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Alcohol Policy review nears completion

Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris recently provided an update regarding the review of Queen’s Alcohol Policy, with the review expected to be complete by the beginning of 2020 and the revised policy brought into effect on May 1, 2020.

“Considerable feedback was received on the proposed changes throughout the consultation process and in the form of other submissions,” Provost Harris says. “We will take the time to consider this feedback as part of our review.”

The university began the review of its Alcohol Policy almost a year ago, holding more than 20 meetings with campus stakeholders, including multiple meetings with Alma Mater Society (AMS) and Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) executives, campus pub managers, and many departments and faculties throughout the year before putting a draft policy up for wider community comment in September. Input was also received from representatives of the Post-Secondary Education Partnership-Alcohol Harms (PEP-AH) and Kingston Public Health. A review of the Alcohol Policy was last undertaken in 2012.

“Queen’s University is committed to fostering a safe and secure campus environment that supports health, safety, well-being, and success,” Provost Harris says. “The proposed changes are intended to reflect our commitment to harm reduction, risk mitigation, intervention, and enforcement strategies as outlined by the Post-Secondary Education Partnership-Alcohol Harms Framework that seeks to address high-risk drinking and alcohol harm reduction.”

Queen’s co-chairs PEP-AH’s National Advisory Committee and has been a member of the national network since 2016. The university also adopted the Okanagan Charter in 2018, and recently launched a Campus Wellness Project, all aimed at further promoting a safe and healthy campus community.

Community concerns around alcohol misuse at events such as unsanctioned street parties and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations led to the establishment by the City of Kingston of the University Safety District Initiative and Nuisance Party bylaw in 2018. The university’s administration and the Board of Trustees responded with a renewed focus on encouraging greater alcohol harm-reduction initiatives, and the Alcohol Policy is seen as a foundational step in developing a wider Campus Alcohol Strategy to coordinate the numerous initiatives being undertaken.

The Alcohol Policy applies to all members of the Queen’s community, including students, employees, alumni, visitors, and guests on university property and at university-sanctioned events that take place off-campus.  In line with the usual practice for new or revised policies, the draft policy was posted for public review and comment in late September. All feedback received through the public review process is being reviewed by the subcommittee of the Alcohol Working Group and will be forwarded to the Policy Advisory Subcommittee for further discussion. The final decision will be made by the university’s senior leadership team, which is chaired by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane.

“Our primary purpose as an institution of higher learning is to provide a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment for our faculty, staff, and students to support our mission of education and research, not to facilitate the sale or consumption of alcohol,” Provost Harris says. “I’m confident the final document will reflect that purpose. We will certainly consider all of the thoughtful feedback we have before us.”

Any changes to the policy will be implemented in the spring, to give stakeholders time to ensure a smooth implementation over the summer in advance of the fall semester.