The “insider” question

Each year, AMS executive elections see candidates with a range of experience. But, as former exec told the Journal, being on the inside isn’t an indicator of which team will win.

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Exposure, not experience, may be the key to success for teams who run for AMS executive positions, says AMS President Doug Johnson.

In the last 12 years, 23 of the 36 teams to run for AMS executive have included one or more members who’ve held AMS council or managerial positions within the Society in the year they campaigned. Since then, three teams with no members holding council or managerial positions at the time of campaigning have won executive positions.

Traditionally, each year brings teams with internal and external experience to the AMS. While a full-time paid position within the Society often provides a setting for individuals to develop some skills necessary for executive positions, it’s debatable as to whether these experiences give executive candidates the edge needed to win the election.

The current AMS executive team is comprised of Doug Johnson, Mira Dineen and Tristan Lee (JDL). Dineen and Lee both held full-time positions in the AMS, while Johnson worked closely with the Society as Student Senate Caucus Chair.

Johnson attributes JDL’s and prior winning teams’ success to the amount of exposure to potential voters on campus.

“Exposure to the AMS and its operations is certainly beneficial to candidates running in the AMS executive election but it is most definitely not a prerequisite,” Johnson, ArtSci ’12, told the Journal via email.

In the last five years, every winning team has been made up of one or more members that have held positions on AMS council or extended council at some point in their undergraduate career.

“I don’t know if I would call it a trend necessarily,” Mitch Piper, AMS presidential candidate in 2010-11, said. “I think you just naturally get a lot of people who are interested in running for those positions who have had the prior involvement.”

Piper’s team lost to Chowdhury-Hartley-Rudnicki in the 2010 executive elections.

In a 2010 Journal article, Team Piper-Niyongabo-Finn (PNF) said that the diversity of their team was their greatest strength.

At the time of campaigning, Piper had been a manager at Destinations (before it was amalgamated into Tricolour Outlet) and while his teammates had no experience within the AMS, they had had other experiences within their faculty societies.

Piper said that internal experience can be beneficial, but external experience is important for bringing in new ideas and suggestions.

Last year’s elections saw team Renaud-McCarthy-Snefjella as the only fully external team running for AMS executive.

McCarthy, last year’s Presidential candidate and this year’s AMS Clubs Manager, said he thinks the loss is due to the size of RMS’ 10-person volunteer base. The team opted for a smaller volunteer group to keep their campaign personal.

“We were the face of our campaign.” McCarthy, ConEd ’12, said.

McCarthy said that there is a trend where an ‘internal’ AMS team will run for the executive positions each year.

“It makes sense because people love the organization that [they] have been with for so long so it’s a natural step towards wanting to lead it,” he said.

Having AMS experience prior to applying for an executive position can give a better starting point when developing ideas, but running without AMS experience isn’t an insurmountable challenge, so long as other skills are gained from external positions, he said.

For him, experiences such as managing staff and a large budget, were transferrable and not unique to working for a student government.

“It’s very difficult to convince the student body that you’re prepared to run a $16 million not-for-profit organization,” he said.

Often, executive positions are a draw for those that aren’t directly associated with the AMS but have seats on AMS Assembly, such as the Undergraduate Student Trustee or Student Senate Caucus Chair.

Ethan Rabidoux, AMS president 2005-06, was Student Senate Caucus Chair as well as Chief prosecutor for the AMS — a position that became full-time and salaried in 2008-09 and is now referred to as the Judicial Affairs Director.

Rabidoux’s running mates, Jenn Hirano and Shiva Mayer, had no prior council or managerial experience with the AMS.

He credits his team’s 51.39 per cent win to the theme of the campaign — “Crack the Clique.”

“[‘Crack the Clique’] really tapped into a very basic human sentiment of wanting to belong and not wanting to be left out and a need for change,” Rabidoux said, adding that back then a common criticism of the AMS was that it was “cliquey.”

“I’m not sure we totally fixed that problem to be honest, but that was certainly what we were aiming to do,” he said.

While Rabidoux didn’t consider his team to be an “insider team,” he doesn’t feel that his team’s lack of AMS-related experience put the trio at a disadvantage.

“The vast majority of students are very involved in different things, but as far as the internal politics of the AMS [go], very few had much to do with that. It meant very little to most people,” Rabidoux said. “[There was] no guarantee that people involved in the AMS would vote for insider team anyway.”

In 2011, team Campbell-Eagan-Slobodin (CES) — a self-professed “insider team” — won against one other team.

Kieran Slobodin, AMS Vice-President of University Affairs for CES said he had the “straightest shot” on his team for work within the AMS prior to his role. He worked as an AMS intern, Academic Affairs deputy and Academic Affairs commissioner before assuming his executive position.

Both of Slobodin’s running mates either sat on council or worked closely with the AMS.

“I think in our campaign we were able to sell that we were experienced,” Slobodin ArtSci ’12 said.

Trends as to who is elected for AMS executive each year are hard to isolate, Slobodin said.

“It’s kind of hard to map out and predict who’s going to win based on their resume, especially because at the end of the day people who are deciding aren’t necessarily inside the AMS,” he said.

“The people on campus who are called ‘AMS insiders’ are few and far between,” Slobodin said.

“There’s 15,000 students who [are eligible to] vote and it’s going to be them who are the majority.”

This article was changed to issue the following correction: McCarthy was last year's Presidential candidate for team RMS and Renaud was Vice-President of University Affairs candidate.

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