, relations are currently very productive and genial. There are several different working groups devoted to different aspects of the town-gown relationship, and over here on the west side of Barrie Street we pay close attention to what is happening down at City Hall.
Last year we invited the then newly elected or re-elected councillors and Mayor to a reception at Benidickson House. The meeting went so well that we decided to repeat it this year, and we met in the same venue last week. I was accompanied by the Provost and Vice-Principals, and by a number of Associate Vice-Principals including new Dean of Student Affairs Tierney and AVP Facilities Browne. The city sent all but 3 Counsellors, the Mayor and the CAO. Over the course of two hours we had a lively discussion on a wide range of issues, including Queen’s plans for growth, and how we might accommodate that growth without putting further pressure on Kingston’s already over-subscribed rental stock, and how Queen’s can continue to assist Kingston’s social improvement and economic expansion. The meeting covered a lot of territory and gave us all a big ‘to do’ list for the next year. More important than any individual subject, however, was the mutual commitment at the table to keep each other informed about our plans, and always think about how actions we might wish to take affect the other party. It was a terrific way to start the year, and I am looking forward to continuing our dialogue with Mayor Gerretsen and his colleagues downtown.