Large city leaves little chance for Queen’s-style street party

Torontonians have come to expect that each September the newspapers will be filled with stories about out-of-control homecoming parties at Queen’s University in Kingston, but what they won’t find are headlines reporting similar student mayhem closer to home.

On Nov. 18, Queen’s principal and vice-chancellor Tom Williams announced plans to proceed with the cancellation of its well-known fall homecoming weekend for the next two years.

Since that announcement, students and alumni have banded together to create several Facebook groups either in support of, or against the decision.

Tyler Forkes, executive director of alumni affairs at Ryerson and a former president of the Queen’s alumni association, attributes the controlled atmosphere of Toronto to the size of the events.

“Right now our event is not on the scale that Queen’s is,” he said. “Two years ago . . . we sort of redesigned the event here at Ryerson, we tried to make it a little bigger, a little more family oriented and added some more programming elements.”

They also renamed the event from ‘Homecoming’ to ‘Alumni Weekend’, since the focus is on the alumni and not the students.

“Although we have many students volunteer with the weekend . . . to act as ambassadors and help with registration and with tours . . . there aren’t really events that are targeted specifically for students,” Forkes said.

As a result, there isn’t any danger of uncontrollable parties spilling onto the streets and disturbing the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Cynthia Cheng, ‘webitor-in-chief’ of Prospere Magazine, is both a Queen’s and University of Toronto alumni. She created a Facebook group called “Reverse the Queen’s Homecoming Cancellation Decision!” immediately following the announcement.

Within a day, 773 members had joined to show their support.
Cheng attributes the lack of school spirit as the reason why there aren’t the same problems happening in Toronto as in Kingston.

“There is a stark difference between Queen’s and U of T, because it is a commuter school,” Cheng said. “A lot of people live in the city and commute to campus just like York or Ryerson.”

Heather Lane Vetere, vice provost for Ryerson students, agrees with Cheng: “When homecomings are held in Toronto there aren’t neighbouring communities where a lot of students live in a compact place for street parties,” Vetere said. “Whereas with Queen’s there are whole sections of housing that are almost all student occupied, all around the campus.”

Though not a Queen’s alumni, Vetere has attended their homecoming with a friend once before.
“I have never seen that type of dynamic in any other community, so I think it has a lot to do with the logistics of the community and where there is a concentration of students living,” Vetere said.

“They (Queen’s) have long-standing traditions of very strong allegiance from their alumni to the school and a tradition of going back for homecoming. I think in Toronto it is not the same.”

Cheng has spoken to several U of T alumni who have said traditions such as ‘school spirit’ have ebbed over the past 30 or 40 years, something that is sure to have an affect on homecoming in Toronto.
“There is very little spirit and connection between the alum and the current students,” Cheng said.
Vetere echoed this sentiment.

“I participated in one (Ryerson alumni weekend) event which was a dinner /dance, but we don’t get the numbers that come to campus,” she said. “I don’t think it is a tradition that engages the current students in the way that Queen’s does.”

Forkes explained that Ryerson holds separate events specific to each program throughout the year to give students the opportunity to network with people in their field. That means fewer students partying together and may be the reason why homecoming remains a quiet affair in the GTA.

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Posted: Nov 27 2008 8:54 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life News