Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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. For that reason, I am forming an advisory group comprising students, faculty, and staff members to examine the issue of inclusivity at Queen’s and make both immediate and long-term recommendations for change.

Among other things, the advisory group will consult key stakeholders who work on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion to identify concrete steps to create and sustain a positive, constructive dialogue and identify educational and training needs. This group will consult widely and report back to me with recommendations by the end of the academic year.

This will not be the first group to look at diversity and inclusion at Queen’s, and so I understand that there may well be skepticism about its creation and ability to effect change. With that in mind, one of the first tasks of the group will be to review the work that has been done in the past, and determine if there are barriers that have prevented previous recommendations from being successfully implemented and how we can overcome these.

Last week, I asked the provost to gather as much information as possible about the party that prompted this discussion. An investigation is just that – it is not a “witch hunt,” as some have opined on social media, but simply due process. There is no doubt that the party in question made some of our community members feel upset, marginalized and degraded, and that the decisions made by some students were insensitive and exhibited very poor judgment. However, based on the information the provost has gathered, we have come to the conclusion that there should not be a formal punitive process undertaken through the Student Code of Conduct. This in itself would fix nothing. What is needed is a broader, sustained, and more meaningful conversation around these issues.

This is a very difficult subject, and many of you have strong feelings about how the university should proceed. However, as an educator and the principal of Queen’s, I am confident that the most effective way to address these issues is through education, discussion, and awareness. That is why the work of the advisory group, and the dialogue that will take place in the coming months, is so important.

Of the many conversations I’ve had with members of our community over the past several days, one conversation with an alumna in particular stands out. To paraphrase, she defined racism as a broader concept than many members of the general public are likely to acknowledge—one that includes not only obvious actions of discrimination and hatred, but also unconscious assumptions and opinions, and more subtle acts of disrespect. Perceptions of what “racism” includes are fluid, and they have evolved historically.

Within a progressive society such as a university, such definitions have also broadened over recent decades. But progressive communities acknowledge that definitions evolve, open themselves up to difficult conversations, and respect each other as the status quo is challenged. Sometimes it takes an event such as the recent costume party to make us re-evaluate our own assumptions, unconscious biases, use of terminology, and our sense of what is and what is not appropriate behaviour in a multicultural and inclusive community.

We have made great progress on many social issues at Queen’s over the years (mental health and sexual violence, for example) through dialogue and concrete, rather than symbolic, actions. I encourage everyone to share views in a constructive rather than a divisive way, with a focus on the wellbeing and success of all our community members. Change comes from conversation and education, and creating a culture of greater respect and understanding. I do not know at this juncture what our specific actions will be, other than that they do not include demonizing individuals who are members of our community. I do know that we need to find solutions, and I welcome your suggestions.

Peace: the absence of fear and the presence of justice

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 – what did he mean by “do nothing?” In the world he came from, the teaching was that pacifists “did nothing” in place of preparing to take up arms. I was glad to explain that my pacifist role models were very much people of action and that I did all that I could to live up to their examples. While his lot were (with varying degrees of reluctance) willing to do violence in the hope of creating peace, my lot were (with varying degrees of self awareness and integrity) using less coercive means to bring about greater peace. Each of us shattered the other’s illusions about who was “on the other side” of our differences. Since that night, I can say with certainty that loving and marrying a soldier has indeed been the most constructive thing I have ever done to strengthen my commitment to pacifism.

You have read Ursula Franklin’s beautiful words above me: “Peace is not the absence of war but the absence of fear and the presence of justice.” In our world, and in our homes where violence has been present as often as not and the dividing line between good and evil cuts through every human heart, peace is a state brought about by strongly held conviction, rigorous self-examination and as much action as our personal circumstances allow. As people who want peace for ourselves and others we can not shirk Margaret Meade’s perhaps cliche but still essential suggestion that we must “be the change we want to see in the world.”

The practice of pacifism is a life-time, moment-by-moment commitment – many splendored in its efforts. Those efforts are too numerous to describe tonight so instead I want to briefly talk about what I believe to be the primary pacifist practice – that of spiritually grounded self-examination.

Different traditions use different language but my own Quaker tradition advises that we “remove the seeds of war from our own lives.” This is a tall – if not impossible – order. It does not refer merely to holding political ideals or particular interpersonal practices but extends through the whole of our lives. It includes eliminating investments and patterns of consumption that lead to fear and conflict close to home or at a distance. Few of us have the integrity to even pretend to strive for such an ideal these days – I certainly cannot lay claim to it.

It is much easier to call out ideas we don’t like than it is to lay down the technology that contains conflict minerals or the many consumer goods produced in circumstances of oppression. Certainly we can not live in this society without participating in oppression unless we are willing to be thought terribly odd and take up a place far on the margins of society ourselves. We need to be honest with ourselves about that but we also should not let that reality stop us from doing what we can – including some of the hard stuff.

A famous prophet once challenged his followers: “what credit is there in loving those who love you” or already see you as allies? Love of allies is not meaningless – indeed this week in North America has made the ever-present need for solidarity even more urgent. We must speak our truth, wear our safety pins, and create safe havens for the marginalized but none of that is enough.

It sounds naive to some but I assure you it is not when I say with all certainty that if we want peace, we must refuse to be enemies.

We must oppose evil ideas and evil agendas – and to give that opposition integrity, we must not dehumanize those who tempt us into conflict. In 30 years of seeking to understand humans and our range of behaviour, I have arrived at this one unavoidable truth: from the roughest streets, to the darkest prison to the privileged environs of Queen’s University, I have yet to meet a person who did not make sense when I learned their whole story.

We can and must resist evil but we also can and must exercise that resistance in the most humane, compassionate way possible – constantly challenging ourselves, our allies and those we oppose to methods of living that transcend the perceived need for violence. It takes a life-time of training and discipline to achieve this – and never perfectly. Still, more often than we imagine, it can be done.

Audre Lorde is famously quoted as saying “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” She goes on to point out that “they may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” She “urges each one of us to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself to touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all of our choices” and we can respond with the kind of compassion and humility that hurting children deserve – for who among us has ever left their hurting child entirely behind?

I heard it said this morning by Military Chaplain Captain Ryan Carter that no one has a monopoly on the meaning of Remembrance Day. It is right and good that we gather this evening to mourn the violence in our world and to long together for our vision of peace: an absence of fear and the presence of justice. Let us be sure as we leave this place that we do all that we can to remove the seeds of violence from our own lives, holding each other up so that we do not betray ourselves in fear but rather that we encourage each other to be sure that our actions speak our convictions.

Finding ways to thrive at Queen’s

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; they are common ones in many occupations. And yet, they are important for me to identify personally, so that I might manage my physical and mental health in appropriate and proactive ways.

Since arriving at Queen’s, and making the mental health of the Queen’s community a priority, I knew that I would need to set a good example and create some boundaries in my work and home life. This involved challenging myself to maintain, if not improve, my health in a variety of areas. A treadmill and a set of weights await me at home to use on days when I don’t reach 10,000 steps on my Fitbit. Julie and I do our best to watch our intake of high-carb foods and have salads and fresh vegetables as often as possible. I aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, and began to incorporate naps into my routine on weekends and when evening events are booked in my calendar. I also set blocks of time in my workday to leave room to deal with pressing issues that come up unexpectedly, so surprises don’t pile on top of my regular obligations.

These changes have not eliminated stressors from my work life, but they have proven that when I take care of my mind and my body, I am better prepared to handle issues appropriately and at my fullest capacity. I believe the same to be true for many of us – including the staff, faculty, and students of Queen’s. And, this is why I’m supportive of an important annual event called Thrive Week.

Thrive began at the University of British Columbia in 2009, when two colleagues decided to create wellbeing programming that included various groups of the university’s community. For its first year, 20 events were organized over one week under the tagline “Health, Community, Commitment.” In just a few years, the idea spread to 100 events at campuses across the country, reaching 35,000 people in 2014 alone. Queen’s adopted Thrive last year with great success.

Thrive Week

Thrive Week 2015

This year, Queen’s will celebrate Thrive Week from October 31 to November 4, with numerous stress-busting events held across campus each day. You’ll find me at the Kick-Off Booth on Monday morning, and on Wednesday I’m hosting a walk around campus over the lunch hour. Whether you’re feeling stressed out or not, I encourage you to participate in at least one activity; invite your colleagues and classmates to join you.

As a series of events and activities, we could never expect Thrive Week to solve all of the issues related to mental health and its associated stigma that are prevalent in workplaces and on campuses across the country. Together, we must see it as a mindset, and recognize that when our individual health – mental and physical – is respected and cared for, we all benefit.

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

(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, the late Professor Stewart Webster; I’ll also end up doing a couple of courses with the same Professor McCready in future years, the resident medievalist. Conclusion: the timetable thing was nothing to get stressed about.

In the evening we are all taken off to Lake Ontario Park where there is a mini midway with rides and miniature golf. At the miniature golf line I first make the acquaintance of a student from New Brunswick named Lyse Doucet. 39 years later, in 2015, I will be reading a citation for Lyse at Convocation as she gets an honorary degree as one of Canada’s most high profile and courageous international journalists. One simply does not know who is going to end up doing what at that point, and who will continue to figure prominently in one’s life.

Day Seven: Friday, September 17

Registration. We’ve heard fearsome tales of this. We take our sectioning envelopes, and our cheque books, and pass through a kind of Rube Goldberg human machine in the Jock Harty Arena (then a few years old, torn down in 2008) from station to station. By the time we get to the end of this assembly line we are registered, have paid our fees, and know exactly where we need to be on Monday for class. The whole system has worked quite flawlessly, the design of a famously eccentric Queen’s math professor, Ralph Clench. And indeed, the History department has assigned those of us in History 121 some advance reading on the subject of intellectual history, so I have homework to do for Tuesday’s first history class.

A snapshot from the 1976 TriColour Yearbook.

A snapshot from the 1976 TriColour Yearbook.

Evening fun is a boat cruise, then called, the ‘booze cruise’ in those less vigilant days. I don’t drink at this stage and have no objection to alcohol, but will admit to having felt a bit awkward being the only one who doesn’t imbibe. I had earlier decided to take the alternative Friday entertainment, a concert by the David Bromberg band (a blues group still around 40 years later!). But at the last, when it’s clear I’m the only one doing so, I switch back to the boat cruise. Listening to Dave will have to wait a few years.

There are also meetings of faculty societies and we are introduced to ASUS. People run for their year society. On a whim, I run for treasurer of Arts ’80 and discover a few days later that I have been elected. Apart from a couple of years of involvement in the History department student council, later on, this will be my sole experience of student government.

Day Eight: Saturday, September 18

I finally update my family at home on how I’m doing. Phone calls are expensive in those days and they will be minimal. Some serious homesickness is setting in as I’ve now been here for a week. But there is a football game against Bishop’s (an institution I’d never heard of but will end up teaching at for a year, exactly a decade later), and in the evening there is a dance in Leonard Cafeteria featuring a past-its-prime Canadian band called Edward Bear.

A snapshot from the 1976 Tricolour Yearbook

A snapshot from the 1976 Tricolour Yearbook

Day Nine: Sunday, September 19

This is clearly intended as a calming day. The idea is to get us out of ‘fun’ mode and into ‘academic’ mode. Back then there was a charming tradition called ‘Frosh-Prof dinners’ where faculty members would invite a Gael group to their house for an informal meal. We get pizza at the home of an anatomy prof named Dr. Mackinnon. I never saw him subsequently but remember the meal and the back yard and have met many people over the years who were taught by him (Dr. Mackinnon sadly died a few years ago).

After our dinner, we are all marched over to either the Bews or the Bartlett gym. We sit on old bleachers and our dean, a man called Dr. Duncan Sinclair, who wears a turtleneck sweater, speaks to us about life at Queen’s and academics. One line sticks with me: “there are only students at Queen’s; some of us are on the other side of the desk, but we are all students”. Later in life, as a dean and then principal, I will frequently quote this (I have related this account to Dr. Sinclair, an award winning, Medical Hall of Fame physiologist as I’ve gotten to know him quite well in the past few years, and he is one of the many elder statesmen of Queen’s whose voice still carries great weight on campus). I will not see Dr. Sinclair again till he hoods me at my Convocation in June 1980.

It’s back to the residence and a reasonably early night, though it’s a pretty noisy hallway with lots of stereos blasting. Dave Bellamy, a Sci ’79 student across the hall, plays Supertramp’s ‘School’ frequently and loudly. I will retaliate in due course, when my record player arrives, with a lot of Carly Simon and K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

Day Ten: Monday, September 20

Finally, the first day of class is here. My alarm clock goes off. The first song I hear on my first day of class is George Baker’s Paloma Blanca, a schmaltz top 40 hit from the summer of ’76. (To this day it is not clear to me why I remember this fact.)

After lovely weather during frosh week, it is pouring outside. I find Kingston Hall and my first class, English 110. Good news! My new pal Gayle from my frosh group is in this class. So are three people I don’t know yet but who will each become good friends. David Elmy is from Belleville, has a single room (and a TV!) in Gordon House. We will lose touch in the 90s but have reconnected—he is now a successful businessman in Vancouver, having won the medal in English in our year. Kate Revington is from London, Ontario and she will be in my Philosophy and Classics sections also. Also an English Major, she is now the University Secretary at Guelph. And, there is Glenn Stairs, from Trenton, son of a minister and now a Kingston social worker and one of the smartest people I will meet in my four years. I am still in touch with all three.

The prof is a 5’ 6” slight bundle of energy called Professor W. Craig Ferguson (“Mr. Ferguson” he prefers to be called, regarding “Professor” as superfluous and “Dr.” as an affectation). He wears a gown like professors from a Hollywood version of academia. I am not unfamiliar with universities given my academic family, but I am not prepared for this. He seems a bit of a disciplinarian (note: Glenn Stairs, mentioned above, and I, now take Craig, now retired for some years, out for lunch from time to time.) The class ends with our first essay assigned: on the Wife of Bath’s tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Fortunately my Grade 12 class read some of Chaucer the previous year.

It’s pouring outside as I leave Kingston Hall. I head over to Ellis Hall for my first classical literature class. Prof Richard Bernabei is a polar opposite to Prof Ferguson. In shirtsleeves with no tie or jacket, and chain smoking through the fifty minutes (yes, this was allowed, and students could smoke too), he tells us about the books we will need and how fantastic the plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides are. “You will never read better plays in any language”. “Including Shakespeare?” Someone murmurs. “Yes, including Shakespeare!” Prof Bernabei is a character in his own right, a keen follower of JFK conspiracy theories, and someone, we are unaware at the time, battling some inner demons that will, sadly, kill him prematurely before I graduate. I think of him often to this day.

After this class, I go to the bookstore in Clark Hall. I pick up my textbooks, spending a whopping $110.00 on them. (My tuition that year, by the way, was $600.00). It’s still wet, so I head back to the residence and my room, make a cup of tea, put on some music and reflect on the first ten days of life at Queen’s. Roommate Randy, a Science major, is having his day out in Bio, Chem and Math so we don’t see a lot of each other till the evening.

Bookstore 1976

A snapshot from the 1976 Tricolour Yearbook

Still ahead are Politics 110 with Prof George Perlin (who looks to most of us like Lenin), and on Tuesday I will have my first Philosophy Class with Prof Albert Fell and my first History 121 with Prof Webster. I stayed in almost constant touch with Prof Webster over many years, up till his death in the early 2000s. I run into Prof Fell (along with Prof Perlin, the source of my lowest grades in first year) a great deal these days and have always regretted not taking his Philosophy of History course later in my degree—as someone who works in Historiography I’d have found it very useful.

At this point I am ten days into “my future at Queen’s.” I know nothing of how the academic year will go, or indeed even if I will still be here a year hence as home seems a long way away. (All that’s behind me by January; the marks are generally okay, I’ve made a circle of friends, and now 18, then the drinking age, I can socialize a bit more at events like floor parties.) And, no, I have no idea that I will eventually teach here as postdoc in the mid 80s, much less come back a third time, as Principal.

So, to anyone in first year having doubts or fretting, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. Give it time. Talk to your dons and friends. Make this year, and your time at Queen’s, your own. You’ve no idea how your future at Queen’s will work out or where these roads you are exploring in your early weeks here will lead.

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

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. Things were different then. There was no Internet, and no elaborate campus tours. All I knew of Queen’s I had derived from a small blue booklet all applicants were sent, “Your Future at Queen’s.” I had applied to two other Ontario schools, but I was certainly keenest on Queen’s having heard of it for many years at a private school I had previously attended.

Visiting Brockington House 40 years after first arriving at Queen's

Visiting Brockington House 40 years after first arriving at Queen’s

I was, of course, thrilled to get in (I recall the day), and to get a second letter a few days later with a small but welcome scholarship. I enjoyed the summer, working at a local company that sold discount soft drinks, hanging out at local beaches and lakes with my high school friends, and getting ready for my university adventure. In August I spent a month in Europe, partly with my paternal grandparents in London, partly backpacking around.

I came back to Winnipeg at the very beginning of September and had a week to pack and say my goodbyes. On my last night, I went to two parties, one for a classmate who was getting married, and a smaller one thrown by a few of my closest friends. They had some going away presents for me including a small kettle, a couple of mugs, and small desk plaque that I still have reading ‘mafia headquarters’.

Here’s a day-by-day account of my introduction to Queen’s as I recall it 40 years on.

Day One: Saturday, September 11

I get dropped at Winnipeg airport and embark on a plane to Toronto along with two or three other students from Winnipeg all heading for Queen’s. At Pearson we all collect our bags and hop in a large car headed for Kingston. I am the second last to be dropped off, on the Collingwood Street side of Gordon-Brockington Hall. It is well past dark at this point. I am greeted at the door by a tall second-year engineer who happens to be on my floor, 3rd Brockington and helps me in with my suitcases (I’d sent a trunk ahead; it has the address sticker on it to this day). That young man is Charlie Lund, Sci ’79, son of two Queen’s alumni from Alberta and now himself one of our most loyal and active Calgary alumni. I am just getting settled when a fellow floormate, Michael Campbell, Sci ’79 pops his head in and introduces himself. Mike will end up as one of my closest friends over the next three years and he and I will share an apartment on Alfred Street in third year with two other engineers.

It’s late, and I’m tired, so I save exploring for the following day. At this point I’ve still seen nothing of Queen’s campus. Oh, and I’m in a double room, but there’s as yet no roommate. Could it be I don’t have one?

Day Two: Sunday, September 12

I grab some breakfast at Leonard cafeteria, which normally isn’t open on Sunday’s but is this weekend. I recall my first view of the then-Leonard Field, the lake, Morris Hall and McNeill House. It’s a bit like Dorothy opening the door of her house on to a view of Oz. What is this place and why am I here? A first bit of apprehension hits – have I made the right choice in coming? There are no computer cards for meals; we have standard issue cardboard cards, which get holes punched in them as we queue up.

Later that morning I meet my roommate – yes, I have one. R.J. (Randy) McCullough is from Parham, Ontario, which he describes as ‘forty miles north of here’. The Parham farm kid and the 17-year-old from a large prairie city…how’s this going to work? (It worked just fine and Randy and I keep in touch from time to time).

My instructions say to head over to Jeffery Hall to find out the number of my ‘Gael’ group – I’m in 109. I later wander over to what is now Nixon Field where I meet my Gael group leaders, Marion, Greg (who knows my roommate) and Karen (now Dr. Karen Smith, Associate Dean of Continuing Professional Development for Queen’s School of Medicine). And of course I meet my fellow frosh. I do not recall all of them and much less their surnames though we are all asked to say where we are from: Frank is an aspiring meds student (and now a very successful cardiac surgeon). Elsie is from Delhi, Ontario. Lee is from Larder Lake. There is a girl from Ancaster who will later be in my philosophy class. And, there is Gayle Stoness, from Seeley’s Bay, a future Queen’s career administrator (and briefly at McMaster with her psychiatrist husband at the same time in the early 2000s) who 40 years later remains a close friend.

I head back to the residence for dinner where they have designated tables to meet floormates. One of the first people to introduce himself is Bob Pritchard (Sci ’80) whose roommate is Bob Spies, also Sci ’80 – they will be known on the floor as ‘the Bobs’. It turns out that I have the room to myself again tonight – Randy’s gone home to Parham for the evening. There is a Brockington House meeting in the common room where we meet the dons and the wardens (or senior dons – yes, they were actually called wardens). The wardens are John and Jane Johnston, he a young lawyer and she a nurse. I have seen them many times since my return to Queen’s in 2009 and in my more homesick moments in my first term – and there are a few – they will be great listeners.

Day Three: Monday, September 13

This is the first full day of frosh activity. We get a bit of a tour of campus. We are treated to a movie called The Academic Cloister, by a budding student filmmaker named Michael McMillan (who will go on with several of his friends to found the incredibly successful Atlantis Films). And, we are handed something called a ‘sectioning envelope’ with a class timetable. We get a library tour of Douglas. The entrance then is at the second level, and a security guard checks backpacks going out of the building, not in, to make sure that books have been properly checked out. There are two major reading rooms up top. There is first, the Reserve Reading room with lovely oaken paneling and stained glass (now known as the Harry Potter Room, but at that point J.K. Rowling is 11 years old and Harry and Voldemort are two decades from conception). And across the hall, in garish early 70s purple fabric, the so called ‘Purple Passion Pit.’

A snapshot of Orientation Week from the Tricolour Yearbook of 1976

Day Four: Tuesday, September 14

We are left to our own devices in the morning to visit academic departments and look into courses we might wish to take. I’m still dithering between English and History. Marion, the arts student among our Gaels, proffers advice on sections to take (and ones to avoid). I pick History 121 (intellectual history, the course recommended for potential history majors); English 110; a classics course (Intro to Classical Literature); Philosophy 117; and Politics 110. I try to pick sections in such a way that I will have Friday off. I’m not sure why, since going home is not a factor, but it seems others are trying to avoid Friday classes so I do the same.

In the afternoon we hand our sectioning envelopes, duly filled out with preferred timetables, to our Gaels. I’m pretty sure we all go and have dinner at Karen’s house at 81 Division St., which is still standing to this day.

Day Five: Wednesday, September 15

It’s Wednesday and I will admit that day is a bit of a blank. I have a bit of a sense that our Gaels are struggling to find things to keep us occupied. The modern arrangement for Orientation which has a residence half and a faculty half is a great improvement; I could have done with a bit more acculturation to residence life and my floormates (and feel a bit of a fish out of water, and an underage one at that, for most of my first term in residence).

…stay tuned for Part Two, coming next week, where I recount my first trip to Lake Ontario Park, my experience with registration and the first day of class.