Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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Daniel Woolf
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A Community Effort – Creating conditions for a safer alcohol culture

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 09:26

Guest blog by Cathy Edwards, Chair of the Greater Kingston Area Safe & Sober Community Alliance Post-Secondary Work Group

Community partners are working together to mitigate the impact of excessive drinking this coming weekend in an effort to keep both students and community members safe. The traditional celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with parades, parties, and all things green. A major part of the celebration is the drinking culture, with social norms and traditions around St. Patrick’s Day affecting how alcohol is viewed and how it is consumed.

While traditions can play a huge role in how, when, and why people drink, what else influences the culture of alcohol use in a community? There are a number of environmental conditions that play a role including how readily available and accessible alcohol is, alcohol advertising and promotion, campus and local alcohol policies, and enforcement of alcohol laws.

Research demonstrates the value and need to bring campuses and communities together to change the environmental conditions that promote heavy alcohol consumption.[1],[2] As a member of the national Post Secondary Education Partnership on Alcohol Harms (PEP-AH), Queen’s University has expressed its commitment to implementing evidence-based actions to reduce alcohol-related harms, and recognizes that helping shape the off-campus environment in which students live, work and play is an essential component of a multi-faceted strategy to support student health and safety.

So, what does the off-campus environment look like? The targeted marketing and promotion of alcohol, including drink specials to students, is common practice. And with more than half of all licensed establishments in the City of Kingston clustered within 1.5 km or a 15-minute walk of Queen’s University campus, the near-campus environment is one in which alcohol is easily accessible and available. We know that the density of alcohol outlets plays a major role in over consumption, and related problems.[3]

In addition to heightened enforcement, offering training to bars to help create safer drinking environments, and educating students and the public around safe drinking practices, what else can be done to minimize the impact alcohol has on our community? Are we ready to consider and act on the role cheap drink specials, targeted marketing and alcohol outlet density are having on consumption?

Whether it is public intoxication, alcohol poisoning, vandalism, violence, sexual assault, or impaired driving, preventing alcohol-related harms requires a community effort. We must continue to work together to look at better ways to address community alcohol problems.

In the months since Homecoming-related street parties impacted near-campus neighbourhoods and local emergency rooms, community partners including Queen’s, the City, health and emergency services have been working together to examine a plethora of initiatives intended to provide additional enforcement tools and incentives to curb out-of-control parties. The City’s new nuisance-party bylaw is one such tool; it promises to provide stiff fines to those hosting parties that put themselves or others at risk. The partners continue to examine other tools and practices as part of efforts to dissuade harmful or dangerous behaviours.

A key element in the equation is how we can create conditions that support more positive and responsible choices about alcohol. It is crucial that as a community we engage and empower those who choose to drink to value safe drinking. At the same time, it is important for us to look at the broader environment and engage the community if we are ever going to change the drinking culture.

The Safe & Sober Community Alliance Post-Secondary Work Group partners include Queen’s University, St Lawrence College, CFB Kingston, Addictions & Mental Health Services-KFLA, Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, Kingston: Partners for a Safe Community, Kingston General Hospital, KFL&A Public Health, Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and Kingston Police.


[1] Wechsler, Henry and Nelson, Toben F., Harvard School of Public Health. “What We Have Learned from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study: Focusing Attention on College Student Alcohol Consumption and the Environmental Conditions that Promote It”, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, July 2008.

[2]  July 2012 accessed on August 14, 2017.

[3] Ontario Public Health Association. Issue Series: Alcohol Outlet Density; June 2017.

Unveiling Queen’s forgotten Black History

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 16:26

I asked Edward Thomas, Sc’06, MASc’12, to write a guest blog about Black History Month at Queen’s focusing on the research he’s conducted over this past year around one of the most shameful events in our university’s history: the expulsion of black medical students in 1918.

I am both fascinated and saddened by what he has uncovered, and hope to work with Edward and others to acknowledge these very troubling events in our history, the legacies of the students we abandoned and make some kind of amends.

Many thanks to Edward for his research and lending his expertise to this post.


The roots of Black History Month date to the 1920s. The American scholar Carter G. Woodson, PhD., understood how the stories a society tells itself can either expand or limit its sense of what’s possible. He first promoted the February observance to expand his nation’s sense of what black life meant to its past, present and future. He positioned the annual commemoration in opposition to historians who ignored black contributions and achievements. But Woodson’s Black History Month aspired to more than annual recitations of well-known tales—he wanted to engage everyone’s curiosity and remind us how black people have contributed to all stages of our national, local and institutional stories. He wanted people to understand that Black History is intertwined with Everyone’s History.

I learned last year just how deeply Black History is woven into Queen’s history as I researched the circumstances and consequences of our university’s notorious expulsion of black medical students in 1918.

I entered this work, framing Queen’s Black History as a retelling of the financial benevolence of Robert Sutherland in 1878 and Alfie Pierce’s decades of minstrelsy ending in 1951. I emerged from this work having discovered something much more expansive — scores of black medical students between 1900 and 1922 who became medical heroes, statesmen, patrons, tycoons, clerics, builders, activists and advocates. In their time, these alumni became historically significant engines of changes affecting us all. I had the honour of presenting 10 of their stories on February 15 at Robert Sutherland Hall (thanks to Queen’s African and Caribbean Students Association).

The individual stories are remarkable. They include Dr. Hugh G. H. Cummins (Premier of Barbados), Dr. Clement Courtney Ligoure (North-End medical hero of the Halifax explosion), Dr. Simeon A. Hayes (co-founding director of C.L. Financial) and many others. The personal and professional networks of Queen’s 1900-1922 black medical alumni intersected many of the leading thinkers of the 20th century. Even more remarkable is that their names remained unacknowledged at Queen’s for 100 years.

The research of Queen’s early black medical alumni overturns a 100-year-old narrative about the nature of the 1918 expulsions, their immediate consequence and their ultimate meaning to this university’s development. The research shows how Queen’s was Canada’s leading centre for black professional education in 1917. The research demonstrates the alumni’s significant roles in shaping history in Canada and around the world. The research expands our consideration of what Queen’s could have, but did not, contribute to the 20th century’s long march in the direction of social, economic and political progress.

There are troubling implications stemming from this work. The evidentiary rationale for the university’s historic turn against black students is troubling. The unsettled matter of our official resolutions against black students is troubling. Our broken relationship with the legacies of the affected black students is troubling. Most troubling is the intervening century during which our community of scholars, myself included, has ignored the contributions and achievements of these black alumni. If one can know a culture by observing the stories it tells about itself, one can know a university’s character by the effort it expends to faithfully understand its own history. This year’s Black History Month has given us new way points to explore and understand Queen’s history.

Edward Thomas

Informed respectful debate is central to academia

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 19:07

The principles of academic freedom, expressed through thoughtful, informed and respectful investigation, are a central tenet of the values Queen’s holds, and which it strives to instill in our students.

Far too often universities, and university academics, have been attacked by increasingly polarized interest groups seeking to stifle thoughtful or respectful examinations of opposing ideas. Hate speech aside, failing to explore or confront ideas with which we disagree through disciplined and respectful dialogue, debate and argument, does society a disservice, weakens our intellectual integrity, and threatens the very core of what Queen’s, and any university, should be about.

Throughout my tenure as Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s has advanced the values of diversity and inclusion, and it remains a predominant focus of my own work. I believe that everyone within the university community should feel able to explore and debate diverse and even uncomfortable viewpoints if that occurs in a respectful academic environment.

Queen’s law professor Bruce Pardy has organized a presentation by University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, to examine “the rising tide of compelled speech in Canada”. Already there are expressions of outrage that the event is taking place, and still others have condemned that outrage. Expressing one’s affront to an idea or position is completely acceptable in an academic environment, if supported by informed arguments and expressed respectfully; blanket calls for censorship however, are intellectually lazy and are anathema to scholarly pursuits.

Whatever one’s strongly-felt objections to particular points of view, their mere expression does not constitute a threat to physical safety; nor does that expression imply that the university itself accepts those views. To the contrary, if history has taught us anything, it is that attempts to shut down debate and limit speech serve no one well—even the groups calling for such silencing. They merely make it easier for the next group in power to silence others. A university cannot sustain its ancient mission of inquiry into the true, the good, and the beautiful under such circumstances, nor can it exercise its responsibility to pursue knowledge free of constraint.

Let’s be clear here: what is at issue is nothing less than our commitment to academic freedom. If the views expressed, however uncomfortable for some, are not a violation of Canadian law, related university policies or otherwise demonstrate an intention or effect of inciting hatred and violence, then as academics we should listen and present opposing ideas through informed and respectful dialogue.

After the vote

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 16:34

The Alma Mater Society (AMS) and Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) held a referendum on charging students a mandatory fee to help finance the redevelopment of the John Deutsch University Centre. The results came in late last night with 51.1% of the AMS students voting no, and 77.3% of the SGPS students voting yes.

The project was contingent on a financing commitment from both levels of student government as well as one by the University. With this split decision, the university cannot proceed as planned, at the present time, with the JDUC redevelopment project. However, the university remains supportive of enhancing student life on campus, and will continue to work with student leaders over the next few weeks to determine next steps, recognizing in particular the strong endorsement by graduate and professional students of a need for dedicated space.

I want to acknowledge the tremendous amount of work that went into this project by our student leaders and our administration and wish to thank them for their commitment to the quality of student life. I myself had hoped for a positive outcome, and know there are many of you who are disappointed in this result. However, please be assured that while the proposed development will not proceed this year, we will not stop working together to improve all aspects of student life, including increasing accessibility and access to club and study spaces.

Thank you for participating in this process.

Cast your vote for the future of the JDUC

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 13:00

On February 12 and 13, Queen’s students will face an important question. The AMS, along with the SPGS, is holding a referendum on implementing a new student fee to help fund the redevelopment of the John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC).

I am a strong supporter of the role of student government within the university. Consequently, I do not normally express opinions or intervene in matters within student leadership’s domain. However, the JDUC renovation is important to the university as well, and I want to work together with the AMS and SGPS to create a modern student life facility, which is important to the student experience on campus.

Plans for the revitalized JDUC include making the building completely accessible, creating new space for clubs and faculty societies, and developing collaborative study spaces. The annual non-reviewable fee would be implemented beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year and charged for the following 20 years. This is a standard funding model for student-led capital projects at campuses across the country.

There is a long history at Queen’s of student-led fundraising and support for campus buildings. In fact, one of our most iconic landmarks, Grant Hall, would not exist without the generous contributions of both students and alumni. The building was originally to be financed by the Frontenac County Council, but citizens rescinded the proposal in 1901 when shovels were already in the ground. Queen’s students and alumni rallied together to raise the funds needed to complete the building, one-third of which came from the students themselves.

More recently, the AMS and Queen’s students contributed more than $25 million to constructing the Queen’s Centre and within it the Athletic and Recreation Centre, a facility vastly superior to those previously available. Today, students use that facility thanks to the contributions of those who came before them. As a proud alumnus myself, I know that Queen’s students value the important role they play in shaping the university’s legacy and to the students that follow in our footsteps.  If you have benefitted from the philanthropy of your predecessors by using the Queen’s Centre, please consider paying that forward now.

Graduate students may well wonder why they should contribute, given that they are more closely tied to their specific departments and often have office space. I would encourage you, too, to vote in favour. Increased graduate space has been something that graduate student leadership has proposed at various times over the past decade, but until this year I have never seen the kind of alignment between AMS and SGPS leadership that has now brought the project to this important juncture.

The university believes in the importance of this project and is proud to help fund it. The university intends to make a substantial contribution to this project and philanthropic donations will play a part, as well. I sincerely hope we have the chance to work with the AMS and SGPS to build a student centre of which we can all be proud.

Of course, this decision is not up to me. It is you, the students, who must decide about the future of the JDUC. I encourage you to learn more about the JDUC plans, ask questions about the project to your student leaders and make your decision. On February 12 and 13, cast your electronic vote and let your voice be heard. The quality of student life for future generations of Queen’s students and alumni depends on your participation.

You are not alone

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 15:44

The following email was sent to all students from Principal Daniel Woolf on Monday, January 26, 2018

This time of year, when term is underway, daylight is short, and the weather is mostly cold and grey, can sometimes feel dreary following the holiday break.  As we face the intensity of the term, it’s not uncommon for students to feel the pressure of day-to-day life increasing. If you are feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or depressed, or even just slightly unhappy, but can’t put your finger on why, please know that this is not unusual, and is experienced by many of us at this time of year. But there are plenty of people who understand, and plenty more who feel the same way as you do even if you are not aware of them.

I understand from a couple of recent conversations with students that some of the mental health-related support services that Queen’s provides may not be as well known as they should be.

I’d like to take this opportunity  to remind you of some resources available to you, both on Queen’s campus and in the wider community.  I have included links, in a list below this email, that you can follow if you need help or guidance.  In addition to our counsellors at Student Wellness Services in the Lasalle building on Stuart St., I draw your attention to the ‘embedded’ counsellors located at various points around main campus and at west campus.

Please remember to access these supports if you are in need of help or just a friendly listening ear, and don’t feel alone, because you are not.

You can access a range of campus-based supports including:

 Student Wellness Services: 

    • Appointments with physicians, nurses including a mental health nurse, as well as psychiatrists (by referral) and drop-in service from an Occupational Therapist for matching to the appropriate program/service, all at Student Health Services in the Lasalle Building

There are many after hours and community-based supports available to you, including:

More community services and supports here and here