While this weekend’s street parties and other forms of disruptive conduct might be explained sympathetically by some as an expression of the pent-up energy of young people emerging from COVID-19 isolation, no such excuse can be made for acts of sexual harassment or violence, or sexist behaviour of any kind. When misogynistic signs were hung in front of a number of houses in the University district on Saturday, the University issued an immediate condemnation and put the occupants of those homes on notice that they would see action taken under the Student Code of Conduct.
Section 1 b) iv of the Code addresses actions that take place off University property where conduct adversely affects the reasonable participation by members of the University in its living, learning or working environments. The signs that appeared on Saturday poison the quality of that environment by unwantedly sexualizing campus life, but more particularly by causing the threat of sexual violence to hang over the heads of women and those vulnerable to harassment and assault in our community. In that way they compromise the right of all members of the University to enjoy a living, learning and working environment that is free from fear, intimidation and anxiety.
If there was ever a time when cultural mores permitted such behaviour at Queen’s, that time has most definitely passed. The University exists to serve an inclusive, equitable, just, humane and forward-looking vision for society, and while it does not expect perfection in the behaviour of its members, it does insist as a baseline that they be respectful, considerate and acutely sensitive to the impact of their actions on others. Sadly, this weekend revealed that amongst us there are still problematic and violent assumptions being made about gender that reflect a complete disregard for their impact on individuals and indeed, our entire community.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Article originally published in the Queen's Gazette.