The association representing undergraduate students at Queen's University will conduct a review of the history of misogynistic signs at the school's homecoming parties after several appeared at rowdy gatherings over the weekend, the group said Wednesday.
The Alma Mater Society said that it will also review the harmful effects of such signs and how students can report them.
"We condemn the misogynistic banners that hung from numerous houses with offensive and inappropriate statements on them," the student association said.
"This behaviour directly contributes to a culture of misogyny and gender-based and sexual violence in our community; a culture that we continuously call on our administration, organizations, our peers, and our community members to actively work against."
That comes after Queen's said earlier this week that it would take action against those who displayed misogynistic signs at parties held over the school's homecoming weekend in Kingston, Ont. The university has not specified what that action would entail.
Police made 36 arrests and issued more than 100 fines after the gatherings.
The unsanctioned parties took place even though Queen's opted against holding traditional in-person homecoming events for a second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Alma Mater Society said while it's disappointed by the large parties, it was concerned by what it called an "over-policing" of students at the gatherings.
"While we understand concerns from community members, it is important to note that the police this weekend exacerbated the events of homecoming and the tactics were not only ineffective but excessive," the association said, noting it was "disappointed" to see the university support these tactics.
The student group said it will address these concerns directly with the City of Kingston and Queen’s administration and will "continue to promote respectful and safe practices and behaviour as well as harm reduction measures for our students."
Abby Goldstein, associate chair of applied psychology and human development at the University of Toronto, said university students would benefit from more education and harm reduction measures to help ensure that when these gatherings happen, students participate safely.
"I think that there's probably a lot of missed opportunities in terms of being able to help develop strategies for emerging adults about making good and healthy decisions for their own mental health, and to encourage different ways of establishing a sense of community and getting together and socializing that are consistent with safer practices," she said.
Goldstein said there's a responsibility on the part of the university to educate students on consent and how to engage in relationships on campus. She also stressed that students need to receive "healthy messaging around sexual behaviour" well before the time that they first set foot on a university campus.
Queen's University spokeswoman Julie Brown said keeping the community and students safe is a "top priority" for the school.
"We worked, and continue to work hard along with all of our community partners, to caution students about large unsanctioned gatherings and about safe behaviours," she wrote in an email statement.
"While we understand the students’ concerns and have spoken to the police about their approach, we also appreciate the police have learned from others’ experiences at these types of gatherings about serious risks to people’s personal safety."
Brown added that police are trying to contain "real threats that can quickly escalate without a significant presence to contain them."
With rumours of more gatherings being held near Queen's this weekend, Brown said the university is hoping students will "think carefully about joining large crowds and about the risks they pose especially when drugs and alcohol are involved and they are less aware of their surroundings and danger posed by others."
Kingston Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press