In September, Queen’s University Principal Deane assured City Council and KFL&A Public Health that the university would take more stringent action against off-campus parties, and hold students who disregard public health protocols accountable for their actions. Despite dozens of fines having been laid by City of Kingston Bylaw officers and several charges under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) by Kingston Police since the beginning of the academic year, as of Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, the university has yet to issue a single non-academic misconduct citation, stating that such enforcement is “under consideration.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health confirmed that dozens of positive COVID-19 cases have been linked to multiple house parties in the University District. With little being done by Queen’s to enforce their Student Code of Conduct, all related action to date has been left up to Kingston Police and the City’s bylaw officers, who are already overwhelmed.
Queen’s University spoke to these concerns in a statement on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020: “To date, we have received information from our community enforcement partners about eight students living off campus who face charges under the Reopening of Ontario Act. These referrals are under consideration for review under our Student Code of Conduct and its non-academic misconduct process.”
The Queen’s University Code of Conduct applies to non-academic misconduct by a student or group of students that takes place both on university property as well as off campus, including circumstances where the actions of a student adversely affects the operations of the University or the University has reasonable grounds to believe there is risk to the safety of members of the University community.
Queen’s University Provost and Vice-Principal Mark Green has released a message urging students to limit close contacts before returning home for the holidays. The message, released Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, asks students to self-quarantine if they will be traveling for the holidays and avoid attending large gatherings.
Green expressed his dismay at the dramatic increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the Queen’s community since the end of November.
“We have had more than 30 students living off-campus test positive in the last few weeks,” Green stated. “Many of those students had 10-20 close contacts each, which KFL&A Public Health has informed us is causing the virus to spread unacceptably quickly, impacting their ability to control the virus in our community. Public Health has expressed their significant concern with the high rates of close contacts, and the University agrees we must take this very seriously. I write to remind you of your responsibility to limit your close contacts to only individuals within your household.”
Over 31 charges have been laid by City of Kingston Bylaw officers since the beginning of November under the Reopening Ontario Act. These charges are from eight different locations in downtown Kingston, and are each for a minimum $10,000 for hosting an unsanctioned gathering.
Provost Green strongly suggested that students who may have been in contact with infected individuals at these recent large gatherings get tested right away.
“If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please complete the self-assessment and get tested,” Green said. “I can confirm that information provided through testing or for the purposes of contact tracing will not be used for enforcement related to provincial government fines or referral under Queen’s Student Code of Conduct. Right now, the primary concern is to stop the spread of this virus and ensure more people are not infected. Public Health also recommends that you use the government’s COVID Alert App to help protect yourselves and your close contacts. You must also continue to use the SeQure App any time you are on campus. Testing and accurate contact tracing are critical to ensuring we can limit community spread of COVID-19.”
As of Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, there have been 50 new COVID-19 cases within the Queen’s community since November 30.
Kingston Health Science Centre is operating an on-campus COVID-19 assessment centre for Queen’s students experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, who have travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days, or who require testing for contact tracing purposes. Queen’s students should contact Student Wellness Services at 613-533-2506 to book an appointment.