Category Archives: Announcements

Federal budget brings good news for research

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund will invest $1.5 billion over 10 years into research excellence.

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund will invest $1.5 billion over 10 years into research excellence.

Budget day is always an interesting one when you work as a university administrator. Sometimes we have a sense of what to expect. At other times, however, we get some surprises. Budget 2014 brought some very good news, not all of it anticipated, regarding research funding for the post-secondary sector.

The increases to the granting council budgets, and an increase in the Indirect Costs of Research program, and support for ‘Big Science’ initiatives such as TRIUMF, of which Queen’s is a participant are certainly welcome and important investments. The new Canada First Research Excellence Fund that will invest $1.5 billion over 10 years into research excellence really moves the yard stick and is key to our global leadership. Universities will see the first installment of $50 million in 2015-16, growing to $200 million in 2018-19 and beyond. The investment acknowledges the important role our faculty, students and staff play in advancing knowledge and contributing to the kinds of groundbreaking discoveries that benefit all Canadians.

As a research-intensive university, this news is important.  It sends a strong message that the government recognizes the vital role that post-secondary institutions – and particularly our people – must play in the future prosperity and economic wellness of this country.

As my colleague (and former Queen’s faculty member) David Barnard, the Chair of the Association of Universities of Colleges of Canada, said in a statement issued last night, “this is a pivotal moment for research excellence and innovation in Canada.” I couldn’t agree more. Universities such as Queen’s are incubators for the kinds of valuable ideas that have the power to change the world. Expanding our research capacity will also enable us to diversify and intensify  our international partnerships, enhancing our international reputation for excellence.

And there is no time like the present to embrace research. It is worth noting that graduate enrolment at Canadian universities has increased by almost 90 per cent since 2000. With that kind of growth comes an astounding amount of possibility. Budget 2014 also includes $15 million per year to both the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and $7 million per year to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, important sources of support for both our researchers and students (graduate and undergraduate) alike.

The complete Budget 2014 document outlines the numbers in more detail, but suffice it so say, I’m pleased with yesterday’s announcement. While we still don’t know how the Canada First Research Excellence funding will be allocated, we do know that it will be both competitive and peer reviewed. I extend my appreciation to my colleagues and the hardworking staff at both AUCC and U15 for their work behind the scenes advocating on behalf of universities and academic research. And I commend the government for investing seriously, in a time of fiscal restraint, in the potential of university-generated research and scholarship to contribute to Canada’s, and the world’s, well-being.

 

 

 

Welcome news regarding First Nations education

This comic book, "I'm a Chemical Engineering" was produced by Aboriginal Access to Engineering at Queen's. It was distributed to schools in First Nations communities.

This comic book, “I’m a Chemical Engineer” was produced by Aboriginal Access to Engineering at Queen’s. It was distributed to schools in First Nations communities.

On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo made a very promising announcement regarding a new plan to transform First Nations education. This landmark agreement should lead to significant investments in First Nations education for students in kindergarten through to grade 12.

I was heartened to hear the news. The unequal access to resources is a pressing issue for this country’s First Nations people, and is one that by association impacts all Canadians.

Author and professor Irshad Manji succinctly describes education as “the unleashing of the permission to ask questions.” Recognizing the value of education – and vowing to make a flawed system better – is one of the most effective things we can do to improve lives. Forgive the cliché, but education really does open up a world of possibility. It allows individuals and communities alike to rewrite the future with a different rulebook. It tears down barriers and levels the playing field.

Knowing that young people in First Nations communities will be getting improved access to education is an important step for this country to be taking. It publicly acknowledges the inequality that has kept too many from graduating from high school or carrying on to post-secondary education.

Certainly, by enhancing education in the primary, middle and high school years, the great hope is that more Aboriginal young people step forward to take their rightful places in our universities and colleges. Community outreach and mentorship activities will help reinforce the pleasures of learning.

Too many First Nations communities are struggling with food security, access to education and training, and a lack of employment opportunities. These same communities also grapple with an unfair share of poverty, addictions and mental health issues.

I hope very much that Friday’s announcement will not only help today’s students achieve their potential, but also generations of young people to come. As we create our vision for Canada’s future, it is absolutely crucial that their voices be heard. Queen’s is committed to doing what it can to help make this so.

Homecoming’s Return

Earlier today I made an announcement that I think a lot of people have been waiting for: we’re bringing back fall homecoming. Things will officially get underway this October – and I have to tell you, I’m really looking forward to it. It will be really wonderful to be able to welcome Alumni back to Queen’s in a way that we haven’t done for a few years.

As you may already know, it was my predecessor, Principal Tom Williams, who first made the difficult decision to suspend Homecoming in 2008, after an unsanctioned street party became a serious threat to the safety of our students, alumni and the wider Kingston community.  In order to insure the continued decline of unsafe activities, in particular the street party, I extended that suspension in 2010.

I know how important fall reunions are for our community, but the decision to reinstate Homecoming isn’t one I’ve made lightly. After all, safety always trumps tradition, and this case was no exception. But I have to tell you that I’ve felt encouraged by the good judgment people have been showing when gathering informally in the years since our annual event was put on hold. That’s what has allowed me to get the ball rolling on this.

Naturally, over the last year and a bit, more than a few meetings have occurred on this issue. I’ve worked with the university’s Office of Advancement and the Queen’s University Alumni Association, along with the Rector and student leaders from the AMS, the SGPS, and the QSAA to imagine just what this event could be. Kingston Police, Emergency Services and city residents have all had their say too. I’m grateful, too, that the Mayor and the City of Kingston have been open to discussion Homecoming’s return.

Though our Homecoming event will continue to celebrate the best of Queen’s spirit, as it always has, there will be a few changes this year. Most notably, the event will now be held over two weekends in October, rather than one. This year, we’ll be celebrating on October 4th-6th and October 18th-20th. Each weekend will feature its own signature events for Alumni. Alongside programming for students, faculties and the rest of the Kingston community. Of course, both weekends will feature a home football game. We’re also hoping that by spreading the celebrating out over a few weeks, it will ease the pressure on local hotels and restaurants trying to accommodate so many returning alumni.

I’m feeling really optimistic and excited about Homecoming’s return. Queen’s is all about tradition, and this is one of the great ones. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to carry it on for years to come. That said, Homecoming’s success will absolutely depend on the full and continued cooperation of our entire community – students, alumni and Kingston residents alike. Let’s work together to make Queen’s Homecoming something both the university and the city can be proud of.

Video message to the Queen’s community

I recorded this video this morning to speak to students, faculty and staff during this difficult time for the Queen’s community.

Hello,

The entire campus community is reeling from the latest tragedy to afflict Queen’s in the course of a very difficult year. The loss of any member of our community is tragic and affects us all—students, faculty and staff. My message for students is look out for others, but also look out for yourself.

Mental health is a big issue on Canada’s campuses. One in four young Canadians of university or college age will experience stress, anxiety, depression or other symptoms. These are topics we must talk about on our campuses, and at Queen’s we’ve had a working group on mental health since 2007. Mental health as an issue has my full attention and that of my colleagues and our faculty and staff at Queen’s.

There are many resources available to you at the university, from the Alma Mater Society, or in the Kingston community at large. In extreme, some people might entertain thoughts of suicide. Life has its ups and downs; your parents have experienced them, your friends, your teachers, your professors—I have.

But there’s no shame in reaching out. Don’t cut off the future. Don’t give up.

If you need help, reach out and ask for it. Finally, we’re at exam time, a particularly stressful time of year. Don’t hesitate to get help if you are feeling anxious about things. Now is a time for the Queen’s community to come together and support one another. Please, once again, take care of your friends, and take care of yourself.

You can access support at:

Health, Counselling and Disability Services
613-533-2506

AMS Peer Support Centre
613-533-6000 ext. 75111

Office of the Chaplain
613-533-2186

Telephone Aid Line Kingston
613-544-1771

Frontenac Community Mental Health Services
544-4229

Kids Help Phone
1-800-668-6868

Print this 1-page resource on student mental health support services at Queen’s (PDF 103 KB)

A final note to students:
If you need academic accommodation, please talk to your instructors. They have been provided with information to support you.

Fall Homecoming

This is the text of a statement I’ve just released on fall Homecoming:

Two years ago, then-Principal Tom Williams suspended Queen’s Homecoming because of the risks, associated with the Aberdeen street event, to students, alumni, members of the Kingston community and to the university.

Principal Williams indicated his decision was not an easy one and today, I am announcing another difficult decision – that in my judgment, based on the continued occurrence of an illegal street party on Aberdeen Street,  it is regrettably necessary to suspend fall Homecoming for a further three years.

As an alumnus who has enjoyed Homecoming in past years, I have been obliged to take this decision with some reluctance but with no doubt that it is the correct one for Queen’s at this juncture. I would personally like to see Homecoming’s return to the autumn in the future.  In order to do so, I must be satisfied that the cycle of annual street gatherings has truly been broken.

Since Homecoming was suspended two years ago, there has been some progress, and to those who have stayed away – thank you. The crowds have been smaller, there have been no serious injuries, and there have been fewer arrests and charges laid against students and alumni. Still, despite the leadership and encouragement of the AMS, SGPS and Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA), disappointingly large numbers of individuals have gathered around Aberdeen Street. This year, there were 1,500-2,000 on the streets – most appear to have been connected to Queen’s – and 95 arrests and 255 charges laid.

The Chief of Police has said more time is needed and there remains a high risk to student, alumni and city resident safety. I share this concern and in reaching this decision, the safety of students, alumni and community members was paramount.

I have also considered the impact on the university’s reputation locally and across the country. The vast majority of Queen’s students are responsible and civic-minded and contribute positively to the life of this community and the university. 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.

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. I will reassess my decision in late 2013, based on the diminution, and I hope complete disappearance, of dangerous street parties and a continued safe and respectful environment for our students and the community.

Once again: as an alumnus, I recognize that the absence of fall Homecoming for a few more years may be an enormous disappointment to my fellow alumni as well as to students — the overwhelming majority of whom have not been responsible for the problem. However, I ask you all to set this disappointment aside in the interests of the university, the safety of our students, and our relations with our Kingston neighbours.

Finally, I want to indicate in advance my conviction that when fall Homecoming eventually returns, it must be moved to coincide with the last home football game of the season in October, and cooler weather. This is consistent with its calendar placement up until a few years ago. It is significant that the Aberdeen street party problem coincides with an earlier move from October into late September.

In the meantime, Spring Reunion and Mini-U will continue and I look forward to welcoming alumni back to campus for these special events.

I welcome your feedback at principal@queensu.ca

Read more on the Queen’s News Centre