Mika and I are Queen’s grads. I graduated in 1986 with a B.A. in sociology. Mika graduated in 1996 with a B.Sc. in mathematics and computer science. The years I spent at Queen’s were a lot of fun for the most part. Political correctness was yet to take hold. Frosh week, was a drunken and ribald festival in which we were expected to use vulgarity liberally. I remember suffering quite a culture shock when my mother and father left me on campus. I have never cared for vulgarity personally and until I met with my Gael group later that day I was on the brink of calling and asking them to take me home. Once I was settled into my Gael group, no. 9–our group chant was “Number Nine is doing fine, the rest of you are fucking swine”–I began to feel better and joined in the ribald fun that continued for the rest of the week. Early into my first year at Queen’s, some students organized a game they called “Kill.” The game consisted of players who had completed an entry form giving their address on campus or in the student ghetto. Players were given an information sheet indicating where their victim might be found and to make a kill you used a toy pistol that fired plastic projectiles. To authenticate the kill there had to be a 2-3 witnesses who were acquainted with the victim. I made my first kill before I was gunned down outside my drama class. When you were killed, you gave the information form of the victim you were stalking to your assassin and the game continued. Somehow, in the current climate across college and university campuses, I do not think this game is played anymore.
Throughout the years I was a student at Queen’s there was no shortage of off colour entertainment and pranks with overtly sexual overtones played openly across the campus. The Engineering Society at Queen’s publishes Golden Words to this day. While I was a student it pulled no punches in its satire. Humour was found in poking fun at feminism and the inklings of political correctness that were showing up on campus. The use of masculine and feminine pronouns was becoming an issue. Some professors insisted students use s/he instead of he and she in term papers. The suffix man was replaced with person as in chairperson as opposed to chairman or chairwoman. Golden Words quipped that the Province of Manitoba would be renamed Personitoba to placate feminists. The only instance of censorship, or what might remotely be thought of as censorship, I can recall was when the editors of one of the campus newspapers, either Golden Words or the Queen’s Journal, decided not to publish an editorial cartoon about the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre in 1984 where a madman gunned down 21 people. I understand the cartoon depicted the McDonald’s sign with the caption “4 billion served, 21 killed.” It was decided this was in very poor taste so the cartoon was never published.
Queen’s University truly was a market place of ideas during the years I was a student. The biggest issue on campus when I was an undergrad at Queen’s in the mid-1980s was getting the Board of Trustees to divest from companies doing business in South Africa to pressure the South Africans to dismantle apartheid. There was a spirited debate on campus involving faculty and students on this issue with strong opinions on both sides. I remember standing outside the building where the Trustees were meeting and when the young woman who spoke for the anti-apartheid protesters came out in tears to break the news the Trustees were not budging. Several protesters stormed into the meeting to vent their displeasure. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees calmly called for a motion to adjourn the meeting which was passed and the Trustees left quietly. While this happened a long time ago, I do not remember anyone using four letter words–though they were visibly upset and angry.
An array of speakers were invited to the campus. I remember going to hear Noam Chomsky, David Suzuki, Richard Leakey, Joey Smallwood among others speak. There were controversial figures invited to speak also. Henry Morgentaler put in an appearance as did G. Gordon Liddy and a US Army officer, a Major General (whose name escapes me) who was involved in the US invasion of Grenada in 1983. From what I remember Morgentaler’s speech was delivered without incident. I remember acquaintances commenting on his speech after mass at Newman House, saying they disagreed with what he had said, but there had been no effort to shout him down. As for G. Gordon Liddy, there were several people on campus who objected to his presence, so much so they printed and posted notices falsely claiming his speech had been canceled. I remember going to hear the Major General speak. The auditorium in Stirling Hall was overcrowded, so much so the temperature was very high and the air very stuffy. He started his speech, I remember his pronounced Southern US drawl, and was immediately shouted down by some in the audience. It was a fiasco. He proved himself a Southern gentleman in taking his leave and defending the right of those who disagreed with what he intended to say. Still, there was widespread disgust across the campus over what had happened.
There were rules and codes of conduct for students in place at the time, but these concerned things like excessive rowdiness, vandalism and tampering with fire safety equipment. Plagiarism was clamped down on hard. We were warned against buying term papers and taught how to properly cite sources. In 2000, Queen’s University instituted its Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Policy and Procedure. The policy states “Queen’s University believes in the necessity of providing safeguards for its members against harassment and discrimination. This includes harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, gender identification, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status and handicap (disability).” While you may think this is all well and good, all this has done is entrench a culture of political correctness on the Queen’s University campus. This proved to be the case, unfortunately, on April 3, when Dr. Alan Harrison, Provost and Academic Vice-Principal, the Queen’s Alma Mater Society (Queen’s University student government) and the Society of Graduate & Professional Students issued orders for the dismantling the Queen’s Free Speech Wall set up in the John Deutsch University Centre by a campus group called Queen’s Students for Liberty. The wall was scheduled to stand from Tuesday April 2 through to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 5, during which time anyone who saw fit could post content. The Queen’s Free Speech Wall was part of a campaign to raise awareness about free expression rights in Canada.
The reason given by Dr. Harrison for this decision was that unspecified content posted on the wall was found to be contrary to the Queen’s University Code of Conduct, the Harassment/Discrimination Policy and Procedure, Residence procedures and the Student Code of Conduct. Dr. Harrison spoke to Jerry Agar of Sun News Network about the decision to take down the Free Speech Wall. He sounds no different than any of the Queen’s University bureaucrats I remember dealing with all those years ago: “I don’t make the rules, I just apply them.” The rules he applies in the present uphold the culture of political correctness which effectively stifles intellectual freedom and freedom of expression on the campus at Queen’s University, which in my opinion is lamentable.
Posted by Geoffrey