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QUAA President’s Message: We’re all ears!

QUAA President’s Message: We’re all ears!

Keep it coming! We're listening and we're passing on what we hear. The Alumni Association has been hearing from a lot of its members recently - some throwing brickbats, others tossing bouquets. Either way, we hear you, and the dialogue is welcome.

In recent months the feedback loops have been working overtime among the alumni, students, the University administration, and the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA). There’s been a diversity of opinions expressed, sometimes passionately. But that’s good, because we welcome all alumni input and opinions. From Facebook to face-to-face, from e-mail to mail, and from letters the Review and other publications, we’ve heard from alumni young and old alike on the emerging and evolving traditions on campus.

Queen's Bands Queen’s Bands entertained the overflow crowd that jammed
Grant Hall for the 2009 Cha-Gheill! BBQ for graduating
students. Photo Credit: Greg Black, University Photographer

First, the emerging traditions.

In April, the QUAA hosted the second annual Cha-Gheill! barbecue for graduating students. The BBQ gets bigger every year.

The line-ups for burgers at this year’s event snaked out the doors of Grant Hall and down University Avenue as the Class of 2009, soon to be alumni, were welcomed into the “family” and had the chance to meet some of the volunteers and Alumni Relations staff who make the Association work, and to get a peek at Career Joy, a national employment transition service for young alumni that the QUAA has endorsed. The message we trumpeted to the University’s newest graduands was our invitation to stay in touch with Queen’s, to keep us posted with their career and family news and their successes, to volunteer with the Branches, to serve on the University Council, to attend Queen’s events such as Class reunions and MiniU, and to benefit from the fantastic network that they will likely tap over and over again in their careers and friendships.

Now to the older, evolving traditions.

The two-year cancellation of Homecoming in favour of a Spring ­Reunion continues to evoke reaction from alumni around the globe. Whether they agree or disagree with the Principal’s ­decision, most people who’ve taken the time to write acknowledge the need to distance Queen’s from the ticking time bomb that the Aberdeen Street party had become. While the events on Aberdeen never have been part of the official Homecoming program – and, in fact, have largely been usurped by a non-Queen’s crowd – it’s the safety of students and the reputation of our University that are at stake.

Sadly, some young alumni have joined student protesters in harnessing the power of Facebook in an effort to keep the party going, though others are using Facebook and YouTube mostly to voice their concerns about the decision to cancel Fall Homecoming in 2009 and 2010. The QUAA encouraged Principal Tom Williams to take the online conversation live with a face-to-face Town Hall-style meeting in Toronto with a group of concerned alumni, many of whom were young. For some of them, their mistaken impression is that the Aberdeen party is, in fact, “a tradition.” The meeting was a good chance to put all the facts on the table and to air concerns. Many younger alumni share their elders’ concerns about Queen’s reputation, but at the same time they are looking for a way to be part of older traditions. The bottom line for them is this: “Keep us included.”

That message was heard loudly and clearly by the administration and will be a key focus for the QUAA in the next few years, right down to a dedicated spot on the QUAA volunteer board for Students and Young Alumni.

As your Association, the QUAA is the voice and the conduit for you and for all alumni, and we’re working hard with our volunteers and the “home” team at Alumni Relations to develop services as well as activities on campus and in our Branches that are relevant to the various stages of life we all go through – as new grads, young families, parents of kids heading to Queen’s, empty nesters and seniors.

So I invite you to please give us your feedback. Keep your ideas coming and let us know the kinds of events that will engage you and bring you back to campus or prompt you to check out what’s going on with your local Branch. And while you’re at it, why not consider volunteering and getting involved at the Branch level or even on the QUAA Board? Whether you graduated last year, five, 20, or even 50 years ago, Queen’s is still your alma mater.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2009-2 cover]