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Queen's University
 

Queen's Encyclopedia

Student Strikes

Students have gone on strike twice in Queen's history - and one of these walk-outs contributed to the resignation of a Principal. The first strike was in the spring of 1875 after two students were suspended for drinking. John Francis White and Charles Macdonnell had cut both chapel and classes to go to a hotel downtown where each, it is reported, quickly drank two glasses of brandy.

They then returned to classes where they had the misfortune to encounter Principal William Snodgrass in the corridor. He noticed their condition and promptly brought the matter before the Senate, where the two were found guilty of "an offence against moral propriety and good discipline" and suspended from their rank as undergraduates.

They would continue to attend classes but would not be allowed to wear gowns nor sit for any exams for the duration of their sentence. Their fellow students thought the punishment too harsh and petitioned for a remission of the sentence. When they received no reply, most refused to go to classes.

In less than a week they backed down, however, when Snodgrass replied that the Senate could not change its decision and that any further absences would be punished by expulsion.

A more serious crisis was the strike of 1928, which took place after a dispute over a student dance.

Due to previous disciplinary problems, students had agreed with Principal Robert Taylor not to hold a dance after the "Frolic," an annual variety night and one of the biggest social events of the year. But three students went ahead anyway and organized an unofficial dance downtown - a move that resulted in their being suspended for two weeks.

Although the Senate reduced the sentence to one week, students still protested, claiming the university had no jurisdiction over students' off-campus activities. Following a mass meeting sponsored by the Alma Mater Society, they voted to go on strike until the trio was reinstated.

The strike lasted just one day before the head of the Alumni Association, R.O. Sweezey, told them that he would look into the management of student conduct at the university as long as they returned to class. The students, nervous about the drastic measures they had taken, agreed and gave up on their insistence that the three rebels be reinstated.

This would have been the end of it, but members of the Board of Trustees, who had been concerned about Taylor's management of the university for some time, held him responsible for the crisis and the bad publicity it had created.

Editorial comments about the strike in local and Toronto newspapers generally sympathized with the students. It was the last straw and, in April of 1929, the Board suggested that Taylor resign. Taylor, who had no desire to run the university without the Trustees' confidence, agreed and left the university in 1930.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000