Since post-secondary students arrived in Kingston to attend their studies, large gatherings and street parties have occurred regularly, resulting in the closure of a popular public waterfront beach, and placing strain on local emergency services – the latter of which led to a new City emergency order and therefore increased fines for and enforcement powers against such activity.
“Recent large street parties not only violate many laws, bylaws and social gathering limits imposed by the Province, but also pose a dangerous health risk to the community during COVID-19 pandemic. These gatherings place a strain on community partners and agencies, such as police, paramedics and hospital staff,” Kingston Police said on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, the day the new emergency order was enacted.
Despite that, the size of the gatherings has actually increased, with parties of 2,000 to 5,000 taking place across the past two weeks. And, over the weekend ending Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, Kingston Police and City of Kingston Bylaw enforcement laid 140 fines and charges totalling over $26,000 as a result of this continued activity.
The exhaustion of emergency services – and those in the surrounding areas kept awake by the revelry – has many Kingston residents repeating a question often uttered during times of increased partying in the University District: What is the university doing to help curb this activity? This question has only been amplified throughout the pandemic, particularly after KFL&A Public Health Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hugh Guan, confirmed on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, that COVID-19 cases within the University District are on the rise, with those aged 18 to 29 accounting for over half of the new cases in the region.
For its part, Queen’s has indicated that when student misconduct is reported by third parties, the university “promptly responds” via its Non-Academic Misconduct process, and then possibly its Student Code of Conduct, noting that Principal Patrick Deane “recently issued a statement that addressed the behaviour some students engaged in that disregarded public health regulations and involved unsanctioned large gatherings.”
“Principal Deane and our campus community, including many of our students, share Kingston’s concerns and feelings around behaviour that directly contradicts public health, community enforcement agencies, and the university’s directives and guidance. The university and our student leaders have actively and collaboratively engaged in ongoing dialogue and initiatives to convey the serious impact these types of behaviours can have on our broader community,” Queen’s University said in an email to Kingstonist before addressing the consequences students will face for involvement in large, unsanctioned gatherings, and those that violate COVID-19 protocols.
“The university promptly responds to information referred by community partners through our Non-Academic Misconduct system and will consider any behaviour contrary to the university’s expectations in the Student Code of Conduct,” the university continued.
“Each case referred into the system is reviewed for aggravating factors (such as severity of impact and risk to others).”
“While the university does not disclose outcomes or sanctions resulting from individual cases, the goal of any resolution is to deter similar future behaviour, promote accountability, and recognition of students’ responsibility as a member of the broader community,” the University said in a statement on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.
“Cases are resolved as quickly as possible, given all factors that must be considered, and are typically resolved within 1-2 weeks. Any external processes that are involved may impact this timeline, as needed.”
The university did note that the annual summaries of student Non-Academic Misconduct are published annually after the completion of a school year. Of note from last the summary for last year (2020-2021), 71 per cent of those students processed through that system last school year were under the age of 19.
Disproportionately represented in the summary, “contravention of policy or law” (“ie. incidents related to guest policy in residence and large gatherings during COVID-19”) was the most reported of the university’s “top violations” for that year, with 225 violations processed. According to the published information, however, the “outcomes” of these violations were eight per cent “corrective,” eight per cent “restorative,” and 84 per cent “educational.”
So far in the 2021-2022 school year, over 155 charges and fines have been laid in the University District pertaining to nuisance party bylaws or COVID-19 protocol infractions. Further charges have been laid for other illegal activity, such as the theft of street signs or obstructing police, and at least seven arrests have been made in the area, as well.