Rejected fee adds to StuCon troubles

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A taxing work environment makes Student Constables one of the most difficult AMS jobs to recruit for.

And a dwindling salary incentive, drawn into focus during an unsuccessful campaign to raise their mandatory student fee, isn’t helping.

Realities of the Job

Queen’s Student Constables often face aggressive or belligerent patrons in their line of work.  

A Jan. 14 report for AMS Assembly on a proposed fee increase stated that StuCons face “a stressful work environment that is often hostile and difficult to manage”, and that the environment along with the training required make “recruitment and staff retention extremely difficult”. 

According to the most recent Non-Academic Discipline (NAD) Operations report for 2015, which covers May 1 to Dec. 21, 2015, 12 cases were processed with NAD. Two cases, or around 17 per cent of these incidents, involved the intervention of Student Constables (StuCons).

In one incident, a student swore at a group of StuCons and pushed one of them down a set of stairs after they asked the student to leave due to intoxication. The student in question allegedly inappropriately touched the chest of a TAPS manager earlier in the night. (See Editor's Note below*)

The case, which occurred at The Underground on Oct. 29, was included in a recently released report from the AMS Non-Academic Discipline (NAD) and was ranked as a Level 3 offense (out of four).  

According to the Operations Report, the following sanctions were given in response: a Student Wellness Services Alcohol Workshop, a three-page and a two-page essay, a nine-month Tri-Pub ban and a $100 bond. 

The report states the respondent was listed as uncooperative and expressed little remorse.

After receiving a request on Feb. 1, AMS Communications Officer Jessamine Luck told The Journal via email that an interview concerning the NAD report and the difficult situations that Student Constables face isn’t possible at the time.

She wrote that the AMS is in the midst of recruiting new StuCons, and has historically experienced difficulty recruiting for the position. 

“Unfortunately, I don’t know that we can take this interview at this time since we’re right in the middle of recruitment, which includes recruiting from StuCons,” she wrote. 

“This is always one of the toughest positions in the AMS to recruit for but one of the most crucial to fill and I’m concerned that highlighting one of the more extreme incidents of being a StuCon will deter potential applicants.” 

She added that she would love to “revisit this story once recruitment is finished”, requesting to speak at a later date in March.

A History of Financial Struggles 

QSC is the only service of its kind in North America, acting as a safety service to uphold the AMS and University rules at sanctioned events and venues since the 1890’s. 

A March 2012 Journal article highlighted the changes to the service since Bill C-159 was passed in 2005 and later came into effect in December 2009.

The bill mandates that StuCons be officially trained and licensed throughout the province. In 2012, the training cost roughly $700 per new hire, and $80 per rehire.

In the four year period following the introduction of the Bill, QSC started running a continual and incremental deficit. 

Despite altering hours and staggering shift starts, in 2012, the deficit was projected at between $15,000 and $25,000, by then-AMS Hospitality and Safety Services Director, Gracie Goad. 

The deficit was taken to an AMS Annual General Meeting (AGM) in March at the time, where the QSC secured a mandatory fee increase from $8.34 to $10.

The AGM had historically been an avenue for voting on student fees outside of the referendum. The system required groups to present their cases to members of the AMS Assembly.

In order to bring a fee to the AGM, groups had to satisfy a two-thirds vote of the total membership of the assembly.

The Winter Referendum and Alterations to the Student Fee Policy

A new motion, passed during an October AMS Assembly this year, erased the option of AGM for clubs and services, leaving a referendum as the sole option. 

On Oct. 22, Vice President (Operations) Kyle Beaudry brought the motion to vote in an AMS Assembly, which suggested alterations to the Student Activity Fees policy. 

The alterations removed the AGM as an avenue for addressing student fees, created specific criteria for external groups applying for funding and prevented groups who have been defeated during the referendum period from returning to referendum that year.

In the most recent winter referendum, QSC reported further financial concerns.

The AMS Consolidation Report for 2015-16 lists the difference between their budgeted and actual deficit as $13,310 more than expected. The service has budgeted for a deficit of $11,888.

In response, the AMS placed a fee increase onto the winter referendum. If passed, it would have increased their mandatory fee from $10.53 to $11.53.

In a statement published in The Journal to promote their fee increase in the referendum, QSC stated that the fee would increase StuCons’ wages, which was intended to resolve the low applicant numbers and poor retention rates. 

The minimum wage in Ontario when the fee was increased in 2012 was $10.25. However, Ontario raised its minimum wage in June 2014 and again in Oct. 2015. The rate now sits at $11.25 per hour. 

Student Constables, meanwhile, are currently paid $12 per hour in their first year, $14 per hour as returning staff and $15 per hour as senior staff. 

However, when the results of the referendum were announced, QSC — along with Golden Words — was denied the increase. 

QSC cannot appeal the decision, and must wait until next year’s referendum to request any changes to their fee. 

Editor's Note: This article has been edited to clarify the sequence of events in the NAD incident described. The student in question is alleged to have first inappropriately touched the chest of a TAPS manager. Later in the night, StuCons asked the student to leave due to his level of intoxication. The student swore the StuCons, according to the report, and pushed a StuCon down a few stairs.

Corrections

February 8, 2016

Around 17 per cent of NAD cases since May 1, 2015 involved the intervention of Student Constables, not a quarter of cases. The original version of this article included a case from April 1, which does not fall within the date range.

The Journal regrets the error.

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