Make our AMS yours

The student government’s problem of doing more and more despite less and less interest from students

Kyle Beaudry (left), Sarah Letersky (middle) and Kanivanan Chinniah (right) are this year’s AMS Executive.
Kyle Beaudry (left), Sarah Letersky (middle) and Kanivanan Chinniah (right) are this year’s AMS Executive.
Credit: 
Supplied by the AMS

Queen’s is an exceptional school, filled with exceptional students. These are students who are involved in clubs, sports teams, faculty societies and community groups; they’ve made many meaningful contributions to the Queen’s experience. 

Queen’s ultimately thrives when students take initiative and we know our peers are at their best when they’re aware of and able to receive the services and support they need. 

So why are we, as the AMS, constantly focusing on doing more instead of doing better?

As the AMS Executive, we’ve expanded seating at Common Ground, planned for the implementation of a Pass/Fail credit, developed a multi-year plan for renovating the JDUC and are currently advocating for extended clinic hours at Student Wellness Services (formerly HCDS). 

But as we continue on, we’d be remiss if we didn’t address the biggest issue we believe the AMS is facing.

The AMS was established over 150 years ago, making it Canada’s oldest student government. It is there to serve and represent the diversity of students at Queen’s. It exists to foster and champion the irreplaceable student experience that makes Queen’s unique. 

But, what we’ve come to learn during our six months in office is that these firm beliefs in the AMS’s own exceptionalism, in its own superiority, has distanced us from the students we’re here to serve.

In recent years, the scope of the AMS has grown to incorporate more initiatives than ever before — and not always for the better. 

With the AMS’s annual turnover, we’ve noticed a trend where staff are under pressure to be everything to everyone in order to leave their own mark on the Society. This sentiment is seen in all salaried staff, including Executives, which leads to staff adding new initiatives year after year and ferociously defending existing ones.

As a result of this expansion, the AMS has become more complex, and at times, less approachable and responsive to student needs. This growth has made most of our salaried positions inaccessible to the majority of students and, in some cases, reduced the quality of the services that we provide. 

This decline is the result of an AMS that’s focused too much on doing more. 

We’ve added new positions, yet increased the hours and responsibilities of existing roles. There are over 55 salaried opportunities for students to gain valuable real-world experience. However, we only saw about 80 applicants last February, less than one month after the first uncontested AMS Executive election in 25 years. 

The scope of AMS positions has increased so much so that they’re no longer accessible to most students. Decreased applicant numbers is one of the most tangible ways in which we see the impact of the AMS stretching beyond its means.

Students need an AMS that will focus less on doing more and more on doing better. It’s time for us to reflect on the AMS’s internal structure, its services and, notably, its relationships with faculty societies in order to fulfill this mandate. 

In the upcoming months, we will focus on improving the accessibility of our positions, streamlining support services and fostering a positive relationship with all faculty societies.

The AMS is by students, for students, and it’s time we seek input not just from 55 but all 17,000 of them. 

However, these past six months have shown us that as an organization, we fear criticism. The AMS does not and cannot have a monopoly on student leadership. Rather, we should welcome criticism and suggestions with open arms to better champion student engagement in the Queen’s experience. 

For the remainder of our term, we will have critical discussions at AMS Assembly, where student leaders from all faculties gather, about the programs and services we offer. We will work collaboratively with faculty societies to evaluate their strengths, and look at how we can empower them. 

Most importantly, we will commit to getting student input on our core strengths and weaknesses through focus groups and surveys. We want you to get in touch with us. This is your AMS, and we’re here to serve you.

With this renewed focus, we will continue to pursue the remainder of our platform initiatives and serve the students we represent.

Students have shaped the future of this University, and shaped the future of the AMS. But over the past few years, we’ve lost touch. It’s time we got back in touch.

Terms to Know

AMS: 

The Alma Mater Society, student government for Queen’s undergraduate students, medical students and MBA students.

ASSEMBLY: 

Regular meetings attended by representatives from the AMS and faculty societies: ArtSci, Commerce, Engineering, Medical School, Nursing, Con-Ed, PheKin, Computing and the MBA program.

EXECUTIVE: 

The president, vice-president (operations) and vice-president (university affairs) of the AMS.

SALARIED POSITIONS:

Commissioners, directors, officers and managers who run various operations of the AMS.

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