In preparation for Homecoming, Queen’s University, the City of Kingston and Kingston Police say they’re working to implement “wide-reaching communications efforts” ahead of Queen’s University’s Homecoming.
According to Queen’s, the communications efforts include a “social media campaign, door knocking in the University District, and providing supports such as food trucks, alcohol harm reduction education, alternate programming and events, and supervised recovery to encourage students to be safe and respect the community.”
The increased efforts follow an acknowledgement last year that “Kingston has struggled with recurring unsanctioned street parties that often accompany unsafe and disruptive behaviour.”
The university says that the behaviour has escalated through the use of social media, attracting thousands of students from outside the city.
Social media pages have been advertising that an unofficial “Foco” is slated to happen on the weekend of the 22nd, with another gathering planned during the official Homecoming weekend of October 28th.
As a result, the University District Safety Initiative (UDSI) will be in effect from Oct. 14 until Nov. 1 to “support community safety and mitigate risk associated with large gatherings.”
Under the UDSI, a fine or charge received could be retained as a permanent police record. Police warn that the record could result in “real impacts for future academic or career prospects.”
Ann Tierney, Dean of Student Affairs at Queen’s University is also encouraging students to be safe and respectful, while also being mindful of the strain that large street parties have on the local health care system.
“The university and our partners all recognize students are going to get together and socialize. What we are concerned about are potential safety risks and disruptions to the community, including climbing on roofs, breaking glass, blocking roadways, or disrespecting residents, other students, or first-responders,” Tierney said.
Safety a big concern for Kingston Police
In a statement to the media, Kingston Police Insp. Brian Pete is warning students to be mindful of who they’re partying with.
Pete says that over the 2021 homecoming weekend, Kingston Police were able to link suspects connected to a double homicide at a party in Victoria Park.
On the same evening, police were alerted to a stabbing that occurred just after 1.am.
Pete says these events should serve as a reminder that students “may not be just shoulder to shoulder with another student.”
The 2021 Homecoming weekend saw over $500,000 in monetary fines laid and Kingston Police spent $970,000 to control street parties.
Queen’s University contributed about $350,000 in controlling street parties. However, this did not go without controversy. The Alma Mater Society of Queen’s University, which serves as the student government for undergraduate students, put out a petition demanding that the funding be re-allocated to harm reduction.
“If this donation is meant to help alleviate the strains put on Kingston emergency services, this money should go to harm reduction measures and emergency services instead law enforcement,” the Queen’s AMS said in 2021.
This year, the AMS is actively encouraging students to take part in harm reduction activities.
“It is important for students to have a voice in the efforts to address student behaviours,” said Eric Sikich, President of the AMS. “We are working closely with the university and our community partners to help deliver important safety messages to students, offer educational opportunities to learn about the importance of harm reduction, and actively support safe partying with food trucks, water and Gatorade on campus.”
Residences are also closed to guests on the weekends of October 22-23 and October 29-30. Between October 28-31, Residence services will be offering alternate social activities to drinking for students who want them, including a movie night, a haunted house and paint night.
Queen’s University’s Task Force on Street Parties is expected to release a report making formal recommendations on tackling large unsanctioned parties later this fall.