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A sad 25th anniversary, and a time to reflect

Last week my wife and I attended a performance of the School of Music wind ensemble at the Isabel. It was a great performance of several recent and contemporary compositions. The one that stuck with me was ‘Polytechnique’, a moving piece by young Quebec composer Jonathan Dagenais that concluded with 14 chimes in memory of the women killed by a crazed and hateful gunman on 6 December 1989 at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. (Click here to watch a performance of ‘Polytechnique’ by another ensemble).

This Saturday will mark the 25th anniversary of that scar on our national psyche, and it has particular resonance given recent discussions on campus and in the media concerning sexual assault.  Among those who attend the memorials (here at Queen’s it is scheduled for Friday Dec 5) on campus, a great many will not even have been born in 1989. Continue Reading »

A response to the Toronto Star’s article on sexual assault

The following is a response to an article about sexual assault on university campuses that appeared in the Toronto Star on November 20, 2014:

Like many of you, I was deeply affected by today’s Toronto Star story on sexual assault on Canadian post-secondary campuses. I am profoundly sorry that these women went through these ordeals, some of them during their time at Queen’s, and appreciate their bravery in speaking publicly about these events.

While I could not and cannot comment on specific cases involving current or former Queen’s students without their consent because of their right to privacy, I want to make it clear that there is no tolerance for sexual assault in our community, and when it does occur we take it seriously. As principal it is my duty and determination to lead and participate in discussing this issue openly.

Like most universities, Continue Reading »

Queen’s further revises noise application

The following letter was originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Kingston Whig-Standard on July 9, 2014.

I am writing to clarify some inaccurate information circulating in our community regarding the application Queen’s University has submitted to the City of Kingston for a temporary noise bylaw exemption for two West Campus sports fields and for Richardson Stadium.

Queen’s withdrew a prior application earlier this year after noise-related concerns were expressed by area residents during broad public consultations. We listened to those concerns and in response, we have extensively revised and scaled back our application.

Specifically, we are requesting a limited, temporary exemption to the noise control bylaw, between 9 am and 9 pm, Monday to Sunday, until December 31, 2015. Put simply, we are seeking the ability to: blow game whistles; make brief, intermittent PA announcements; sing or play the national anthem; Continue Reading »

All activity carries risk. Risk mitigation helps manage it, taking safety and health in account.

Risk, Safety and Student initiative: a comment on the recent AMS op-ed

I read with interest the comments of the outgoing AMS Executive in the final print issue of this year’s edition of the Queen’s Journal, in particular those suggesting that the university has become overly ‘risk-conscious’ in recent years. The editorial states that this is leading to a dampening of the freedom of initiative and action, as well as the independence of student government, that has been enjoyed by Queen’s students for nearly a century.

It is certainly true that students here (I was one myself many moons ago) enjoy a much higher degree of autonomy in the non-academic sphere than those at other universities. That’s always been a distinguishing feature of Queen’s. We were one of the first universities to appoint a student representative to the Board of Trustees (the Rector), and students have exercised judicial authority—a delegated authority from Senate—over their peers via the ‘NAD’ (non-academic discipline) system for decades. Continue Reading »

The image shows Queen's unique position (upper right quadrant) as the balanced academy.

A Strategic Framework for our balanced academy

At Queen’s, we talk a lot about being the quintessential balanced academy. It’s a vision that sets us apart from the country’s other universities. But what it means is simple: we want Queen’s to be “the Canadian research-intensive university with a transformative learning experience.” We want Queen’s to be a destination of choice for top-notch researchers and graduate students, but also for bright and curious undergraduates who will make the most of the research-informed education that faculty members deliver. With a well-earned reputation already in place, it might seem that simply building on past success will ensure such a future.

But as I wrote two years ago in The Third Juncture, in these times of economic change, technological advance, and the globalization of education and knowledge, we cannot simply take that continued success for granted. Increased competition and significant financial challenges threaten our ability to achieve our vision and to strengthen the student experience and our research prominence. Continue Reading »