AMS Assembly debates making Queen’s campus smoke-free

Student leaders discuss tobacco-free policy, filing election complaints and restructuring assembly governance

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Kicking off this Wednesday’s AMS Assembly in Wallace Hall, guest speaker Swati Naidu  from the Ontario Public Health Unit began with an address on the move towards making Queen’s a smoke-free campus.

Naidu, along with two of her colleagues from the Department of Medicine and Department of Public Health, informed assembly that 11 universities in Canada have already implemented smoke-free systems, including Dalhousie, Acadia, and the University of Winnipeg, but none in Ontario.

At Queen’s, she said, exceptions could be made on campus for Indigenous and Aboriginal students who use tobacco for cultural traditions and therapy. Nicotine replacement and smoking cessation therapy could be provided through the Wellness Centre at no cost to those who choose to quit smoking.

Many assembly attendees expressed concern about the technicalities of creating a smoke-free campus, raising issues such as accommodating government-mandated smoke breaks for employees on campus and drawing boundaries of what constitutes “campus”.

This initiative is still in its discussion phase, and as a result, Naidu and her colleagues were unable to provide concrete answers to many of these questions. The speakers thanked assembly for their concerns and promised to come back with more information in the future.

Amendment to AMS Elections Complaint Policy

Secretariat Miguel Martinez and Vice President (University Affairs) Carolyn Thompson introduced their amendment to AMS policy regarding the process of filing complaints to the Elections Team about candidates running in AMS elections.

The amendment reads, “When a team becomes aware of a potential violation of elections policy, they are permitted 24 hours to report the alleged violation to the AMS Elections Team.”

In past years, teams have been permitted 72 hours to file a complaint.

Martinez explained to the group that the phrase “becomes aware” means that once students realize a campaign violation, they should somehow be able to prove the time at which they noticed it. This can be done through taking a photo or a screenshot of a message that would have a time stamp on it.

The purpose of the amendment is to take pressure off of the Elections Team during the 10-day winter referendum election period.

According to Elections Team Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Rebecca Warrian, in past years they’ve been inundated with complaints “of a petty nature” in the last couple of days of an election period.

She believed this was often used as a campaign strategy, through which opponents will hold on to evidence of campaign violations until the very end of the election to put pressure on the other teams.

Last year, Warrian said that in the first week of the election period, the elections committee received about 15 complaints a day, but in the last three days they received approximately 40-50 per day.

EngSoc Vice President (Student Affairs) Evan Dressel expressed concern that 24 hours was not long enough to file a complaint and moved that the amendment should be changed to 48 hours.

Assembly voted on Dressel’s proposed motion, but it failed, and the original 24-hour rule amendment passed on a vote of 20 for and 10 opposed.

Assembly Governance

VP Thompson wrapped up assembly with an open discussion about potentially changing the way that the AMS conducts its assembly meetings.

The AMS recently introduced Commission Advisory Board Meetings into the AMS on a trial basis. These meetings assemble individual commissions within the AMS to discuss issues relating to their various committees, and then once conclusions are made, bring them to AMS assembly.

These meetings are closed sessions.

Rector Cam Yung supported the fact that committee-level discussions give members the opportunity to engage in candid conversations in a smaller group setting. However, he expressed concern that because these are closed sessions, it becomes difficult to bring the information to assembly accurately, thus limiting accessibility to information for students.*

AMS President Tyler Lively supported the committee-based model noting, “I don’t think everyone needs to comment on everything that happens.”

Thompson ended the discussion with a promise to start researching different structures and bring information back to assembly for further discussion on the matter.

Corrections

* The AMS executive clarified after Rector Yung's concern that any proposal being brought forward will make committee meetings open to all AMS members, except in exceptional circumstances.  

The Journal regrets the error.

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