The importance of counting students

On Friday, 19 April I sent the following letter to Mayor and Council.


In light of the recent debate about whether to count post-secondary students in the proposed new electoral boundaries in Kingston, I believe that, as Principal of Queen’s, it is important for me to weigh in on the debate. The question at hand, which has caught the attention of many and engaged the community in an important discussion is this: Are post-secondary students residents of Kingston, or are they transients staying long enough to get a degree before moving elsewhere?

As a destination for students, Queen’s is responsible for their education, and health and wellness while they are studying here. We consider students to be members not only of the Queen’s community but also of the Kingston community. We actively encourage them to get involved in the city in which they live, Continue Reading »

Freedom of Speech

Although I am out of town on business I was advised of a situation that took place on April 2, where a display erected by a Queen’s student group was removed from the JDUC by Campus Security. The display, titled “Queen’s Free Speech Wall,” included racial slurs and hate speech that, quite simply, have no place on our campus.

Freedom of speech in Canada is protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a fundamental freedom. The very nature of the subject will usually stir controversy as freedom of speech is protected, but it is not absolute. I am a proponent of the right to free speech, particularly in an academic environment. Having said that I believe that all members of our community have a right to feel safe and respected while on our campus. Demeaning each other based on race, religion or any other affiliation will not be tolerated. Continue Reading »

Time-to-completion and extensions for graduate students

Yesterday I received an open letter regarding a topic of great importance to many of our graduate students: time-to-completion and extension policies. I want to address some of the issues raised in that letter in hopes that it will alleviate some of the concerns our graduate students have about this matter.

Since last September, the Graduate Studies Executive Council (GSEC) has been working to revise our current policies, which had not been updated in more than a decade. The policy changes that have been proposed will be voted on by the GSEC at its March 14 meeting. It won’t be, however, the first time these issues are raised: the proposed policy changes have been discussed at all Queen’s faculty councils and committees, with feedback provided directly to the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and to GSEC.

I think it’s important to make a few things clear, Continue Reading »

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. Continue Reading »

On Dec. 6 and the Blue Lights

Today, Dec 6, marks a particularly sad and horrifying anniversary, of the Montreal Massacre, where 14 women, mainly engineering students at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, were gunned down simply because they were women and in Engineering. Like many people of my age, I remember very well what I was doing when I first heard the dreadful news: I had just returned home (then Halifax) from a trip to take my 8 month old daughter, Sarah, to visit her grandparents. I remember hugging her very close, feeling sorrow for the fathers and mothers who had lost their daughters that day, and worrying—what would the world be like when she became a young adult?

The Montreal Massacre coincided almost exactly with an unpleasant episode on Queen’ campus a few months previously, when banners were hung out of residence windows mocking the nascent “No means no” movement. I shan’t repeat the slogans, Continue Reading »