Bleeding Tricolour: The 'Fauxcoming' farce at Queen's

Queen's killing Homecoming — excuse me, moving it to spring — was never about a street party, much less a football game.

It was about how one extreme breeds the other. This weekend typically would be homecoming at Queen's, with the Golden Gaels' football game vs. the York Lions serving as a centrepiece.

Instead, it's just another regular-season game, even as "Kingston hoteliers report strong business from Queen's graduates who plan to come to Kingston this weekend" (Whig-Standard) for what the kids are calling 'Fauxcoming.' Since the York-Queen's game figures to be a cakewalk, they can't all be coming for the game. The street party on Aberdeen St. is on like the fall of Saigon, which is what it has come to resemble.

What we had at Richardson Stadium was too good to lose. As Duane Rollins noted at the time of the decision to scrap Homecoming last November, "... we in Canada don't do nearly enough to take full advantage of homecoming weekends. Queen's was an exception." The mature reaction is to understand why something so valuable was lost.

It is a laugh riot to see the lack of perspective, on all sides. Nothing will change until those at either extreme get over themselves and admit they are each full of brown stuff. At one extreme is people carrying out the Ontario government's agenda of being more in people's faces than it has been at any point in relevant memory. The other extreme is people who are just out for a good time, come hell or a Ford Focus going up in flames.

The students and the partiers have acted like idiots and it's yob culture and a mob mentality run amok. They might be the least to blame in a fiasco which will probably only be curtailed when someone gets killed, but it will persist until someone tries to understand it, instead of just trying to sweep it under the rug.

The government does a lot for the populace, but you can see traces of its high-handedness in everyday life in Ontario. All sorts of admittedly anecdotal examples abound. The volume of speeding tickets handed out has increased markedly in the past five years, although people are not necessarily driving any faster. A community group cannot hold a bake sale or a potluck dinner without getting a visit from a health inspector (seriously). High schools suspend students at the drop of a hat (this is anecdotal, but at one of my previous jobs, I had to edit a story about suspension statistics for the local school board, and the numbers worked out to more than one person-day per student, really). You go to a Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre and those staffing the beer concession wear "We ID Under 30" buttons, rendering service-sector workers into rent-a-cops.

Why? They can. Might equals right, especially for a province which has seen its industrial base decline and needs the revenue. There is also probably trace amounts of the creeping corporatism which is hijacking higher education.

There are many people who service that agenda: The Queen's administration, Kingston police, the knobs on city councils past and present such as Bill Glover and Don Rogers and their echo chamber of fusspots who believe a city's relationship with its university should be a one-way street.

Please understand that this has turned universities to paranoid public relations vehicles. It's on them to realize this is total BS and show some leadership, rather than goose-stepping along. Universities are on the hot seat over any damaging, negative publicity, more so than at any point in recent memory. They're worried about applications dropping and losing funding rather than, you know, understanding that young people have feel like they're being trusted. If they're not, they will push back, hard.

All of this is heightened further since it is so easy to report anything, click a cellphone camera, upload it to Facebook and watch it spread like wildfire.

That might explain why universities are so quick to come down on bad behaviour, without necessarily going to the root of the problem.

You saw it last week when Carleton University suspended its women's soccer team for two games over — well, no one is exactly sure. They just slapped a label on it — "hazing incident" — and hoped people would accept that it was many times worse than what has gone on for decades with jocks and alcohol, even though it was probably only worse by a small percentage. (That is not to say the students didn't deserve some repercussions.)

It's a similar story at Queen's, where the admin folks are acting in this top-down, we-know-what-is-best way. Just have homecoming in May and go to bed with a clean conscience.

Never mind that it took the most craven way out by only trying to craft the most cynical Official Response. What was Oscar Wilde's great line about cynics? They know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The football game was a great conduit for the Queen's spirit, as a young woman named Stephanie Fusco noted at So Bitter It's Sweet:
"Each year, I have attended the Homecoming football game ... Each year, I have had an immense surge of pride at seeing the most senior of alumni, eyes brimming with tears, being driven around the track at Richardson Stadium in golf carts while waving to thousands of cheering students ... during a recent conversation with some fourth year and recently graduated students, we all agreed that the best part of Homecoming is the interaction we get to have with the alumni – whether at the football game, the QP, walking around campus, or even, as the case may be, during kegstands on Aberdeen. This year, I’m faced with the reality that I may never get to experience this myself, and that this very special moment where we are movingly connected as students with the alumni is gone. I will never get to experience the tradition of Homecoming. In fact, I may be relegated to doing the Oil Thigh alone in my bedroom each September to retain my connection to the school."
That is something to share with the ivory-tower types who were constitutionally incapable of connecting with people and hoping to push them in a positive direction. It's on a scale a million times smaller, but it calls to mind George W. Bush after Sept. 11 only being able to offer Americans, "Go shopping."

The Queen's heirarchy cannot honestly believe shifting homecoming is a remedy. That is like some latter-day Dorothy tapping her ruby-red slippers together and saying, "I want them to stay home ... I want them to stay home." Say it all you want, it won't make it happen, twitbags.

Meantime, the Kingston media seems to range between a soft paternalism and (ha!) appealing to reason. No offence, but that is just party line-towing.

Throwing out loaded terms such as "booze-drenched" and "disruptive, illegal and increasingly dangerous street parties" in a tsk-tsk tone doesn't help. That kind of comes off as pandering to the easily shocked set. What does it do to increase understanding of how to fix this mess? The same goes for The Queen's Journal saying, "Let's use the sense that got us into Queen's."

That is propping up a subtle form of age discrimination. Like Chris Hitchens says, "To be young in America" — or America Jr. — "is to be constantly told to buckle up, wear a bike helmet, waer a condom, avoid risk, watch your intake, show your ID at all times, and respect the world of political correctness and safe sex that curmudgeons like me have so considerately left to you." Small wonder that those raised in a don't-do-that environment push back. Shame on those who ignore such a reality.

Queen's, at some point, has to address its history of children of privilege acting out in Kingston like it's their personal country club. The attitude is so ingrained at the school — work hard, play hard. You gotta be a little selfish to make it in this life, but a small minority have taken it too far at Queen's, with people who have no formal connection to the school jumping on the bandwagon. You only rent the Queen's tradition for four years and leave it in good condition for the next tenant; you don't own it.

Students, especially those who think the Aberdeen St. party is a tradition (it isn't, speaking as someone who lived there in 1997-98), have lost sight of their role. You have a bunch of children, mostly white and upper middle class, rebelling against nothing. These kids who are out there overturning cars and getting sloppy drunks are the same ones who will be defending the status quo in another 10 or 15 years. It affirms those who push hardest against the established order usually end up thriving within it eventually.

It is hypocritical for the university to not address this and get people to realize they are something bigger than themselves. Students need an outlet to blow off steam and the old guard in Kingston are just going to have to manage the situation. They have failed miserably.

This is not a sports story, per se, but the hysterical ignorance has affected the Queen's football team in a negative way. They deserve better. The university threw a great football tradition under the bus because it was afraid to be a leader in its own community. That sucks.

One of the subtle touches of the homecoming game is that Queen's is that graduating players are introduced before the game begins, rather than the starting offence or defence. It might be the only time someone who is a backup or a special-teamer hears his name called on the Richardson Stadium PA. They won't get that this season or next.

Current fifth-year players such as Jimmy Allin, Dan Brannagan, Scott Valberg and Matt Vickers have sacrificed too much to have it taken away because some people were too selfish to see the big picture.

Queen's says it's about leaders. Instead, it has struck a blow for being a selfish, short-sighted follower. That's not the university many alumni attended, nor is it one they wish to support in the future, beyond cheering for the football team and other varsity squads to kick ass with class.
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  1. Have you heard what kind of attendance they are expecting for tomorrow.

    I haven't bought tickets in advance like I always did for homecoming will that be a problem?

  2. I would expect the student side to be reasonably full for one half, and the general admission side to be approx. 2/3 full. I have my ticket, and these are just the assumptions I have gathered.

  3. I am not the "old guard in Kingston" but, I DO pay ridiculous property taxes here...years and years of trying to sort out this mess hasn't worked. The property damage and disregard for residence just got worse every year. If there is no homecoming this year it was the final straw in many chances given to show some respect for the people who have to clean up after the messes that were left behind.

    I hope they never have another one as long as I am living in this neighborhood and I didn't used to feel that way.

  4. Good points. Queen's made its own mess and Harvey Rosen, who absolutely does not deserve another term as mayor, fiddled while cars burned.

    The homecoming was too good to lose, though, but there have to be some major attitude adjustments. And I am not talking about students — the university and city have to smarten up and realize the "great-white-mother attitude" is dead.

  5. Damn right. Proud of it, too.

  6. this is a good blog its exactly how i felt, "booze drenched" "drug and sex fuiled" "grope" lol, the best part about kingston and i will always say this as long as the street party happens is how everyone can unite and have fun,theres no need for horses were not going to unite and riot, everyone is there to party, and who ever is making these decisions for queens well,

  7. Great write up Neate, very well done!

    To the anonymous poster who is "not part of the Old Guard", Queen's did not have a Homecoming this year and people are happy that there was just over 60 people arrested and the damages were less significant. Sure that's an improvement but really, still too many arrests! And horseback officers and riot squads were still called in from Toronto Police to Kingston to deal with the matter. The same will happen again next year too, until something more is done and responsibility taken anyways.

    I agree completely with Neate on this one there was no reason to end an amazing celebration of a tradition the likes of which we rarely see in this country. This was the wrong way to go about things and it is frustrating for certain (this coming for someone who is not Queen's alumni).

  8. As a football alumni from the 90's and someone that has enjoyed many 'parties in the student ghetto', I am sad to see this come to an end.

    This article points to the fact that the times dictate that everything must become a political issue. I am not privy to things getting to the point where cars are being overturned, but I do know that kids from other cities love to go to Queens for homecoming (I am not from Kingston). They may not 'get' the whole Queens spirit thing. I am not saying that every Queen's student isn't a participant in activities that go beyond that of having a few brews and singing a few Oil Thighs, I am just saying that some 'land' in the city for Homecoming with crazier intentions.

    As a player, it is great to play during Homecoming; I can tell you that the guys have it marked as the highlight of their season. As a player, you look up at that giant crowd in awe. With it comes a feeling of extreme pride. Further, you want to play hard because you don't want to disappoint. I feel bad for the guys that will never experience it, I really do.

  9. This cancelling of Homecoming for 2009 was also about Queen's admin being on the hook for over 100K in policing/security from the city of Kingston from 2008. This year's mini-me version of last year was now city of Kingston fiscal responsibility and as I write this about 10 days after Faux Homecoming, figure that the two sides will come together next year or year after.

    Bringing horse mounted police was the major difference on Aberdeen this year compared to last years situation. This was as a result of efforts late summer 2009 from Hamilton Hess Street situation on Friday/Saturday nights where people attending various bars on concentrated section of street almost identical in length to Aberdeen, got out of hand. Finally controlled by mounted police officers plus usual presence of regular patrols.

    Last year(2008) attended briefly the Aberdeen party(after Queens'/Western football game) on promise to third year Queen's daughter to "not talk to anyone". Police presence seemed adequate, riot equipped squad bussed in from various parts dressed in "light gear" early in evening. "Ghetto" overall seemed to have cops on every corner. Fortunately for daughter I complied and on my way home to Burlington by 9 pm.

    All in all congrats to students of Queens' for having Faux Homecoming. After watching parade of grads round stadium at halftime I was actually somewhat envious(Western blood for this early 50's guy).

    Do it again next year if you can, but please do away with those lame Wuck Festern shirts. Say it like Justin Dunk or don't say it at all!