September 12, 2013
Things are certainly busier in Kingston these days, with post-secondary students back in the city they call home during this phase of their academic careers.
At Queen’s, the first week of school for most of our students has come to a close. It followed a busy orientation week that saw students participating in many events in the Kingston community.
Our business students, for example, performed random acts of kindness during an event called Commerce Cares. Our engineering students once again partnered with local Rotarians for the incredibly successful “Go Nuts” fundraiser. And our Arts and Science students braved some questionable weather for Shine Day, a nationwide student initiative benefiting the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Now, we turn our attention to what promises to be a busy fall. As most readers will know, Homecoming is returning after a four-year suspension. As I said last year when I announced Homecoming’s reinstatement, the decision to bring the event back wasn’t one that was made lightly.
We all remember why it was cancelled, and no one wants to see those incidents repeated. But I have been encouraged by the reduction in street parties and other unsafe activities in recent years--which is not to say all has been quiet, as this year’s St. Patrick’s Day gathering showed. As is true for all university events, safety and respect trump tradition, and Homecoming must be a safe and respectful event for all.
The new vision for Homecoming, which will be held over two weekends, includes Kingston and its residents more than ever before. We want to bring Homecoming back as an event that benefits the city, economically and otherwise. It’s important to note that large gatherings regularly take place near campus on weekends in the fall, and so we’ve consulted with Kingston Police about how increased numbers during Homecoming will affect those gatherings. The two-weekend model will divide the number of invited alumni returning for Homecoming events, and reduce the demand on the city’s emergency services.
The decision to reinstate Homecoming was made after extensive consultation and collaboration with community members, city officials, local business owners, the Kingston Police, and many others. What we shared during that process was the desire to see Homecoming return as a celebration of both Queen’s and the city in which we live.
Our planning for this year’s event has been largely centred on fostering a safe and lively celebration that reflects the respect we have for our alumni, our students, Kingston and its residents. I think it was a testament to that process when members of the community joined us at Queen’s when I made the announcement last December.
My hope is that 25 years from now our current students will return to campus and to Kingston as alumni to reconnect with each other, meet the class of 2042, and visit the city they called home during some of the most transformative years of their lives.
This is a chance for Homecoming to return and showcase the best of both Queen’s and Kingston; but safety and respect for our community are our priority, and we all have to work together to make our vision a reality. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to those living in the near-campus neighbourhood to communicate that vision and continue the dialogue on how we can work together to achieve it.
I hope that you will join in this year’s festivities, from the Gaels football games and the scavenger hunt throughout the city, to special editions of Movies in the Square and departmental open houses.
We want Homecoming to be an event we all enjoy and look forward to for years to come.
Daniel Woolf is the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University