(By Rikin Arora, Queen’s University)
While the action is commonly associated with priceless support, Kingston, Ontario local, Carly Robertson, gives out ‘free hugs’. In 2014, Robertson began offering hugs to staff and students in the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC). After receiving positive feedback, she expanded her services alongside University Avenue, and in the foyer of Joseph S. Stauffer Library. However, on October 11, 2017, Robertson was escorted outside of the library by campus security.
On October 27, 2017, she sat down with Inquire Publication to discuss the incident and her intention behind free hugs in the first place. Robertson appeared to be in high spirits throughout the interview, often giggling when discussing positivity, while remaining sentimental when speaking about moving forward.
Robertson recalled the day that she was escorted out of the library as disappointing. She stated that the message behind giving free hugs was not to threaten or intimidate people into hugging. Instead, she aimed to encourage others to pay it forward and have compassion for one another. In essence, Robertson implied that love motivates free hugs.
Robertson admitted she was angry at the time. Believing that certain students reported her foyer activities to the library staff, she “wondered why people would complain” and “waste their time” in doing such a thing. Building from this, she stated that there are “far more important things to worry about, like people getting abused.” She emphasized that she was not a threat or a source of intimidation, hoping that such considerations will one day allow her to give out hugs in the library again. While she may still be allowed to give out hugs outside of the library, she feels more comfortable interacting with pedestrians alongside University Avenue. Moreover, Robertson believes that giving out hugs to those entering and exiting the library would be beneficial to them.
Robertson described offering hugs as her ‘passion’, claiming that the interaction has provided warmth and comfort to willing participants. When asked if current circumstances in Joseph S. Stauffer Library have altered her perception of free hugs, Robertson simply stated, “I love volunteering in my own time, and giving out free hugs. It is my calling; spreading love, and joy”. As a firm believer in her faith, Robertson articulated that God loves all students at Queen’s University and urges everyone to love each other as well.
When she isn’t giving out hugs, Robertson enjoys selling bracelets she makes herself and flag-dancing, describing the experience as “refreshingly free.” She also enjoys writing poetry. She is nearsighted, blind from one eye, can read lips, and uses a hearing aid. In addition, Robertson attends church, and teaches sign language. For more information on her classes, readers can visit her Facebook page: “SIGN LANGUAGE CLUB”.
Carly Robertson can be spotted giving out hugs in the ARC every afternoon from Monday through Friday until 7:00 PM.