The Queen’s Law community?
One consideration for every student in choosing to attend Queen’s Law is the weight we place on promises of an inclusive and fulfilling community. Orientation events were planned and overseen by upper-years whose only wish was for us to get to know everyone (or as many people as possible) and to put the petty politics of high school and undergrad behind us. This allowed us all to find out just how much fun a relatively small group of adults can have.
The problem is that this narrative is disingenuously rose-tinted and certainly not the lived experience of every member of this school. For all our talk, Queen’s Law is less inclusive than it could (and perhaps should) be. What started out this year as an uncomfortable feeling transformed into a visible “issue” and in so doing finally gives us an opportunity to discuss whether the Faculty of Law is as inclusive and friendly a place as we assume.
In the late fall of my first year, I went from being a contributor to the social life of QL to a veritable ghost – all but forgotten by acquaintances and missed by friends as I struggled with some serious health issues. In my subsequent return as a part-time student, I have found myself in a strange limbo between first and second year. The experience of being both an in- and outsider has been illuminating.
I see colleagues in all years who move through the corridors unacknowledged while passing greetings are shared, conversations sprout, and plans are made in the shorthand of those already in the know. I see the classmates who don’t get invited, who are excluded by body language and indifference from even banal pre-lecture conversation. These are the non-drinkers, the “outside your comfort zone,” the “intense,” and the “weird.”
We’re not all going to get along, that’s just human nature, and that’s fine. But when we start closing ourselves off from people to the point that interactions with “outsiders” become faux pas we have a problem.
Of course, if your Queen’s Law experience has been one of overabounding joviality and friendship – a place where everybody knows your name – then you must have suspected by now that your experience is not that of everybody here. Even simple recognition of that fact would go a long way to bringing the idea of the “Queen’s Law community” closer to reality.
But has the feeling of an exceptional divisiveness this past school year been nothing more than an inevitable result of expanded class sizes? Perhaps in pushing enrollment for revenue the Faculty has in fact put a deep cut in one of the school’s strongest draws, but it just happened faster and more dramatically than we thought it would. Even if expansion is the proximal cause, and I will concede that it did the class of 2017 no favours, I still feel it exposed an underlying malignancy present before expansion.
The Equity and Diversity art project, “Unveiled and Unabashed” is unveiled Monday. In it students were asked how they feel walking down the halls of MacDonald Hall. While I suspect a great many of the responses will be positive, there will be ones that will be markedly less so and there will be many who said nothing, feeling they had nothing to contribute. The voices of people that we leave out and have left behind are the ones worth considering, if we really care about how inclusive our community is here at Queen’s.
And we may not, really. We just have to stop pretending and get on with it – Orientation will be starting before you know it.
Andrew Snider is a contributor to Juris Diction.