A Decade of Editorials

Jane Willsie, Editorials Editor

We are students for a short time. We’re here for a few years and then we move on. University is a temporary home for us.

But Queen’s has a long history that outlives any temporary student passing through. There have been thousands of students before us, students with the same stresses, the same worries and insecurities...right?

There is a general turnover at this University every four years. We don’t know what students who went to Queen’s four years ago cared about, or what the big issues of their day were. So, when I decided to dig back through the past 10 years of editorials in The Queen's Journal, I really had no idea what I'd find. All I knew was that buried among our archives were the opinions and voices of students who could tell Queen’s history from a very interesting perspective.

What I found was unexpected at times, emotional at others and, surprisingly, somewhat humourous. From a signed editorial comparing Battlestar Galactica to religion, to the confessions of a recovering trivia addict, the topics that occupied the minds of Journal staff have differed widely over the years. And yet some things never change.

Over the years, our concerns as student journalists have changed in response to the times, and yet our anxieties or difficulties still center on the same struggles.

An editorial entitled “Aberdeen & Agony” in 2010 discussed Woolf’s infamous decision to suspend Homecoming for a further three years. The effects of the Homecoming ban are still felt every year, as we collectively hold our breath on Homecoming and hope nothing happens to get it taken away again. And an article discussing Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democrat nomination against Hillary Clinton brought up interesting parallels to the political situation in the U.S. today.

But what concerned me the most was how the biggest issues I see facing the student body today developed over time. How long have we been asking for better mental health resources? How has the AMS behaved over the years? How deeply-rooted is Queen’s lack of diversity?

Don’t get me wrong, if my term as Editorials Editor has taught me anything this year, it’s that The Journal doesn’t always get things right. But even our past mistakes are valuable lessons for the present.

Welcome to a trip down memory lane to see what has and hasn’t changed.

Click the buttons below to see a selection of editorials from the last decade on the topics of diversity and equity, the AMS and mental health.

Diversity and Equity

If there’s one piece of valuable information that comes from looking back through our editorial content, I think it’s the evidence of change over time.

Our attitudes towards incidents of racism, sexism, homophobia or initiatives that combat them have varied over the years, from wanting censorship of racist content, to arguing that an excess of political correctness is detrimental to progress.

An editorial written by Megan Sheffield in 2007 referred even further back, to an editorial written in 1876, two years before the first woman enrolled at Queen’s. That author had this to say: “We are confident that among people who appreciate the delicate grace and beauty of a woman’s character too much to expose it to the rude influences, the bitterness and strife of the world, few will be found to advocate her admission to universities.”

We can recognize now what’s wrong with this statement and make a clear argument as to why women should be allowed to get a university education. And that retrospective is, I think, extremely valuable — if only to recognize that we can be wrong and more so, that we’re fully capable of overcoming our past prejudices.

Taking this trip down memory lane turned out to be harder than I thought. It’s one thing to know theoretically that Queen’s has struggled to be inclusive in the past, but it’s another experience entirely to read through 10 years worth of racist incidents, barriers to gender equality or attacks on sexuality that students just like me have had to deal with.

Several times I had to walk away when one of my predecessors hit the nail too closely on the head. So, I suppose this is to say that while history is important, here’s your trigger warning: it’s not always pleasant.

As you read through The Journal’s version of Queen’s history, I encourage you to ask yourself if these editorials would be applicable today. How far have we really come in the last 10 years?

The "Culture of Whiteness"
May 30, 2006


Released in April, the Henry Report has sparked discussion among students and faculty about the “culture of whiteness” at Queen’s.
In 2001, the former Vice-Principal (Academic) Suzanne Fortier was prompted to conduct a survey concerning racism experienced among faculty following the resignation of six faculty members within a short period of time.
York University professor emerita, Frances Henry’s findings have been criticized by some for their questionable scientific merit; nonetheless, concerns highlight a need to address diversity at Queen’s.
Hiring practices should acknowledge the necessity of having a more diverse faculty. According to the report, there are only 117 of the 1,378 faculty members who identify themselves as being of colour and/or Aboriginal.
This is not to say that an affirmative action approach is the only solution. Rather, hiring committees should strive to increase the diversity in the pool of applicants considered for various faculty positions.
Henry cites Queen’s as having “Eurocentric curricula.” While expanding the curricula is a good step, prospective faculty of diverse backgrounds should also never be pigeon-holed into teaching race-related topics that may not coincide with their areas of research.
And the “culture of whiteness” Henry points to in her report extends beyond just the faculty. At Queen’s, it seems to be more a matter of ignorance than “systemic racism” among students. Last Halloween, a white student dressed in blackface, pretending to be Miss Ethiopia. Although the student may not have been trying to offend anyone, she certainly demonstrated a tremendous lack of sensitivity and awareness on race issues, and perpetuated the school’s reputed “culture of whiteness.”
The greater problem at Queen’s, though, is a culture of inaccessibility, which breeds a culture of elitism and exclusion. The elitist reputation of Queen’s is perpetuated by high tuition costs. The university should continue to look for ways to make Queen’s more accessible rather than seeking to specifically recruit racially diverse students.

-Journal Editorial Board

No other word but hate
October 20, 2006
Meghan Sheffield

I love reading “Overheard in Kingston” when readers send them in, and these days I find myself listening in a little more to other people on the street. Some of what I hear, though, isn’t funny.
Don’t get me wrong—this is coming from a girl who was once chewed out by a police officer for yelling the word “bacon” from a moving car on the main street of my hometown. But that’s a little different; I was 15, and the officer had just missed the first few grocery items we were randomly yelling.
I’m talking about something much more serious than playing a game in high school.
In the past few weeks, I’ve heard people yell “Fatty!” at an obese man walking down the street, and some idiot guy yelling “Ugh, I need to eat something!” at a girl who was very thin.
One night in the Hub,a bunch of boys yelled “Emo fags”—whatever that means—at my friends and I. Two arguing boys who were asked by a woman to “use their indoor voices” in Burger King one night turned to her and said “Fuck off. Men are speaking here.”
A few weeks ago, Florence Li wrote a signed editorial about a man walking past her quoting a racist and sexist line from Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket. For some reason, people seem to think that you can get away with more in public spaces than you can in more intimate environments.
It’s as though turning to the guy beside you in class and saying “Hey fatty, why don’t you go on a diet?” is not okay, but it’s fine if you say it while you pass him on the street. How do sizeist, sexist and homophobic hate speech become acceptable when shouted by a complete stranger in public?
Obviously fear and intimidation are key in allowing these kinds of incidents to take place, as the humiliated victim is not likely to respond to this unexpected affront, thinking perhaps that the speaker is representing something that everyone else is thinking as well. Passersby are unlikely to get involved, and so the whole interaction goes completely unaddressed. I’m no different. I’ve never spoken up either. I didn’t consider it worth my time. Was I intimidated, or did I just not know what to say? But there is danger in that.
The fact that privileged, educated students buy into world views that rate people on scales of weight, gender, sexuality, race and any other prejudice is disturbing.
At Queen’s we hear all this hype about being the future leaders of Canada, about being the best students in the country, and while we have so many clubs and campus groups defending human rights around the world, we’re willing to let injustices take place when it’s committed by some drunk guy on University Avenue.
If we accept hate speech in our everyday public exchanges, who is to say that we will not then accept hate violence? If hate speech is allowable in the street, when will it be allowable in the classroom or the courtroom? We need to start calling hate speech what it is, when it happens.

Proud of Queen’s Pride Week
March 9, 2007

Three words: it’s about time. This past week marked the first ever Queen’s Pride Week, organized by the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP). Because the Kingston Pride Parade takes place in the summer, many students are out of town during the official Pride Week held June 15 to 24, giving very little opportunity for students to get involved on their own campus.
The EQuIP Pride Week goals of generating dialogue in the Queen’s community on queer issues and challenging the cultural climate of Queen’s campus were ambitious and admirable—creating University-wide discussion about queer issues is no easy task. The group should also be commended for focusing on the underrepresented academic element of queer studies, which will hopefully help to acknowledge the research going on at the University surrounding queer theory and alternative cultural and social perspectives. The inclusiveness of the events is perhaps the most important aspect of Queen’s Pride Week. By making their events inclusive and encouraging all students and staff to participate, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the week will help increase solidarity across the University and as Anna Fischer, Outwrite! chair, said, “it will increase the visibility of queer students on campus, and help to foster a safer, more accepting environment.”
Three words: it’s about time. This past week marked the first ever Queen’s Pride Week, organized by the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP). Because the Kingston Pride Parade takes place in the summer, many students are out of town during the official Pride Week held June 15 to 24, giving very little opportunity for students to get involved on their own campus.
The EQuIP Pride Week goals of generating dialogue in the Queen’s community on queer issues and challenging the cultural climate of Queen’s campus were ambitious and admirable—creating university-wide discussion about queer issues is no easy task. The group should also be commended or focusing on the underrepresented academic element of queer studies, which will hopefully help to acknowledge the research going on at the University surrounding queer theory and alternative cultural and social perspectives.
The inclusiveness of the events is perhaps the most important aspect of Queen’s Pride Week. By making their events inclusiveand encouraging all students and staff to participate, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the week will help increase solidarity across the University and as Anna Fischer, Outwrite! chair, said, “it will increase the visibility of queer students on campus, and help to foster a safer, more accepting environment.”
With any luck, the groups’ inclusiveness will help future Pride Weeks extend beyond those students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or queer to include all students and staff who consider themselves allies of the queer community and are eager to show their support.


-Journal Editorial Board

Man enough to change?
September 7, 2007
Meghan Sheffield

When I first came to Queen’s, I was intrigued by the tradition and romance of it all—hearing bag pipes at random times around campus, the Band in their kilts, and especially the use of Gaelic.
Living in a residence called Ban Righ seemed something like living in a Scottish castle—until I went inside, that is. During Frosh Week and at Homecoming games, I enthusiastically donned my coveralls and sang the Oil Thigh.
It wasn’t until last year, while walking home, I noticed a sign advertising a variety show called “The Sport of Kings.” Having that one line singled out startled me—the answer to the question, “What’s the sport of Kings?” is of course, “Queen’s, Queen’s, Queen’s.” I was horrified by the implications of such a simple line—such a gendered imbalance of sexual power.
What struck me most was how ill-fitting this type of oppression seemed at this University. While Gaels are being trained to be sensitive in the matters of sexuality and gender issues, they’re singing and teaching frosh the patriarchal lyrics to our school song.
Although this might seem like just another incidence of something fun being “ruined” by political correctness, the Oil Thigh isn’t just offensive—it’s a bad reflection of the truth of this University’s heritage.
The Queen’s identity is deeply embedded in tradition, and though some traditions have lasted, others have been required to adapt and change to more fully represent the nature of this university.
In 1869, Queen’s became the first university in Canada to allow female students to enroll. The first two women in Ontario to get graduate degrees did so at Queen’s. Until 1942, women weren’t allowed to take applied science. In 1949, Nancy Scarth was the first female to graduate with an applied science degree because tradition wasn’t a good enough reason to deny her.
Other traditions have changed with the times as well—in the late 19th century, it was the “tradition” during Orientation week for female students to participate in sedate, ladylike activities like a candle-lighting ceremony. Today we have women participating in the pandemonium of Frosh Olympics and the Grease Pole, because we’ve done away with tradition that says that women are essentially different from men.c
Even the Oil Thigh itself has changed. Originally written in 1898 by Alfred Lavell, the original line “So boys, go in and win” was changed in 1985 to “So Gaels, go in and win,” because women were such an important part of Queen’s athletics.
In an 1876 editorial in the Journal, a writer said, “We are confident that among people who appreciate the delicate grace and beauty of a woman’s character too much to expose it to the rude influences, the bitterness and strife of the world, few will be found to advocate her admission to universities.” Things can, and do, change.
Beyond school fight songs and Boohoo the Bear, this school has made a tradition out of being progressive in the area of liberating women from patriarchal oppression. That’s a tradition worth holding on to.

No whispering of sweet nothings
October 2, 2007
Erin Flegg

Despite my unconditional love for the Journal, there’s been many a late night when I’ve secretly cursed the grueling hours required by this job because of the hours spent away from my friends, my favourite sports and—arguably most importantly—my bed.
But late one evening a few weeks ago, as I sat toiling away alone in front of a glaring computer screen at 190 University Ave., sighing as the clock ticked past 3 a.m., I received an e-mail from a housemate that made me count my lucky spiral-bound notepads I was out of earshot of the bedroom next door to hers.
One of our fellow residents had returned home from a night at the bar and was (we assume) enjoying a passionate embrace before drifting into sleepy oblivion.
The sounds issuing from the other side of the wall were later described to me as “inhuman.”

The woeful housemate who informed me of the situation was kept awake by the noise, and the occupant of another room on the second floor was woken up by the shrieks and moans of some unnamed woman at the peak of performance (take that as you will).
The less-than-sultry strains of their loquacious love-making even drifted as far down as the main floor.
Exactly one week later, the same thing happened all over again, this time with the added bonus of a high-volume argument later playing out right outside the door of the main-floor bedroom. I don’t care to speculate as to the conflict.
Once again I was grateful to have been safely behind the brick walls of this fine institution.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t begrudge anyone their fun, regardless of the state of my own love life. When it comes to the idiosyncrasies of the personal lives of the people whose existences have little bearing on my own, I do make an effort to leave well enough alone. But, as with many things in life, I can only turn a blind eye (or, in this case, a deaf ear) as long as said idiosyncrasies don’t prevent me from entering my own house in the middle of the night for fear of (to quote another unfortunate housemate) “walking into a porno.”
I’m all for inclusivity and can usually appreciate efforts made to involve me in the goings-on around me. But there are situations in which it really isn’t necessary to make me feel like I’m part of the action.
For a house full of people rudely awakened before 7 a.m. several days a week by floor-shaking explosions, it doesn’t seem like too much to ask to be allowed to sleep through the wee hours of a weekday morning.
I know it’s unreasonable to expect the rooms of a Ghetto house to be soundproof and I’m not suggesting it’s necessary to copulate covertly.
All I ask is that the housemates of the world have the common courtesy to be aware of the rest of the house when you want to get frisky at four in the morning and try to keep it down.
Or at least be sure to shut the door.

Tight lips sink ships, too
February 8, 2008

Last week, two incidents of racism were reported after Queen’s students turned in posters vandalized with racist messages and signed by stormfront.org, a white supremacist Internet group.
The posters were found along University Avenue and were turned in to the Queen’s Human Rights Office. One poster was an advertisement for the Human Rights Office’s “Colour of Poverty” event held Jan. 31. The second poster was a “For Rent” sign.
The University issued a press release on Monday in which Principal Karen Hitchcock denounced the behaviour as “intolerable in a civilized society.” The press release also stated the University intends to work with the city to foster a racism-free environment and to collaborate with Kingston police in any subsequent investigations.
Missing from the press release, however, was any mention of what was written on the posters.
It’s against the Human Rights Office’s policy to discuss the particulars of reported incidents. It’s possible the University felt by withholding the messages’ racist content, it was depriving the culprits of gratification. Although based on valid concerns, failing to publicize details of the vandalism risks allowing it to be ignored.
Censorship in such a context is detrimental to the student body as a whole—racism in our community needs to be exposed and discussed openly if students are to fully understand the consequences of such incidents. Many people don’t realize the inflammatory nature of racist sentiments or actions until they’re forced to deal with them first-hand.
Organizing events such as the Rally Against Racism on Jan. 16 was a step in the right direction, but any gain is lost if we can’t openly discuss another racist incident only weeks later. Incorporating issues of race and ethnicity into Queen’s core curriculum would bring the matter to the surface and force students to realize its troubling prevalence.
The inclination to keep such incidents quiet does little to stop racism from spreading. At best, these incidents give Queen’s a chance to do something tangible and act on these situations we so readily condemn.


-Journal Editorial Board

The truth is ugly
February 12, 2008
Eric Davis

It’s not easy to report on race.
In last Friday’s issue of the Journal, the paper was criticized for its editorial handling of the debate over black-focused schools—the Feb. 5 talking heads section conspicuously failed to ask the opinions of any black students—and for misrepresenting two high-profile incidents of on-campus racism as the only incidents of racism at Queen’s this year. In that same issue, the Journal offered criticism of its own, in an editorial condemning the University’s decision not to reveal the actual content of the racist messages scrawled on two posters found on-campus this month.
How we should report on race—whether as journalists, institutions or individuals—is obviously a contentious issue. And it has been so for many years, according to Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the press’s role in the civil rights struggle, The Race Beat. What they reveal is a long and protracted debate over our responsibilities, in our public discussions of so significant and so personal a subject as race, to truth and to social justice. Shaping this debate are the numerous decisions people have made as to what’s worth reporting about race and what isn’t—in short, what makes race “news.”
In honour of Black History Month, I thought I would share some highlights:
On Aug. 11, 1946, a New York Times editorial announced a groundbreaking change in how they would cover race. Thenceforth, a person’s race would not be mentioned unless it was relevant to the story. Three years later, the Queen’s Journal seems not to have wholly adopted this policy, as revealed by a passing reference to “our coloured mascot, Alfie Pierce.”
In 1947, the Arkansas Gazette set a new standard among white papers in the Southern U.S. when they changed their policy to make courtesy titles consistent for people of all races. Previously, according to The Race Beat, “journalistic orthodoxy … demanded that newspapers unfailingly refer to white women as “Miss” or “Mrs.” but drop the title when referring to Negro women, no matter what their station in life.” More insulting still, “a Negro woman, on second reference, traditionally would be referred to by her last name, as in ‘the Jones woman.’”
Perhaps the most provocative story—and the most pertinent to the University’s decision not to divulge what the racist messages on the posters were—is that of Mamie Bradley, mother of Emmett Till. Her decision to display her son’s tortured and mutilated corpse in an open casket in Chicago for all to see, and her later decision to allow Jet to publish a close-up photo of the body, provided a harrowing image of racism’s horrendous costs.
Mrs. Bradley was attacked and condemned by many—some liberal white journalists included—for what she did. Her decision to publicize such an awful truth was courageous, but the principle behind it remains controversial to this day. How long can we bear to gaze upon our own ugliness? How long is too long?

Committee preach-y keen
June 24, 2008

This fall, the AMS Social Issues Commission will introduce a religious issues committee. Safiah Chowdhury, ArtSci ’11 and committee chair, said she wants it to focus primarily on education and changing the idea that religion doesn’t have a place on university campuses. There are many students who consider religion an important aspect of their identities and it’s important to have a place for their issues on campus.
Queen’s hasn’t always done a good job of making students of different faiths feel welcome, and this committee could have a role in generating relevant discussion and clearing up misconceptions.
Chowdhury and her team need to be careful, however, about striking a balance between creating an atmosphere of acceptance and stifling critical discussion.
Religious issues can’t be viewed in the same way as gender, ethnic or queer issues. Whereas people have come to accept the legitimacy of the latter issues, there needs to be more room for criticism in religious issues because there are so many different beliefs.
The fact there’s a religious studies department shows discussion is important in an academic landscape, where opinions won’t be subject to personal attacks. It needs to remain acceptable to rationally argue against a religion and the committee’s role should be ensuring such comments remain respectful.
It’s easy for a committee whose main focus is the vague term “education” to step away from being a moderator and become pushy, and it shouldn’t be forcing religiosity.
It’s unclear as of yet if the committee will moderate conflicts between religious groups; how the committee responds could cause some religious groups to feel under or misrepresented.
The SIC office has yet to finalize its plans, even though hiring begins in the fall. A religious issues committee has a lot of potential, but it can just as easily lose itself in the never-neverland of bickering members, vague plans and fear of any controversy. It’s time the AMS stepped up and gave it tangible and achievable goals.
Let’s pray they can.


-Journal Editorial Board

Token outrage falls short
September 30, 2008

Last week, the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association (QUMSA) reported anti-Islamic crimes on campus.
QUMSA’s office space was broken into, money was stolen from their charitable fund and a poster was defaced to read, “Queen’s University Muslims should die.” Some female students have also endured racist and sexist taunts shouted at them from car windows.
The University should be ashamed that such contemptible acts were allowed to occur among a group of supposedly enlightened and progressive minds.
Community outcry is sincere after such blatant incidents but too often falls short of enacting real change and racism is soon overshadowed by other issues.
What is most disturbing is the cyclical nature of Islamophobia on campus; in 2006, QUMSA faced similar problems when one of its banners was set on fire and several students received anti-Islamic hate e-mail in their Qlink accounts.
The University constantly emphasizes maintaining Queen’s reputation and an important aspect of that should involve creating a community of acceptance.
Unfortunately, Queen’s is quick to congratulate itself for simply enrolling more ethnic minority students, while ignoring the systemic problems that create a culture of exclusion on campus for the newly-admitted students.
It’s unpleasant to admit the University has issues surrounding racism, but Queen’s could actually have a better reputation if it was shown to deal with incidents promptly.
Although merely issuing statements and holding rallies won’t solve all of the problems, it’s important, as a first step, to acknowledge such hate crimes exist instead of burying the issues under rhetoric about how the University should, or could, be.
It’s both surprising and disappointing that University administration and the AMS have yet to make statements condemning the racist incidents, which they did after a professor was subject to racial taunts by four male students wearing engineering jackets on Nov. 14, 2007.
By not publicly speaking against the anti-Islamic incidents, the University has shown weak resolve in dealing with racism issues and allowed an environment for a minority of students to continue their racist behaviour.
Although it’s difficult to identify tangible solutions to an attitudinal problem, it can be done if the victimized population, University administration and the student body develop the toughness to collectively implement measurable changes.


-Journal Editorial Board

The unfortunate realities
October 2, 2008
Amrit Ahluwalia

Life’s unfair; this is an indisputable fact.
As an immigrant, or the child of an immigrant, you’ll often find yourself being identified as a visible minority. Although most of the mainstream population is tolerant, you have to, as a visible minority, expect some degree of abuse from a small pocket of the majority population.

This should not happen but it does happen.
Unfortunately, a visible minority is easier to identify than a linguistic or religious one.
Racism isn’t isolated to Queen’s, Canada or white people. We must accept the fact that, while most people are tolerant, there’s a minority of the population who do not recognize our right to be “Here”—and this happens almost everywhere in the world.
It’s distasteful, but we visible minorities need to grow thicker skin and pick our battles. A dirty look on the street is not deserving of the term “racism,” as it cheapens the meaning and weight of the word.
A racist comment, while hurtful, is unfortunately a reality of living as a visible minority and can and should be ignored. Racist people are looking for a reaction by making such comments; don’t give them that pleasure.
Telling racist people such comments are inappropriate will go over their heads; clearly they’re not the most sensitive or accepting people in the world.
When a felony is committed, as we just saw happen to the QUMSA club space, that’s when the police should get involved. That’s a fight to pick, and the institutions are in place to deal with such situations.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe that visible minorities are a lesser people, as has been suggested in the past. I don’t believe that a coloured person has less right to the sidewalk than a white person.
I just don’t think it’s helpful to anyone to act as if we’re in a society of complete tolerance and understanding, because we aren’t. This is a global reality wherever there are identifiable minority pockets of the population.
We’ve seen massive improvements in the way race issues are treated in Canada over the last century, half century, 20 years and 10 years.
I’ve even seen a dramatic increase of racial tolerance on this campus in the three years I’ve been here.
Our society has reached a point where interracial dating and marriages are commonplace and where there’s a basic understanding of different cultures being taught in schools across the country. It has reached a point where racism’s commonly looked down upon, and humour can be found in it (read: Peters, Russell).
But by sweating the small stuff, such as verbal harassment and dirty looks, we’re cheapening our own cause and allowing racist people the pleasure of seeing us get upset. Don’t give them that pleasure.
Pick your battles appropriately, as the continual increase of racial understanding depends on careful treading on our part.

Mantle must step down
October 31, 2008

At AMS Assembly last night AMS Council called for the resignation of ASUS President Jacob Mantle. The request was made in light of comments he made on a friend’s Facebook page.
Underneath a picture of two girls wearing scarves around their heads, Mantle wrote, “I like your Taliban picture.”

Mantle said he was hesitant to issue a public apology at first. He later changed his mind and issued a formal apology, saying the comment “does not in any way reflect [his] beliefs, nor those of [ASUS].”
Mantle must resign as ASUS president for his racist comment, regardless of whether he meant for it to be seen by anyone other than his friend; the view he iterates remains equally discriminatory in both the private and public spheres.
He was elected to represent a diverse student body and his insensitivity towards some of the students he represents shows he is unfit to continue in his role.
It’s disappointing that Mantle seems to be sorrier he was found out than he is for making the comment in the first place.
The apology’s devoid of sincerity and full of self-praise. Rather than solely acknowledging his wrongdoing, Mantle also attempts to distance himself from his action.
Although an apology was necessary, it’s a reactive response that can’t be substituted for proactive steps. Mantle said he wants to take “personal actions” beyond the apology, but doesn’t explain what they are.
On Sept. 20 the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association (QUMSA) club space was broken into and money was stolen from one of their charitable funds. Last week, there was another attempted break-in.
QUMSA members have also endured racist and sexist taunts against them.
While Mantle’s comment is not directly linked to the break-ins, the two cannot be treated as isolated events. They must both be seen as part of a continuum of Islamophobic acts at Queen’s.
By taking decisive action and asking Mantle to step down, students would send a clear message that this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated. But his resignation should only be seen as the first step in addressing racism issues on campus.
Mantle should have the opportunity to voluntarily step down. But his delay in issuing an apology and his faulty reasoning that the comment was meant to be private suggest he has yet to recognize the implications of his action.
He no longer represents students’ voices; now he needs to hear their demand for him to resign.


-Journal Editorial Board

Dialogue can’t be forced
November 14, 2008

This week, Queen’s introduced the Intergroup Dialogue Program in the University’s residences, a pilot program intended to encourage student discussion on social issues, the Queen’s Gazette reported Nov. 10.
Six trained student facilitators who live in residence will intervene in dining hall and common room conversations when they hear social issues or controversial topics being discussed. The unpaid positions won’t replace residence dons as conflict mediators.
The project is being touted as part of Queen’s continued efforts at encouraging diversity, such as providing gender-neutral bathrooms and offering halal and kosher foods in residence cafeterias.
Although the University appears to have good intentions in promoting inclusivity, this approach seems to be an inadequate, lacklustre attempt to deal with social inequalities—and especially racism—on campus.
It’s unlikely six facilitators in a crowd of thousands will have much impact on fostering dialogue in residences.
On the other hand, if they do become regularly involved in conversations, they risk hostility from students who don’t want to be approached in what they consider private social settings. The resulting dialogue likely won’t be productive or effective if students feel they’re being cornered and become defensive.
Student facilitators need to be trained to be sensitive in these situations.
The University should be clear about the type of training facilitators receive. The program’s mandate is wide and requires intensive training before facilitators are prepared to deal with the nuances of different social issues.
The program could also become engulfed by political correctness, which stifles meaningful discussion and critiques. Students living in residence could easily adjust or hide their behaviour without changing their attitudes.
The University should take its cues from other universities that have implemented the program successfully. Queen’s has taken a positive step in trying to create an atmosphere of inclusivity among newcomers. But good intentions won’t be enough if the program either has no backbone or oversteps its purview.
The University needs to tread carefully and make sure this doesn’t become another knee-jerk response to social injustice.


-Journal Editorial Board

Intergroup overreaction
November 27, 2008

Queen’s Intergroup Dialogue Program has garnered national criticism since it was reported in the Queen’s Gazette Nov. 10.
Six live-in student facilitators will intervene in students’ conversations in residence when social issues are being discussed.
Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said the program aims to expose students to different perspectives and encourage them to use inoffensive language.
The Globe and Mail published an editorial Nov. 20 that compared the program to the gulag penal system under the Soviet Union.
Other media sources picked up on the policing theme and ran news articles and editorials condemning the initiative as “thought-policing,” “snooping” and “Orwellian.”
It’s absurd that newspapers picked up on a small initiative contained to Queen’s and gave it misleading prominence on, at times, their front pages.
The policing metaphor suggests the facilitators can penalize or correct what they identify as inappropriate behaviour when, in reality, they can only encourage discussion.
Few of the articles mention the recent racist and homophobic events that fuel the controversy around campus over the program.
Without writing about the initiative’s background, media have de-contextualized the program to appear more dangerous than it is.
By giving the facilitators a vague mandate and little power, the program renders their roles ineffective; it’s hard to justify their free room and board when there’s a residence crunch and budget cuts across the board.
Although Queen’s pitched the program as its latest investment in diversity, it’s troubling the Student Affairs office failed to make a connection between the climate on campus, triggered by recent discriminatory events, and how the new program will seek to address it.
Laker’s confusing interview with the Globe and Mail further complicates public understanding of the initiative.
The Student Affairs office owes students a clearer explanation—and soon, before the national media report further misconceptions.


-Journal Editorial Board

ASUS advisor redundant
January 16, 2009

The Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) is hiring a diversity and equity advisor to fulfill part of its three-point Leading Action on Diversity plan.
The plan, created in response to ASUS President Jacob Mantle’s Islamophobic comment on a friend’s Facebook page in October, calls for the creation of an advisory position to oversee education on diversity issues for ASUS council members and arts and science students.
Mantle, who will conduct hiring in the spring, said the advisor doesn’t need previous experience in social justice issues. He or she will work with the University’s Human Rights office and report to the ASUS executive.
Although it’s admirable that ASUS recognizes its need for improved diversity and anti-oppression training, creating a new position is an inappropriate response to its shortcomings.
It’s unclear why a new position is necessary when the AMS Social Issues Commission (SIC) already conducts anti-oppression workshops.
If ASUS is concerned with current anti-oppression training, it should work with the AMS to make the program more relevant to ASUS’s needs.
An advisor should perhaps focus on lobbying the University to create more credit courses on equity issues, such as the existing IDIS 302 (‘Race’ and racism).
Mantle said some ASUS members are uncomfortable going to the SIC with their issues, but instead of hastily writing the SIC off as a resource, ASUS should try to work out its reservations with the office.
The University also has a diversity advisor ASUS could seek out for consultation.
ASUS self-training will likely lack continuity with what the rest of the University is receiving if the advisor won’t necessarily be trained in a social justice background and will be hired by the person who arguably needs a refresher course himself in anti-oppression.
Mantle’s vague description of the advisor’s duties threaten to drive the redundant position into obscurity once it has fulfilled its mandate to repair ASUS’s tarnished reputation and appeared on someone’s resume.
ASUS should consult with anti-oppression campus groups, which pressured the executive to follow through with its plan, to help create a productive portfolio for the role.
Because of the yearly turnover for all ASUS positions, it’s necessary that the advisor have expertise in social justice issues before coming into the role. Without prior experience, even the most well-intentioned student will waste time becoming familiar with equity issues and ultimately accomplish little.


-Journal Editorial Board

Speaking the silence
February 11, 2009
Gloria Er-Chua

I’m not here to debate the existence of racism at Queen’s. And I’m not interested in debating what to call it—systemic oppression, xenophobia, a fluke—because none of these terms prevented “it” from happening to me last year when, walking by the JDUC, a person looked me in the face and said, “Ew, Asian.”
These terms meant nothing when a drunk, male student tried to pick up one of my friends only to be told by his friend to get away from us because we were Asians. I didn’t think of privilege or multiculturalism then, but I remember feeling scared of these bigger, stronger men.
That’s not to say there’s no value in being aware of the implications of our language.
There are reasons I choose to use terms such as “white privilege;” they give me a way of expressing myself when I struggle to translate my anger, sadness and fear into words. On the other hand, I think “celebrating diversity” is a joke if we haven’t first stopped oppression.
But I’m not interested in words because I don’t want to sidetrack from the issue.
There are people who mistakenly believe that, if they can argue that a term such as racism doesn’t exist, its meaning also disappears—but a rose by any other name would prick as deeply. Those people substitute anti-racist efforts with a largely superfluous debate that creates division.
It’s disappointing that the people on campus brave enough to use the word “racism” tend to be those who suffer it the most, those who are constantly forced to prove the authenticity of their experiences.
I can understand our reluctance to acknowledge racism because it implies the need for anti-racism work, much of which involves a change in attitudes more than in behaviour.
It’s quite easy to modify actions on a personal or institutional level: endorse an anti-hate campaign, change your Facebook privacy level or introduce an international menu in the cafeteria. But these actions are reactions that superficially smooth over the problem without addressing it.
Attitudes require more commitment to change because they involve personal responsibility. If you change attitudes, proactive actions follow.
We might begin receiving Campus Security alerts when Muslim women are harassed on campus, for example. I don’t understand why we need to ask to be informed; in neoliberal terms, e-mail alerts are cheaper to implement than halal food options and would probably have a higher return in gratitude from the target group.
We might rename courses from POLS250 (Political Theory) to “Western Political Theory” so I no longer expect to learn about Confucius, Gandhi or Fanon when what I will get is Plato, Hobbes and Locke.
On a larger scale, we might finally have a building named after our most important benefactor, Robert Sutherland.
These relatively small measures have big implications about inclusivity at Queen’s.
There; I’ve used my 500 words.
You can use yours to respond to me in a letter to the editor or a website comment, or you can use them to speak out against racism. It’s your call.

Maybe a ham, not a coconut
September 25, 2009
Amrit Ahluwalia

This summer, someone called me a coconut, or brown on the outside and white on the inside. It pissed me off.
What does it mean to be a “coconut”?

Am I a coconut because I like hockey, listen to Great Big Sea and will chow down on a poutine at a moment’s notice? Is it because I speak English and French, not Hindi and Punjabi? Or is it because I think Red Green and Corner Gas are brilliant TV shows?
Frankly, I don’t call those white stereotypes. I call those Canadian stereotypes.
And that’s where I introduce today’s rant.
People who call me white, a coconut, a potato, or whatever ridiculous inanimate object falls into the same category, are more racist than the people they claim aren’t accepting them into Canadian culture.
First off, the many different varieties of “white” culture can’t be homogenized. A Pole has very little in common with a New Zealander, save maybe for skin colour (which is actually probably slightly different, too). They have different foods, languages, histories and religions. Their ways of life are entirely different. So how can they be one and the same?
If people get upset over someone thinking their family’s Pakistani when they’re Indian, or someone thinking they’re Chinese when they’re Korean, then they ought never to homogenize white people, either.
Secondly, if people are going to complain about not being integrated cleanly into Canadian society, let me give them a few hints. If one chooses to separate themselves from society, it will be difficult for them to integrate. If one spends a large amount of time questioning the validity of a society, it will be difficult for them to integrate. If one spends their time talking about how little they want to be part of a given society, wanting instead to be part of the society their parents left behind, it will be difficult for them to integrate.
Lastly, people who make sweeping assumptions about Canadians are just as bad as the people who call me a Paki. By the same token, when one makes sweeping assumptions about who I am based on the colour of my skin, they’re as ignorant as the people who call me a Paki.
I’m not going to get into the issue of privilege because, unlike many people I’ve come across in the past month or so, I don’t happen to think white males are the devil. It seems mighty discriminatory to lump all people who fit into that category under a specific set of characteristics. In my experience, the people who’ve made sweeping generalizations about me have been brown and of all genders. White males have been extremely accepting of me.
There’s a distinct Canadian culture which so many children of immigrants decide to ignore, choosing instead to be party to the culture their parents left behind. Fine. I don’t hold it against you if you want to have pride in your heritage, but I simply ask to be left alone to celebrate my Canadian-ness.

More than a word
October 23, 2009
Jake Edmiston

The list of unusable words is long, but getting claustrophobic about my vocabulary won’t help anyone.
Derogatory terms are facing the social firing squad, although there’s one that has yet to drop as hard as the others.
The word retard is still widely used, often without receiving the mass cringing the others are met with.
Correcting it shouldn’t take a social firing squad. It shouldn’t take a poster, or friends cringing. That makes it a political correctness issue when it should be a human issue.

I don’t want this editorial to be a sermon. If there’s an issue, it shouldn’t be remedied by inciting guilt or shame. We can’t rely on fear to fix social flaws.
If history has mutated a word into a gnawing source of disgrace to a group of people, sympathy for those affected will be enough to prevent its use.
We’re people before we’re anything else. It’s a unifying quality. After it ceased to be a medical term, the word retard defined people by their intellectual limitations, not their humanity.
Disambiguation doesn’t alleviate the word’s offensiveness. Its essential meaning isn’t offensive. Retarded literally means to slow down.
But the common usage isn’t an adjective. It’s a noun that identifies people by the association with a developmental disability, and not by their individual names.
Mental retardation was a medical term—that’s the origin of the inference.
The term no longer has a technical meaning, just a derogatory stigma that remains attached. That attachment sends shockwaves beyond a single one-word insult to demean people we’ve never met.
It’s the unknown individual’s dignity that’s threatened. Those affected don’t need to be around to hear the word used, because the repercussions extend far beyond earshot.
The casual use of the term is normalizing it.
Saying “You’re a retard for doing that” contradicts the objectives of so many organizations that aim to create communities where everyone is included and valued.
I have a need to feel valued. I think it’s a basic human need.
If my name were used to taunt anyone for doing something stupid, it would erode my own feelings of value. I can’t fully create the feeling internally, but I’ve seen it felt on other faces.
The word retard is a label. It defines people by using an objectionable term for their disability. Defining someone by their challenge limits them to that challenge.
We can’t change how we’re born, but there’s potential to become more than what we’re born.
Limiting words that hinder this potential is better than limiting people by using words.

ASUS equity role disappoints
January 22, 2010

The Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS)’s first Equity Commissioner, Sarah Jacobs, resigned from her position at the Dec. 3 ASUS assembly.
The position was created last winter to encourage education on equity and diversity issues within the Faculty of Arts and Science.
Although Jacobs said she left her role for personal health reasons, this year’s ASUS executive said she didn’t meet the expectations of her role despite receiving adequate support. Jacobs argues the main issue was students’ discomfort in entering the ASUS Core to approach her with equity concerns.
ASUS President Jillian Evans said ASUS plans to rewrite policy for the position and hire a new Equity Commissioner by March after developing a clearer vision for the role.
In the back-and-forth between ASUS and Jacobs, it’s impossible to objectively determine whether Jacobs failed to attend her office hours because she was uncomfortable with the space, or because she simply wasn’t doing her job.
But pointing fingers in this situation is ineffective and unprofessional, and trying to settle on one side to agree with doesn’t merit much energy.
Creating a position meant to promote equity on campus formed a cornerstone of the current ASUS executive’s platform and should have been given more careful attention at the outset. The position appears to have been created quickly, with little strategic planning, in order to appeal to the student electorate.
The ASUS Equity Commissioner’s role failed to have much effect, but this gestures less to the capability of the candidate selected than to the difficulty of the task at hand.
Overseeing equity issues for all of ASUS is a daunting task that, if given to one student, should at least have a clear mandate. When shaping the new position, ASUS would do well to carefully consider what they want out of the role.
At the same time, a broad domain like equity, which includes questions like diversity, gender and ability, should be considered a portfolio under everyone’s belt worthy of individual effort and attention.

It’s unfortunate the creation of an Equity Commissioner role has ended up sparking more conflict for ASUS instead of promoting the positive change that was intended. It seems ASUS is left with more work to do where equity is concerned.


-Journal Editorial Board

“SUMO Showdown” offends
April 1, 2010

On Tuesday, the National Post published an article about the AMS’s decision to cancel a Food Bank fundraiser called the “SUMO Showdown” that would have made use of two sumo wrestling suits.
The suits, oversized plastic costumes designed to mimic the ancient Japanese sport of sumo wrestling, are yellow-tinted and include helmets with structures resembling black buns of hair on top.
Upon hearing from a group of deeply offended students, the AMS published a two-page apology letter on their website and cancelled the fundraiser altogether.

The apology letter said having students wear sumo suits “appropriates an aspect of Japanese culture” and “turns a racial identity in a costume.” The letter further states use of the suits “devalues an ancient and respected Japanese sport, which is rich in history and cultural tradition” and apologizes for the student government’s failure to consider potential racist meanings behind the use of the suits.
The sumo suits are owned by the Athletics Department and have been used in the past at sporting events like halftime shows at football games. Mike Grobe, speaking on behalf of Athletics, said no complaint had previously been brought to his attention about offensive aspects of the sumo suits.
The Post quotes AMS communications officer Brandon Sloan as having identified “white privilege” as a factor that made the student government blind to the gravity of the issues implicated in using sumo suits.
The Post further states Queen’s “has a proud tradition of inclusivity” for being the first university in Canada to graduate a black student and for naming a campus bar after Alfred Pierce, who was the son of a runaway slave—but that current Queen’s students’ understanding of political correctness suffers from the school’s “reputation for drawing its student body from the privileged neighbourhoods of Toronto and Ottawa.”
The AMS’s mission statement is “to serve and represent the diversity of students at Queen’s.” This is the Society’s mandate, so it follows that any event that marginalizes a group of Queen’s students would represent a deviation from the mission and a failure to be inclusive.
If students feel discriminated against by a course of action the student government intends to take, it’s reasonable to consider the potentially oppressive aspects of the initiative.
The AMS should be commended for their quick response to concerns that surfaced after the “SUMO Showdown” event was posted on Facebook. The AMS’s course of action in quickly drafting an apology letter shows thoughtfulness and tact.
After giving the issue some consideration, students and the broader media should see how sumo suits can be construed as offensive. The helmet is problematic for its mockery of traditional sumo hairstyles, while the coloured tint of the suits can also be seen as appropriation.
The costumes are a caricature of a noble, culturally meaningful sport and as such, they are offensive.
The suits’ comedic effect is tied largely to their size rather than their cultural aspects, but the line is easily blurred. It’s inappropriate to go forward with an event that could be misconstrued as mocking a cultural identity.
It’s also out of line to suggest that groups of people shouldn’t take offence to issues such as these. People naturally have different degrees of internal connection to what is being satirized and have little choice how they feel about racial mockery. The harm caused by this event is troubling, but the ensuing discussion invites thought about the potentially harmful implications that linger beneath the surface of culturally accepted things like sumo suits.
The Post’s treatment of the issue is deplorable for its willingness to tie this event, which was handled quickly and responsibly, to the issue of systemic racism, and also for its readiness to capitalize on loaded terminology like “white privilege.” The AMS discussed “privilege” in their apology letter, but never used the term “white privilege.”
Examples the Post invokes from Queen’s distant past are largely irrelevant to the current problem. By posting the article online beside links to articles addressing issues of free speech at universities, the Post misread this situation.
The sumo suit issue is not one of free speech, but rather a misguided choice made about an event that was meant to be fun.
Featuring the article on the Post’s front page also sensationalizes the issue. Sumo suits hardly qualify as national news.
By quickly formulating a thoughtful apology rather than a recycled statement, the AMS demonstrated a real desire to understand the issues brought forth and a strong focus on continued dialogue.
It’s clear the plan to use sumo suits in a fundraising event was hurtful to a group of Queen’s students. Othering and oppression is not the business of a responsible student government. We can be proud that the AMS, unlike the Post, has its priorities straight.


-Journal Editorial Board

Man up? Moan less
October 5, 2010


In an editorial published Oct. 2, the Toronto Star’s Robert Cribb considers the current plight of the masculine image.
The piece, entitled “It’s time for men to man up and take charge,” laments the lack of strong male role models for young boys, pointing to a generation raised on a stereotype of helpless men—reflected in popular sitcoms and cartoons.
Cribb explains that men are “no longer leaders” and are being eclipsed in the professional world. Consequently, men now come with their balls—as Cribb colourfully puts it—“pre-busted.”
As much has Cribb has a point—that popular television shows often revolve around a bumbling male character—it isn’t only men who suffer in these pop culture productions. Television and media in general are a form of escapism, not the final word on gender politics. It’s a bad idea to use them as some kind of benchmark for relationships on the other side of the screen.
More often than not, the bumbling male character has a long-suffering wife or girlfriend, who has to forgive his latest screw-up and accept his firm promise that he won’t do it again—until next week, when he does. Hardly a role most women would jump to embrace.
It’s hard to decide what’s most troublesome about the Star editorial. There’s the basic assumption that being a man automatically involves certain “manly” responsibilities, the suggestion that pop culture dictates how we perceive each other or the idea that men and women are trapped in an “us vs. them” mentality.
The idea that being a man “has to” mean certain things is short-sighted and offensive, and does nothing but contribute to gender stereotypes. Advocating for a return to the primal manhood of yesteryear, Cribb overlooks that the flexibility of gender roles is exactly what has made it possible for women to shake off proscribed domesticity.
The real problem with the Star editorial is that Cribb fails to articulate any of the terms he assumes the reader will take for granted. This makes the content controversial, without being articulate: what exactly does “manning up” entail? What is involved in returning to “the ancient protocols of manhood”?
Cribb’s interview with Elliott Katz—author of a book entitled Being the Strong Man A Woman Wants—doesn’t answer any of these questions. Instead, the reader gets an unsettling view of how Cribb’s ideas would work in real life, summarized by the following statement: “Leaving decisions to her is very frustrating for women. We all believe in gender equality. But you’re still the man and you have to take charge.”
Who made Katz the spokesperson for women, everywhere?
And who made Cribb the spokesperson for men, anywhere?


-Journal Editorial Board

Maclean’s strains
November 19, 2010

An article published in Maclean’s on Nov. 10 titled “Too Asian?” asks a provocative question. The piece focuses on concerns within the academic community about the implications of a university gaining—as one student put it—a “reputation of being Asian.”
The article cites claims that Asian students are more likely to apply themselves to academics, while white students are more likely to emphasize social interaction, extracurriculars and alcohol. Some administrators fear that having an “Asian” reputation will alienate non-Asian applicants.
The question of being “too Asian” is a high-profile concern in the US, where universities are often accused of arbitrarily controlling the ethnic makeup of their student body—accusations supported by scientific studies. The article suggests that Canadian universities face a difficult problem. Because these institutions operate as meritocracies, racial identity shouldn’t influence one’s ability to be a successful applicant. However, universities must choose between acknowledging the presence of these stereotypes—and risk being labelled as discriminatory—or avoid acknowledging them altogether.
The piece has become the target of a substantial amount of hostility, as many have suggested it merely perpetuates racial stereotypes. Because many of the interviewees are citing individual experiences, the article appears to be a series of racially-motivated generalizations put forth as fact.
The Maclean’s article faces a significant hurdle engrained in the topic it discusses. Writing a news story about an acknowledged problem based on stereotypes and generalisations is difficult. While the piece includes a variety of quotations from students, faculty and administrators, contextualizing individual opinions is nearly impossible. No one is in a position to make a definitive statement, nor does any one individual’s opinion speak for anyone else.
Despite the numerous criticisms levelled at the Maclean’s piece, one of its most unequivocal points is also its most valid. An admissions system based on anything other than merit is discriminatory. As the Maclean’s article concludes, universities should target racial stereotyping by encouraging diversity and equity within campuses, not by artificially ensuring a ratio of some ethnicities to others.
Ultimately, an individual is free to discount attending a university based on whatever criteria are most important to him or her. If this includes concerns about a university’s “Asian” reputation, then that student is simply letting their own racism inform a highly consequential decision.
And he or she should probably think twice.


-Journal Editorial Board

Poor housekeeping
September 13, 2011

The safe space in the Grey House, a place that caters to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning (LGBTQ) students, is at risk.
The impending evictions of the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre, Kingston Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) and the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP) are concerning. With no alternative options available for their operations, the groups should be allowed to stay.
Last year’s AMS executive enacted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the end of their term in April 2011, identifying the Grey House groups’ unique place on campus. Sticking to official policy, the current members of the AMS’s Space Allocation Committee have directly contradicted this.
The situation speaks to an inherent problem of the single-year turnover of many AMS positions and the need to build upon the work of years prior. Policy needs to be applied with a soft hand, especially when guarantees have been made by former AMS executive members.
The Space Allocation Committee has suggested that EQuIP, which is an AMS committee and therefore ineligible for Grey House space, be moved. One possibility is the Social Issues Commission office but this fails to provide the atmosphere that the Grey House is known for.
Because the three Grey House groups often work so closely together, it stands to reason that they should maintain their proximity to one another.
It’s not solely the AMS’s fault.
Levana and OPIRG were informed of the need to re-ratify as AMS clubs in order to maintain their space but the groups have yet to comply. The AMS even pushed back the deadline for re-ratification.
These groups don’t necessarily want to associate themselves with the AMS, but if they want to keep their spaces in the Grey House, this will have to change. When a simple re-ratification will solve the issue, the wise choice would be to keep the space for now and work to change the policy in the future.
After decades in the Grey House, there seems to be a sense of entitlement to the space, despite the fact that the AMS, the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) and the University jointly own it.
That said, the lack of AMS consultation with the SGPS on the impending evictions is problematic. The space is not for the AMS to run alone.
The Grey House is an invaluable resource for those who feel marginalized on campus and in the community, so it needs to be preserved. Both sides need to negotiate and do what’s best for students. Whether it’s through re-ratification or policy change, we want to see Levana, OPIRG and EQuIP remain in the Grey House.


-Journal Editorial Board

Costume controversy
October 28, 2011

As Halloween approaches, a campaign on campus is targeting culturally insensitive costumes. Each poster shows a student holding an image of a Halloween costume that is racially or culturally offensive.
For example, one poster depicts a Muslim student holding an image of a terrorist costume while another shows an Asian student holding a photo of a woman dressed as a Geisha.
The campaign — which carries the taglines “We’re a culture not a costume” and “This is not who I am, and this is not okay” — was started at Ohio University by a group called Student Teaching Against Racism. The AMS Social Issues Commission (SIC) brought the posters to Queen’s.
Social Issues Commissioner T.K. Pritchard said the poster program was adopted after many community members brought it to his attention. Pritchard said it was a proactive attempt to combat potentially offensive costumes this Halloween.
Reducing someone’s entire cultural identity into a caricature is offensive. There’s no reason to hurt others while dressing up, and trying to have fun.
Simple naïveté is part of the problem, and the campaign will be useful in helping to engender thoughtful consideration when choosing a Halloween costume.
While many people who wear costumes to parody a stereotype don’t have malicious intentions, the implications of these costumes are often overlooked. The nature of Halloween allows for characterization. Dressing as a character is acceptable, but portraying an ethnicity or culture isn’t.
Some argue that those who are offended by a Halloween costume need to build a thicker skin, but this point of view is flawed. It isn’t the responsibility of observers to try to ignore the way an offensive costume makes them feel.
The campaign has inherent problems because it’s difficult to draw a hard and fast line around what is offensive. For example, do police officers have the right to be offended on Halloween because their profession is often sexualized in costumes?
The best course of action is for each individual dressing up to stop and think before stepping into a costume. Consider what affect a costume could have.
The SIC’s mandate includes educating and creating discussion among the student body on social issues. Hopefully this poster campaign will make people think twice and force students to be creative on Halloween and not offensive.


-Journal Editorial Board

Bands suspension justified
November 25, 2011

The suspension of Queen’s Bands on Nov. 17 was a necessary decision made by the University administration and the AMS. Bands is prevented from performing for the remainder of the fall term after controversial material, circulated amongst Bands members, was brought to the attention of the University and the AMS.
The Bands songbook features vulgar and sexist songs and issues of the “The Banner” were rife with offensive material. Past front page titles from the past three years of this Bands-published pamphlet include “Mouth raping your little sister since 1905” and “Perpetuating racial stereotypes since 1905.”
Calling something a joke doesn’t make it harmless or acceptable. Rape is a topic that’s never appropriate to joke about; just as making light of racial stereotypes is never okay. Arguing “The Banner” was all in good fun fails to take into account the seriousness of the situation. The suspension of Bands isn’t an example of the politically correct run amok — the recourse taken by the University was justified.
The fact is that Bands is partially funded by a mandatory student fee and the members represent Queen’s across Canada.
Bands has been a proud tradition at Queen’s for more than a century, but this doesn’t make the organization immune to criticism.
We don’t want to be represented by the Bands’ songs and traditions if they are offensive.
This isn’t to say that every Bands member is equally accountable for circulated materials. As a group, Bands is composed of dedicated and talented individuals who shouldn’t be painted as insensitive, sexist or racist. Being in Bands is an immense commitment and requires a large amount of work. While we respect Bands members for their enthusiasm and performances, the apparent subculture is simply not okay.
It’s likely that many individuals in Bands were uncomfortable with the songs they were expected to sing. Their songbook contains a disclaimer that only “lame people don’t sing,” so some people were probably pressured into participating. With a suspension for the remainder of the term and human rights and equity training, hopefully it will be clear to Bands members that the group’s subculture is unacceptable.
The administration’s openness when handling the ban was the right choice. Though the decision garnered national media attention and cast Queen’s in an unfavourable light, it’s preferable to keeping the story under wraps.
The Journal’s decision to publish the songbook and quote from “The Banner” allowed for a more thorough understanding of the decision to ban Bands. The materials provided examples of the “explicit, disrespectful and degrading language” that the administration cited in their decision. The way in which the University delivered its judgment could have been better. It’s too often that administrative decisions carry a parental tone.
Rather than making the human rights training mandatory, administration and the AMS should have made it clear that in order to represent Queen’s University, Bands needs to change. They should have given members the chance to right their wrong independently, without being told what to do.
The Bands executive’s decision to decline comment to the media has left a gap in the story — one that can’t be laid to rest until both sides are told. Until then, speculation will continue. The short statement issued through the Queen’s news centre and AMS website does little to explain the situation from a Bands perspective.
A balanced perspective can’t be provided until they have a chance to explain themselves. Bands needs to openly admit their mistakes and state how they will endeavor to make changes.
Queen’s and the Bands’ reputation has been momentarily tarnished, but both will recover from the bad publicity. The organization will bounce back if they reform their ways.
The imposed measures won’t destroy the group, they will improve it. This suspension provides Bands the chance to emerge stronger and more inclusive. The Bands’ recently publicized indiscretions provide clubs and teams the chance to reconsider the norms and traditions they maintain.
Doubtless there are other groups who wouldn’t want all the jokes they tell, the stories they share or the traditions they follow to end up in national newspapers. Now is the time to reflect on why that is and adhere to the standards that students expect.
It’s important that Bands was given the chance to reconcile their behaviour, and it’s also necessary for them to be banned in the interim.
As long as Bands is affiliated with this sort of behaviour, they shouldn’t be allowed to represent Queen’s. It’s the same standard set for every group — it’s a standard for a reason.

-Journal Editorial Board

Don't buy in
February 14, 2012
Jessica Fishbein

It’s Women’s Worth Week at Queen’s, meaning that for the next three days events are held to encourage men to think more critically about how they treat women.
Kingston’s downtown strip club is a popular attraction for students. It’s deeply troubling to hear students I respect and admire support an industry that relies on the inherent objectification of women.
Salary information company Payscale reported in 2011 that an average stripper can earn up to $82,000 annually. In professions where they keep their clothes on, women struggle to earn that much.

There’s evidence to attest to the point. In 2010, Time magazine reported that in the U.S., women earned $0.77 for every dollar earned by a man.
The high pay for a woman’s scantily-clad performance presents a sickening solution of how women can narrow the economic gender gap.
This income disparity reinforces a misogynistic perspective of how women are valued in society. If women are paid more to cater to what is often a male-dominated customer base, how are these power relations reproduced in other aspects of society?
I can’t fathom the experience of the women who make a living off having their bodies ogled by an audience. But some certain feminists argue we can’t label stripping as psychologically degrading.
Stripping could represent a sought-after moment of liberation and empowerment against conventional gender customs.
It’s not the act of stripping but the economic profit associated with it that deserves critique.
By paying to see a woman strip, you’re equating her body to a commodity. Her identity is reduced to that of an object that’s solely useful for an audience’s viewing pleasure.
The apparent ethical detachment of strip club patrons should trouble everyone, not just zealous feminists. Why do strip club patrons feel this is an appropriate outlet for their time and dollars?
I doubt they’d feel the same if it were their mother or sister being paid to undress.
People who go to strip clubs aren’t inherently immoral, but are rather willfully blind to the message their actions send.
Attendance at strip clubs needs to raise debate.
In today’s culture of commodification where women are turned into sexual objects, interactions are increasingly cheapened.
Strip clubs are cheap, don’t buy in.

Subtle racism oversimplified
November 16, 2012

Racism is a deeply entrenched aspect of our society — one that, in today’s day and age, often isn’t blatantly obvious.
In a recent article published in the McGill Daily, a fourth-year cultural studies student rightfully expounded this fact by pointing out that racism is more subtle, appearing in day-to-day conversations and activities.
Racism can manifest itself in a simple comment or question — something that many people gloss over or seem to forget. In bringing up these concerns, the author is correct.
However, the author of the article made some overly simplified implications as to what it means to be racist.
The author clearly states that he believes the foundation of racism is based in whiteness. His theory outlines that racism is based on the assumption that everyone who is white is pure whereas all those who aren’t are seen as lesser.
While there’s an undeniable history of colonialism and racism related to white people, xenophobia and racism can manifest itself in a variety of contexts.
Racism isn’t solely a Western phenomenon where white people have historically oppressed other races — it exists in Asia, Africa and throughout the rest of the world.
To argue that xenophobia and racism can only be rooted in whiteness is narrow-minded and doesn’t explain the whole situation — while white people can be racist, being white does not automatically make you racist.
The author also could have further explored the subtleties that he claims can be racist.
Instead of implying that all white people are inherently racist, he could’ve gone into greater depth about the distinct situations in which this sort of racism can arise.
Ultimately, in taking a different approach to his article and focusing more so on exploring the subtleties of racism, he would’ve had a more cohesive statement that was less accusatory and overly simplified.
There’s definite benefit to raising awareness about the different, subtle ways in which racism can manifest itself. However, accusing all white people of being racist right off the bat isn’t the most constructive way to do so.

-Journal Editorial Board

Team BGP gets the green light
January 29, 2013


The Journal believes that team BGP will be the best executive in place for next year’s AMS.
Team BGP won the Editorial Board vote with 10 in favour and seven abstentions.
Team TNL received three votes and team PDA received two.
Over half of those who abstained stated they did so due to a personal relationship with one of the candidates, while others admitted they felt little confidence in any of the teams.
In the initial round of the discussion, conversations were dominated by praises of TNL.
But, Team BGP won the endorsement vote due to their emphasis on bringing about a much-needed change that students desire.
TNL had a strong team dynamic — it was clear that they all respected each other.
As a team of insiders, TNL also brought necessary experience but failed to convince the Editorial Board how they would dismantle the “AMS clique.”
Their plan to build a bridge connecting the JDUC and the Queen’s Centre also doesn’t represent what students actually want or need.
PDA’s campaign and platform, both based on critical and financial accountability, was commendable. However, their high-strung and hard-liner attitudes didn’t seem to indicate a more inclusive or approachable AMS.
BGP offered something different — a mix of idealism and practicality.
Their focus on both the arts and the LGBTQ communities — typically marginalized groups at Queen’s — is refreshing and indicative of the change in mindset they’ll bring to the AMS. Their plan to bring Queen’s WiFi to the Student Ghetto seems too idealistic given that the Queen’s wireless network is often unreliable and would be more so with an increased volume of users.
While the team is dynamic, their leadership has potential to be shaky.
Presidential candidate Eril Berkok isn’t nearly as aggressive as his two competitors — as evidenced by last week’s presidential debate — but he still offers an effective leadership style. His experience as Student Senate Caucus Chair and former COMPSA president are assets to dealing with the administration, the City and faculty societies.
If elected, Berkok will have to ensure that his approachable nature doesn’t make him a pushover when standing up for student’s needs. Similarly, vice-president of operations candidate Peter Green has a steep learning curve ahead of him. While his external experience is notable, he lacks the internal experience that his teammates bring.
Vice-president of university affairs candidate T.K. Pritchard, who had admitted defeat in last year’s executive race, remained one of the strongest candidates in the overall campaign and consistently outshone his teammates in the conversation. His love for Queen’s and his commitment to mental health and LGBTQ issues is palpable.
The other front runner in the campaign period, TNL’s Nicola Plummer, brought poise, experience and approachability.She didn’t shy away from tough questions and had a thorough understanding of what her portfolio entailed. Her commerce background and previous experience managing large budgets make her a stronger vice-president of operations candidate than BGP’s Green.
Liam Faught, team TNL’s candidate for the position, seemed less well-versed in his position than Plummer, but he brought both internal experience and a likeable demeanor.
Troy Sherman, the TNL presidential candidate, was clearly well-versed in town-gown issues, but his rhetoric often seemed disingenuous.
PDA’s Alexander Prescott was a stronger presidential candidate and if placed at the helm of the AMS, he would be highly effective and diligent in bringing about change to the student government. Unfortunately, PDA’s abrasive and arrogant attitudes weigh down Prescott’s strengths.
Vice-president of university affairs candidate Lisa Acchione was the weakest link of the entire campaign. She consistently seemed out of place and overpowered by her teammates throughout the campaign period.
While Craig Draeger, vice-president of operations candidate, would be a financially savvy leader, he placed more emphasis on criticizing questions asked than explaining how he would help create a more inclusive AMS.
No one on team PDA was able to effectively answer a question about the tangible steps they would take to be approachable to students. This was the team’s biggest detractor for the Editorial Board.
In this executive race, TNL proved to be the team that would maintain the AMS the way it is, and PDA encouraged a drastic and un-inclusive overhaul.
Neither is desirable; the AMS needs a cultural change and BGP’s inclusive and realistic platform and friendly demeanor makes them the team that should be in office.


-Journal Editorial Board

Better than reaction
February 5, 2013
Vincent Ben Matak

Belittling a culture is never funny. Last week’s attack on Team PDA’s Vice-President of Operations candidate Craig Draeger was well called for, but it failed to deliver the appropriate message.
A Tumblr page entitled “Queen’s is better than racism” called for Draeger’s removal from the AMS elections race, after an older YouTube video featuring Draeger in “brownface” circulated online.
In this case, Draeger was clearly parodying Mexican culture.
The video shows him shaking maracas to mariachi music, wearing traditional Mexican clothes.
The video, which was taken down, sparked a marked reaction from the group, who accused Draeger of racism and microagression.
“You cannot separate the racist history from said action just because you want to cosplay [costume play],” the page read. “It’s extremely selfish and racist of you to disregard those very real emotions and realities for your own self-interests.”
The campaign, which had good intentions, was misdirected by its extreme and accusatory nature.
Instead of calling for Draeger’s resignation, it should’ve campaigned for an explanation or an apology from him regarding the video.
What they did was effectively prejudge Draeger based on past actions, to the point where any explanation would have been rendered futile.
I don’t condone racism and I’m not excusing Draeger’s actions, but in order to combat acts of racism, or any act of bigotry, it’s better to call for reason than reaction.
I don’t intend to speak on behalf of racially marginalized groups, but I have experienced my own forms of discrimination on campus for who I am and what I stand for.
The fact that a person committed an act of racism in the past doesn’t mean that person was or continues to be a racist.
We can’t take one action and judge a person — that in itself is an act of discrimination.
We should use this to better understand how and why acts or racism are still occurring today, instead of calling for measures too extreme for the situation.
Vince is an Assistant News Editor at the Journal.

Reclaiming words
March 8, 2013
Katherine Fernandez-Blance, Labiba Haque

Katherine Fernandez-Blance
For: The English language is constantly evolving, and with it, so should the use of our pejoratives.
There’s been a recent effort to ‘take-back’ words that are usually deemed too offensive and derogatory to mention in civil conversation.
It’s a good start, considering that words are power. It’s about time that historically marginalized groups reclaim a space that has been taken from them.
I’ll print slut and dyke, but I won’t say the N-word. It’s a simple logic — while I might have been referred to as a slut or dyke at some point in my life, I’ve never, and likely will never be referred to as the N-word. It’s a personal choice, which is what reclamation should be about. Of course verbal harassment and labeling is never justified. But, the reclamation of words that have historically been used to marginalize can be empowering.
In my first year at Queen’s I attended the Vagina Monologues, a feminist production that many
know for the scene in which audience members are encouraged to chant “cunt” along with a cast member.
I was visibly uncomfortable with the scene, having always thought the word was one of the most foul expletives in the English language.
Yet years later, when I next saw the show, I chanted alongside the cast. I did so because I wanted to be part of an action that protested a previously anti-feminist word, and changed its meaning. The word was no longer scary, or rude; in that specific context, it was empowering.
Social movements have been successful in doing this exact thing.
It’s not wrong for SlutWalk, a nation-wide event designed to protest slut-shaming, or Dyke March, a lesbian-led event, part of Toronto’s Pride Parade, to name themselves after a pejorative. Rap music particularly has different variations of the N-word in their lyrics. If musicians wish to reclaim the word as an act of protest, they shouldn’t be condemned for doing so.
It’s up to the individual to self-identify and it’s important to contextualize a given situation.
Of course one could argue that a blanket ban on certain pejoratives would ultimately be more fruitful, but in a consistently sexist, homophobic and racist society, this is wishful thinking. We own our words; they shouldn’t hold the power over us.
Katherine is one of the Editors in Chief at the Journal.
Labiba Haque
Against: There’s a reason why words hurt.
Words are a communal tool that can be easily used as weapons due to the power they hold.
Regardless of good intentions, to try and shift that supposed power may cause more harm than good.
In recent years, events such as SlutWalk have tried to reclaim the word “slut” to challenge notions of victim-blaming and sexual violence.
Although I commend the effort, I don’t think the onus should be on rebranding people’s perception of what the word means. Words are so deeply entrenched in our society that it takes more than an attempt by a few to truly take away their power.
My opponent states that reclaiming all pejorative words is a possibility. I suppose it is for some, but only if it becomes gradually acceptable in society and their meaning is largely altered — a feat that’s rarely possible.
Many supporters of appropriation point to “queer” as an example of successful word reclamation. They suggest that this can be done for all words, if the group reclaiming it is associated with the word.
But that’s not necessarily the case. If a derogatory word is said with enough malicious intent, it’s still offensive. A group of individuals may think writing “slut” on their body may be empowering, in terms of regaining control, but reshaping it doesn’t prevent the damages such a word causes in other situations.
Women should be able to dress however they want, but the focus should be on the act of shaming not on the word.
Words like the N-word, also have historical connotations and meanings associated with them. The N-word, like many other words in the English language, represents years of misuse and trauma.
It’s naïve for a younger generation to attempt to embrace the word, especially if they’ve never been tied to it the same way the previous generation was. No single group has a direct claim over a word; they’re accessible to every member of society.
Even if an associated group tries to take ownership of a word, its potential damage won’t change unless its connotation, both historical and definitive, is completely removed.
So the next time you want to call me a slut in an attempt to empower me, don’t. The focus should be on the issue itself, not on rebranding gimmicks.
Labiba is one of the Editors in Chief at the Journal.

Identity limited
July 30, 2013
Vincent Ben Matak

Sexuality doesn’t define a person.
When I came out to my best friend in first year, I was worried about how she’d take it. Six months later, I was surrounded by a group of friends who loved me.
However, every time I was introduced by one of my friends, it seemed to go like this: “This is my friend Vince. He’s gay.”
I didn’t even realize at that point how little my friends knew about me.
Today, our culture is more inclusive of sexual diversity than ever, but are we allowing our sexual identities to take over who we are?
Earlier this month, VICE Magazine ran an article that posed the question: is Canada being run by a gay mafia?
The article tried to support the claim by weeding out the “gay shenanigans of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet, which seems about as straight as an episode of Glee.” The author speculated about the sexuality of notable people in federal politics, even accusing Harper’s wife, Laureen, of being a lesbian based on her alleged nickname in Ottawa: the L-word.
The author, a gay man, isn’t just guilty of incredibly shoddy journalism. He’s actively perpetuating the stereotypes that most gay communities support: a one-dimensional framework of personhood based on what makes you sexually aroused.
A few gay friends that I know, as well as myself, have at one point completely disregarded themselves or their principles in order to conform to social expectations based on their sexual orientation — common stereotypes that most agree are unfounded.
But the idea of a “gay community” itself perpetuates the notion that we’re nothing more than our sexual orientations. The concept is purely sexual and, subsequently, one-dimensional.
I am not saying that LGBTQ communities are negative spaces in the least. In July, I attended Toronto Pride for my first time and I’ve never felt more accepted.

However, communities can’t be truly inclusive if they strip individuals of qualities aside from their sexual orientation, placing them in categories that range from “L”, “G”, “B”, “T” to “Q.”
Sexual identity is only one small facet of being a human. My sexual identity doesn’t define me.
Vince is the News Editor at the Journal. He’s a fourth-year philosophy major.

Sign starts debate on campus sexism
September 13, 2013


The sign that hung from a house in the Student Ghetto during frosh week which read “Dads: Winter isn’t the only thing coming” was undoubtedly misogynistic and therefore inappropriate. The fact that a group of people thought it would be acceptable to display the sign proves we have a long way to go as a university when it comes to gender and sex.
Saying that the sign was “just a joke” is short-sighted, and pointing out that the sign didn’t specify the gender of the subject is disingenuous.
Context is critical here; there is a long history of misogynistic Frosh Week signs at Queen’s, many of them targeting “daughters”. Regardless, the fact that the sign was addressed to “dads” is patriarchal. At worst, it implies that fathers own their daughters.
Some critiques of the sign have been extreme. Unlike previous signs, this one did not advocate rape. The one individual who lives at the house in question who commented publicly about the issue should be taken at his word when he says this was not the intention. Nevertheless, he and the others who condoned the sign are responsible for its predictable negative effects.
In this case, it’s important to consider the power dynamics of Frosh Week. First-years and their parents are coming to a new city on what can be a stressful day. Many frosh are friendless and feel completely vulnerable. In such a context, the sign could be interpreted as fairly predatory. Nobody’s initial impression of Queen’s or its surrounding areas should be a sexist catchphrase imposed on them in giant block letters.
Queen’s administration and student leaders should be given credit for disapproving of this type of blatantly misogynistic message for officially sanctioned Frosh Week events. The chants that were yelled at the University of British Columbia and St. Mary’s University last week shows there’s a greater institutional acceptance of this behaviour at these schools than we’ve seen at Queen’s.
Nevertheless, what is widely condoned in the Student Ghetto reflects back onto Queen’s culture as a whole. The campus environment is harmed by this type of stunt as it encourages sexist social relations and could even help those who commit sexual assault justify their actions. Frosh Week and Queen’s in general would be more fun without misogyny.


-Journal Editorial Board

A call against hate crimes
October 18, 2013


On Sunday, it’s alleged that six Queen’s students were harassed, and one student assaulted, by a group of young men in Kingston. Due to the nature of the attack and the fact that the victims are visible minorities, Kingston Police have said the assault is a hate crime.
It’s good that the individuals accused of carrying out this crime are the main focus of attention in its aftermath. However, the Kingston community as a whole has a ways to go in terms of accepting diversity. The Queen’s campus is no exception.
Kingston Police should be commended for not hesitating to label the assault a hate crime and for quickly apprehending and charging suspects in the case. This swift action means that those who are similarly victimized will be more comfortable going to police with any allegations of criminal activity.
Unfortunately, there are far too many people who have stories about racist treatment in Kingston and at Queen’s. These anecdotes and Kingston’s high rate of hate crimes combine to paint an ugly picture.
For that reason, we hope this event will renew a conversation about how people of different backgrounds are treated in Kingston.
Queen’s students shouldn’t use this event as an opportunity to furnish the stereotype of an ignorant “townie”. There’s a recent history of racist incidents at Queen’s which include Islamophobic verbal assaults and vandalism.
The fact that these incidents seem to reoccur may have something to do with the reality of the demographics of Kingston and Queen’s. Both are largely white and fairly conservative. Racism might have more staying power in these environments.
There are some encouraging signs, however. In the aftermath of an incident this summer where a gay couple received threats of violence, the Kingston and Queen’s communities rallied around them in solidarity. This is the type of event that sows hope for the future.
There’s still a lot of progress to be made in Kingston. Regular people and city leadership should speak in unison against racism. Police should prosecute hate crimes aggressively to deter the small handful of individuals who would actually commit these crimes. We should all remain vigilant, as the behaviour seen this week is completely unacceptable.


-Journal Editorial Board

Mixed messages
October 22, 2013
Olivia Bowden

Many mixed race people, myself included, have trouble defining our ethnic identity.
As a child, I’d put on my mother’s makeup and be confused as to why her dark brown foundation didn’t blend with my pale skin. A family reunion with my dad’s side felt strange as I looked nothing like the blonde hair, blue-eyed bunch.
Both sides of my family, South Asian and Anglo-Saxon, have thoroughly accepted that I don’t reflect either side in my appearance. But, the question remains, where do I belong?
In 2010, Statistics Canada reported that more than 340,000 children are a part of a mixed-race family.
With these numbers growing, and other standards of identity being blurred, attempts to place individuals into single categories of gender, race or sexual orientation should be a thing of the past.
It’s sometimes unsettling when people ask me where I’m from. While it might seem like an innocent question, it makes me feel like I have to accept a racial label. I’ve completed many surveys where I’ve had to state my race as “other”.
It’s especially sickening when I’ve been told that I am “lucky” to pass as white. Some people feel comfortable saying racist comments in reaction to my appearance. I’ve been told that I’m “pretty, for a brown girl”.
Looking “white” does not mean I am okay with racism.
Although I’d never say that I’m thoroughly Indian, I grew up with a heavier South Asian upbringing. Most of my extended family lives in India; I celebrate Diwali and there are pictures of Shahrukh Khan on my Macbook. Even the more intimate aspects of the culture, such as understanding Hinduism, remain deeply important to me.
Sometimes I feel that I’m not allowed to identify with my South Asian heritage due to my appearance. My brother, who has the same blood as me, looks completely Indian. He asks me why he can’t choose to be white.
Even though our appearances are different, the truth is that both of us can choose the racial identity we feel comfortable with.
As Canada becomes more multicultural, society should understand that individuals may no longer belong to a single group, and that ethnicity can be fluid.
Olivia is an Assistant News Editor at the Journal. She’s a third-year history major.

Wente is wrong, wrecks & rankles
October 25, 2013

Margaret Wente’s recent column about alcohol and sexual assault had its reasonable moments, but unfortunately, these were overshadowed by the column’s many flaws.
Wente argues that the easiest way to attack rape culture on university campuses is to address what she calls “booze culture” and, in particular, female student’s binge drinking to the same extent as their male peers. By doing so, she argues, women are putting themselves in high-risk situations that are more likely to result in sexual assault.
This article reflects Wente’s regular tendency to sensationalize, resulting in an oversimplified, disingenuous and underdeveloped argument.
One of articles’ most glaring missteps is its disproportionate focus on the actions of women. Wente begins by regurgitating the same warning that many university-aged women have heard a handful of times: you shouldn’t get too drunk around young men or you might end up getting sexually assaulted.
The premise that the consumption of alcohol is the catalyst in the vast majority of campus sexual assaults is tenuous at best. There’s no doubt that sexual assaults would continue after an end to binge drinking, as the underlying gender dynamics and power imbalances would remain. Wente reduces a fairly complicated conversation to a piece of impractical advice.
Young men should also take offence to Wente’s column, as she generalizes their actions to the point that they come across as rapists-in-waiting.
It’s unfortunate that Wente goes on to undermine those who insist that “rape culture” exists. Feminists who talk about “rape culture” often advocate a male focused approach to sexual assault prevention. The idea that we should counsel young men about sexual assault is one that Wente could stand to engage with.
By comparing rape to other crimes like mugging, Wente excludes herself from rational debate. Taking someone’s wallet isn’t the same as violating their body. Anyone making that comparison isn’t attempting to discuss the topic seriously.
Everyone owes themselves a basic level of vigilance and responsibility in order to avoid dangerous situations. This is so self-evident that it shouldn’t be central to this conversation. To prevent sexual assault, the main focus should be on the actions of rapists. Women shouldn’t be forced to significantly change their behaviour due to the threat of attack.
By excluding any serious analysis of wider cultural sexism, Wente maximizes the blame placed on sexual assault victims. She insults the intelligence of young men and young women alike. She sensationalizes, and therefore narrows her argument to the point of absurdity.

-Journal Editorial Board

Men make mark with centre
November 22, 2013

An organization called the Canadian Association for Equality has raised enough money to fund the first Canadian Centre for Men and Families in Toronto. The organization hopes to be up and running in the coming months to provide help, services and referrals to men in need.
This new men’s centre will be a positive force in society provided it doesn’t get co-opted by misogynistic “men’s rights” activists. Men have issues of their own and will benefit from an institution geared to their needs. Feminists should embrace this development as it will mean more dialogue and a progression towards gender equality.
Women still have a lower social position than men in Canadian society and there are parts of the world where women are second-class citizens lacking basic rights. For these reasons, women still deserve the majority of attention and resources when it comes to gender issues.
However, men have their own genuine concerns. They’re more likely to commit suicide and more likely to abuse alcohol.They deal with mental and physical health problems in different ways than women and are more reluctant to get professional help for both. Men are also often treated unfairly in the court system during divorce and custody battles.
At a more theoretical level, men are coping with stereotypical notions of masculinity at a time when expectations for male behaviour are changing at a faster pace than ever before.
This confluence of issues calls for a “safe space” to discuss them. Most importantly, a men’s centre could help foster healthy dialogue with feminists on topics like gender equality.
The risk that an extreme “men’s rights” or otherwise anti-woman faction could gain sway in a men’s centre is plausible and this possibility should be guarded against with vigilance. However, the simple existence of “men’s rights” advocates should not taint the project by default.
Men’s centres should be embraced by feminists as long as they are operated in good faith; they provide an opportunity to create dialogue between genders and offer support to men.

-Journal Editorial Board

Newcomers thrive
February 28, 2014

It’s not surprising that the children of immigrants are attending university at higher rates than children from families that have been in Canada for many generations. This fact, however, shouldn’t kick off a rush to defund programs that help new immigrants.
A Statistics Canada study has shown that Canadians from immigrant backgrounds are significantly more likely to attend university than students whose parents were both born in Canada.
This reality can probably be attributed to the values that immigrant parents have in regards to education. Many of these parents are hyper-aware of what their home country lacked and consequently, they encourage their children to take advantage of the possibilities afforded to them in a place like Canada.
These parents are more likely to encourage their children to study in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. This is in contrast to the mentality of more longstanding Canadian families, who tend to have a more lax approach to education that sometimes centres on a “do what makes you happy” type of attitude.
While immigrants and their children are obviously seeing success and many new immigrants to Canada are well-off compared to other Canadians, government programs and initiatives that help immigrants shouldn’t end. Immigrants arrive in Canada without connections and with significant cultural and linguistic barriers in their way. For people in this vulnerable position, government programs are necessary.
All Canadians should embrace the success of relative newcomers to our country as it means we’re a country where people from different identities and social classes can be successful. Non-immigrant parents should consider adopting the education-focused attitudes that see children from immigrant backgrounds thrive.

-Journal Editorial Board

Talk about it — period
October 31, 2014

The discomfort menstruation evokes speaks to greater issues of muted conversations on health.
The McGill Daily published a feature in their Oct. 27 issue titled “A Bloody Shame”, which examined the stigma surrounding menstruation and the revulsion it can inspire.
Although the feature didn’t provide new information, it was well written, and the shocked and giggling reception it received from our Editorial Board begged the question: what’s the nature of the stigma surrounding menstruation?
As a biological necessity, menstruation has a long-standing history of being stigmatized. Misconceptions that label it as impure persist today in certain regions and religions.
However, even when these misconceptions aren’t present, there still exists a shame around the subject.
From a young age, individuals with a uterus often feel uncomfortable talking to others about menstruation. Rather than citing severe menstrual cramping, nausea or other symptoms as grounds for being excused from gym class, for example, many people may instead give an alternative reason.
The discomfort present in these discussions is partially because internal functions, like menstruation, are often characterized as private matters.
While this personal embarrassment has its roots in historical sexism, it speaks to a greater issue within our society on discussing health — one that isn’t exclusive to those who menstruate.
Individuals with or without a uterus shouldn’t feel embarrassed to share health concerns, especially with a health specialist, but the private nature of these issues can often deter people from discussing them publicly. This can lead to serious consequences.
Reproductive education is currently taught in elementary and high schools, but men and women are often limited to schooling on their particular gender. These two sides need to better intersect.

-Journal Editorial Board

University & societies need to encourage female leadership
January 14, 2015

Queen’s administration and student societies can help address the confidence gap that continues to stifle female participation in leadership roles.
Last Friday, the Journal published an opinion piece by contributor Tuba Chishti — chair of the AMS Board of Directors — where she argued that more women should pursue leadership opportunities at Queen’s.
Only 34 per cent of candidates for elected student government positions over the past five years have been women — despite over 55 per cent of students being female. The issue isn’t that women aren’t elected; it’s that they aren’t running in the first place.
Low female participation is a result of socialization from a young age, where girls are conditioned to be more wary of risks than boys. This lack of confidence was expressed in a Hewlett-Packard study, which found that women tend to only apply for promotions if they believe they’ve met 100 per cent of the qualifications, while men often apply when they meet just 60 per cent.
This socialization needs to be addressed while girls are still young, but support and encouragement to pursue leadership roles can also be directed to adult women.
Not all Queen’s societies have low female leadership rates; the past two Engineering Society (EngSoc) presidents, for example, have been women. Campus organizations such as Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) make a particular effort to encourage women to be more confident in their professions.
More societies need to adapt strategies to ensure women feel confident vying for leadership positions. Organizations and mentorship programs for young women need to be established, so that female students have resources and role models they can be inspired by.
Another potential solution is to remove barriers that persist in student government. The AMS and other society elections are often poorly advertised in the weeks and months leading up to nomination periods. This is disadvantageous for individuals who don’t know the inner workings of student government.
These barriers will only further discourage women who lack confidence in their abilities despite their qualifications.
Although this won’t solve the underlying social issues at play, it will assist in ensuring that positions are more accessible, which could lead to more diversity among candidates.

-Journal Editorial Board

Address campus racism at the root
March 6, 2015

Diversifying Queen’s population and academic curriculum are critical to ensuring that unintentional discrimination and racism don’t persist on campus.
In a recent Journal feature on the experiences of black students at Queen’s, seven of eight black students interviewed said they’ve felt alienated and excluded on campus because of daily microaggressions and a predominantly Eurocentric curriculum.
71.5 per cent of undergraduate students who registered in 2013 weren’t visible minorities, according to Queen’s Applicant Equity Census. The majority of Queen’s students have likely never been subjected to institutional discrimination or racism, and they likely have little experience interacting with different cultures within an academic environment.
It’s unacceptable that members of Queen’s population feel marginalized by their studies and the flippant behaviour of their peers — even if discriminatory comments appear to be unintentional and due to ignorance.
Feelings of alienation and exclusion on campus are hardly new.
Between 2003-04, nearly two dozen faculty members surveyed said they were treated differently because of their ethno-racial status.
The survey was conducted for the Henry Report, which concluded that “white privilege and power continue to be reflected in the Eurocentric curricula, traditional pedagogical approaches, hiring, promotion and tenure practices, and opportunities for research” at Queen’s.
Efforts should be directed towards diversifying Queen’s homogeneity at all levels — the administration, faculty and students.
Only 3.4 per cent of undergraduate applicants in 2013 were black, according to the Applicant Equity Census.
The University needs to better demonstrate that it has the infrastructure to accommodate a diverse population, including scholarships and other resources.
One recipient of the Robert Sutherland-Harry Jerome Scholarship — an annual award for black students who have demonstrated academic excellence — received the award automatically without applying. This shows that most students likely aren’t aware of the opportunities.
Diversity is also necessary within Queen’s faculty and teachings. The majority of curricula are Eurocentric and only introduce “foreign” topics in a tokenized fashion.
This can alienate and discourage students who don’t identify with these perspectives, and leave all students with only a surface understanding of critical race theory and other cultures.
Professors who can speak to oft-marginalized perspectives need to be employed to diversify course offerings.
Existing resources providers, such as Queen’s health services, need staff who understand critical race theory, to be able to appropriately support students who come to them with issues of race.
With historical roots deep in Scottish tradition, Queen’s has an entrenched homogeneity that can’t be diversified overnight. Traditions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but when they suppress diversity and create feelings of alienation, there’s room for reevaluation.

-Journal Editorial Board

Know where to draw the line
September 10, 2015

Frosh Week at Queen’s expends a lot of resources to discuss important topics like mental health and sexuality, but race is conspicuously absent.
Cultural appropriation is everywhere, especially during Frosh Week, but despite the open opportunity to talk about it, we’re unwilling to confront our microaggressive habits.
This year, Western University’s O-Week frosh leaders aren’t allowed to wear fake dreadlocks, native headdresses, Mohawks, bandannas over the face, turbans or hijabs, unless these items are a part of their cultural or religious identity.
Western’s Orientation Planning Committee set the ban after receiving several complaints from students.
The tradition of culturally-inspired attire, such as Mohawks, has been shared by frosh leaders at Queen’s for many years.
The Mohawk is a hairstyle originating with Native American tribes such as the Iroquois and Mohawks, or Mohicans.
Being ignorant of the cultural connotations of your apparel doesn’t make the appropriation of it excusable.
Even if you don’t know the historical and cultural value of a Mohawk hairstyle, it still doesn’t make it just hair.
However innocent the intent, disrespect for traditional customs can be a serious offense to an increasingly international student body.
But by simply banning specific items of dress or hairstyles, Western is missing out on a valuable teaching moment.
Instead of simply creating a ban list, it would be more effective if students received guidance, so that they could independently gauge what is and isn’t appropriate.
Moreover, only banning the wear of specific items because of their connotative link to a specific cultural or ethnic group risks negatively colouring items that should be proudly worn.
There are many healthy ways to share in traditional customs at Queen’s, as shown by groups such as the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and the African & Caribbean Students’ Association, who both hold regular open events.
Platforms like Frosh Week exists for conversations about appropriate behaviour to happen. It shouldn’t be this hard for us to figure out when it’s not okay to wear a headdress.

-Journal Editorial Board

Islamaphobia is more than veil-deep
October 16, 2015
Ramna Safeer

While many Canadians believe Islamophobia only happens elsewhere to other people, members of my family are shaving their beards and folding away their hijabs.
I was sitting in a lecture last year when the topic of Islamic empires arose. A girl sitting next to me scoffed.
“It’s backwards,” she leaned over to her friend and whispered. “The hijab just seems oppressive, you know? That entire religion does.” Her friend nodded knowingly.
“I mean, I’m not a racist or anything! I just don’t believe you should force women to wear that stuff.”
It wasn’t a physical attack on me — she wasn’t even talking to me. But underneath it was the same sentiment of a deep-rooted misunderstanding that fuels much more overt and violent acts of racism and intolerance.
In a country that prides itself on encouraging a tapestry of diverse cultures and racial identities, the Harper administration’s anti-Islamic agenda is highly hypocritical.
In a House of Commons debate, Harper called the niqab the product of an “anti-women” culture. His comment was a catalyst for a rising tide of anti-Islamic rhetoric leading up to the October election  —  in light of which members of my family and my close friends began changing.
A cousin shaved his beard for fear he would be attacked. A friend took off her hijab after a lifetime of wearing it proudly, pushed to the edge by the constant staring.
A couple of weeks later, I was walking from my residence to the same class when I got a call from my mom. Her voice shaking, she told me three Muslim students had been shot in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“Be safe,” she said. “Even if you disagree, try not to say so.”
In 2009, 46 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec were found to hold “unfavourable views” of Islam. This rose to 54 per cent in 2013.
But whereas numbers can often seem cold and calculating, very little is as sobering as knowing my mother was worried for my safety because of something that had happened a country away.
What scares me most is that people don’t seem scared by this.
When someone feels the need to change a seminal piece of self-identification for the sake of personal safety, we should be afraid of the culture that pushes them to that point.
Ramna is The Journal’s Arts Editor. She’s a second-year English major.

Wage equity worth a look inward
October 20, 2015


A university that doesn’t acknowledge it may have a gender wage gap is trying hard not to see what’s blindingly obvious to the rest of us.
After a study uncovered a salary gap between McMaster’s male and female faculty members, the university attempted to make up for the discrepancy by giving a raise in base pay to their entire female faculty.
In a similar effort, Ryerson University provides employees with information on how other employees’ salaries compare based on gender, age and years of service, so that any inequalities can be identified and corrected.
Employees should be paid for what their work is worth, regardless of their gender. Handing out money to the token women, as McMaster did, is more of a Band-Aid solution, while Ryerson’s emphasis on transparency is more effective.
Investigation into gender inequalities in the workplace is vital, because for an issue that has such a simple solution — pay women the same wage as men — it’s an extremely intricate problem with many unknown causes.
Women are less likely to enter STEM disciplines where earnings are higher, while the professions women generally gravitate towards professions that are lower paying — possibly because they’re traditionally ‘women’s work.’
Women can be disproportionately devalued for reasons perceived to be connected with their productivity, but realistically caused by their gender — such as needing more flexible work hours for family obligations or the possibility of maternity leave.
Men are also statistically more aggressive when negotiating for wages and other benefits, and value their time and work more highly than their female co-workers.
The confidence gap that underlies the wage gap is rooted deeply in earlier development. It’s a systemic problem that most employers or institutions can’t tackle at its roots, but they can still work to mitigate its results.
As demonstrated by McMaster and Ryerson, universities have the ability to tackle the implications of this confusing melee of factors.
Despite the varying effectiveness of these schools’ approaches, it’s heartening that they are at the very least acknowledging that a discrepancy exists.
Queen’s, meanwhile, has been silent on this front.
If this gap is occurring with such prevalence at other universities — and in Canada at large — it’s reasonable to extrapolate that it’s happening here as well.
So, while we can’t necessarily figure out the issue by sitting in a room saying “I bet this is why this happens”, not turning a blind eye to the problem is the least a university can do.

-Journal Editorial Board

I’m not your racism meter
October 20, 2015
Vishmayaa Jeyamoorthy

I know that as a student at Queen’s — a school with a diversity problem — there’d be a risk of facing racism. What I didn’t expect was to be turned into everyone’s token person of colour (POC) friend that they could use as a point of reference.
Because I’m Sri Lankan, I’m expected to answer questions about not just Sri Lanka, but all of South Asia and every other country that has brown-skinned people.
This is problematic because I’m asked to act as a representative of 550 million people. Besides not having the education to be that kind of representative, it can also be emotionally exhausting to constantly have to explain why certain practices are culturally insensitive, or even just racist.
Explaining and justifying why something is racist often only shows how different I am from other people, which furthers the divide that’s already there.
I’m often approached by well-intentioned friends who want to say or do something but fear being accidentally racist.
I appreciate the effort to be respectful. However, it’s not the responsibility of POC to be educators.
By constantly asking us to educate others, the onus is placed on the less privileged to change the power imbalance, when instead, the responsibility should be on others to correct their own behaviour.
It’s a derailment tactic, where a discussion ends up placing blame on POC who are oppressed in the first place. It assumes that it’s our own fault if nothing changes because we didn’t educate our oppressors.
White allies would do well to seek out this education themselves because it removes the burden of educating from POC. At the very least, ask if you’re crossing any boundaries when asking questions that might be intrusive, and respect the boundaries that are set.
Better yet, seek out the resources that are already available to you. The internet is filled with bloggers that are happy to answer your questions. Even on campus, places like the QUIC (Queen’s International Centre) and Four Directions offer safe spaces to find out more about various cultures.
You wouldn’t expect every Italian to be able to recite Dante’s Divine Comedies, nor would you assume that every Korean can give Taekwondo lessons. We seek that knowledge from those who offer it. Do the same for your POC friends.
Vishmayaa is one of The Journal’s Copy Editors. She’s a second-year stage and screen major.

Political correctness is a two-way street
November 20, 2015

Fear of saying the wrong thing shouldn’t stop us from saying anything at all.
The Toronto Harris Institute recently took a stand against political correctness by threatening probation or dismissal of any student, staff or faculty member found to have “shouted down an opposing view”.
Meanwhile, an editorial in the National Post sporting the headline “I’m too privileged to be a liberal” argued that the author’s fellow university students too often “seek to silence oppositional voices rather than come to a resolution with them.”
The debate over political correctness arises from a recognition that there are some things you simply can’t say. As a society, we acknowledge that there are harmful attitudes that have no place in discourse and shouldn’t be expressed.
And sometimes people cite political correctness as oppressing them, when in reality they just want to say distasteful things.
But silence can aid oppression. And when political correctness evolves into vindictive protectionism it can become itself a form of undue censorship.
Political correctness stems from a realization that we, as a society, condemn certain points of view as bigoted, prejudiced or racist.
But it’s a highly nebulous term and in some cases, is used to censure not only attitudes that are discriminatory, but any opinions that someone might find disagreeable.

This is especially problematic for students, since classroom discussions often revolve around highly sensitive topics.
Conversations in classrooms thrive on argument and critical opinions. In an academic world that’s widening its concept of diversity, our viewpoints become increasingly diverse as well.
If we’re really going to have an open discussion about difficult topics, people will inevitably disagree, because we don’t all come from the same backgrounds, have the same worldviews or experience the same amount of privilege.
The parameters we set on a conversation should be in an effort to understand each other, not end the argument before its even begun.
For example, trigger warnings in classrooms are an effort to prepare students and professors to bring up difficult topics — not to stop discussions from happening at all.
In personal conversations, those parameters depend on you and what you’re willing to discuss. But in an educational setting, limitations are established with the intent to create a space where someone is free to say what they think without fear of personal attack.
This doesn’t mean a free-for-all where you can be racist, sexist, homophobic or any other discriminatory attitude. But it does mean a space where you might be disagreed with or corrected.
Along with the ability to speak your mind comes the responsibility to listen when others do the same.
What is or isn’t politically correct is changing all the time, so it’s not enough to say “you can’t say that,” or the equally unreceptive, “you can’t say that I can’t say that.”
Instead of quibbling over the abstract concept of political correctness, we should be concerned with our seeming inability to agree on what is and isn’t okay to say.
And maybe to find that line, it’s necessary to cross it sometimes.

-Journal Editorial Board

Strong isn’t the new skinny
January 22, 2016
Kate Meagher

If you want to believe the Instagram posts, it’s finally hot for girls to be athletic. It’s sexy to squat. It’s hip to be fit. Except it isn’t.
Recently, a trend towards the celebration of fitness has arisen on social media, like a phoenix from the ashes of super skinny models of days gone by. This trend is known as “fitspiration” and it centres on women encouraging each other to eat well and hit the gym so that you, yes you, can have a body just like this.
While this movement reaches towards something like a genuine appreciation for strong women, it falls short in two ways.
The first is that many of the women celebrated as so-called fitness models present the same, thin bodies we’ve always called beautiful — the only difference is that those bodies are now inside sports bras and spandex shorts.
These aren’t the bodies of competitive athletes, up before the crack of dawn for practice, eating whatever they need to fuel their training. These bodies are too often the result of crash dieting or other dangerous practices. Yet they rake in praise for themselves and cash for their sponsors posting scantily-clad selfies with sporty captions and endless hashtags.
Raising them up as beacons of fitness sidelines the real-life athletes who rise and grind in pursuit of performance. By leaving the women who actually participate in competitive sport outside this “fit” ideal for women’s bodies, we don’t seem to be celebrating fitness at all.
The second issue I take with this trend pertains to what these women are doing — which is nothing. On Instagram, #fitspiration is attached to over 6,000,000 images. They mostly aren’t of women demonstrating their fitness so much as they’re of women posing in their underwear.
Strength and fitness don’t exist in visible six-packs or even bulging biceps. They’re skills we demonstrate through movement — moving ourselves quickly, moving heavy loads, moving with accuracy and technique.
If we want to celebrate strong women, we need to concern ourselves with more than how “toned” she looks.
We need to consider what women can do — how they’re improving their bodies to perform better, how their training develops them into better athletes, better students and better friends.
Real strength isn’t visible in a still frame. You need to look a little closer to see it.
Kate is The Journal’s Opinions Editor. She’s a fourth-year Philosophy major.

Is there room for trans athletes? The answer is up to Queen’s
February 9, 2016

It’s unclear where trans students fit in Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS), but institutions can ensure that space is made for students who can’t check one gender box or the other.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently announced a new policy wherein trans athletes no longer need surgery to compete. Trans men can compete without restrictions, while trans women have to prove they’re below a certain testosterone level.
In light of the IOC’s change, the CIS, the governing board for Canadian university sports, is reassessing its own policies, which currently offer no guidance on how and where non-binary, gender fluid or trans students can compete.
Changing genders involves a process of hormone therapy, which complicates things in competitive sports, because current sports standards ban certain substances that give an athlete a competitive edge.
While the CIS and high-level sports sort themselves out, it’s left up to individual institutions to decide how to handle gender identification. It’s up to institutions like Queen’s to ensure that a lack of policy, or strict gender binaries, doesn’t deter trans students from participating.
It’s concerning that Queen’s lacks clear guidelines for trans athletes. Athletics and Recreation, for instance, declined to comment on their policies regarding trans student athletes because there wasn’t anyone available to speak on the matter.
But we don’t need a whole new system — we just need to make space in the old one.

For Athletics and Recreation, this means taking a look at where non-cisgender athletes fit into their pre-existing structure and providing a point of contact for athletes to answer questions about how they can identify and play on a sports team, and what accommodations are available.
This point of communication could also help Athletics determine how many students this may affect and anticipate the needs of students who don’t fit a gender binary.
Gender equity is an increasingly important topic in our society, but change at a higher level is often prompted by pressure from below. We can’t sit back and wait for other people to take the first steps.
There are many resources available at Queen’s for Athletics and Recreation to consult, from the Equity Office to the Positive Space Program.
Here’s a chance for Queen’s to make sure we’re keeping up with changes made at higher levels of sport and set an example for other universities on how to make varsity sports teams accessible to all students, not matter their gender identification.

-Journal Editorial Board

Yes, I’m aware I’m Asian
February 26, 2016
Anna Maria Li

When I think of a racist, I picture someone throwing insults at a certain ethnicity. I didn’t realize racism could be disguised in the form of admiration — until I started using Tinder.
More times than I can count, men on the dating app have tried to start a conversation by pointing out that I’m Asian. Usually these conversations start with a one-liner like, “Oh look, a cute Asian.”
For the most part, my friends and I use my Tinder account as a way to entertain ourselves. The majority of pickup lines and messages don’t warrant a serious reply, if any reply at all.
But, one day, someone sent me a heart-eyed emoji next to a single word, “Asian.”
I sarcastically applauded his observation.
He then asked why I sounded annoyed. It had been intended as a compliment, he said.
Someone’s preference for a certain ethnicity doesn’t mean the people of that race should be flattered by the fact.
When someone generalizes me and others like this, they’re assuming certain things about me that are based off of assumptions and prejudice — even if it doesn’t always appear that way.

Yet here I was, expected to feel praised because, just in case I didn’t realize, I’m Asian. Not even a specific type of Asian. Just Asian.
Unfortunately, beneath my appearance, I know so little about Asian culture that I’m actually a little ashamed that I didn’t spend the time to learn more.
I grew up in Toronto. My parents moved four times within the city before buying a house in the suburbs for me to attend high school. I was your average Torontonian.
But in a country that prides itself on being multicultural, these subtle forms of prejudice go uncontested. It’s easy to recognize overt racism, but it’s not as easy to condemn racism when it’s subtle and unacknowledged by most.
We’re ignoring red flags that appear in the generalizing language we use to describe diversity. This same apathy contributes to incidences of inadvertent racism.
As well as discouraging conspicuous racism, we should pay closer attention to racism when it’s less obvious.
Ignorance leads us to continue to make clumsy remarks that seem mundane and innocent, but are in reality carpeting a subtle form of social inequality.
I’d rather not receive a compliment at all, than be told that I’m appreciated based off an inaccurate assumption about who I am.
Anna is The Journal’s Video Editor. She’s a third-year Biology major.

Diversity doesn’t belong on the backburner
March 1, 2016


Time and time again, Queen’s whiteness has been acknowledged by the University, by its students and its faculty. But we must ask — why hasn’t it changed?
Eurocentric topics and perspectives have been taught almost exclusively at Queen’s since its inception.
Fighting against the current is a struggle. Professors of colour who come to Queen’s face an environment where they’re the odd one out and their voice is marginalized to one-off specialized courses.
In 2001, a black female professor left her teaching position due to alleged experiences of racism, along with five other faculty members.
This incident eventually led to the Henry Report, published in 2004, which looked into systemic racism at Queen’s. The Henry report found that 55.8 per cent of white professors believed the University supported diversity while 34.8 per cent of faculty of minority backgrounds thought the same.
Calling for greater diversity in faculty doesn’t mean white professors aren’t wonderful and valuable. It’s detrimental to learning, however, when white professors are the only ones in the classroom.
But first it’s important we acknowledge the necessity of diversity at a university beyond a social justice narrative.
A homogenous institutional identity is damaging to students. The world isn’t uniform, so we shouldn’t be learning about it from one perspective. Learning from professors from a range of backgrounds exposes students to a variety of discourses, without which our intellectual maturity would be, and is, stumped.
As long as we continue to accept having whitewashed faculty and content as the norm, Queen’s will continue to uphold a Eurocentric world view.
A prestigious education in Canada is often synonymous with a traditional, colonialist education — and this will be perpetuated unless we’re taught by professors who don’t conform to this attitude and are willing to make us think outside this box.
However, it’s not enough to increase the number of professors of colour. We must build an academic culture where non-white content is acknowledged as significant and valuable, where non-white professors really want to work and teach at Queen’s, and where non-white students can look to the front of the classroom and see that there’s a future for them in academics.
Professors often do a lot more than instruct our courses. We go to them for reference letters, career advice, even life advice. If the student body can’t see itself reflected in its mentors, then that faculty is failing them.
However, these reasons for increasing diversity have already been acknowledged and accepted as important. So why then is this still an issue?
Queen’s hasn’t entirely ignored its diversity-complex in the past. But neither has it been the problem of the day.
The last look into racism in Queen’s faculty was the Henry Report in 2004. While this report highlighted a culture of whiteness and racism at Queen’s, the study’s small sample size and outdated results makes it an unreliable picture of the current state of affairs.
Yet, another report hasn’t been undertaken. The University did publish the Diversity, Anti-Racism and Equity (DARE) Report in 2009, which focused on making recommendations for the University’s diversity efforts.
But these one-off initiatives have failed to properly address an ongoing and systematic issue for which we have little data.
Without close scrutiny, diversity is forgotten after the initial hiring of a candidate. Non-white faculty face systemic problems that can’t simply be solved by ensuring equitable hiring practices. More can — and should — be done to ensure that professors of colour stay at Queen’s and are promoted equally.
It doesn’t help that there’s a lack of diversity among the ranks of top university officials, which is often unaddressed and has a trickle-down effect to the rest of university staff and faculty.
In the face of this immense task, diversifying content may be a more achievable short-term objective than diversifying faculty. Faculty contracts come up once in a blue moon while course content can be changed far more frequently.
But there’s a snag. Under Queen’s current funding model, courses are approved based on their ability to attract students to fill the seats. This means that new courses struggle to obtain funding, while traditional, canonical courses are guaranteed to run.
But while introducing new and diverse content may be less financially sound than traditional course content, it’s the right thing to do.
The two go hand in hand: diversity among the faculty will lead to diversity in content and curricula. But, the catch-22 is that without a demonstrated willingness to diversify content, it’s unlikely that Queen’s can attract professors to teach those topics.
Diversity may be an upstream battle, but it’s one worth fighting.

-Journal Editorial Board

The AMS

In looking through past editorials I came to realize that the AMS generally has four responsibilities upon which they’ve been judged by The Journal: how they manage services, how they keep campaign promises, how they interact with the University and how they spread information to the student body.

In the past, the main obstacles to these objectives have been wasted resources on services running deficits, overshooting on campaign promises, a failure to lobby the University on important issues and ongoing student apathy.

Specific issues that have concerned The Journal Editorial Board over the years range from the renaming of the University District to the drastically over-budgeted Queen’s Centre project, to a deep concern over non-academic discipline being taken out of students' hands. But there are deeper systemic issues within the AMS that run throughout the editorial content of the last 10 years: transparency, accountability and competency.

The Journal’s AMS & rector election wish list
January 24, 2006

Following the barrage of attack ads and smear campaigns we were subjected to during the federal election campaigns, students can sit tight for round two with AMS and rector elections just around the corner. We have four teams and four candidates for the respective elections, which means many class talks and much soliciting of votes.
It is refreshing to see a female candidate running for rector. It adds diversity to the choices and provides a different perspective. In the history of the position, there have been but three female rectors.
In past AMS executive election campaigns, we have heard slogans about raising the bar, cracking the clique, and choosing a new style of student government. Unfortunately, many of these slogans have led us down a deceptive road of broken promises, leaving us feeling disappointed and thoroughly unsatisfied.
Although it’s too early to say which teams will come out of the starting blocks first, we can say what we hope to see from them. While catchphrases and carefully arranged campaign posters might garner attention, they won’t necessarily guarantee votes.
Teams should try to focus on feasible objectives rather than flights of fancy that simply won’t take off, but sound exciting. Unfortunately, the impetus behind using such tactics is the reality that they often work. As a student body, we need to show them that gimmicks aren’t enough. As with the federal election, candidates need to demonstrate a genuine interest in the lives of their voters rather than trying to stick to a rehearsed platform. That said, however, candidates also need to be well-informed about campus issues and have a well-organized campaign, as these reflect the kind of government we can expect from them.
The AMS executive and rector election period can be a grueling few weeks for candidates. We only hope that they do not lose sight of the reasons they are running and clearly convey these reasons to the rest of the student populace.


-Journal Editorial Board

CFRC funding drive a worthy cause
January 31, 2006

Last Friday, Queen’s radio station, CFRC, began its two-week long funding drive. Their goal is to raise $5,000. If successful, CFRC programming manager Eric Duncan will tattoo the CFRC logo on his body. This is the first time in the station’s 84-year history that it has ever had to raise money. Three years ago, the University sold CFRC to the AMS. Since then, funding from the University gradually phased out, leaving CFRC with only what is provided by the AMS mandatory student fee, not nearly enough to cover operating costs. CFRC is operated by the AMS, so if the CFRC were to lose money, the loss would be covered by the AMS.
However, the station is looking further into the future than the end of a single fiscal year. While the AMS will cover the loss, if CFRC loses great sums of money, it will inevitably face pressure from the AMS to cut back. Rather than allowing this to happen, the CFRC is making a sincere effort to sustain itself.
CFRC is not solely a student radio station; it has an audience that widens to the greater Kingston community. It is refreshing alternative to the commercial programming by providing a variety of sounds and broadcasts that might otherwise never be heard. It is also a great place for people to gain valuable experience in radio broadcasting. While it may not appeal to the masses, it has never tried to; rather it presents its listeners with the opportunity to hear unique and eclectic programs. It has been around for 84 years and we hope it will be around for at least 84 more.


-Journal Editorial Board

Last chance for student-run discipline
May 30, 2006

With only a week’s notice given to the AMS and the rest of the student body, the university’s seven deans collectively created a motion to be presented at Senate to remove the 108-year-old system of non-academic discipline from the jurisdiction of students, and into the hands of the “Principal of Queen’s University and/or his delegate.” Although Arts and Science Dean Robert Silverman said that the timing of the motion was not calculated, it was thoughtless and showed poor judgment. A decision of this magnitude deserves a thorough examination and debate when the majority of students can be involved in the process. Even the AMS executive was only given one week’s notice.
The motion was vague, only calling to revoke non-academic discipline from students, without indicating any alternative system that would replace it, other than to consolidate all power in the principal’s office.
The events of Homecoming and of the more recent incident on Aberdeen don’t make up the majority of cases presented at the AMS Judicial Committee (JComm). Incoming chief prosecutor, Jennifer Mansell told Senate that only about 25 per cent of cases passing through JComm were Homecoming-related.
Appropriately, the motion was tabled until November.
As the Kelsea Fitzpatrick case highlights, the student-run system needs work. Fitzpatrick’s tri-pub ban was overturned by the highest appeal board and the AMS was heavily criticized in its handling of the case.
The editorial printed in the May 26 Kingston Whig-Standard, lamenting the tabling of the motion, was—like the deans’ motion—an emotional, irrational and hasty reaction to a much more complicated problem.
The main crux of the deans’ motion and the Whig’s editorial seemed aimed at solely tackling Homecoming. However, JComm operates year-round and handles a variety of cases. As Mansell mentioned in her address, before passing any such motion, Senate should first allow the recommendations made by the Senate Committee on Non-Academic Discipline and the AMS to be implemented. JComm and the peer-administered non-academic discipline system will be closely observed from now until November. The events that transpire at Homecoming 2006 will likely decide the fate of student-run non-academic discipline at Queen’s.


-Journal Editorial Board

The Greenroom-Tricolour switch
June 27, 2006

Consider this hypothetical situation: Store A is in one location and is having difficulty consistently attracting customers, incurring losses of $60,000. Store B is in a different location and is having even more trouble: they’re $100,000 in the hole.
The solution? Switch places.
Now replace Store A with the Greenroom and Store B with the Tricolour Market, spend $20,000 of students’ money making the switch and unfortunately this hypothetical situation is a reality.

According to the Board of Directors at their May 27 meeting, moving the Greenroom downstairs in the JDUC beside the post office was the ideal solution. They believe the Greenroom won’t have problems in the lower traffic area because they sell used books, and students will visit the store no matter where it is.
Well, that logic works for the first two weeks of a term, but after that, the Greenroom will have the exact same problem attracting customers.
It also seems strange that this $20,000 move is happening only a year after the Greenroom and Tricolour Market were created, and at a time when the JDUC nears demolition.
So, if all of this just isn’t adding up, then congratulations. You caught on to the ulterior motive: The Queen’s Centre.
The construction of the $230 million project will begin this year. And, in a simplified sense, having real estate space in the JDUC guarantees real estate space in the Queen’s Centre.
The AMS is willing to incur steady and considerable losses in both these services—at students’ expense—as a means to an end in the Queen’s Centre.
The AMS bought the College Book Merchant two years ago when Sandra and Doug Sutcliffe were running it and losing money. They turned it into the Tricolour Market, offering a similar product line, in order to secure retail space in the Queen’s Centre.
The Greenroom-Tricolour switch may have more to do with opening up the JDUC leases with the hope that the AMS will gain more flexibility in the products they will be able to sell—like food—in the long term.
All of this time and money could be used to help the services develop a more concrete identity and begin to provide a service that actually fills a student need.


-Journal Editorial Board

Opt-out fee awareness
September 22, 2006

Today is the deadline for opting-out of AMS student fees and the health and dental plan. Hopefully this isn’t the first you’ve heard of it, although chances are it might be.
During the rush of the first few weeks of school, amidst buying books, dropping courses and soothing hangovers, many students forget they that have a choice when it comes to many of their AMS fees. Every year, a large portion of students overlook the opt-out process.
At some other schools, student governments charge one large fee and then distribute the money later as they see fit. What’s nice about our system, though it may seem tedious, is that each student has complete control over where their student club fees are going.
Queen’s prides itself on how easy it is to start a club or join one of the more than 200 existing clubs on campus. However, the number of clubs and subsequent fees are quickly growing to unmanageable levels.
Because our system is based on a “you’ve opted-in unless you tell us otherwise” structure, clubs could easily take advantage of those who are unaware. There’s always a portion of students who won’t check their fees and therefore will be paying a certain sum to each club, which adds up.
To receive the funds, each individual club gets ratified every year and its fee goes to referendum for renewal every three years. One simple mechanism that could immediately increase the accountability of a club would be for the AMS to do a better job at promoting the opt-outable fees. By doing that, clubs would have an increased incentive to prove that they’re worthy of student dollars.
It’s important the AMS increases awareness about these fees, especially for the already overwhelmed and overloaded first-year students who may be paying for things they would have otherwise chosen to avoid. Students need a reminder that this is their money, and that it’s their responsibility to log onto the website and ensure they understand where it’s going.
If the opportunity to opt-out was advertised the way some other AMS initiatives are, fewer students would be wondering where their money went.


-Journal Editorial Board

Promising guidelines
January 16, 2007

During last year’s AMS executive election, team MBT—President James Macmillan, Vice-President (Operations) Ian Black and Vice-President (University Affairs) Meghan Teuber—campaigned on a commitment to 12 promises—one for each month of the year—that, if elected, they would execute during their term. With the election of next year’s student government just around the corner, it’s the perfect time for candidates to learn how not to shoot themselves in the foot by making promises they can’t keep. Some of their initial promises worked out well, and MBT should be commended for them: Homecoming weekend was (more or less) a success, Stauffer Library was open 24 hours during exam period and All-Ages-Access was revisited and reinstated for group events. Unfortunately, other promises fell by the wayside. MBT told the Journal they were happy they set out goals as part of their campaign, because, as Black said, “It actually is a good guide.”
Although Macmillian, Black and Teuber should be recognized for putting themselves on the line and creating an informal contract with students, it’s disappointing that they are now referring to the promises as merely a “guide”.
Students voting in the upcoming elections should be wary of similar campaign promises. Although it’s admirable for a team to outline its goals, it’s also important that these goals be feasible, realistic and not already underway.
Year after year, AMS executive hopefuls tout ambitions plans for their year at the helm, promising that theirs will be of major changes and limitless possibilities. However, when in office, they soon discover the restraints of both time and resources. In other words, there is a ceiling to their ambition (and luckily for students, there is also a ceiling to their incompetence).
Not to take away from their accomplishments, but many of MBT’s promises succeeded because of existing and external support. It’s unrealistic that they, or anyone in their position, would accomplish much alone.
Because they aren’t trying to get re-elected, it’s bizarre that MBT said they would do everything exactly the same if given another opportunity. It would have been refreshing if MBT researched their campaign “promises” better last February because a promise is a promise—not a guide. Candidates, take note.


-Journal Editorial Board

The sour taste of apathy
January 23, 2007
Matthew Trevisam

Before you go to bed, sip a teaspoon of olive oil and suck on a lemon wedge.
The Italian grandmother—la nonna—offered me this caveat to cure inflammatory bowel disease.
What she lacks in medical knowledge, Nonna makes up for with fierce, obsessive love for her children and grandchildren. She’s fought the fight and only wants what’s best for us.
I’ll explain how this relates to the AMS elections.

Nonna puts a ridiculous amount of faith in her mother’s wisdom, particularly because she left her mother and Pordenone, a north-eastern Italian city featured in Hemmingway’s , on her wedding day with her new husband in 1951. They starved during the Second World War, and Nonno’s brother lost a toe to frostbite fighting for the Axis in Russia.
Like thousands of others during the 1950s, Nonno and Nonna immigrated to Canada after a tumultuous period in European politics—Mussolini is still a “great man,” if you ask them.
Growing up in Toronto, my father worked as soon as he could. He scrubbed chicken guts off a Keele Street butcher’s blades when he was 12, and drove a produce delivery truck before he had his driver’s licence. My mother’s parents are also Italian, but born in Canada. Their parents left Italy after the First World War, one of my great-grandfathers being forced out because he was a socialist and had to flee for his safety.
My mother’s parents were Depression kids and still won’t waste anything or spend unnecessarily. After a hot day at the driving range about seven years ago, Nonno scolded my brother and me for buying a Gatorade from a vending machine because we were only five minutes from free orange juice at home.
Nonno turns 80 this Sunday, and there will be 17 courses of food and three generations of family to celebrate.
In the last 80 years, Western history’s mass political movements have emptied on to the world. The fight for freedom of expression and civil liberties—and I’m talking about 50,000 people marching on Parliament, not 75 people walking down Princess Street—has quieted.
At Queen’s, student politics don’t matter much to people outside the and the AMS. Students are complacent, the political atmosphere neutered. It’s no surprise we’ll probably have less than 30 per cent of students vote in February’s AMS executive election.
For the 70 per cent of students who don’t vote: way to show the world that all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the view—someone else has already done your fighting.
You would think with so many people in a position of privilege—one nonno of mine didn’t bother with school and the other couldn’t afford it—students would want to do better because they are in a position to do so.
Wrong.
To combat student indifference, the Journal will dedicate a portion of its election coverage to election issues from students’ perspectives. We will go beyond reporting about campaign platforms and focus instead on issues that you would like to see discussed.
It is our hope that you will, at the very least, vote on election day—even if it’s to spoil your ballot.
And if going to candidate debates gives you indigestion, I know something you could take to cure it.

Six steps to victory
January 23, 2007

Campaigning for the AMS executive election begins this week and the Journal has put together a campaign wish list for this year’s candidates.
1. Take the job seriously. Candidates sign up for various reasons: to pad a resume, make a difference or even to gain power. Whatever the reason, it’s important that you go in with an accurate conception of what the job entails.
2. Recognize the limitations of the position. It’s important that a team recognize its limitations (such as time and resources) as well as the limitations of each position. Going into the campaign with unrealistic goals and proposing major overhauls will do more harm than good. It’s a better idea to keep things on a steady path, or initiate change that will take place over a longer time period (meaning years, not weeks).
3. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Teams can’t be re-elected, and therefore face no true means of accountability. Although it may be tempting to promise the world, be honest and realistic.
4. Let your character shine through. Hotbutton issues that dominated campaigns in the past, such as tuition, Homecoming and the Queen’s Centre, have more or less died down, making this campaign less about the platforms, and more about the people. It’s important to emphasize what kind of person you are and the values you find important.
Nobody is perfect, but it’s important to be honest about uncertainties or mistakes. Students want representatives with integrity and good judgment.
5. Be classy and clean. Running a clear and meaningful campaign will mean a lot more than repeating a slogan. If you do have a motto, don’t let it be your entire platform.
6. Don’t overestimate your importance. Realistically, student politics aren’t important to the majority of students, and last year’s voter turnout of 32.3 per cent is still one of the highest in the country. Voter turnout will likely be around the same rate this year so please don’t be a nuisance to those who are uninterested and push more voters away from the polls.


-Journal Editorial Board

A new child care service
January 26, 2007

If you find yourself scrambling for enough time to attend classes, participate in extracurriculars, try doing it with a baby.
The AMS after-hours child care service was cancelled in July 2005 due to a lack of demand. At that time, a study of the service showed that no more then 17-20 families used the service. With no care available after 5 p.m., undergraduate and graduate students, as well as some members of Queen’s faculty, may be having difficulty finding appropriate child care.
The Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) is currently conducting an online survey to gain a better understanding of the number of people in the Queen’s community who would benefit from reinstating affordable, after-hours child care. Although the previous service was funded mostly by the AMS, Only 33 per cent of its users were undergraduate students.
The child care service may not be profitable, but the AMS has a long history of funding money-losing businesses—The AMS Pub Services budgeted a deficit of $64,000 this year. By this logic, maintaining an essential service such as child care, regardless of the number of students using it, should be a no-brainer.
That said, undergraduate students’ money shouldn’t be the only source of funding for a service also used by graduate students and faculty. If this service is to be re-established, the university should be responsible for the overhead costs, with the balance split proportionally between the SGPS and the AMS, depending on the ratio of the number of their members that use the service.
Child care shouldn’t be treated as a money making opportunity. The University has a responsibility to take care of student parents as it would any other minority group needing extra assistance. But if the AMS is to get back on board, external funding needs to be guaranteed: the University needs to step up and take some responsibility.
It’s important to offer these services to ensure that education is accessible to everyone. As well, providing child care may encourage those who have left school to raise children to return. Child care services are a valuable resource to members of the community and their necessity cannot be underestimated or ignored by the University and the societies who represent the students who use them. Raising a child can be a very expensive and challenging experience, especially for students, and it's essential that services are provided to make this process easier for parents wishing to further their education.


-Journal Editorial Board

Fall Reading Week won’t work
February 2, 2007

Whether it involves heading south for some well deserved relaxation or taking the time to catch up on work (and sleep), one thing remains the same—everyone loves a break. So it would be safe to assume that adding another Reading Week to the year would be every students dream. Right?
Last week, AMS Assembly approved a question to asking students if they would like to have a fall Reading Week, added to the University calendar. The question is set to appear on the referendum ballots next Tuesday and Wednesday. Although referendum questions of policy are non-binding—so even if a majority of students were in favour, the administration would not be obligated to implement it—if enough interest is generated, the results of the vote will be brought to the administration likely with the AMS’s support.
The question was put forward by Sivan Nitzan, ArtSci ’09, who was told by various members of the AMS, as well as Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane and Associate-Dean of Arts and Science Cynthia Fekken, that another Reading Week is possible, but student opinion must be considered before any changes are to take place.
What students need to understand before casting their votes, however, are the various implications attached to a second Reading Week.
One such implication is that the missed week of classes must be made up, which would likely cause school to start a week earlier in September, and thus, cutting into those last few precious days of summer holidays. Many students use the extra week in September to say goodbye to friends and family and get their things together for the new school year. As well, those who work during the summer may have a difficult time leaving their employment as many summer jobs typically run until Labour Day. Or, students may simply not want to miss a week’s worth of pay.
As a primarily residential school, Queen’s just isn’t fit to begin their fall term any earlier.
November is a rough month for students as they become stressed, sick, and even depressed. But adding another Reading Week wouldn’t address those problems, and may even create more. Issues of stress are a big deal on campus and it’s shortsighted to assume that taking a week off will alleviate the problems.
Time would be better spend addressing issues of the University system at a deeper level—a level that doesn’t treat escaping problems as the solution for better student health and wellness.


-Journal Editorial Board

Don’t call us, we’ll call you
March 16, 2007

On Sunday night, students received an e-mail from AMS President James Macmillan regarding the AMS Annual General Meeting and Annual Corporate General Meeting.
Not only did the e-mail not include the day the two meetings would be happening, but it also included instructions on how students could put forward a motion to be debated if they happened to be able to travel back in time to submit their motion by the deadline of the day before.
This e-mail was followed by a “Correction and Clarification” e-mail days later, which informed students of the meeting place and time of the meetings. At that point, students only had one day’s notice.
Although the date for accepting motions was extended, there’s no reason why students should have been given such late notice in the first place.
It seems as if Macmillan and the AMS Commission of Internal Affairs simply assumed average students would be too busy or apathetic to care. But that wasn’t the case when the AMS needed students to pass the Queen’s Centre motion.
Two years ago, when the AMS needed student support in order to pass the Queen’s Centre motion, they embarked on a lengthy and expensive advertising campaign, complete with full-spread advertisements in the Journal weeks in advance and gigantic posters and banners around campus, to get their message out. The result was a packed Grant Hall full of passionate students on both sides of the debate. This year, in contrast, there wasn’t even quorum. Of the required 100 students, only 65 were in attendance. The AMS’s cavalier “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” attitude smacks of complacency and elitism and is an affront to the democratic processes of our student government.
The AGM is one of the only times during the school year when students can come forward, vote, and have a say in what their student government does. With so few opportunities for students to really engage with the student government, it’s unfortunate that the AMS treated the meetings so flippantly.


-Journal Editorial Board

Blunders fuel pub powder keg
September 7, 2007

The Engineering Society executive’s announcement earlier this summer that Clark Hall Pub is closed indefinitely came as a shock to many—not because the pub’s operational and financial woes were surprising but because of the way the closing of such a campus fixture was handled. The EngSoc executive decided unilaterally to close the pub, but many of the pub’s stakeholders—including employees and engineering students—weren’t consulted before action was taken. Council approval, usually necessary during the school year, was waived. Pub staff were informed via e-mail they were out of a job and that a re-opening date was not in the foreseeable future. EngSoc still doesn’t know when Clark will reopen, or what exactly went wrong with its finances in the first place.
Considering the number of people with stakes in the pub and its services, it’s disconcerting to see such little semblance of a plan for its future. With Clark’s doors still shut, Queen’s traditions such as ritual, and Queen’s Players are at the very least suspended.
It’s unfortunate Clark Hall Pub was unable to stay afloat on its own. The pub’s problems and the haphazard way EngSoc is handling its closure—which itself was in large part instigated by the concerns of external bodies such as the University and the AMS—portrays students as incompetent and unable to run a service.
Sadly, Clark Hall is not an anomaly—the AMS and ASUS have had similar experiences of inefficiency and financial discordance with many of their services. Two years ago, ASUS lost $26,403, the whereabouts of which are still unknown. The AMS’s Tricolour Outfitters and UBS, formerly Greenroom, formerly UBS have been rebranded so many times no one knows what they’re called, let alone what they sell and where they are.
This attempt to fix years of student carelessness in running the pub has unfortunately fallen upon this year’s EngSoc executive and although it was perhaps time for a review and subsequent changes, the decision appears to be a rash one. EngSoc’s blunders following the closure are exemplified by its lack of a planning, transparency or any concrete information for concerned stakeholders.
An optimist might hope this fiasco would make student leaders sit up and take notice of their administrative blunders, and motivate them to clean up their act.
A realist might predict they’ll come to the conclusion that it’s easier to pass the buck until a situation like Clark Hall blows up in a student government’s face.


-Journal Editorial Board

Counselling your classmates
September 28, 2007

Last spring AMS candidate team CMM campaigned across campus touting the possibility of initiating a peer counselling service. The proposal is panning out: the Peer Support Centre will open its doors in the JDUC in November, with eight to 10 volunteers providing non-academic counselling to students.
The motivation behind the centre is to give students an alternative to Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS), which has waiting times of up to three weeks. The volunteers will act as a sounding board for students and can give advice on issues that aren’t considered overly serious. In cases where the issue may require professional help, the counsellor is there to redirect students to where they can find what they need.
The very fact this project is getting off the ground is impressive, and its proponent, AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Julia Mitchell should be commended. It’s not without pitfalls, however.
Mitchell said volunteers will receive appropriate training suited to the problems they may be asked to address. But one day of instruction—the amount of time the AMS has dedicated to the training—doesn’t seem enough time to ensure the volunteers are knowledgeable on some of the difficult issues that may confront them.
There’s an appeal to having a peer—someone your own age, who may have comparable experiences—offer guidance. For those who can’t talk to friends about their problems, or who seek an active listener, the centre will undoubtedly provide a useful service.
However, there are downfalls to potentially having one of your classmates giving you advice on your personal matters, notably the issue of confidentiality.
Although the AMS is asking all volunteers to sign a confidentiality agreement, it’s debatable how anonymous a student can be when he or she may bump into their counsellor in line at Alfie’s the night after a session.
This isn’t to say the counsellors won’t take their jobs seriously, but it might be unreasonable to expect complete confidence when this type of service is operating in such a small community.
As a service aiming to provide an understanding ear for students, the Peer Support Centre will probably be successful. Its blueprint, however, remains rough around the edges and may require another draft to ensure students have access to safe and confidential counselling—not just a sympathetic ear.


-Journal Editorial Board

Aberdeen could crash & burn
October 2, 2007

With Homecoming less than two weeks away, the parties involved in keeping the weekend’s damage to a minimum are still scrambling to solidify plans to keep the weekend from escalating in the mayhem of Homecoming 2005. Tonight, city councillors vote on whether to close Aberdeen Street for next Saturday night.
Street closure legalizes the actual gathering of students on the street and blocks cars from access. If the street remains open, said Kingston resident and Queen’s alumnus Vinni Rebelo, many of the volunteers fear police-student confrontations will jeopardize their team’s safety.
Some councillors who are sitting on the fence on this issue contend that by closing the street, the city is condoning the party. But what should supersede that concern is the safety of those in and around the Ghetto, which will be threatened if police spend the night shoving partiers off the street.
Last year, the city, the University, police, residents and the AMS collaborated to prepare for Homecoming. So far this year, however, there seems to be disunity amongst these groups. The AMS in particular has offered very little insight into what precautions they’re taking for the notoriously raucous weekend, perhaps because they’re assuming that last year’s relative calm will simply repeat itself. Given the short-term memory of the student body and the mythology that has built up since Homecoming 2005, this assumption is both foolish and dangerous.
The Aberdeen Street volunteers need to work alongside the city to ensure their own safety. Volunteers last year made a vital contribution to the night’s relaxed tone by handing out plastic cups to reduce the amount of broken glass on Aberdeen Street and the surrounding area. If the street stays open and the volunteers stay clear, not only will the number of injuries from glass and debris skyrocket, but the ability of paramedics to access those in need of help will be hindered.
Those preparing for the weekend seem to have adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards the whole thing; it’s as though they’re collectively crossing their fingers that the near-riot of 2005 remains a fresh warning in the minds of the students.
Anyone observing the build up to Homecoming 2007 can see the problems next weekend will bring. We have to prepare for those problems now or else prepare for the weekend to crash and burn.


-Journal Editorial Board

Accounts need a sitter
January 22, 2008

On March 16, 2005 the AMS Board of Directors cancelled the After-Hours Childcare (AHC) service that had been in operation since 1995. The service provided weekend and weeknight childcare. It was decided that the money collected from the AHC’s $1 opt-outable fee would go to either the Ban Righ Centre or Queen’s Day Care, but neither service ever received a cheque.
The issue was forgotten until the Journal, following up on an undergraduate thesis published by Con-Ed student Andréa Stanger, approached AMS Controller Scott Bell who found the transfer had indeed never taken place. AMS Vice-President (Operations) John Manning gave the money—$7,797 plus accrued interest for a total $8,422—to Ban Righ Centre Director Barb Schlafer Friday.
AMS President Kingsley Chak pointed to previous executives as being responsible, saying it was an “oversight” on the AMS’s behalf.
It’s unfortunate the service was cancelled in the first place—although student parents are a minority on campus, they’re entitled to AMS representation. If students were still willing to pay the service’s opt-outable fee, this demonstrates a clear support for the program within the Queen’s community.
A supplementary program was proposed that would allow parents needing childcare to apply for aid but this never materialized, leaving few options for student parents.
Excusing the mistake as an “oversight” is convenient for a student government that changes every year. Accountability’s hard to come by when those responsible for last year’s management have graduated, making it easier for the current executive to shift the blame elsewhere.
But by taking on the role of leading the student body, the AMS executive needs to accept responsibility for its predecessors—even if it means cleaning up a mess that isn’t theirs.
That no one in the AMS was aware the transfer had yet to occur is even more alarming. It emphasizes the benefits of having permanent staff members to ensure accountability, although it’s worth noting even the AMS’s permanent staff didn’t notice the discrepancy for two and a half years.
If our student government is struggling to keep track of one account—whether it contains $100, $7,797 or $8 million—they’re seriously jeopardizing the confidence of the student body it exists to represent. Not only will money be lost with such haphazard accounting practices, but it’s difficult to ask for the voluntary financial support of a student body that can’t be sure its money is reaching the advertised destination.
The only way for the AMS to be a truly representative body is if its promises are fulfilled and students are assured their needs are being met. Dismissing such a blunder as an “oversight” is irresponsible and hardly works to restore confidence in an already-skeptical student body.


-Journal Editorial Board

Time to lose the rhetoric
February 1, 2008

Thursday morning’s AMS election results brought new meaning to the democratic mantra “every vote counts.” Team Radcliffe-Wang-St.Clair became next year’s AMS executive when the ballot recount ended shortly before 7 a.m.
Following the second round of counting preferential ballots, the margin between teams was less than one per cent and a full recount was announced around 2 a.m. When the ballots were finally counted and the results released, Team RWS was announced the victor after receiving 50.01 per cent of the unspoiled ballots.

Voter turnout for the AMS election was 40.9 per cent, with 5,585 total ballots cast—larger than in previous years and impressive for a sometimes apathetic student population such as Queen’s.
The election results are telling—there was a clear division in terms of where students’ priorities lie and whom they see as the most apt leader.
On the one hand, it means almost half of voters will be led by a government not of their choosing. Although it was refreshing to see platforms that diverged in terms of their goals and stances, RWS’s 0.1 per cent victory over Archer-Collins-Howard means no consensus was reached.
On the other hand, RWS’s less-than-decisive victory will hopefully mean innovative changes next year—it would be an injustice on RWS’s part to ignore the proposals made by the other teams, which many voters clearly supported.
RWS needs to address ACH’s corporate focus and WCW’s social issues concerns if they want to be truly representative.
ACH’s accounting initiative is a makeover the AMS’s financial face desperately needs.
Team Williams-Cameron-Williams’s
ardent promotion of diversity on campus—an issue RWS also touched on—is a crucial topic that needs to be tangilbly addressed next year, whether in the form of a diversity certificate or institutionalized anti-oppression initiatives.
Closing Tricolour Outfitters is a good idea and RWS would be wise to follow through on it. If replaced by a “green space” as Wang proposed it would aid the team’s aim to create a “greener U.”
President-elect Talia Radcliffe will undeniably have a strong presence. She has a fierce personality and seems prepared to address the AMS inadequacies with which she has become familiar.
We can only hope this race’s tightness will push student voters to take responsibility for the University’s direction. Every vote counts, and St. Clair put it best when thanking her team’s supporters, astutely observing that if one person had forgotten to vote, Team RWS would have been “fucked.”
It’s difficult to say at this point whether some campaign promises were empty rhetoric, but it certainly seemed that way when the Engineering Society’s election results were announced.
For a faculty plagued by accountability and transparency woes—something President-elect Jordan Black said he hopes to improve—EngSoc’s results were far from transparent. Chief Returning Officer Mark Syer told the Journal he didn’t feel it necessary to disclose the count’s final numbers, instead just proclaiming a winner and loser.
Stonewalling reporters and the public reflects poorly on Syer and EngSoc, and offers little credibility to calls for more oversight that have come from chartered accountants, the University’s liquor-licence holder and the EngSoc president-elect, alike.
A free and fair election means publicizing results. Taking someone’s word in lieu of concrete numbers is hardly transparent and doesn’t do much to instill confidence in a faculty plagued by irresponsible administrative and financial goings-on.
Similarly, Arts and Science Undergraduate Society President-elect Jacob Mantle was far from forthcoming following the announcement of his victory early Thursday morning. Mantle refused to speak to the Journal without his running mate Dominique Vanier, who seemed to be missing in action for several hours.
It’s disconcerting to know the largest undergraduate society will soon be run by a duo whose team aspect was lacking before their victory was even announced.
Last night, Team ACH requested a recount of the ballots. Election policy permits only one recount done by hand. Thursday’s early morning recount, however, was done using computers so the request was allowed.
ACH’s decision to ask for a recount was the right one—the team should fully exercise their right to ask for the ballots to be tallied again. Not only is it part of the democratic process, but it will hopefully legitimize the election’s razor-thin margin.
Whatever the final outcome, it’s important the incoming AMS executive regard its win as a narrow victory. The victorious team has a responsibility to make changes that represent the range of needs demonstrated by the election’s close outcome.
We hope whoever takes charge of the AMS next year can make campaign promises mean more than empty rhetoric and can make government accountability more than a sick joke.


-Journal Editorial Board

We feel so hoodwinked
February 5, 2008

AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Julia Mitchell is conducting an audit of Orientation Round Table (ORT) spending following allegations of financial mismanagement by this year’s ORT Co-ordinator Ryan Shoemaker.
The ORT’s financial handlings came under review after Commerce Society President Dave Waugh and other society executives brought forward concerns about the bills they received for Frosh Week, many of which were thousands of dollars more than last year’s costs, and more than they had budgeted for.
Waugh said he received a bill for $18,885—$10,000 more than the previous year. The bills had only a one line item, offering no breakdown of where the money had been spent.
Spending was over budget partly because sponsorship totals fell below what Shoemaker and the ORT had projected—only $16,000 of an expected $50,000, leaving the committee short tens of thousands in funding.
Mitchell said every number she has arrived at in her audit differs from those in Shoemaker’s numbers—hardly something to inspire confidence in one’s student leaders and managers.
The ORT’s financial mess is nothing short of embarrassing. A lack of accountability has become almost characteristic of the AMS and faculty societies, but when transparency is merely an oft-uttered buzz word, it reflects poorly on Queen’s ability to select competent and trustworthy leaders.
Shoemaker didn’t make this mess all by himself and he shouldn’t have to clean it up alone, either. Mitchell—as well as Waugh and other society executives—are responsible for student dollars and should be constantly aware of where their money is being spent. If the ORT wasn’t getting the sponsorship money it had hoped to obtain, someone other than Shoemaker should have known about it. Society executives also had an interest in staying abreast of Frosh Week spending so they could budget accordingly—but they apparently remained willfully ignorant until handed a hefty bill.
The lack of communication between faculty societies, the AMS and its committees is nothing new. Financial bungling like this demonstrates the need for substantial reorganization.
The AMS should rethink its “no experience necessary” hiring promise—if monetary dealings figure in the job description, business experience should be a no-brainer pre-requisite. And if the experience isn’t there, it would be worthwhile for the AMS to invest in an accounting course for those employees expected to balance the books.
Mitchell’s audit is likely to reveal what seems painfully apparent: Frosh Week’s system of spending checks and balances is in a sorry state, and doesn’t feel “so good” at all.


-Journal Editorial Board

Digging the hole deeper
March 7, 2008

When the University unveiled plans for the Queen’s Centre in 2004, it budgeted $230 million for its construction. Phase One was supposed to csot $124 million, Phase Two $83 million and Phase Three $23 million.
The project has already cost $165 million, putting it $41 million over budget for Phase One, which isn’t scheduled for completion until fall 2009.
The University used “value engineering”—the substitution of cheaper construction materials and techniques—when planning the Queen’s Centre in an effort to keep costs down. Despite saving $20 million, the project went over budget.
Funding for the construction has come from a number of sources, including $25.5 million from the AMS and a pledged $4.5 million from the SGPS.
Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Andrew Simpson said he hasn’t yet considered increasing students’ financial contributions to the project.
The University has some financial cleanup to do, and one can’t help wondering how we got into this mess. If most of the overrun is due to rising construction costs, could the University not have tried to account for that in its initial budgeting?
The prospect of Queen’s cutting corners on the project to recoup costs is also worrisome: the outcome of this financial mismanagement could result in a Queen’s Centre missing the components that made it worth building in the first place.
Although the University’s signing a fixed-cost contract with PCL Construction Management, there’s little doubt that the cost overrun will continue to mount.
It’s also unclear how Queen’s will escape this financial dilemma: the project was budgeted to be $60 million in debt and surpassing that can’t be a good thing.
Simpson said they’re lobbying the government for more money but he isn’t optimistic about that project’s success. According to the Queen’s Centre website, $16.5 million in funding is coming from “government grants and other funding.” It’s ironic and discouraging the University’s dedicating its lobbying efforts to convincing the government the Queen’s Centre’s worthy of taxpayers’ money, while our departments continue to shrink—or disappear altogether—because the school can’t muster the funds to hire permanent professors.
Fluctuations in construction costs and overall changes in the economy are a given for such a long-term project, but the University alarmingly undershot their impact. Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Operations) Ann Browne and all parties involved in budgeting for the Queen’s Centre need to sit down, review what’s going where and determine how they plan to dig the University out of this hole—or start filling it.


-Journal Editorial Board

AMS needs to own up
September 23, 2008

Last week, the Journal and Golden Words were anonymously delivered confidential AMS employee T4 forms after AMS Controller Scott Bell failed to move them into storage after 2007-08 financial audits were completed.
Bell said he left them in a hallway when he couldn’t gain access to the storage room and later forgot to go back and put them away.
AMS President Talia Radcliffe said the AMS will try to find out who stole the documents and file a complaint with the non-academic discipline system.
It’s appalling that such an oversight could occur and even more shocking that the AMS would try to paint itself as the victim in this situation.
Although it was wrong of the person who delivered the documents to take them in the first place, he or she was arguably performing a public service. If the employees’ T4 forms hadn’t appeared on the doorsteps of campus publications, the student body might never have known about the security breach.

Now that this incident is out in the open, the AMS will hopefully make changes to ensure nothing like this happens again.
The AMS’s first step should have been to issue an apology to its employees for putting them at risk for identity theft. Instead, the executive refused to take responsibility for its error and redirected the blame to the person who took the documents.
This attitude destroys students’ faith in the institution’s ability to protect their private information and highlights the need for policy changes to improve students’ security.
It’s too simplistic to fault Bell, a long-time permanent AMS staffer, for a genuine error in an otherwise clean career. Bell said he reported that he couldn’t get into the storage room and, because someone else was made aware of the situation, there should have been more accountability in ensuring the documents reached their proper destination.
Perhaps the AMS should also introduce more security measures, such as having two people to move the forms and making sure the storage space is accessible on the day they’re moved.
Changes in policy and practice would let the hundreds of AMS employees know the AMS is taking the issue seriously; in the absence of a formal apology though, that remains unclear.
If only the AMS kept employee forms as secretive as it does its accountability practices. Then they would be safe.


-Journal Editorial Board

JDUC should be rodent-free
November 7, 2008

Several weeks ago, the P&CC lost a $33,000 printer after rats chewed through the drink lines in the QP and pop leaked through the floor into the P&CC.
AMS Student Centre and Clubs Co-ordinator Stephen Chow said the rats were first seen in the QP, the SGPS offices and the Common Ground a year ago, and likely came from the houses that were demolished to make room for the Queen’s Centre.
The rats began causing problems in August and the JDUC was closed for a few days in the summer for rat poison to be spread throughout the building to deal with the problem.
Although it’s encouraging that the AMS is being upfront about the issue, students should be given more information on how it’s being handled.
JDUC management should reveal where the poison is being placed and whether there’s a danger it will contaminate something students come into contact with.
The AMS food services should also reveal how health inspections are conducted so students are assured they meet the province’s standards.
Although the JDUC is an old building prone to maintenance concerns, it’s possible the rats only came from the demolished houses on Earl Street; if this is the case, JDUC management needs to work to make the building rat-free again.
The JDUC houses many food services as well as graduate residences and it’s important they’re maintained to clean and healthy standards.
Students also shouldn’t have to worry about paying for damages caused by rats.
AMS services are being asked to keep doors closed and ensure their garbage is properly disposed of in order to prevent further damage and contamination. The AMS needs to heavily enforce these measures among its employees.
If the rats came from the demolished houses, the AMS should also help look more deeply into health standards for student housing to ensure landlords are treating their tenants with respect.
Students should be able to expect a healthy environment both on and off campus, and rodents aren’t part of that.


-Journal Editorial Board

Athletics needs team effort
February 26, 2009

The Department of Athletics and Recreation is proposing a $120 fee increase to maintain its programs.
The fee, which will be voted on at the AMS Annual General Meeting, would be phased in. It would be increased by $50 in 2009-10, an additional $40 in 2011-12 and a further $30 in 2012-2013, then indexed to inflation.
Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said the services or facilities that received over 70 per cent support from students on the AMS winter referendum were factored into the new proposed fee.
She said the department will have to make drastic cuts if the fee increase doesn’t pass.
It’s disingenuous for the athletics department to tout the fee increase as a key measure to halt the department’s budget problems.
Although the fee is necessary, it’s a short-sighted solution that overlooks the long-term needs of Queen’s athletics programs as they inevitably face funding cuts from the University.
Last year’s Athletics Review proposed cutting some varsity teams in order to give top-tier funding to fewer teams.
The department must begin looking at measures such as this to prepare for the inevitable further cuts that will come as the University’s finances continue to struggle with the economic downturn.
It’s encouraging that Queen’s Athletics sought student input and provided detailed information about the allocation of the fee increase on its website.
Although it may be preferable to choose an Annual General Meeting vote to increase the fee because it’s speedier, it’s disappointing the department didn’t take such a substantial fee increase to a referendum vote.
Historically, AGMs have a lower turnout than referenda and items raised at AGMs are more likely to pass; this could suggest Queen’s Athletics is worried the fee wouldn’t pass in a referendum.
A strong athletics program can draw in alumni donations and raise Queen’s public profile, and the University should see it as a worthwhile investment.
But the department must be transparent about the state of its programs and finances in order to maintain students’ trust.
Students should pass the fee increase so Queen’s Athletics doesn’t run itself into the ground.


-Journal Editorial Board

Team CHR has the edge
February 2, 2010

In the election for the 2010-11 AMS executive, Team Chowdhury-Hartley-Rudnicki (CHR)’s strong candidates and extensive preparation give them the edge.
The Journal’s Editorial Board voted 12-10 in favour of endorsing CHR.
Both teams demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of the AMS and either would make a capable student government. It’s the minor discrepancies that add up to set CHR in better stead than Team PNF.
PNF, composed of presidential candidate Mitch Piper, vice-president (operations) candidate Kasmet Niyongabo and vice-president (university affairs) candidate Davina Finn, is positioned to run the AMS reliably and uphold the status quo.
But Team CHR, composed of presidential candidate Safiah Chowdhury, vice-president (operations) candidate Ben Hartley and vice-president (university affairs) candidate Chris Rudnicki, is more prepared to hit the ground running with ambitious ideas and a focused approach.
CHR has been criticized for having lofty, unfeasible goals like bringing back Homecoming for 2011, reforming town-gown relations and working to implement solar panels at Queen’s.
The AMS could benefit from an executive team with passion and ambition behind their goals. CHR’s plans may not all end up being feasible, but they also won’t be harmful.
CHR has demonstrated sound and extensive research to back up many of their ambitious proposals. Their 40-page platform isn’t just bulk meant to sound impressive, and it doesn’t sacrifice quality or detail.
PNF’s platform lacks detail and its many careless spelling errors are a turn-off. Team PNF knows their platform backwards and forwards when speaking and have been impressive in running a good campaign. But the strength of PNF’s campaign doesn’t make up for its vague platform points.
PNF’s planned initiatives are perhaps more realistic than what CHR proposes. But in an AMS that has many weak spots, effective solutions will necessarily seem aggressive.
When it comes to anti-oppression and equity grants, PNF’s approach is concerning. The $5,000 grant PNF proposes for individuals with equity ideas is less focused than CHR’s proposal to give to established groups, and risks not addressing real equity issues on campus.
PNF presidential candidate Piper comes across as the strongest of the six. He’s an articulate speaker with evident leadership skills, but his team is behind the curve. Small delays in putting up PNF’s website and posting their platform add up to make Piper’s team appear less together than CHR.
Piper and CHR presidential candidate Chowdhury both have the potential to make a great president. Chowdhury demonstrated a strong leadership role last year at a challenging time for Queen’s University Muslim Students’ Association (QUMSA) and a similar drive shines through in this campaign.
Both vice-president (operations) candidates present as being very capable with a thorough knowledge of AMS services.
PNF’s candidate Niyongabo has a wealth of experience with finances outside of the AMS, positioning him well to handle operations.
CHR’s candidate Hartley’s experience serving on the Board of Directors also stands him in good stead. By occupying an internal position making decisions for the AMS, Hartley may have a slight upper hand. But this year, we can’t go wrong with either vice-president (operations) candidate.
The vice-president (university affairs) role is loosely defined. It’s important to select a candidate who will take the initiative to give the position some substance.
Rudnicki, CHR’s candidate for the role, has greater potential. As the Clubs Manager this year, Rudnicki has proven he can define a role for himself when given a position with unclear parameters.
Rudnicki has a tendency to let his passion get the better of him and speak before thinking—for instance, calling CHR’s proposed solar panel initiative “free money”—but this habit doesn’t occlude his potential.
PNF’s candidate for vice-president (university affairs), Finn has proven her leadership abilities through overseeing many powerful Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) organizations in her role as Society Affairs Commissioner. But she hasn’t made it clear what she would make of the vice-president (university affairs) role.
It’s unfortunate some supporters of PNF derailed the team’s campaign by resorting to petty politicking. Publicizing private e-mails and taking screenshots of Facebook activity is foolish and has undermined the representation of PNF’s quality ideas.
It’s also unfortunate the election has turned into a forum on solar panel initiatives when, in reality, whichever team is voted in will have little control over the project. There’s a role for student government in lobbying for initiatives like these, but solar panels are an issue that probably shouldn’t have made it into the campaign platforms at all.
Looking at the sum of all parts, CHR’s innovative approach, clear drive and well-stated goals combine to make them a better option for student government.


-Journal Editorial Board

What?
March 25, 2011
Labiba Haque

This is madness! Madness? This is clearly Queen’s.
Working in the news team this year, I don’t think I can recall a time where there has been such an abundance of contentious student issues. From discussion surrounding Rector Nick Day’s letter and the special vote that took place, to the Alpine Tower controversy at the ASUS Annual General Meeting (AGM), to a motion for AMS to rent a bouncy castle with dancing unicorns and rainbows, I wonder; has this campus gone insane?
This all was made clear to me when I attended last Tuesday’s AMS AGM and the motion to have AMS rent a bouncy castle and have pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows or have their equivalent inside the castle. I don’t know the original intentions of the person who presented the motion, and as the meeting progressed my opinion became very unsure.
Originally I had thought that the intention behind the motion was to prove to the AMS that it’s easy to pass any motion at the AGM, so long as the presenter of the motion has enough student support.
However, as the debate continued, the argument itself became unclear. What originally started as an attempt to encourage student participation in holding student government accountable soon became a push to actually rent a bouncy castle for students.
Some students stated that passing the motion and having a physical bouncy castle in front of a location such as the JDUC will generate student interest. On the other hand, others spoke about how passing the motion and purchasing such a castle would be a waste of time and resources, because if students wanted to be involved they would have come to the AGM.
Some students agreed with the intention behind the bouncy castle, but didn’t believe that the AMS should actually invest in it as a physical entity. That’s when things started getting a little crazy.
There was talk generated that the bouncy castle would be a great resource for students as it would allow them to relive stress.
Others pointed to the logistics of the situation, as they were unsure if the unicorns were supposed to be printed on the bouncy castle or would have to physically be there.
As the lines became unclear, the fact that the motion almost passed with a vote of 54 in favour and 56 against was absolute insanity!
This makes me question, whether or not increased student involvement actually means greater opportunity for betterment, or does it just slow the process down and pose time-consuming objectives along the way?

Not ready for new name
September 20, 2011

On Sept. 15, AMS Assembly passed a motion to rebrand the Student Ghetto as the University District.
The motion, put forward by the Municipal Affairs Commission, was passed alongside an attendant motion that approved the establishment of the Student Maintenance and Resource Team. This team of hired students will clean up garbage, organize recycling, cut grass and even apply fresh coats of paint to houses in the Student Ghetto.
The AMS has launched an advertising campaign for the new name without making any noticeable changes in the housing region around campus. The MAC’s proposed changes should have come before the rebranding.
Ghetto is a word steeped in a dark history, with ties to Jewish segregation in Renaissance Italy and the Second World War. It’s also used in North America to refer to impoverished urban areas.
Our nomenclature is inappropriate. The Student Ghetto isn’t comparable to historical ghettos, but the term’s common acceptance at Queen’s will prevent the renaming from taking root.

The AMS hasn’t explained to the student body why University District is a preferable name and has instead tried to institute a new vernacular without communicating with students.
The first step in the renaming process shouldn’t be rebranding. Instead, the AMS should start by improving housing standards in the area. The student body will be more willing to see the Student Ghetto as the University District if change occurs beneath the surface.
This isn’t the first time the AMS has tried to rename the Student Ghetto. In 2007, the Student Ghetto area was officially renamed the student village, but this failed to enter popular vocabulary. This name change was superficial, and didn’t have any supporting policy.
The term Student Ghetto has stuck because of the nature of housing in the area. Houses are rundown, unclean and many landlords treat students unfairly.
Rebranding the region requires a multi-faceted change. Landlords need to treat students like first-time homeowners and less like destructive transients.
Students also need to rise to the occasion. Any attempts to rebrand the Student Ghetto will hinge on student support. Otherwise, the area will remain unchanged.
Changing the Student Ghetto’s name is the recycling of an old idea that didn’t work. For the results to be different this time, the name change needs to be backed up with substantial action.
Until we see change, the new name simply won’t stick.


-Journal Editorial Board

Voting glitches unacceptable
November 4, 2011

Due to online glitches in the Oct. 25 and 26 AMS elections, some students were left wondering if their votes counted.
Even after casting their ballots,
some students received emails reminding them to vote; other emails told students they weren’t eligible to vote, when in fact they were.
Most concerning, some alumni and transfer students were able to vote in the AMS fall referendum and elections for rector and Arts and Science Undergraduate Society representatives.
This error resulted from inconsistencies in the Registrar’s Office student list which the Commission of Internal Affairs (CIA) used as a voters list.
It’s the AMS’s responsibility to ensure that student representatives are elected fairly, but errors have undermined the democratic process. These mistakes are unacceptable.
According to the Registrar, there were a maximum of 25 discrepancies on the list, so the effect on election results was likely minimal.
AMS commissioner of internal affairs Mark Preston reported that no more than 100 students contacted him with voting issues.
Given the feedback initiative system — whereby students with problems have to contact the CIA directly — it’s uncertain if this is an accurate number.
These system errors do a disservice to the voters and lessen their faith in the process. Students are often touted as an apathetic group and this misstep, where some votes perhaps didn’t count and others shouldn’t have, reduces trust in the system.
The eligibility discrepancies resulted from lack of oversight. The CIA sent the Registrar’s list directly to VoteNet Solutions, the company that operates the voting software.
The Registrar’s Office told the Journal via email that the CIA was informed “This year’s set of data may not be as accurate as it has been in the past, since the review and tidying up of student record anomalies had not yet taken place.
This means the CIA failed to adequately review a voters list even after its accuracy was called into question.
Preston said that because of the size of the voters list, it’s hard to weed out discrepancies and “A lot of it is taking what the Registrar has compiled and accepting it.”
This reasoning is unacceptable. Steps need to be taken to ensure that discrepancies like this don’t happen. Whether or not it’s an arduous task, an accurate voters list is essential for fair elections.
If the AMS doesn’t have a member list on hand, which would presumably function as a voters list, then that’s an issue in itself.
Greater safeguards need to be put in place to keep errors like this from happening again.


-Journal Editorial Board

Five fixes for new year
January 13, 2012

The Journal lists the top five changes we want to see in 2012 The Nov. 9 announcement that admissions to Queen’s Fine Arts program would be suspended was met with shock and criticism. The movement towards its reinstatement to remain vocal and active this semester.
AMS’s committee investigating the issue put forth a motion to establish guidelines for the future suspension of programs. While useful for future program suspensions, it does little to challenge the current suspension of Fine Arts.
When the motion was brought to Senate, it was postponed for future consideration. The guidelines for future suspensions and a reconsideration of Fine Arts’ suspension needs to be weighed.
Budget limitations require sacrifices, but a more creative solution needs to be reached. Decisions need to be more transparent, and allow for student consultation — unlike the stark email that was sent to Fine Arts students without warning.
Rather than trying to justify the suspension, the University should work to find an amicable solution. Students need to rally support to secure the future of the Fine Arts program.
It’s time for Queen’s to add a fall reading week to the calendar. Doing so would bring us into line with schools like Ryerson and University of Toronto, which recently added the weeklong break.
The extra time to catch up on work and readings while providing a change of pace could immensely benefit students. Stress levels are high as assignments and readings pile up, and a break to catch up on them would be a big help to students.
Instating a fall reading week would also give graduating students time to prepare applications for graduate programs and jobs.
The idea of introducing a fall reading week was last brought to an AMS plebiscite in 2007, with an entirely different student cohort than today. Students should be given the chance to vote again on implementing the break.
With a winter semester reading week, it makes sense that Queen’s should have one in the fall as well. The change would likely impact the placement of Frosh Week or the winter break, but these are scheduling hurdles that can be overcome.
Implementing a second reading week could have a big payoff for students. If it doesn’t work out, there’s nothing to stop Queen’s from reverting back to the current system.
In response to the tragic student deaths last year, various action groups with similar goals were struck.
Groups including the AMS’s mental health committee, the Principal’s Mental Health Commission and the mental health working group should consider pooling their resources and merging into a larger and more effective body.
With greater resources at their disposal, the groups could provide an efficient and united front capable of significant action.
Working towards the same goal while functioning as different bodies could result in redundencies. A single combined group could reduce time-wasting. With months to discuss and formulate plans, action needs to be taken. It would be useful to increase the number of counselors and staff at Health, Counseling and Disability Services and provide more staff for the Peer Support Centre.
The utility of switching from percentage grades to a Grade Point Average system is questionable, but now that the change has been made, it needs to be better explained.
The 4.3 GPA system that has brought Queen’s in line with other North American universities remains complicated in the minds of students. Little explanation was provided for the change and students are stressed out, wondering what adverse effects it will have on their transcripts.
There are inconsistencies among class instructors, some of whom haven’t switched over to letter grades or have made a partial switch, using both number and letter grades. It’s confusing.
There need to be more resources put in place that will help students and faculty members to get a better grasp of the GPA system this year.
Technology is playing a greater role on campus and in classrooms at Queen’s, but current technological systems have left many disappointed.
Expectations were high for the new multi-million dollar SOLUS database, but the new program has failed to meet student hopes.
It’s not offline for 12 hours a day like its predecessor, QCARD, but a number of flaws in the new system have kept it from being a vast improvement.
Difficulties in finding financial information and a class planner that didn’t provide class times are just two examples of the major frustrations that need to be fixed. SOLUS has proven difficult to use, and would benefit from an extensive in-site tutorial or information Youtube video for first-time users. Staff at the Registrar’s Office aren’t even fully equipped to use the new program.
Another piece of technology at Queen’s that needs improving is Webmail. With email functioning as a primary mode of communication, the 100Mb inbox of Webmail is limiting. Restrictions on singular email sizes are troubling as well.
With the current popularity of smartphones, Webmail should be tweaked to make pairing your inbox with a phone simpler. As it stands now, installing Webmail on a smartphone is like navigating a maze.
Tech glitches have also been rife in the AMS’s online voting system. This year, some alumni were able to vote, while some eligible students weren’t. If problems like these aren’t repaired, the AMS should consider reverting back to a paper ballot system.
Otherwise a shadow is cast on an already low voter turnout. It’s better to have an inefficient system, as long as it ensure a credible democratic process.


-Journal Editorial Board

Ban still not good enough
February 7, 2012

The decision to extend an alcohol-in-residence ban to Frosh Week 2012 is a discouraging sign from Queen’s administration.
A Jan. 31 press release from Queen’s communication announced the decision to extend the ban alongside news that Coroner Roger Skinner aproved of changes to Queen’s alcohol policy.
The coroner recommended a review of the policy in May 2011 after the accidental deaths of two first-year students.
It’s a typical announcement from an administration that seems more keen on repairing reputations than on effecting true change.
The press release also stated that a committee is currently reviewing the AMS Non-academic Discipline System — as per the coroner’s recommendations.
Any attempt to remove the AMS’s control over non-academic discipline will further patronize the students at this school.
The alcohol ban means that even students who are of age aren’t able to drink in residence during Frosh Week 2012.
First-year students aren’t children who need hand-holding, and when restrictive rules are imposed, people tend to circumvent them.
The ban doesn’t stop students from drinking and instead causes them to be more discreet about their habits. When students aren’t able to drink in their rooms, they’re more likely to wander into the Student Ghetto or downtown — unfamiliar areas that are less safe.
Queen’s drinking culture has yet to see significant change.

Sixty-three residence citations were given out during last Frosh Week, compared to 55 in 2010; this increase has been attributed to a greater crackdown on drinking. If the number of drinking citations has increased, it’s indeterminable whether or not the ban has actually reduced consumption.
The administration issued a survey to all first-year students to gauge their responses to the alcohol ban. But these responses weren’t made public, even though the survey was used in part to justify the continuation of the ban. It’s unclear how many students responded honestly, and how reliable the survey results are.
Instead of creating a prohibitive atmosphere, policy should seek to make residence safe and comfortable. New regulations that limit the amount of alcohol allowed in a room are misguided. Residents are limited to possessing 24 cans of beer at one time.
Possessing large quantities of alcohol isn’t dangerous but consuming it is. Changing Queen’s drinking culture isn’t dependent on restricting the amount of alcohol in residence rooms.
It’s just a rubber stamp of action without real results.


-Journal Editorial Board

Decision needed more feedback
March 16, 2012

When the Journal’s Editorial Board voted on whether or not co-curricular records should be introduced at Queen’s, the votes were evenly split and four people were undecided.
It speaks to how varied the perspectives on co-curricular transcripts are.
Queen’s Student Affairs decided against the introduction of the new record that is separate from an academic transcript. A co-curricular record is a University-verified document of extracurricular involvement, which has gained popularity other at Ontario universities, including York, Wilfrid Laurier and Carleton.
Student Affairs axed the possibility of implementing the records after received mixed feedback from AMS Assembly, SGPS Council and a number of faculty society representatives. But, this fails to give an accurate cross-section of the student body as a whole.

A simple survey could have been administered to students, allowing greater numbers to have a say on the issue. Student leaders failed to solicit input from the students they represent.
Given that resume-padding is a common tactic, the co-curricular record could add a level of legitimacy to campus involvement. Academics need to be the primary focus of the University, but experience matters as much as grades.
Clubs and other campus involvement provide valuable learning experiences that aren’t available in the classroom. Queen’s is a school where students are heavily involved, and having a record of activities would be helpful.
Adopting the co-curricular record indicates that the University values more than just academics, and gives employers a legitimate record of involvement.
But the co-curricular record also carries with it a host of potential problems. Collecting the information of every club and deciding what activities are legitimate to place on a transcript would necessitate a large investment of time and money.
Co-curricular records could also inspire people to superficially engage with activities, doing just enough to qualify for their transcript, but not really getting involved.
Because the co-curricular record is a new concept, it remains to be seen whether or not employers and graduate study programs would place value in it.
It’s possible that introducing the program wouldn’t have any real benefits.
The record is a concept that has pros and cons on each side. The decision of whether or not to implement co-curricular transcripts is one that will affect students either way. It’s unfortunate that students were handed a verdict instead of being part of the discussion.


-Journal Editorial Board

Deserved compensation
October 19, 2012

The upcoming remuneration review should focus on limiting undue burden on AMS salaried student positions.
Earliest this term, the AMS Board of Directors proposed the review to conduct a comprehensive examination of salaries and job descriptions in the AMS.
Many of these positions require students to work past their basic job description.
In return, they earn close to minimum wage — a small sum per hour given the amount of overtime put in.
It’s also undeniable that the sum these employees earn is far lower from what other student government staff earn elsewhere.
At McMaster, for example, some student leaders earn between $33,000 to $36,000 a year — about $10,000 more than the highest paid positions at the AMS.
McMaster, admittedly, is a larger school, with more students paying the essential student fee going to the salaries of student executives. This kind of discrepancy puts AMS salaries in perspective.
The AMS-specific student fee at Queen’s, currently $70.18, is designated in part to pay the salaries of AMS.
In 2009, Queen’s passed an incremental $120 student fee hike spread over three years for the Athletics Centre. It seems ironic that we’re willing to have our student leaders receive minimal pay while other, more luxurious ventures take a leading focus.
Although the reality is that Queen’s has a smaller population, limiting the possibility of raising the fee, it’s worth revisiting our priorities.
Unlike other student government representatives, AMS staff have to take courses on top of their existing duties. This cuts into their already menial salaries.
Even though their pay is low, most students are unaware. The numbers are lost in translation as they aren’t directly communicated to the student body.
While the budget is available on the AMS website, it doesn’t differentiate specific amounts for individual salaries. Students deserve to know the exact numbers, especially given that they’re paying them through their student fees.
It’s unlikely that anyone works for the AMS expecting to get rich — it’s a drive for earning valuable experience and a passion for serving students that leads most individuals to pursue these low-paying positions.
When conducting this review, the Personnel Committee should take the financial concerns of these students into consideration.

-Journal Editorial Board

Executive lacks transparency
March 8, 2013

In the past week, democracy at Queen’s has been deeply compromised.
With Peter Green’s resignation from his elected position as the incoming AMS Vice-President of Operations and his swift replacement with Nicola Plummer, students’ questions have continuously remained unanswered. Whether it has to do with Green’s resignation or with his replacement, Eril Berkok and TK Pritchard have failed to give voters the full story they deserve.
The entire process has proven that Berkok and Pritchard don’t in fact stand for what they promised during the election. The lack of transparency and the tone taken on by the team shows that student voices aren’t truly valued. AMS Assembly has echoed this by placing their own interests above those of students.
Starting with Green’s resignation, Berkok and Pritchard demonstrated their lack of commitment to transparency. While they did release a statement on their individual Facebook accounts and vaguely explained what happened from their perspective at AMS Assembly, their side of the story still contradicts Green’s.
The day of Green’s resignation, Berkok and Pritchard repeatedly avoided requests by the Journal for an interview. They also refused to write a letter to the editor to address the issue.
While they did send in their Facebook statement, they didn’t give the Journal the chance to ask the questions necessary to understand the situation better.
They’ve also failed to provide students with three elected representatives in the AMS executive office. Starting in May, students won’t get the team they voted for.
But democracy isn’t just about elections; it’s also about how elected representatives choose to speak on behalf of their students. Plummer’s appointment was ultimately approved by members of the AMS Assembly — they should carry part of the onus for putting the interests of the AMS over the interests of students.
It’s true that the decision to use section 2.02.03 of the AMS constitution — allowing Berkok and Pritchard to nominate Plummer to replace Green — follows the procedures in place.
It’s also true that Plummer was voted in to office by elected representatives in a constitutional manner. But democracy shouldn’t just be about following rules. What elected representatives failed to do in this case was look beyond procedure and truly consider how their constituents’ voices would be best heard.
What was shown instead by voting representatives at AMS Assembly was an almost unanimous concern for AMS hiring and the damage a new election or referendum would cause to the AMS proceedings.
Students were told that a new election or any other alternative would be more detrimental to students than the outlined path.
At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be up to representatives to make that call — it should be up to their constituents.
The decision to vote with so little consideration for representing students’ voices is both patronizing and paternalistic.
In an ideal world, the fairest and quickest way to vote Plummer in would’ve been through an online referendum. A quick vote from students would have given Plummer the legitimacy to sit on AMS Assembly and serve students.
AMS Assembly didn’t have to vote yes to Plummer’s appointment, they could’ve called for an election. Furthermore, the decision to carry out the vote as a public roll call instead of as a secret ballot was unfair to voting members who may have disagreed with the status quo.
By forcing everyone to publicly voice whether they supported the motion or not, peer pressure may have played a role in the representatives’ decision more than it should have.
A closed vote would have been the fairest way to run the vote, and it’s baffling why a motion was made to make it a roll call instead.
It’s disappointing to see that many of those who spoke at the Special Assembly put their own interests ahead of those of students.Many of those who spoke in favour of this matter were personally connected to the incoming executive or had a personal stake in the matter.
While it’s true that an overwhelming majority of 37, against 3, voted in favour of Plummer taking the position, we can’t help but doubt this vote’s legitimacy due to the way the vote occurred.
As a result of the proceedings, Plummer still doesn’t have the democratic legitimacy that she would’ve had were she directly elected by the student body.
The incoming AMS executive has shown a fundamental disrespect for students’ voices. Moving forward, the very least they can do is take steps to make constitutional changes to ensure that this sort of situation doesn’t happen again.
The constitution should reinforce democracy. By engraining amendments that would allow for a quick referendum to be called in case this ever happens again, the executive can commit themselves to reinforcing democracy instead of abusing it.
Much of the damage may be irreversible at this point.
Students ultimately are not getting what they voted for. How are we supposed to trust an executive that has shown such blatant disregard for keeping their word, even before their term has begun?

-Journal Editorial Board

City soils relations with students
June 25, 2013

The vote to exclude students from census data has aggravated an already tenuous relationship between Queen’s students and the City of Kingston.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. The Mayor, Kingston City Council, the AMS and Queen’s students have each done their part to make the situation worse.
Removing students from census data has resulted in a realignment which eliminates Sydenham District and greatly reduces the say that Queen’s students have in city politics. The AMS and the Society of Graduate and Professional Students are right to appeal this decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. Hopefully the appeal will be successful as the City’s decision seems discriminatory.
While the vast majority of Queen’s students don’t live in Kingston full-time, the actions taken by Kingston’s City Council encourage students to completely disregard their responsibilities to the City of Kingston. If Queen’s students are not treated as a constituency, then how can the city have high expectations regarding student behaviour?
Mayor Mark Gerretsen’s immature exchanges on Twitter have not helped matters. If the mayor wants to reach out to students on social media then he should put his best foot forward.
The mayor’s false assertion that he knew that the current AMS executive didn’t vote in the last municipal election (which he’s since apologized for) is representative of an overall dismissive attitude from the City.
Like City Council, Queen’s students need to redouble their efforts to engage in an active and reciprocal town-gown relationship. While Queen’s students are not a homogenous group, many are fairly apathetic about municipal politics.
In this situation, the AMS is partly responsible for student inaction. Student leadership should have made an issue over council’s efforts to exclude students long before they did. Students count on their representatives to foresee potential conflicts and lobby effectively on their behalf.
With so much at stake, the AMS should have been more proactive, but the overall problem rests with the City leadership’s attitude towards students.
The issue is compounded as student say in municipal politics will be greatly reduced if council gets their way. Nobody likes student apathy, and these boundary changes will surely perpetuate it.

-Journal Editorial Board

Wary Woolf goes door to door
October 4, 2013

Last Saturday, Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf went door-to-door on Aberdeen and Earl Streets discouraging residents from participating in street parties or hosting keggers this weekend. Woolf passed out literature which contained information about official Homecoming events and the history of the reunion weekend. While cynical people will question the effectiveness of his strategy, going door-to-door is a better way of provoking good student behaviour than anything else that has been attempted.
It’s fun to speculate about the motivation behind Woolf’s personal appeal to Ghetto residents. It could have been an act of desperation in advance of one of his most important weekends as Queen’s Principal.
It could have been a public relations tactic to appease Homecoming’s critics, complete with an earnest Twitter picture of the act. It also could have been a genuine attempt to remind students of the historical and communal importance of Homecoming. Woolf hasn’t given us many reasons to be pessimistic about his motives, so we’re leaning towards the latter.
If Principal Woolf arrived on your doorstep and talked in a reasonable tone about the importance of a smooth Homecoming weekend, you would feel a little bit guilty about your plans for a raging kegger, wouldn’t you? In that sense, Woolf’s tactic might be marginally effective. A face-to-face meeting with the Principal will always mean more than a well-written but often ignored email.
Woolf’s approach is much more positive and edifying than the AMS’s “let's not fuck it up” campaign. The student government’s video which featured numerous student talking heads telling the viewer not to “fuck it up” had confusing moments. Surely our student government could have come up with a more extensive and creative campaign.
Principal Woolf has effectively put the ball in our court. His door-to-door strategy has removed the barrier between students and the administration, and by having conversations with students, he’s treating them like adults. Woolf carried newsletters outlining the history of Homecoming, the implication being that this weekend, for better or for worse, we can make history.
This editorial has been updated to reflect the following correction: The AMS video's message was "let 's not fuck it up", not "don't fuck it up ". Incorrect information appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of the Journal. The Journal regrets the error.


-Journal Editorial Board

AMS fumbles JDUC revitalization
October 29, 2014

The preliminary stages of the AMS’s JDUC revitalization plan have been poorly executed, and reflect greater failures on the part of the AMS and the University.
Last Monday, the AMS hosted an open house to receive feedback from students on how to spend the $1.2 million JDUC Revitalization Fund. Five potential projects were proposed at the event, three of which focused specifically on improving Wallace Hall.
Students are able to vote on which combination of projects should be undertaken through a survey hosted by SurveyMonkey.
The fund that will finance the projects was collected through the Queen’s Student Centre student fee from 2005-09, with the $1.2 million constituting the AMS’s capital contribution to Phase 1 of the Queen’s Centre. According to their agreement with the University, the AMS must spend the fund before April 2015.
This large-scale project won’t address the overall problems facing the JDUC.
The building has failed as a social space due to its uninviting environment. It’s partially a result of an accumulation of small maintenance issues that continue to go unaddressed — poor lighting; unreliable WiFi and phone signals; and faulty vents, windows and power outlets.
The availability of the $1.2 million stems from the University’s failure to deliver on Phases 2 and 3 of the Queen’s Centre. The onus to maintain the JDUC also lies with the University, which has continually overlooked the small defects that have rendered the building inhospitable.
The proposed revitalization projects focus on grandiose transformations of one room or area, but neglect the spaces students frequent most. Most students rarely go into Wallace Hall; while revamping the room may make it more enticing, it would be a poor use of funds, given the JDUC’s shabby overall state.
The current AMS executive was dealt a bad hand. With a deadline to kickstart the revitalization by April 2015, this project would have benefitted from a long-term plan, one that should have been implemented by previous AMS execs — particularly BPP in 2013-14.
It would have been far more appropriate for the AMS to solicit student opinion on how to spend the $1.2 million through a referendum question, rather than through SurveyMonkey.
The AMS’s online survey lacks legitimacy; no measures have been taken to verify if the participants are actually students, and there’s no limit on the number of responses people can submit.
The current survey restricts students to the five proposed projects, without the option of suggesting alternatives. While the AMS has said multiple options could be undertaken concurrently, the estimated cost of each project hasn’t been released, so it’s impossible to tell which projects could be combined.
Both the survey and last Monday’s open house were poorly advertised. No official email was sent out to AMS members informing them of the opportunity to voice their opinion. This severely limits student access to the survey and the details of each potential project.
Greater, legitimate strides need to be taken to gather student input before the AMS continues on with their plans, so that this revitalization adequately reflects the opinion of the student body.

-Journal Editorial Board

Turnout needs to keep up
November 21, 2014

Higher turnout in this year’s AMS fall referendum is a positive sign, but there’s still much to be done to make this year’s uptick last.
Last week saw the highest voter turnout in an AMS fall referendum since 1995 — 34.1 per cent, up from 15.8 per cent a year ago. All proposed fees passed successfully.
Even though 34.1 per cent is the highest turnout in years, it’s still significantly low.
The relatively high turnout was partially a result of the implementation of a new, user-friendly online voting system. The AMS made noteworthy efforts to encourage students to vote by establishing polling stations and circulating students with iPads around campus — tactics which should
be reused in the coming winter referendum.
But what really drove the vote was the presence of popular fee proposals, such as the Bus-It and SHRC fees. Bus-It, in particular, was central to the AMS’s overall advertising effort for the referendum.
High turnout can’t sustain itself from year to year through similar circumstances. The majority of students are unaware of how critical referendums are to student life and the health of clubs and organizations on campus.
Rather than simply publicizing the referendum dates, the AMS needs to relay to the student body why they should vote in the first place. This could be done in the executive’s monthly video updates or by speaking to classes.
Allowing students to abstain from voting on certain fees this referendum was an effective move. It helps deter the possibility of clubs and publications losing their ability to operate simply because students have never heard of them, and are therefore inclined to automatically vote “no”.
The AMS made good use of the referendum by posing a plebiscite question on the Homecoming ReUnion Street Festival. This means of garnering student feedback should be used more often heading forward.

-Journal Editorial Board

AMS acclamation omits students
January 20, 2015

Without a vote of confidence, Team CBW’s imposition as incoming AMS executive was undemocratic.
The AMS acclaimed CBW — Kanivanan Chinniah, Kyle Beaudry and Catherine Wright — as the 2015-16 executive last week, after they were the only team to fulfill the election’s nomination requirements on time.
It’s never explicitly stated in AMS elections policy what to do in the event that only one team runs. If a situation that isn’t covered in policy arises, the AMS Chief Electoral Officer is mandated to “interpret the policy in a manner consistent with its intentions.”
Election by acclamation has been used in the last three AMS elections where only one team has run — 1983, 1990 and, now, 2015.
But acclamation isn’t in the spirit of the policy. Instead, it prioritizes the best interest of the team involved and omits the input of students.
With an acclamation, the winning team — who will be responsible for student advocacy, services and commissions — is ushered in before students know anything about them, simply because they handed in the right paperwork on time.
The AMS needs to hold a vote of confidence, as ASUS, ComSoc, CESA and ResSoc did last year in uncontested elections. The AMS’s executive election policy should also be updated to explicitly state what to do in the event that only one team runs, rather than leaving the policy up to interpretation.
Whether students have confidence in the single team or not, they deserve the opportunity to voice their opinion.
Voting, even for confidence, establishes accountability in those who are eventually voted in. That accountability isn’t there with an acclamation; voters have no say in who’s selected to run their society.
The AMS didn’t send an email — or any message to all students — announcing the acclamation. Instead, they announced it over Facebook and Twitter, which only their followers could see, and released a press release that, instead of being featured on the front page of their website, was buried in the “Campus News” section.
In lieu of debates, CBW is hosting a pair of public forums — on Monday and Tuesday evenings — to meet with students and discuss future initiatives. These forums weren’t sufficiently advertised in advance.
While it’s problematic that there’s no specific AMS policy to deal with uncontested executive elections, the crux of the issue is that only one team ran in the first place.
AMS Chief Electoral Officer Chris Casher told the Journal last week that the election process was “properly advertised” — but two print advertisements in the Journal, a post on the AMS website and a 26-word announcement in the executive’s December newsletter isn’t nearly enough.
Mass emails, poster campaigns, class talks and messages on TV screens in the Queen’s Centre are all ways the AMS could have better advertised the nomination period — and, perhaps, attracted more than three candidates from over 16,000 undergraduate students.
Without a voting process to let students choose their future executive, CBW has to work even harder to prove they deserve their new roles.
So far, their relationship with the student body has gotten off to a rocky start.
While nominated teams usually release their platform at the very beginning of the campaign period, CBW only released theirs Monday — five days after their acclamation, without any public explanation for the delay.
CBW — whose three members all have experience working for the AMS or a faculty society — should have had their platform ready for release last Friday. Even a brief summary of their primary objectives would have sufficed.
So far, the AMS and CBW have done the absolute bare minimum to engage students. It’s a troubling approach from our current and future student leaders.

-Journal Editorial Board

Understand the referendum
February 4, 2015

Simple adjustments can be made to the AMS referendum process to ensure students understand the influence their vote has.
For a second year in a row, MUSE Magazine’s $0.50 opt-out fee proposal failed to pass in a referendum. 50.9 per cent of voters voted against the establishment of the fee last week, while 803 voters abstained.
Students have a confounding tendency to oppose the implementation of inexpensive opt-out fees. This shone through in the 4,065 total abstentions to six opt-out fees on this year’s ballot — none of which exceeded $1.25.
It was also clear in the amount of “no” votes on non-controversial proposals — including 21.5 per cent disapproval to an $0.08 Queen’s Diabetic Society fee.
The high number of abstentions and “no” votes might indicate a fundamental misunderstanding from voters of what referendums actually are.
Students could be unaware that when they vote “yes” to establishing an opt-out fee, it doesn’t mean they’ll automatically have to pay it. Instead, they’re merely giving a club the opportunity to ask for financial support from students later on, which students are able to decline as they wish.
When a student votes “no” to establishing an opt-out fee, they’re essentially saying the club has no value and shouldn’t exist.
The onus is partially on clubs to advertise themselves and explain their value to students, but MUSE’s staff did more than the average club to promote themselves, by posting on social media, running a campaign in the Queen’s Centre and publishing notices on their website and the AMS’s.
The AMS has made efforts to encourage voter turnout, but the meaning of each type of referendum question should be clarified. This could come in the form of a brief explanation that accompanies email notices and the online ballot.
Another issue with the referendum — one that’s more difficult to address — is that a lot of votes may be based on recognition of keywords.
Advocacy clubs — ones that students may have never heard of, but that contain buzzwords such as “children”, “charity” and “illness” — likely aren’t scrutinized to the same degree as other student organizations. When recognizable, emotionally-charged words aren’t in the club name, students could be more inclined to abstain or vote “no”.
One way to combat this would be to include a short description of each club alongside the referendum question — similar to those provided for faculty society senator and representative candidates.
A brief explanation of what it means to “abstain”, meanwhile, could go a long way to prevent misuse of the option.

-Journal Editorial Board

Admin, support ReUnion
February 6, 2015

It’s in the University’s best interests to help establish the ReUnion Street Festival as a new Homecoming tradition.
The inaugural festival — held in October — proved to be a great success, with roughly 5,000-6,000 people attending. 94.3 per cent of students who participated in the AMS fall referendum responded “yes” to a plebiscite question asking if they wished to see the festival established as an annual Homecoming event.
The 2014 festival cost $250,000 and was paid for primarily by the AMS. For future Homecomings, the AMS is lobbying the University to provide at least $75,000 to fund the festival.
Despite the AMS’s efforts and Principal Daniel Woolf’s verbal support for the festival, the University is refusing to cover any costs.
Queen’s administration set a precedent of paying for Homecoming when they agreed in 2013 to pay the City of Kingston $100,000 annually for three years for extra police costs. The University should also be investing in an event that directly benefits alumni and students.
The best way for Queen’s to deter students and other revelers from attending Homecoming street parties is to support proactive initiatives like the ReUnion festival, which will draw crowds away from Aberdeen St. and promote responsible drinking.
Alumni should have a space to mingle with current students during Homecoming weekend, and the festival fits the bill. Improving the Homecoming experience could encourage alumni to donate to the University.
The AMS covered the majority of the inaugural festival’s costs. While the University provided a significant amount of in-kind support — such as staffing and security — it should also cast its financial support behind this venture.
AMS President Allison Williams said the festival could become self-financing in five years through sponsorship, meaning Queen’s support could only be needed for the short-term.
The University hasn’t given a clear reason why they’re refusing. If it’s due to financial constraints, they could run an advancement campaign to garner funds.
The University has run successful campaigns for capital projects that alumni might never directly benefit from, including the Isabel Bader Centre and the new Richardson Stadium. It shouldn’t be difficult to raise $75,000 for something alumni can directly enjoy.
The AMS has done their due diligence. While they would still be paying for the majority of the festival, they shouldn’t be the only ones to shoulder the responsibility.

-Journal Editorial Board

AMS referendum decision lacks transparency
November 27, 2015

When they decided to nullify the fall referendum results, the AMS didn’t just decide the fate of the election — student input was tossed out the window as well.
The fall referendum results were nullified by AMS assembly in a closed door session after it came to light that their Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) hadn’t paid her student fees and was therefore not a part of the AMS. (*See Editor's Note below)
This isn’t the first time the AMS has bungled the election. Technical difficulties forced an extension to the election period this year, while concerns in the past include students being completely left out and emails being misdirected.
The main role of the AMS is the collection and allocation of funds. The vast majority of interaction between students and the AMS involves paying their student fees, and then getting a say in where those fees end up.
The clubs whose funding is now threatened offer important services to students, and the proper handling of their funding is perhaps the most important service students require from their student government.
So, while it might make for a more lively AMS assembly to talk about adding more chairs in CoGro or making an app to count the number of people using the ARC, the AMS and students would be better served by a shift in focus back to the AMS’s actual purpose.
Student apathy is often blamed for low voter turnout during the referendum, but if the AMS continues to waste students’ time and money, engagement will sink even lower — and it won’t be students’ apathy that’s at fault.
The CEO’s only responsibility is dealing with elections. Appointing someone who was ineligible to hold that position — thus compromising the integrity of the entire election — is a fairly regrettable hiring decision.
But what’s more regrettable is that the AMS didn’t come forward and explain the mistake, and their decision.
Instead, they had a closed door meeting to which none of the clubs affected by the decision were invited, then informed the clubs of their decision after the fact and told them to keep it confidential.
The decision wasn’t even publicly announced until over a week after it had been made.
The entire decision-making process lacked any transparency. The possibility of other options, such as only nullifying those results decided by a small margin, was never presented to affected students until after the decision had been made.
Nor was the questionable correlation between the CEO not paying their student fees, and therefore lacking integrity, ever explained.
Legal concerns aside, there was a more open conversation to be had here between the AMS and the student body they represent.
But instead of focusing on how this decision would impact students, the AMS unilaterally decided to let their bureaucratic blunder get in the way of student well-being.
What’s done is done, but hopefully the AMS can take a lesson from this and be more open with students in the future.

-Journal Editorial Board


*Editor’s note: Leah Kelley, the co-chair of the Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change, told The Journal that Jon Wiseman, the AMS commissioner of internal affairs, informed her that the CEO was ineligible because she had not paid her student fees. The AMS, however, contacted The Journal on Friday, Nov. 28 to state that while the CEO was ineligible for her position, they have not given a reason for her ineligibility. According to AMS hiring policy, the CEO also would have been ineligible for her position if she wasn't enrolled in "at least 60% of a full course load ".
This article has been edited to clarify that alternative options were never presented to affected students until the decision to nullify the referendum had been made, but they were presented to AMS assembly in closed session.
The Journal regrets the error.

Mental Health

Mental health is perhaps one of the most varied elements I choose to look at among our editorial archives.

There was a spike in discussion about the topic in 2012, which isn’t surprising considering that the deaths of two students in 2010 highlighted a burgeoning crisis of mental health. Discussion dwindled in the next few years until we reach a tone of tired resignation in 2016, where it’s assumed that we should already be aware of the crisis and are instead fed up with the lack of resources.

Resources have always been key to the discussion of mental health at Queen’s. Among the editorials that fell into this category, almost every one deals with a discussion about the money that the University is or isn’t putting towards student well-being.

But, that being said, what’s more important and yet far more difficult is that those resources are directed properly. One surprising editorial disagreed with a $1 million donation from Bell to fund a mental health research chair, arguing that the funds would have been better attributed to counselling services on campus that would have a more immediate impact.

Throwing money at a problem, especially with limited resources, isn’t always the best solution. Instead, we need to be cognizant of how we can create a campus that’s supportive of its students.

Team CMM the best to take the AMS reins
February 6, 2007

Team CMM’s impressive preparation, diligence and leadership potential have won us over as our preferred choice for next year’s AMS executive.
Although Team TPC—Presidential candidate Alvin Tedjo, Vice-President (University Affairs) candidate Liz Craig and Vice-President (Operations) candidate John Paterson—touched on a lot of the same points as CMM—Presidential candidate Kingsley Chak, Vice-President (University Affairs) candidate Julia Mitchell and Vice-President (Operations) candidate John Manning—Team CMM hit the ground running and have never looked back.
Their most thought-out platform idea is to create a university-wide sustainability office, but the remainder of their platform—while showing that they’re trying to take the interest of students at heart—are somewhat recycled campaign platforms of yore. The team’s strengths lie not in promises for a video guide, another revamped website and a peer counselling service, but in their character as human beings. Although we’re concerned by Chak’s abstention from voting on a tuition increase at the Board of Trustees, he remains one of the most informed and dedicated student politicians at Queen’s. As student trustee the past two years,Chak hasn’t yet had to work co-operatively and closely with teammates. Hopefully he’ll learn that good leaders motivate, inspire and work with those around him—they don’t merely tell you what to do. Chak’s involvement on the Board of Trustees, while providing him with a wealth of experience and insight into the functioning of the University, also presents him with a challenge: to appreciate his new position and overcome the coziness with Queen’s bureaucracy, which he has become accustomed to. Manning knows his stuff and his sharp debating last Wednesday proved that. Both during this campaign and through his previous work with the AMS, Manning has proven himself to be a strong and capable leader who takes the time and effort to learn. What’s more, when he doesn’t have an answer for you, he’ll say so.
Mitchell’s lack of AMS knowledge has left us with several questions and concerns, but we remain optimistic that she will work hard to catch up. She seems genuine in her concern for student wellness and determined to make tangible improvements in this area. Chak and Mitchell also need to work better as a team, so they don’t look like an embittered married couple: Chak needs to back off and Mitchell should step up.
Team CMM’s peer-counselling service may prove challenging to implement and operate. It also may not be that popular. We don’t expect students will be any more willing to discuss their personal problems with their peers than professionals, and the HCDS director said it won’t do much to reduce wait times.
As for TPC, their plan to install surveillance cameras at various locations on campus hasn’t been subject to sufficient research. Admittedly, the recent spate of campus thefts is a major problem, but TPC hasn’t consulted with students to find out if installing surveillance cameras is a desired response. TPC also hasn’t taken the hint from Swipe and other failed convenience card programs with their new and improved Q.Cash platform idea. Neither have they fully explained why we need such a program, other than to reduce wait times. And sustainability is about more than simply adding recycling bins. Similarly, reducing the number of exams in order to declare a conflict, while an idea worthy of discussion, fails to address issues of mental health and stress in a meaningful way.
Tedjo has worked in a variety of different roles within the AMS, but none of his resultant experience has proven himself worthy of AMS president. Paterson has worked tirelessly for both the AMS Information Technology Office and Queen’s First Aid; while he may be one of the hardest working people in this campaign, we don’t see him as an effective vice-president. Although we are endorsing CMM, we also wish we could somehow vote for Liz Craig. Along with Manning, she stood out as the only other strong candidate on the ballot, and she should be commended for the passion and commitment displayed throughout the campaign. She’s knowledgeable about university and AMS issues, and has already proven her leadership abilities through her extensive work within COMPSA.
Whether you agree or disagree, we hope that you will use our endorsement as a tool in deciding for whom to vote today and tomorrow.

Step in the right direction?
February 9, 2007

With more than half of the total vote and 13.88 per cent more than Team TPC, CMM was declared next year’s AMS executive.
As AMS executive-elect Kingsley Chak said yesterday, “the job started today, right now,” and hopefully that job will include attempts to challenge the administration, addressing issues of interest to students and developing innovative solutions. As well, now that CMM has won the election, Julia Mitchell needs to focus on proving that she is deserving of students’ votes—beginning by using her passion for mental health initiatives to really make a difference.
Some of CMM’s most important decisions will also be their first, as they will begin hiring next year’s directors, commissioners and managers in the next few weeks. The people with whom an executive surround themselves are equally, if not more, important than the executives themselves. We challenge them to take these decisions seriously and look beyond their campaign supporters during the hiring process. TPC presidential candidate Alvin Tedjo’s post-election comments—that his team always felt like they were playing catch-up—aren’t surprising. Their campaign gimmicks couldn’t make up for their lack of organization and preparation. Still, it was heartening to know the student body’s vote couldn’t simply be bought by cotton candy and video games.
Michael Ceci won the right to represent students on the Board of Trustees next year. There were other trustee candidates with stronger platforms, and who were generally more informed. But Ceci ran a widespread and sophisticated marketing campaign to make sure voters knew his face and name. His plan worked. Like trustee candidate Stephanie Kenny, we hope Ceci has listened to his opponents during the campaign, and will listen to them and others when representing students on the influential board. But Ceci’s first statements upon hearing of his election are troublesome.
He said he will work towards getting the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario to use the power granted to him by Queen’s royal charter—a power that was granted archaically, acts as little more than a symbol now, and has never once been employed—to appoint the four candidates who ran against him to the board. We hope that was mostly the alcohol talking.
Ceci did a great job catching students’ eyes, and we can only hope he will dedicate as much time and energy to his term representing students as he did during his campaign period.


-Journal Editorial Board

Student depression rises
January 28, 2011

An article published in the National Post on Jan. 24 described the unsettling results of a study focusing on student mental health.
A team of US and Canadian researchers surveyed students who visited campus health resources.
They discovered that 25 per cent showed signs of clinical depression, while 10 per cent admitted having thoughts about suicide. The researchers behind the study insist that campus health centres need a blanket mental health screening policy, in order to catch students who might otherwise go undetected.
The results of this study are troubling, and point to a need for greater on-campus resources to address mental health problems. Many of the students initially sought help for physical ailments, but later admitted to depression-related concerns. This suggests that a certain amount of stigma still surrounds mental health issues.
Students need to feel comfortable addressing concerns about their mental health and seeking help when they feel they need it.
Support at the campus level needs to come from peers, health resources and instructors, all of whom need to be informed about the serious consequences of undiagnosed health issues.
While instructors are sometimes completely disinterested in the personal lives of their students, they need to be prepared to tackle these issues as they arise. University dons and residence life staff have a valuable opportunity to teach first-year students about early signs of depression—an opportunity which must be capitalized upon.
It’s important to recognize the limitations of this study. It concluded that 25 per cent of students showed symptoms of depression, not depression itself—a crucial distinction in many cases.
It’s also important that individuals be concerned about their long-term mental state and recognize that what they consider an ordinary emotional experience could be one of distress.
There are no easy solutions to this problem. Where many campus health experts agree with the need for additional support, they insist that they lack the resources they require. Identifying mental health issues isn’t the result of one conversation or consultation, but the end product of a lengthy diagnostic process.


-Journal Editorial Board

Mental matters
September 12, 2011

A Frosh Week focus on mental health isn’t something unique to Queen’s, according to a Sept. 9 article from the Globe and Mail.
At the University of Western Ontario, former Barenaked Ladies front man Steven Page discussed the importance of on-campus support for mental health. The University of Alberta offered first years a tour of available mental health services.
Queen’s has expanded mental health resources this fall, added the Peer Support Centre to the annual frosh tour of Kingston and has continued involvement with the Jack Project.
Campus counseling services are reporting higher instances of depression, loneliness and anxiety each year, causing universities to act.
Coming to university in an unfamiliar town, leaving a comfortable home and situation can be a jarring experience. The effect can be detrimental for a student’s mental wellness.
Mental health is still a relatively new field and one that is commonly misunderstood or stigmatized. One of the best ways to ameliorate the situation is to maintain a conversation on the subject and continue to push the boundary of understanding.
People need to talk about their struggles with mental health earnestly and without shame.It’s the only way the issue will be normalized.
In tandem with personal stories, students need to be exposed to effective and factual information about mental health, including symptoms, causes and how conditions are treated. Equipping them with this information will enable them to seek help should the need ever arise. Professional help needs to be made available to those who need it. There’s a level of confidentiality and skill that cannot be found outside a professional.
As it currently stands, Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) is underequipped to deal with the magnitude of students’ mental health needs. HCDS deserves more funding and staff so that students don’t doubt the availability of resources.
While Frosh Week changes mark small steps to ensure a healthy mental state for those on campus, it’s important to keep in mind that the problem is ongoing.
The overwhelming anxiety experienced when an extension isn’t granted or penalties are applied to a grade is something many university students have experienced.
Sometimes students and professors have adversarial relationships.Transitioning to a relationship of mutual understanding rather than preserving the rigid rules in place would be a helpful step towards improving the general stress on campus.
Mental health is impacting the lives of students more and more. It’s only appropriate the community be prepared.


-Journal Editorial Board

Committee fails to act
October 18, 2011

An AMS mental health committee established on April 7 was tasked by assembly to “evaluate how the AMS provides support to students on our campus and canvas other universities.” Though the committee met six times over the summer, it has failed to enact any change. Despite a mandate to communicate with other universities, the committee has failed to do so. With no results, the committee’s utility is questionable.
Committee chair TK Pritchard addressed AMS Assembly in September, stating that the group “discussed the mental health situation on campus and how we can ensure that student voices will be heard.” This vague summary gives no explanation of what’s been done.
Pritchard told the Journal in an interview last week that the committee has no budget, and he’s unsure what it would do with funding. Without clear goals or measures in place to evaluate performance, the committee won’t succeed.
The committee’s intentions can’t be faulted -— tackling issues surrounding mental health on campus is important. Coming up short is unjustifiable.
Students aren’t happy with the state of mental health resources at Queen’s. That’s the crux of the issue, yet the committee hasn’t made any recommendations for change. Health, Counseling and Disability Services are still understaffed, making appointments difficult to schedule.
Pritchard cited other mental health groups on campus, such as the University-run mental health working group, as reasons why the committee has had trouble setting itself apart. Overlap between different campus groups doesn’t mean they can’t work towards the same goal.
There’s a presumed connection between the culture on campus and the string of deaths that effected Queen’s last year, but it’s a link that hasn’t been established.
Silence on the issue lends itself to speculation, and it needs to be confirmed or dispelled.
The AMS committee has the unique benefit of being comprised solely of students. It has the chance to be a channel for the student voice — something that hasn’t been done. Being a voice for students requires action.
It means studying services at other universities, suggesting change and getting feedback. Social media and town halls are just two ways this could be done. For the committee to be effective, it requires a group of people who are able to give the necessary time and resources to the issue.
The mental health committee needs to re-evaluate its purpose to be of use to the student body.


-Journal Editorial Board

Revisit fall reading week
November 11, 2011

Queen’s should reconsider implementing a fall reading week.
In a 2007 AMS plebiscite question, the student body voted against a second reading week. The climate on campus has since changed, and with an almost entirely new student population, it’s worth asking the question again.
Recently schools like Ryerson, Trent and the University of Toronto added a reading week in the fall term.
At Queen’s, a similar initiative could help students deal with rising stress levels. Having a week off of class to catch up on assignments and readings would be helpful.
It could be beneficial for student mental health.

While it’s an oversimplification to assume that a break would resolve mental health issues on campus, it could certainly help with student stress levels. Having time to catch up on work and relax would lessen the stress caused by approaching midterms.
A fall reading week would also give upper-year students a chance to be proactive and work on applications for post-graduate studies or employment.
Many graduate programs set application deadlines for early November, and having a reading week beforehand would give students the extra time needed to gather reference letters, write cover letters and update resumes.
The week of class time lost for a fall reading week would have to be allocated from somewhere. Because classes start relatively late in September — this year the semester began on Sept. 12 — the summer might be a good option. It could mean reducing Frosh Week as well.
A shortened summer holiday is a valid concern. Many students work full time during the summer months to help pay for tuition and rent.
A break could result in a loss of earnings, but Queen’s starts comparitively late so it’s still possible for students to work until Labour Day even with an added reading week.
If the question of a fall reading week is brought to the student body, it should carry attendant questions including when students would like to see the time appropriated from.
Whatever the possible pitfalls associated with a fall reading week, it’s a discussion that needs to be re-opened.


-Journal Editorial Board

Five fixes for new year
January 13, 2012

The Nov. 9 announcement that admissions to Queen’s Fine Arts program would be suspended was met with shock and criticism. The movement towards its reinstatement to remain vocal and active this semester.
AMS’s committee investigating the issue put forth a motion to establish guidelines for the future suspension of programs. While useful for future program suspensions, it does little to challenge the current suspension of Fine Arts.
When the motion was brought to Senate, it was postponed for future consideration. The guidelines for future suspensions and a reconsideration of Fine Arts’ suspension needs to be weighed.
Budget limitations require sacrifices, but a more creative solution needs to be reached. Decisions need to be more transparent, and allow for student consultation — unlike the stark email that was sent to Fine Arts students without warning.
Rather than trying to justify the suspension, the University should work to find an amicable solution. Students need to rally support to secure the future of the Fine Arts program.
It’s time for Queen’s to add a fall reading week to the calendar. Doing so would bring us into line with schools like Ryerson and University of Toronto, which recently added the weeklong break.
The extra time to catch up on work and readings while providing a change of pace could immensely benefit students. Stress levels are high as assignments and readings pile up, and a break to catch up on them would be a big help to students.
Instating a fall reading week would also give graduating students time to prepare applications for graduate programs and jobs.
The idea of introducing a fall reading week was last brought to an AMS plebiscite in 2007, with an entirely different student cohort than today. Students should be given the chance to vote again on implementing the break.
With a winter semester reading week, it makes sense that Queen’s should have one in the fall as well. The change would likely impact the placement of Frosh Week or the winter break, but these are scheduling hurdles that can be overcome.
Implementing a second reading week could have a big payoff for students. If it doesn’t work out, there’s nothing to stop Queen’s from reverting back to the current system.
In response to the tragic student deaths last year, various action groups with similar goals were struck.
Groups including the AMS’s mental health committee, the Principal’s Mental Health Commission and the mental health working group should consider pooling their resources and merging into a larger and more effective body.
With greater resources at their disposal, the groups could provide an efficient and united front capable of significant action.
Working towards the same goal while functioning as different bodies could result in redundencies. A single combined group could reduce time-wasting. With months to discuss and formulate plans, action needs to be taken. It would be useful to increase the number of counselors and staff at Health, Counseling and Disability Services and provide more staff for the Peer Support Centre.
The utility of switching from percentage grades to a Grade Point Average system is questionable, but now that the change has been made, it needs to be better explained.
The 4.3 GPA system that has brought Queen’s in line with other North American universities remains complicated in the minds of students. Little explanation was provided for the change and students are stressed out, wondering what adverse effects it will have on their transcripts.
There are inconsistencies among class instructors, some of whom haven’t switched over to letter grades or have made a partial switch, using both number and letter grades. It’s confusing.
There need to be more resources put in place that will help students and faculty members to get a better grasp of the GPA system this year.
Technology is playing a greater role on campus and in classrooms at Queen’s, but current technological systems have left many disappointed.
Expectations were high for the new multi-million dollar SOLUS database, but the new program has failed to meet student hopes.
It’s not offline for 12 hours a day like its predecessor, QCARD, but a number of flaws in the new system have kept it from being a vast improvement.
Difficulties in finding financial information and a class planner that didn’t provide class times are just two examples of the major frustrations that need to be fixed. SOLUS has proven difficult to use, and would benefit from an extensive in-site tutorial or information Youtube video for first-time users. Staff at the Registrar’s Office aren’t even fully equipped to use the new program.
Another piece of technology at Queen’s that needs improving is Webmail. With email functioning as a primary mode of communication, the 100Mb inbox of Webmail is limiting. Restrictions on singular email sizes are troubling as well.
With the current popularity of smartphones, Webmail should be tweaked to make pairing your inbox with a phone simpler. As it stands now, installing Webmail on a smartphone is like navigating a maze.
Tech glitches have also been rife in the AMS’s online voting system. This year, some alumni were able to vote, while some eligible students weren’t. If problems like these aren’t repaired, the AMS should consider reverting back to a paper ballot system.
Otherwise a shadow is cast on an already low voter turnout. It’s better to have an inefficient system, as long as it ensure a credible democratic process.


-Journal Editorial Board

ORT donation builds bridge
February 10, 2012

This year’s on-campus concert earned $5,000 during Frosh Week 2011. The
money was donated to Kingston General Hospital with an intended focus on youth mental health.
Orientation Round Table (ORT) is responsible for co-ordinating Frosh Week. The organization should be commended for giving back to the Kingston community while also retaining a Queen’s focus.
Queen’s tends to be insular, often to students’ disadvantage. It’s important that students make a point of building relationships with community groups. Kingston should be a priority alongside Queen’s.
Mental health is an ongoing concern on our campus, and it’s laudable that ORT’s donation managed to support mental health and wellbeing for Kingston as a whole.

The budget surplus came from over-estimating the cost of the Frosh Week concert — this was the first time since 2008 that it was held on campus. Hosting the concert on campus eliminates costs like transportation and venue fees. From 2008 to 2010, the concert has been held off campus at the K-Rock Centre or Fort Henry. Moving the Frosh Week concert back to campus is a win for ORT and Queen’s students.
The change in venue this year was made possible by a city council decision, exempting the concert from noise bylaws.
KGH was instrumental in city council’s decision. The hospital wrote a statement of support for ORT, condoning the concert.
As one of the places inconvenienced most severely by the concert, it was exceptional of KGH to support it. Giving money back to the hospital’s mental health program works as a gesture from ORT to those who’ve helped them.
Events like Homecoming and Frosh Week impose on the Kingston community, and the noise can be disruptive.
Fostering a healthy working relationship with the city will encourage community members to tolerate our events.
While the donation should be commended, it’s important to raise questions for the consideration of next year’s ORT. The donation may have had a different effect if given to Health, Counseling and Disabilities Services or the Peer Support Centre, both of which could use more resources.
But the money given to KGH’s psychiatry program will still help Queen’s students.
ORT has found a balance and other student groups need to take notice.


-Journal Editorial Board

Donation would better serve HCDS
February 14, 2012

Bell Canada has pledged $1 million over the next five years to create a mental health and anti-stigma research chair at Queen’s.
The announcement was made on Feb. 7.
The $1 million is a generous donation from Bell, but it’s not likely to make a significant impact on mental wellness at Queen’s. The University shouldn’t herald the donation as a triumph because it won’t impact front-line services.
The establishment of the research chair is useful for treating issues of mental health, but the priority should be on improving care. Attention needs to be given to Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) to provide more counselors for students seeking help. Bell’s donation could have helped to ameliorate this problem.

Heather Stuart, a professor of epidemiology and community health, will hold the research chair position until Bell’s funding expires.
Dr. Stuart’s fieldwork may yield important results, but there’s no guarantee that it will bring about tangible benefits. Research funding won’t harm Queen’s, but $1 million over five years could pay for a counsellor’s salary, with money to spare.
Bell should be commended for donating money to a worthwhile project like improving mental health. The Let’s Talk campaign, which has promised a total of $50 million over five years to mental health-related programs, targets an often overlooked aspect of wellness.
Bell’s Chair of Board Thomas O’Neill said other corporations haven’t explored mental health initiatives, prompting Bell to choose it as a focus. Establishing Bell as a frontrunner in this particular strand of philanthropy is a wise move.
The publicity elicited from the Let’s Talk campaign will pay back in dividends, as the program has received ample media attention.
Research funded by corporations should be regarded cautiously, but it helps pay for studies that would otherwise go unfunded.
Queen’s has become the de facto centre of mental health concerns among post-secondary schools since a series of student deaths in 2010.
It’s important that the conversation be opened on issues of mental health, but immediate and substantive action needs to be taken as well.
The University needs to realize that Bell’s donation is a small step forward. Students are waiting to see substantive change — shorter wait times at HCDS would be a good start.


-Journal Editorial Board

Mental health still a priority
March 16, 2012

A mental health forum held on March 7 in the JDUC had a low turnout, with only 30 people in attendance. The poor showing prompted concerns that mental health issues are no longer a priority for students.
The empty seats were a frustrating gesture from the student body, the Journal’s Ed Board included. Attention paid to mental health issues may have dwindled, but support for everything ebbs and flows.
The forum was organized by the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health, launched in September 2011 following a string of student death. The commission plans to submit a report to Principal Woolf in April outlining the state of mental health on campus.
Holding forums on mental health is an important avenue for gauging student opinion, but the poor turnout for the event points to a breakdown on both sides of the issue.
The forum could have been better marketed by the University.Queen’s administrators continue to struggle in engaging students online. They should have made a Facebook page to advertise.
The mental health forum was an empowering event, one where students got to have their say and impact the commission’s report. It should have been marketed as an empowering event, and not just another town hall meeting others.
It’s also concerning that the commission has been functioning all year and still has yet to draft a report. It’s due next month. There should be a draft circulating so that criticisms can be solicited.
Gathering opinions and information is the first step to making prescriptions for mental health services on campus.
That said, students also have the agency to engage in the process. Student leaders including those in the AMS should have been in attendance, and marketed the forum to their constituents.
Concerns for mental health may have receded for the moment in the place of other issues, like the recent Kony 2012 phenomenon, but it’s a discussion that will always reappear.
Awareness campaigns like Queen’s Wears Green, which happened last October, aren’t practical to run year-long but mental health is always on students’ minds.
Students know all too well how important mental health issues are on this campus. Mental health may be out of the spotlight, but it hasn’t been forgotten.
Let’s hope the Principal’s commission holds another forum, and this time more than 30 people show up.


-Journal Editorial Board

More than folders
September 21, 2012

The new mental health initiative, Green Folders, is a good step forward, but will hopefully be followed by more ambitious and effective projects.
The folders, which offer a four-sided page of resources on warning signs for a variety of mental health issues, definitely help to increase awareness about mental healthcare on campus.

Most professors and TAs have little to no knowledge on these issues, so it gives them a gateway to recognize and address problems that are clearly visible in their classes.
That being said, a folder still only provides very limited resources — four pages doesn’t encompass all of the stressors and difficulties that students may face.
On top of that, mental health issues are unfortunately not always clearly on display in class.
A folder won’t teach professors how to build closer, more caring relationships with their students — that would require a larger cultural shift in teaching on campus.
The school could easily take further steps towards helping train faculty and staff to deal with these sorts of issues more effectively.
For example, with accessibility issues at Queen’s, an online training was set up to give people resources on how to cater to someone with specific accessibility needs. While the online aspect of it can lead people to engage less actively with the material they’re supposed to learn, the intention of implementing a training model is a positive one.
Enrolling each professor and TA into a special seminar or course offered by the university to help them understand and pinpoint mental health issues, while also teaching them to reach out to students and create a safe space, would be a good next step.
One thing is undeniable — it’ll be far more constructive than simply handing them a four-page folder of information. A folder doesn’t make a mentor or a confidant out of a professor — it only gives them a basic understanding of the issues they might encounter.
These folders are a positive step forward, but, at the end of the day, offer only a quick Band-Aid solution to the larger, more complex problem.
Professors and TAs need more than just a folder — they need constructive and effective training and to change the way they approach teaching.

-Journal Editorial Board

Too Perfect
September 25, 2012
Alison Shouldice

Good grades, sleep or a social life. Pick two.
It’s something students joke about, but it’s a sad reality. There’s an underlying expectation of perfection on Canadian university campuses, and it’s something few students can live up to.
Three years ago, I graduated from high school as a top student, where hard work would mean top marks.
This quickly changed when I arrived at Queen’s. My first-year marks could only be described as mediocre, and three years later, they still haven’t fully recovered.
When I was in second year, I dealt with a short bout of depression that coincided with an extremely stressful academic time. I think it would be naïve to say the two weren’t interrelated.
Luckily, I recovered on my own, but many other students struggling with mental health issues aren’t as lucky.
It’s no wonder young people, especially university students, have such a high rate of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
A 2005 survey of Ontario university students found that 42 per cent felt elevated distress during their time in post-secondary education. When I look at the current university structure and the vulnerabilities faced by our age group, I see a formula for disaster.
If I graduated this year with a 4.3 GPA but didn’t have one extracurricular activity on my resume, there’s no doubt my lack of involvement on campus would be questioned by prospective employers.
We’re expected to be perfect in an imperfect world. We’re told we can’t choose between good grades, extracurriculars, our health and a social life — we must have them all.
Those students who don’t pick two but make an attempt to fulfill every expectation are the ones who risk undue stress and mental illness. The expectation for perfection on campuses needs to change. We need to continue raising awareness on these issues and discuss potential solutions to the larger problem.
We students may be young and vibrant, but we’re not superhuman.
Alison is one of the Features Editors at the Journal.

Fighting stigma
October 26, 2012
Holly Tousignant

Mental illness stigma has been at the centre of frequent and ongoing dialogue at Queen’s.
With the creation of the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health and the anti-stigma research chair position and the work of a number of student-led initiatives, it’s become a priority on our campus.
I’m grateful for the dialogue, but I wish it didn’t so often portray stigma as an abstract, intangible concept rather than a very real method of oppression. Stigma is bad, we’re told, but we rarely explore how it’s used or exactly what its effects are.
In my years-long battle with depression and anxiety, I’ve hit many low points both in my emotional well-being and my dignity.
One of the biggest blows to the latter came when I was in my first year at Queen’s, in the midst of what was then my worst depressive episode to date. I hadn’t been thinking rationally and I’d let an essay slip by, along with all of my other obligations.

My TA had already agreed to mark the paper, but I was still prepared for the professor to say no when I brought him my counsellor-signed request for an extension.
What I hadn’t been prepared for was his disgust, and him telling me I couldn’t expect to last in university looking for “special treatment” like that. I didn’t tell him he was wrong because I wasn’t sure that he was.
The professor ultimately let me submit the paper, but I held onto his words for years, playing them over in my mind whenever I had to shamefully ask for “special treatment” to accommodate my illness.
I also remembered the words of friends who told me they thought people with mental illness should just stop “whining about their problems.” I’d been made to feel ashamed, and that shame often prevented me from seeking the help I so badly needed.
The root of these feelings was the thing we’ve all heard so much about: stigma.
The way we talk about stigma reminds me of something novelist Teju Cole wrote in a March essay in The Atlantic.
In the essay, he notes that although we’re talking more about issues like racism, misogyny and homophobia, we’re still hesitant to actually call anyone racist, misogynistic or homophobic.
But oppression can’t exist without oppressors, just as stigma can’t exist without stigmatizers.
If we’re going to continue this dialogue on stigma, we need to stop being afraid of calling it out when we see it.
Accusing someone of stigmatizing may cause hurt feelings, but the risks of its continued perpetration are far greater.
Holly is the News Editor at the Journal.

Team BGP gets the green light
January 29, 2013

For an explanation of how the endorsement process works, see here.
The Journal believes that team BGP will be the best executive in place for next year’s AMS.
Team BGP won the Editorial Board vote with 10 in favour and seven abstentions.
Team TNL received three votes and team PDA received two.
Over half of those who abstained stated they did so due to a personal relationship with one of the candidates, while others admitted they felt little confidence in any of the teams.
In the initial round of the discussion, conversations were dominated by praises of TNL.
But, Team BGP won the endorsement vote due to their emphasis on bringing about a much-needed change that students desire.
TNL had a strong team dynamic — it was clear that they all respected each other.
As a team of insiders, TNL also brought necessary experience but failed to convince the Editorial Board how they would dismantle the “AMS clique.”
Their plan to build a bridge connecting the JDUC and the Queen’s Centre also doesn’t represent what students actually want or need.
PDA’s campaign and platform, both based on critical and financial accountability, was commendable. However, their high-strung and hard-liner attitudes didn’t seem to indicate a more inclusive or approachable AMS.
BGP offered something different — a mix of idealism and practicality. Their focus on both the arts and the LGBTQ communities — typically marginalized groups at Queen’s — is refreshing and indicative of the change in mindset they’ll bring to the AMS. Their plan to bring Queen’s WiFi to the Student Ghetto seems too idealistic given that the Queen’s wireless network is often unreliable and would be more so with an increased volume of users.
While the team is dynamic, their leadership has potential to be shaky.
Presidential candidate Eril Berkok isn’t nearly as aggressive as his two competitors — as evidenced by last week’s presidential debate — but he still offers an effective leadership style. His experience as Student Senate Caucus Chair and former COMPSA president are assets to dealing with the administration, the City and faculty societies.
If elected, Berkok will have to ensure that his approachable nature doesn’t make him a pushover when standing up for student’s needs. Similarly, vice-president of operations candidate Peter Green has a steep learning curve ahead of him. While his external experience is notable, he lacks the internal experience that his teammates bring.
Vice-president of university affairs candidate T.K. Pritchard, who had admitted defeat in last year’s executive race, remained one of the strongest candidates in the overall campaign and consistently outshone his teammates in the conversation. His love for Queen’s and his commitment to mental health and LGBTQ issues is palpable.
The other front runner in the campaign period, TNL’s Nicola Plummer, brought poise, experience and approachability.She didn’t shy away from tough questions and had a thorough understanding of what her portfolio entailed. Her commerce background and previous experience managing large budgets make her a stronger vice-president of operations candidate than BGP’s Green.
Liam Faught, team TNL’s candidate for the position, seemed less well-versed in his position than Plummer, but he brought both internal experience and a likeable demeanor.
Troy Sherman, the TNL presidential candidate, was clearly well-versed in town-gown issues, but his rhetoric often seemed disingenuous.
PDA’s Alexander Prescott was a stronger presidential candidate and if placed at the helm of the AMS, he would be highly effective and diligent in bringing about change to the student government. Unfortunately, PDA’s abrasive and arrogant attitudes weigh down Prescott’s strengths.
Vice-president of university affairs candidate Lisa Acchione was the weakest link of the entire campaign. She consistently seemed out of place and overpowered by her teammates throughout the campaign period.
While Craig Draeger, vice-president of operations candidate, would be a financially savvy leader, he placed more emphasis on criticizing questions asked than explaining how he would help create a more inclusive AMS.
No one on team PDA was able to effectively answer a question about the tangible steps they would take to be approachable to students. This was the team’s biggest detractor for the Editorial Board.
In this executive race, TNL proved to be the team that would maintain the AMS the way it is, and PDA encouraged a drastic and un-inclusive overhaul.
Neither is desirable; the AMS needs a cultural change and BGP’s inclusive and realistic platform and friendly demeanor makes them the team that should be in office.

-Journal Editorial Board

Student athletes deserve more
September 13, 2013

A former Bishop’s University football player has sued the school after they refused to pay his medical bills following a concussion sustained during a football game two years ago. The 23-year-old’s entire right side was paralyzed as a result of the incident and he’s only just recently regained the ability to walk. During the game in question, the player was allegedly sent back out onto the field after complaining of concussion-like symptoms.
No student should ever pay the high price that this player has. In addition to demanding extra vigilance from coaches, universities could do more to compensate athletes for their injuries.
While athletes do have personal discretion, coaches have the final say when it comes to whether an athlete is fit to continue playing. Student athletes, particularly football players, face incredible social pressure from teammates and the wider campus culture to perform well and be tough for the sake of winning games. As such, they have a huge conflict of interest when it comes to deciding if they’re able to play with an injury. Coaches should use the training they have and take the utmost precaution when it comes to brain injuries like the one in question here.
The university’s assertion that they can’t identify a significant hit which caused the young man’s injury is suspicious. The nature of concussions is that many small impacts can add up and create a larger issue. In general, brain injuries can’t always be tracked back to a specific incident.
It’s good to see that there is a burgeoning debate about paying student athletes in the United States.
While you often hear the claim that Canadian athletes don’t make their schools any money, it’s hard to calculate the value of a program like Queen’s football in terms of Queen’s reputation as a university. Greater compensation for Canadian student athletes should certainly be considered.
While the current discourse about student mental health is very positive, we can’t forget about student physical health. The athletes who put their bodies on the line for our excitement deserve greater compensation and care.


-Journal Editorial Board

Mental training
February 13, 2014
Olivia Bowden

Helping a friend battle a mental illness is easier said than done.
You’ve gone through all the motions that every anti-stigma campaign has encouraged you to do. This friend now feels comfortable enough to tell you that they are having a difficult time — they might even say they don’t want to live anymore.
Once you know a friend is suffering, what’s the next step? Trying to convince someone that their situation isn’t permanent, and that it’s possible to handle their mental illness is a difficult task. You can be left feeling helpless.
As Queen’s continues to make mental health a priority, there needs to be more guidance here for those who want to help others.
As a campus, it seems we’ve decided collectively to support those with mental illness. During the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, I saw virtually everyone on Facebook or Twitter participate.
We’ve also done a great job of tackling stigma. Groups such as the Queen’s Mental Health Awareness Committee (MHAC) and the Jack Project have done an admirable job of erasing stigma about mental illness and working towards ensuring we’ll never have a string of deaths like Queen’s saw in the 2010-11 school year.
Mike Condra, director of Health, Counseling and Disability Services (HCDS) said there’s been over 6,000 Queen’s community members in the past six years who came in for counseling.
Now that we’ve tackled stigma, we need to learn how to actually help when someone asks for support. HCDS recommends listening to those suffering from mental illness and to refer them to a counselor.
However, in my experience, simply hearing someone out and telling them to seek help isn’t enough. Attempting to comfort through words of care and concern isn’t enough either. It’s just a small first step.
Just as someone working at a suicide hotline is trained on how to talk someone down from a suicide attempt, we all need to know tangible ways to respond to our friends seeking help.
If that extra effort isn’t made, those suffering will be discouraged from opening up. Saying “it’s ok”, or “I know how you feel” won’t always be what they need from you.
Supporting a friend who is suffering requires a lot more attention and investment then an anti-stigma campaign can provide. We need to be taught how to help.

Speak loud
September 17, 2014
Chloe Sobel

Every morning when I get up, I go to the bathroom. I eat breakfast. I brush my teeth. And then I pour a glass of water, find my pillbox and take a pill containing 100mg of sertraline, better known by its trade name: Zoloft.
I started taking Zoloft right before second-year to deal with severe anxiety, depression and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. My history with mental illness is long and genetic. I started having panic attacks in high school and spent a year fearing that either I wasn’t real or the entire world around me wasn’t.
I was aware of how completely insane it was. I believed it anyway.
In first-year, I became depressed, and rarely left my house that summer. It took me until the end of the summer to finally see my psychiatrist, who’d once told me she wouldn’t prescribe anyone medication unless she truly felt they needed it.
I told her I wanted to be on medication. She agreed.
I don’t go out of my way to mention it, but my mental illness is a part of me. I never thought anyone really thought anything of that until one of my friends confessed their own struggles with depression to me. They said they’d heard me casually mention it once, months ago, and known then that I would understand.
My feelings were mixed: I was sad to learn that my friend suffered from depression, too. But I also realized then how important it is that, as someone suffering from mental illness, I talk about it.
People without a mental illness have a place within the mental health conversation. But ultimately, the words of allies are hollow unless they follow the voices of people who actually suffer from mental illness.
There are a number of reasons people with mental illnesses don’t talk about their illness. One is that they don’t think mental illness is as valid a health problem as physical ailments. Another is that people seem to think mental illness is temporary.
For many, though, mental illness is a lifelong struggle. Maybe my brain wasn’t wired like this before high school. Maybe it was. But I’ll struggle with anxiety, depression and OCD for the rest of my life — and so will many others with a mental illness.
That is why I’m honest about what I go through.
Everyone with a mental illness right now is potentially in it for the rest of their lives, and when you live this way, you need to know you’re not alone.
We can’t combat stigma unless we speak with honesty. Until stigma is no longer a concern, I’ll keep being honest, so that anyone who hears me knows they’re not alone.

Chloe is the Journal’s News Editor. She’s a fifth-year history major and Jewish studies minor.

Enrolment an avoidable Catch-22
January 23, 2015

Queen’s needs a systematic plan to address the inevitable strain that increased enrolment will place on valuable student services.
In 2013-14, 86 per cent of Queen’s total budgeted operating revenues came from tuition and operating grants from the provincial government — grants that increase as enrolment grows. With the cost of operating on the rise, Queen’s, like many universities, has sought to increase in size.
By 2016, Queen’s enrolment will increase by approximately 1,500 students — an expansion the University said will be accommodated with the addition of 550 beds in two new residences and a new food outlet on campus.
Queen’s efforts to garner funds are understandable, considering the school’s precarious financial state in recent years. But the absence of a plan to mitigate the inevitable strain expansion will place on student services is worrisome.
Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) is a critical service that, with only two part-time psychiatrists, is already stretched thin. Mental health is a serious concern at Queen’s; the University needs to be proactive in further supporting HCDS and other services so that students have unrestricted access.
While the addition of two residences was a good move and swiftly executed, 550 new beds can only do so much. International and upper-year students won’t be living in residence, placing a large strain on the housing situation in Kingston.
It’s irresponsible to accept students without being sure of how you’re going to support them. With this risk on the horizon, the University needs ensure any enrolment increases are actually sustainable.

-Journal Editorial Board

Let’s talk binge drinking
January 30, 2015


The Queen’s community should take a look at the impact of excessive drinking on student health and safety.
According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment survey, Queen’s students consume significantly more alcohol than the average Canadian student. Of Queen’s students who consume alcohol, 57 per cent reported binge drinking (five or more drinks) in the two weeks leading up to the survey — much higher than the national average of 36 per cent.
1.9 per cent of students reported engaging in sex without either their or someone else’s consent after drinking; 23.9 per cent reported physically injuring themselves and 2.7 per cent reported considering suicide. The 2010 deaths of two Queen’s students were found to be alcohol-related.
A public discomfort surrounds conversations on excessive alcohol consumption — often because comments can come across as moralizing.
But the issue facing students isn’t ethical — it’s one of health and safety.

The Queen’s community has done a good job in promoting mental health education. Conversations around excessive drinking, though, have been neglected.
It’s easier to talk about mental health, in a sense, because there’s nothing to blame but the illness itself. That’s not the case with alcohol.
In a community where 91.8 per cent of students consume alcohol and 34 per cent have reported having “felt so depressed it was difficult to function”, we can’t talk about one without addressing the other.
While the numbers for binge drinking are high, they aren’t necessarily surprising for Queen’s.
Alcohol — and the glorification of excessive drinking — is entrenched in many of Queen’s traditions, such as frosh week and Homecoming.
Queen’s emphasizes being a part of a community. But while alcohol can be a useful social tool for starting friendships and networking, the current culture at Queen’s often pressures students to turn those one or two beers into a consistent binge.
A student-led and University-supported initiative needs to take place — one that not only educates students on how to drink responsibly, but that pressuring others to drink beyond their desires or capacity can be harmful.
This can’t be a one-time campaign or an overloaded one-hour session during Orientation Week. It should be a sustained conversation that continues throughout the year for all students.
Student governments and societies should be at the forefront of this, because they have a much better sense of what they and their peers are experiencing.
The administration also has a part to play.
PrincipalWoolf has publicly expressed his disappointment in the partying habits of Queen’s students during events such as Homecoming. But the University can’t distance itself from its students and demonize their behaviour when convenient.
Instead, they should support and invest in the wellbeing and safety of their students, and further promote health services that students can turn to.
Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of students to continue this conversation around excessive drinking — no matter how difficult or awkward it is.

-Journal Editorial Board

How not to talk to students: an administrator's guide
September 15, 2015

Reactive blaming and shaming without discretion was the wrong move for Principal Daniel Woolf’s PR team.
Earlier this week, Queen’s students received an email from Woolf that condemned students’ behaviour during Frosh Week.
Students held a large street party on University Ave., surrounded and damaged a car, and threw a beer bottle at a police cruiser. Large numbers of intoxicated students also swarmed the pier and jumped into Lake Ontario.
Woolf also posted his email on his Twitter account and blog so that they could be viewed by the public at large.
While students’ conduct was highly reprehensible, several suggestions made in Woolf’s email weren’t constructive or are downright contradictory.
Despite admitting that the school has made significant progress since the events of 2005 — which resulted in the five-year cancellation of Homecoming — Woolf can’t help himself from threatening to cancel the event again.
Last fall, Woolf hailed the ReUnion Street Festival as a success, and expressed hope that it would become a traditional event that would create a safe Homecoming for students and alumni.
But despite his expressed support, the University has not provided any funding for the festival, citing both a tight budget and concern over how funding a street party would be publically perceived.
Punishing harmful behaviour by refusing to fund efforts that provide a solution to this behaviour is both counter-productive and potentially detrimental to students and Kingstonians.
By publishing this email outside of private communication with students, the administration also raises some concerns about whether it prioritizes students’ well-being, or the University’s public image.
Alongside mentions of taking “pride in this university”, “an embarrassment to … the university as a whole” and “reputational damage,” Woolf referred to the deaths of 2010. This reference is deeply inappropriate in this context.
Presumably, Woolf is referring to the alcohol-related, accidental deaths of two students at the beginning of the 2010 school year, and not to the later incidents of suicide that raised serious concerns about the school’s mental health services.
The deaths of six students in 2010 — both alcohol and mental health related — should indicate that there’s a deeper problem at Queen’s than what wagging a finger will fix.
It’s long past the point where we’ve identified Queen’s drinking culture as a serious problem. Instead of publicly pontificating, the administration should turn its attention to resolutions.
Drinking at Queen’s is often more than an indulgence. For some students, the culture is so persistent that joining in is an expectation, even an obligation.
But, the actions of many students — from cleaning up streets and the pier to crowd-funding to repair damages — indicates that students aren’t incapable of behaving properly.
If the University is unprepared to meet the challenge of their current student body, their move to increase enrolment should have us all questioning whether this space is prepared for an influx of even more students.
One resolution that Woolf suggests is that senior students exercise leadership. However this expectation is at odds with the University’s constant interference in normally student-led endeavours.
For example, the Commerce Orientation Week was placed under probation, which set strict hiring restrictions by the University that limited student’s ability to make decisions regarding what’s normally a student-run project.
Woolf furthermore states that, “we need the entire student body to work together.” But his email has already had a divisive effect, with many upper years taking to social media to blame first years.
Instead of making first years feel accepted and welcomed, they were given an abrupt initiation into the worst side of Queen’s culture that may have irreparably tainted their relationship to the university, its principal and other students.
Despite straight A’s for condescension, Woolf’s letter to his student body missed the boat on diplomacy.

-Journal Editorial Board

Cracking the code of a fall reading week
December 3, 2015

A Fall Reading Week at Queen’s could be the light in the middle of the tunnel, but that shouldn’t be at the cost of the light at the end.
Queen’s Senate Committee on Academic Procedures (SCAP) created a Fall Reading Week proposal that suggests starting the school year a week earlier, adding extra instructional days, and eliminating two days from the break between classes and the exam period to accommodate a break. In the end, SCAP and the University’s Senate will be the ones to approve the proposal.
Many Canadians universities are embracing the Fall Reading Week, recognizing that students are especially vulnerable to mental illness.
Implementing a Fall Reading Week, while a small measure, has the potential to prevent the stress that leads to mental health issues.
Many students already take every opportunity to travel home. Some even skip classes to lengthen their time with family.
Having an official break from classes would allow students who live farther away, or who don’t have the finances for travel costs, to justify travelling home — minus the added strain of making up for missed classes.
However, since student wellness is the reason behind a Fall Reading Week, it only stands to reason that students should be a part of the process.
In November, the AMS hosted two town hall meetings to garner student feedback on the SCAP proposal. However, the small portion of students who went to these meetings don’t represent the concerns of the whole.
To get a better sense of student needs, the University could present potential proposals to students, survey them for their opinions and conduct a student vote. Ultimately, the decision should come from the student body, and not the University Senate.
The importance of student input is essential, because the last thing we want is a break that creates more problems than it solves.
Parts of SCAP’s proposal seems to stem from a misunderstanding of how students operate — for example, taking away crucial time for studying at the most stressful time of term. Two precious days to study for exams can mean the difference between a pass and a fail. Trading in strategic days for the sake of alleviating stress would, ironically, only add stress by making it harder to budget time for exams.
A potential solution — instead of cutting short the exam study period — would be to scale back Orientation Week by a day or two. This would still allow for the tradition to continue, but could add a couple of desperately needed study days in the right places.
When weighed against improving your classmates’ mental health, it doesn’t seem too high a cost.

-Journal Editorial Board

With one counselor for 4,000 grad students, something doesn’t add up
January 12, 2016

Grad students live with one foot in the harsh reality of the working world, and the other in the anxieties and financial instability of student life.
As students, grad students don’t receive the same benefits that an employer would owe its employees. But as employees, their needs aren’t catered to like your average undergrad. Grad students fall in between — and somehow, they often lose out on both worlds.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the mental health resources available to grad students.
Grad students face a unique set of circumstances — high stress and frequent loneliness — that make them particularly vulnerable to severe mental illness.
They spend a lot of time working alone and carry heavy workloads that combine their own research with teaching and all its responsibilities, leaving little time for socializing.
In the long-term, the function and role of grad students needs to be reevaluated to resolve its systemic issues.
In the short-term, better support is needed. Currently, there is only one grad counselor, who is also in the midst of completing his own post-graduate work.
Financially strapped as the University is, calls for more funding and more resources often fall on deaf ears. With that in mind, here are things we could do within existing resources to alleviate grad students’ stress:
Increasing students’ access to different forms of counseling is beneficial. The Online Psychology Network that opened to undergraduate students this year is an example of ways to work creatively within our existing resources to offer better mental health services.
The Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) currently offers a peer-advising service and organizes social activities. However, with their current restructuring, some of these activities have fallen by the wayside.
The onus is on the SGPS to make an effort to address the concerns of their members as best they can. With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to start from a foundation of indisputable knowledge.
The SGPS and Student Wellness Services (SWS, formerly HCDS) can work together to gather data to create a conclusive picture of the prevalence and nature of issues among grad students. For instance, UBC’s Grad Student Society recently launched a website where grad students can confidentially submit their stories about discrimination or harassment. Something similar, but focused on mental health at Queen’s, would give SWS and the SGPS a better idea of the challenges they’re facing.
Another potential option for data gathering is the upcoming 2016 NCHA Student Health and Wellness Survey, which will be conducted this February. Based on the 2013 data published by Queen’s, the survey’s questions seem to be more undergraduate-focused. However, it could be an opportunity for better understanding graduate difficulties.
We make these suggestions with supporting grad students in mind, so counselors can focus on serious mental health concerns.
At the end of the day, the SGPS is made up of students who may be dealing with the same problems they’re trying to fix for their peers. While the SGPS has a role to advocate and investigate, they can only do so much before the next step is to direct someone to the proper professional resources. But that only works if those resources exist.
We can talk about peer societies and student-run resources until we’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t change the bottom line: there needs to be more than one counselor for 4,000 grad students. Unavoidably, that means allocating more funding will be necessary.
Grad students need counselors who understand their circumstances. Otherwise, counselling has about the same effectiveness of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
But the only counselor designated specifically for grad students is so overworked that soon we're going to need a counselor for the counselor.

-Journal Editorial Board

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