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Incoming arts and science students learn about Queen's traditions

By Michael Onesi, Alumni Communications Officer

Queen’s University is steeped in traditions and the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) wanted to make sure new students learn about them.

During orientation week, first year students took part in Queen’s Heritage, a historical display set up in Grant Hall that shed light on many Queen’s traditions.

“There was a need for a new event during Orientation week and, for a school so proud of its traditions, we needed something like this where you can walk through and look at the amazing history of Queen’s,” says ASUS socio-cultural chair, Alex Nicholson, Artsci’14, who helped organize Queen’s Heritage.

Emily Hayes and Beth Sollis of the 2013 ASUS Orientation Committee worked with alumni to help organize the event. Many sent photos, videos and memories through the Queen’s Heritage Facebook page and Twitter account. Mark Wiseman, Artsci’93, sent along items such as a jersey and ball cap he wore when he was an orientation week coordinator.

The history covered a range of topics – everything from Queen’s rivalry with McGill, to student life over the years and the origins of Cha Gheill.

While every student can sing the Oil Thigh, Queen’s Heritage gave them background story. Most people don’t know the song was written in 1898 by student Alfred Lavell to inspire the Queen’s football team after a disappointing loss to the University of Toronto.

Queen’s University historian Duncan McDowell says tradition is not a pill that can be swallowed – it is something that has to be upheld and evolves over time.

“Some of these traditions go back before Confederation. These are traditions that are older than the nation,” says Duncan, noting the AMS was founded in 1858.

Rector Nick Francis gave a speech to crowd, telling them that Queen’s history is often said to be synonymous with Canada’s history. He explained how the position of rector – the third most powerful position at Queen whose primary function is to represent students on the Board of Trustees – has its own history. The rector position used to be filled by a non-student, but in 1969 students forced the resignation of the rector (Senator Grattan O’Leary) and had him replaced with a student. A student has held the position ever since.

Mr. Francis encouraged students to defend the traditions started by others and to think about starting their own traditions as well.

The organizers also worked closely with Queen’s Archives to help put the event together. The archives are open to anyone interested in learning more about the university’s history and traditions.