Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Queen's Moves Fall Homecoming to Springtime

Well well well ... those damn kids have finally got theres! After years of being tsk tsked at, and warnings, and 'if I have to talk to you one more time I'm going to pepper spray you's, Queen's University has finally decided to take away the favourite toy of their students - the beer bottle-throwing, alcohol-poison inducing, car-burning hoe-down which is the Aberdeen Street Party, held every year over Homecoming Weekend in the Kingston Student Ghetto.

OK, before I go any further, and offend the like, one or two people I know who still defend this 'cheerful' event, I want to make clear that

  1. I'm being at least a little facetious. Sarcasm aside, I know that most people who attend Aberdeen every fall are good kids who want to be a part of what has become a tradition. I just think, after the last four years, that considering this simply a party and a good-time event, as opposed to what it has become - a riot - is more than a bit naive, and I question at least the judgement of anyone who goes near that street on that night at this point. I went ... once ... the year before it really turned into a riot; I left with my best friend at the time to pick up my then-fiance (now-husband) and we then returned - Ari and I didn't really want to go back when we realized we could hear glass breaking two blocks away (and keeping in mind, again, that this was before the party got really 'bad'). We DID go because J was braver than we were, but we left within 5 minutes. Simply put, even as a group, even with each other, we didn't feel safe. That's the reality, and THAT's the tradition.
  2. I also want to make clear this isn't an age thing, or a prudish thing. I am 26 years old, first of all, not THAT far out of my pub-visiting, dancing in crowds, having a drink-or-two days. I'm the first person to get offended by 'kids today' speeches. I think these new traffic laws passed this week by the Ontario Liberal government picking on kids, instead of just poor drivers generally, are nonsense. So don't think I'm on one of those kicks. It is in fact because I feel young people - especially educated ones who are supposed to represent the future of our country - deserve to be represented better, that this bothers me. And that representation starts with themselves. As far as prudishness, I am a wrestling fan, and when you talk the offensiveness, crowds, and the kind of crowds, involved in those events, trust me, I have a strong stomach. Nor am I judgemental - while I am no partier, I respect people who are and as long as they do so safely and don't do harm to anyone else, I'm cool with that. So I want to make clear this isn't me being a terribly uncool jerk.
  3. I went to Queen's, and think it is a fabulous school with fabulous faculty and students - this isn't an indictment of them whatsoever.
  4. That also means I heard all the defenses of Aberdeen. The first can be summed up in one word ' TRADITION'. This is a tradition, benig hard partiers, being an unsanitized and rough and tumble school, all that. Well you know what? Antisemitism was also 'traditional'; so was women not being able to vote. 'Traditional' marriage shuts out an entire, significant minority of our society. Not good enough. 'It's a harmless party, kids having fun' - vandalism is not harmless. Throwing beer bottles at emergency crews are not harmless. This is not a party, it is a riot. 'They started it, the anti-intellectual, ungrateful townie jerks and the heavy-handed police with riot gear' - OK. Perhaps. In fact, I would even go so far as to say, exactly. I don't disagree that Kignston's closed-minded, anti-youth, anti-intellectual bent is aggravating. But is that the standard we educated folks are holding for OURSELVES now? Is throwing beer bottles at 'pigs' honestly going to improve their perception - and thus their treatment - of students? Or earn any public sympathy in Kingston or elsewhere?
  5. Lastly, I know this isn't a Queen's problem to a certain degree - a lot of kids come from out of town and ruin it for people who are partying 'right'. But the bottom line is keggers are still happening in homes rented by Queen's students; and people are only coming because they know about this party. How is that? If they don't know better, but Queen's students do, then QUEEN'S STUDENTS should have the maturity to pull the plug on the Frankenstein monster they created.
Having established all that - and my main points therein, as it turns out - the Frankenstein monster comparison is apt. I don't think that Queen's students are any less innocent than Dr. Frankenstein in terms of the monster they've created in this party - but they need to take responsibility for it. They've been warned the event could be canceled, and it has turned into an annual 'fight the man' protest - and not even a peaceful one, it is a riot. They had their chances, and they lost it upon being warned fair and square. They were given the opportunity to meet with community groups - this came to little. It's unfortunate relations between the Kingston community and Queen's students is so terrible, and that is NOT all, or even largely, the Queen's students' fault - but there is always something to be said for being the bigger and more mature people ... something I'm not sure Gaels are particularly good at sometimes.

Queen's - we have a school, and an alma mater to be proud of. Its reputation should not be lowered by crazy partying to the point of danger. I think it's time we shed the 'entitled, spoiled rich kids at winter camp' PERCEPTION (however incorrect it may be), and take responsibility that STUDENTS dropped the ball here after many chances to try to clean things up and get it right. I'm afraid that's not what's going to happen though. It's sad - but alumni going to their 'reunions' are not going to have the same opportunity to interact with students in the springtime as they do in the fall, or a football game to attend; which would be worth it and will be worth it if this works. My only fear is that Queen's students will let those of us who are proud of our school down by trying to organize a big blowout on Aberdeen come the fall anyway - and this time angrier and more dangerous than before. And as tempting as that might be, to stick the thumb in the eye of 'the man', the only thing I can say then is, no good will come of it - and you've been warned. :P

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