Queen’s task force to help curb large unsanctioned street parties sparks hope for change

Click to play video: 'Queen’s University set to create a task force to address large, unsanctioned, street parties'
Queen’s University set to create a task force to address large, unsanctioned, street parties
Principal Patrick Deane is creating a task force to come up with solutions to curb large nuisance parties in the University District – Feb 16, 2022

Locals hope the promise of a new task force announced by the principal of Queen’s University does what is needed to curb student behaviour that has taken a toll on area residents and police.

Shauna Solomon has lived in the Sydenham District, in downtown Kingston, Ont., for the last five years with her family.

She says while students attending nearby Queen’s University add vibrancy to the area, the partying is getting worse.

“Things have just gotten out of hand” said Solomon while out on a walk through the neighbourhood.

She says the apparent impact of student neighbours – trashed houses, litter, broken glass and disrespect for the surrounding community – needs to change.

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She’s hopeful a new task force will do something about it.

“Local input is what is really needed for that,” said Solomon.

“There are lots of people that are really keen to share their experience and to find a joint solution because obviously the past solutions are just not working anymore. We need something better that works for everyone.”

Click to play video: 'Town and gown leaders make a plea against large street parties as the first of two Queen’s Homecoming weekends get underway.'
Town and gown leaders make a plea against large street parties as the first of two Queen’s Homecoming weekends get underway.

The task force, announced Tuesday, will be made up of student leaders, city officials and emergency responders.

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Community input will also be considered.

“We care about the health and well being of our community,” said Principal Patrick Deane.

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“We have a lot riding on making sure that the return to in-person learning is a positive thing for the Kingston community and not a negative one,” he added.

But Justin Connidis, a board member on the Sydenham District Association, says he hopes community association representatives can become members of the task force and not just be invited to make comments.

“Based on past experience,” wrote Connidis in an email, (feedback and comments) “are ignored and community consultation appears to be window dressing.”

Connidis says Queen’s has limited spaces on campus for students to gather with their own food and drink and would like to see the University encourage parties and events on campus writing: “It is no surprise that student events were forced to move off-campus. Queen’s should go back to encouraging parties and student events to be in residence and elsewhere on campus where support is available and students can learn responsible drinking and party habits while in a relatively safe environment.”

Mayor Bryan Paterson says the fall of 2021 stands out to him for some of the worst behaviour seen in the University District.

Kingston police reported bottles were thrown at officers, cruisers were damaged and an officer was assaulted.

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All this occurring, despite the large fines handed out under the city’s “nuisance party by-law.”

“I’ve been very clear with the students that we want you to enjoy your time here, we want you to have fun but I’m convinced there are ways to be able to do that, that don’t require large unsanctioned parties that are disruptive and disrespectful to the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Paterson.

“Having Queen’s step forward and put this task force together I think is absolutely the right step in the right direction and as a city we will be happy to support it,” Paterson added.

The task force will be assembled in the coming weeks and will produce a report with recommendations in time for the new school year in September.

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