You can kiss those crowds of 12,000 that Queen's regularly has its Homecoming game goodbye.
Queen's, bowing to paranoia and some crybaby Kingston residents who only want to take the good of having a university in their midst, has taken the easy way out with its problem of the street party that has become part of the Homecoming weekend. In order to keep students from seeing Homecoming as a reason to party -- ha! -- they have moved alumni weekend to spring. Their 2009 homecoming weekend will be from May 22-24 (Victoria Day weekend is actually the week before). In doing so, they have ruined a tradition that was too good to lose.
The impact on the football Golden Gaels will be devastating. The Homecoming game sets the tone for the entire season. It is also a valuable recruiting chip for coach Pat Sheahan -- look at the crowds you'll play in front of, son. You lose the Homecoming game, you're cutting yourself out of a major market in terms of fans.
The weekend itself, with the parade of alumni, some in the their 80s and 90s, around the stadium at halftime, is the best part of homecoming. That's gone, and with it, those those crowds of 12,000 people will zanish. Does Queen's principal Tom Williams understand that?
This is an all-time knee-jerk reaction. To quote Chris Hitchens, zero tolerance means zero thought. This has nothing to do with trying to impart morality to young people. Queen's would have stopped a culture of partying decades ago if that was the case. There is plenty of drunken debauchery attached to the year-end formals thrown by the largest faculties (well, so I'm told -- I never got to go, sniff), but they don't shut down the Sci Formal.
The weekend's purpose is to engage alumni and current students. What are alumni going "home" to when the campus is a ghost town because 98% of the undergraduates have gone home for the summer? They go back to remember what it was like in their school days -- chances are, some of them were never around in May, except for when they graduated!
For this alumnus, a fond Queen's memory is being in the front row on the student side at Homecoming 1997, high-fiving and shaking hands with graduates from as far back as 1937 during the halftime parade. University can make you feel like a number. That day, for a few minutes, I was connected to something larger than myself.
Never mind a 100-year tradition. That is something that resonates, something that future Queen's students are not going to get, no matter how high their tuition is jacked. Change is inevitable, but this does not seem like good chance.
Queen's Athletics, together with the Queen's Football Club, will no doubt try to fill the void, and I'll support them in any way I can.
Today, though, the university has thrown away something wonderful and unique to Queen's and Eastern Ontario. What a terrible message. Who is benefiting from this decision? Tom Williams, some whiny Kingston residents and some beancounters at City Hall (who have to watch every penny since the city council elected to build a $43-million arena for the worst-run major junior hockey team in Canada).
Not the students, not the alumni and certainly not the Queen's Golden Gaels football team, which has brought the university so much publicity through the years. Hang your head in shame, Tom Williams.
Queen's University moves Homecoming from fall to spring (Kingston Whig-Standard)
(Cross-posted to The CIS Blog.)