Fueling the Fauxcoming Fire

28Sep09

As the dust over Aberdeen settles, and the horse excrement is washed away by the ever-present Kingston rain, we must come to terms with the effects of this first “Fauxcoming” weekend and take inventory of what occurred.  I, for one, must admit that my predictions were wrong. Very, very wrong….but you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage given to the event.

For many who have followed Fauxcoming in the news, it would appear nothing had changed.  Numerous students were arrested, debauchery was witnessed, and the cancellation of Queen’s University official Homecoming weekend was met with nothing more than contempt and spite-partying.  Surprisingly, this was not the case.  However, this did not stop the media from perpetuating the pre-conceived notion many outsiders have of homecoming, stopping at nothing to reinforce the stereotype of unruly, drunken university students instead of reporting what actually occurred & admitting that most students seem to be more concerned with preserving the tradition of Homecoming weekend than boozing and brawling on a 2-block residential street.

Inflammatory journalism forces students to put out fires in the coming years
(Photo courtesy of StoneMonkey, Flickr)

Most disappointing was the main coverage by the Queen’s Journal, specifically, the article syndicated in the Globe & Mail on Sunday morning.  After following the very promising coverage online on Saturday night (as I sat around my kitchen table with new and old friends, celebrating my final undergrad Homecoming in the best way), I was flabbergasted when I awoke to find opposing taglines on the Globe & Mail article (About 2,000 people turn out for boozy street party, which had attracted as many as 8,000 rowdy revellers in past years) and the Queen’s article… both written by Journal staffers.  It is unfortunate that, given the opportunity to clearly and articulately influence the national view about the so-called event, the authors chose to fuel the homecoming fire instead of using the window of opportunity to cast Queen’s in a favourable light.  While the interesting and well-reported “Overheard on Aberdeen” and Aberdeen Live-Blog/Tweet gave a full scope of what happened on those 2 blocks of pavement Saturday night, the articles were sorely lacking in the reports of police brutality, Queen’s spirit, and general student attitude towards the night.  This, accompanied by the photos which showed not happy, spirited students but a large police force, drunk eyes, and arrests, added to the impression that this night was no different than any other Homecoming Saturday night in the last 5 years or so.  (Author’s note: My favourite photo?  The beautifully ironic one of the confiscated horse toy)

What really happened?

Most students stayed off Aberdeen.  There have been numerous reports of police brutality against students, lending to the impression that the police were here to prove a point – not to preserve peace.  Charges were laid for jaywalking, swearing, standing on the sidewalk, and other minor ‘offenses’.  Those simply walking through Aberdeen (allowed, since the police were purportedly here to keep the street ‘open’) were subject to physical and verbal abuse by the police, not to mention excessive use of the mounted forces.

Luckily, these instances are not going unnoticed.  In the wake of lacking positive reporting on the event, students have taken to YouTube, blogs, Twitter, and their Facebook statuses to tell their side of the story.  Unfortunately, none of this can make up for the gaffe made by the Journal reporters featured, and the general consensus of the mainstream media. As a result, Queen’s students are on trial for yet another year, and will have to endure continued scrutiny & abuse in the lead-up to and the event itself.

This post is also featured on the course blog for FILM240

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