An open letter to the AMS

Re: The Journal is Wrong About AGM, Here’s Why

When newspapers make a factual error, we print a correction. This ensures that we’re transparent and don’t mislead readers. 

In light of the AMS’s misrepresentation of The Journal’s editorial, they might be advised to do the same.  

On Tuesday night, the AMS published a blog post entitled “The Journal is Wrong About AGM, Here’s Why”. In it, they implied  that The Journal had recommended to the AMS that they reinstate the Annual General Assembly (AGM) as a means for passing student fees.

This blog post was a response to The Journal’s editorial “Student fee policy leaves StuCons hanging”. Our editorial discussed a change in AMS policy, which made a student-wide referendum the only avenue for passing or increasing student fees. 

The editorial laid out the problems caused by the change — exemplified by the Queen’s Student Constables (StuCons) failing to get a fee increase, despite a legitimate need for funding.

Nowhere did the editorial state that reinstating the AGM was the answer. 

In fact, the editorial clearly stated that “An AGM that allows huge and unnecessary student fees isn’t desirable” — just in case anyone should assume that was our suggestion. 

We did say, “there needs to be a way for services that are necessary to receive the funding they need.” And we stand by that argument. 

The AMS is well aware of the problems StuCons face. But students voting at the referendum weren’t. There’s a problem with that, and it’s one that we don’t think the AMS would disagree with. 

Democracy can’t work if voters are uninformed on what they’re voting on. And while a referendum may have reached more students than an AGM, the AMS’s claim that it reached 17,000 students drastically overestimates the number of students who actually voted on it.  

The AMS’s response ignored clear evidence of the flaws in their new system that resulted in the underfunding of an essential student service. They instead resorted to an attack on Queen’s University’s student newspaper based on an inaccurate assumption. 

The AMS implying The Journal is against democracy — aside from their misinterpretation of our editorial — is ironic considering The Journal contacted the AMS several times regarding recent incidents involving StuCons, only to be denied comment. Their Communications Officer declined to comment, stating that an article on the reality of working as a StuCon may dissuade students from applying for the position.

The AMS’s newfound love of referenda also comes at the tail end of a year where they nullified the fall referendum in a closed door meeting to which student groups affected by the decision weren’t invited. The AMS did not clarify the reasons for their decision until 13 days after the referendum, even when asked directly in an interview with The Journal.

When the situation calls for it, the AMS is not above making decisions behind closed doors without asking for every student’s opinion. 

The AMS can’t follow their principles only when it’s convenient to do so. 

It’s galling to be called undemocratic by a group of student politicians who resist attempts to be held accountable and miss opportunities to be transparent. 

But we shouldn’t be having a “Who’s the most democratic?” contest right now. We should be discussing whether this policy change is what’s best for students in light of what happened to the StuCon fee. 

The AMS made a change that negatively impacted students. They’re now being called out on it, but their response has been to ignore the issue and cling to a narrative of promoting democracy that hasn’t worked out in this case.

We don’t call for student government to listen less to students, but we do expect that the AMS will act in the best interests of students. And there’s no question that the StuCon fee failing to pass was not in students’ best interests. 

We suggest the AMS take steps to avoid that happening again. 

But, instead, their solution is that StuCons — who are underpaid and often harassed — simply put on a smiling face and campaign even harder, just like MUSE Magazine. But with all due respect to MUSE, a lifestyle magazine isn’t as essential to student life as a security service. 

No one likes to be criticized. But good government means being open to constructive criticism. 

It’s the AMS’s prerogative to disagree with The Journal’s opinion, as long as they get it right. We welcome open discussion because that’s how we arrive at the best solution. What we don’t welcome is a refusal to face the real issue at hand. 

At the end of the day, valuable input from the AMS requires them to be factually correct, respectful and professional, as befits student leaders. 

Journal Editorial Board 

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