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 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 »

A letter to Queen’s faculty

Dear Queen’s community member. Below please find the text of a letter emailed earlier this morning to all Queen’s faculty members with respect to the recent discussions, in media and on-campus, re the recent CAUT report involving the University’s response to an incident in the Department of History. While the letter is directed to members of our academic staff, the matter is of interest to the wider Queen’s community, so I share it here. ———————- I wanted to write a personal note to you and share my perspective on an issue related to our university that is currently the subject of significant attention, both internally and in the media. While I have addressed this issue in letters to some of you and in a recent blog, I thought it important that I continue to keep you informed on this issue. As some of you know, a recent report issued by Continue Reading »

On Academic Freedom at Queen’s

The subject of academic freedom has come up at Queen’s lately, particularly following a controversial report from CAUT that has gained some attention in the media. Since academic freedom has been in the forefront of conversations of late, I thought I would share my thoughts on the subject. Privacy rules prevent me from discussing the specific matter at issue in the CAUT report, save only to say that the report’s conclusions are both incorrect and based on incomplete information.  We can, however, debate academic freedom itself. In fact, we should. While we would all agree that it is a core value of any university, there is not universal agreement as to its definition and scope, let alone how to apply it. Let me be unequivocal: I believe in academic freedom, meaning the freedom to debate, discuss and argue (collegially and with sound evidence) difficult, controversial and, yes, sometimes uncomfortable topics. Continue Reading »

Another Matariki Network meeting come and gone

This morning we wrapped up two days of meetings of the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU). The Board essentially consists of the principals (or presidents or vice-chancellors) of the seven members of the MNU, who routinely bring their Chief International Officers and sometimes their Provosts or equivalent to the meetings. The MNU, for those who don’t know, is a now 3 year old initiative involving ‘7 Sisters’ (the word ‘Matariki’ is Maori for the constellation the Pleiades, or 7 sisters), one—and one only–from each country. Apart from Queen’s, the sole Canadian representative, the universities are Dartmouth (US), Durham (UK), Western Australia (AU), Otago (NZ), Tübingen (Germany) and Uppsala (Sweden). All are mid-sized, research-intensive schools with a strong reputation for teaching and residential experience; none is in a national capital. For more details you can visit some of my previous blogs, for instance on the MNU meetings 21 months ago in Continue Reading »