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Kingston mayor fumes over return of Queen’s homecoming

Queen’s University campus in Kingston, Ont.

KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Queen's University's once-notorious homecoming celebration returned without major incident after a five-year hiatus on the weekend, but the mayor of Kingston, Ont., still voiced displeasure on Twitter, reviving simmering tensions between the school and the city.

Mayor Mark Gerretsen went to Aberdeen Street, near campus, late on Saturday night and estimated upward of 2,000 people were partying in the street. He addressed a tweet directly to Queen's principal Daniel Woolf: "I am standing at William and Aberdeen. I have two words for you: NOT GOOD," it read.

Dr. Woolf did not respond, but several of Mr. Gerretsen's weekend tweets drew backlash from Queen's students, and even accusations of sexism. A host of issues have strained town-gown relations in recent years, including the cost of policing homecoming parties. Earlier this year, Kingston city council voted to exclude postsecondary students from population counts used to redraw local electoral boundaries, leaving students complaining they were being treated as second-class citizens.

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Mr. Gerretsen contends city-university relations are as strong now as they have been "since I've been around," but said he was disappointed on Saturday. "The bottom line for us is the cost that the taxpayers of the City of Kingston have to incur as a result of these ongoing street parties," he said, noting that 103 police officers were on duty for homecoming, many getting overtime pay.

Queen's cancelled its fall homecoming in 2008 after several years in which the tradition of staging a large party on Aberdeen Street had got out of control, with the events often drunken and unruly. It officially returned this year, spread over two weekends. The second one is on Oct. 19 and 20.

In a statement, Dr. Woolf said "the issue of policing costs is one the university is open to discussing." But he added: "We have received a lot of reaction to the weekend, the majority of which has been positive. We are relatively pleased with how things have gone so far, and are guardedly optimistic about the second homecoming weekend."

Mr. Gerretsen also angered students when he retweeted a message from another user that said: "If girls cared about political elections as much as they cared about homecoming queens, the world would be a better place." Mr. Gerretsen mistakenly thought it referred to the university, and Queen's student and senator Isabelle Duchaine was one of several students who took the mayor to task for making political engagement a "gender issue."

Mr. Gerretsen initially defended himself, but soon deleted the tweet at Ms. Duchaine's urging and called it an "error in judgment" on Monday.

According to a Queen's news release, police made 16 arrests and issued 133 tickets over the weekend – some involving Queen's students and alumni – compared with 140 arrests and 619 tickets at the 2008 homecoming.

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About the Author
Banking Reporter

James Bradshaw is banking reporter for the Report on Business. He covered media from 2014 to 2016, and higher education from 2010 to 2014. Prior to that, he worked as a cultural reporter for Globe Arts, and has written for both the Toronto section and the editorial page. More

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