We wanted to address some regrettable incidents that have taken place in the past 24 hours, the past week, and throughout the past year. The challenge before us is to ensure that discussions and debates on this campus are conducted in a civilized, respectful and intellectually-driven manner that will at no time threaten the physical and psychological well-being of any student. Upon reflection of the last year, this has not been the case. We, as a community and as a student body, have lost our way in a number of debates.
Over the past year, we have seen some absolutely horrendous comments and personal attacks made about students at this University. At times, this has escalated into calculated slander and defamation of character. Hatred, bullying and exclusivity are not welcome at Queen’s. Furthermore, such actions are no less harmful when conducted over social media, and it is troubling that our sense of community and civility are seemingly discarded as soon as one is behind a keyboard. Freedom of speech is important – as is disagreeing candidly and constructively – but so are compassion and empathy. It doesn’t matter what medium is being used.
When we lose respect for each other and debate issues without genuinely listening to one another; when we make decisions based not on the merits of ideas but rather on who is saying them or their assumed motives, then we ultimately make ourselves irrelevant to the student community and the administration. We risk engendering cynicism and contempt throughout not only our student body but across the broader university community.
The cost of this is incredibly high. Why? Because even the most basic look at the history of Queen’s University reveals that students have not merely been consumers of an education but rather builders and shapers of the university itself. That we have been successful in doing so is because at our best, we never lose sight of our fundamental belief that student involvement and initiative can be transformative, and that together we can better this University. But we cannot do so if we lose the same trust and respect of students that we have, at times this year, lost for ourselves.
We are young, we are growing, and we are programmed to make mistakes. It is from our greatest mistakes that we can learn the most. At all times, we must strive to be our best, and remember to “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Divided, absent respect for the inherent dignity that lives in each of us, and rife with unwarranted personal attacks, we risk damaging the legacy of our predecessors and sacrificing the opportunities of the students who will follow.
We must work together, to push this University, and to make it a better place for all. Generations of students before us have accomplished this, and we owe it to them, ourselves, and to future students to maintain that tradition.
Doug Johnson, AMS President
Mira Dineen, Vice-President (University Affairs)
Tristan Lee, Vice-President (Operations)
Ps. All week long, the Peer Support Centre is running #QueensTALKS – an event promoting healthy discussion of mental health, and giving advice on how you can talk to your friends about these sensitive issues. Check out the Peer Support Centre’s Facebook or Twitter for more info!