When Team JBP walked into The Journal’s office on Monday evening, they arrived a relaxed version of their campaign selves. Gone were matching shades of blue and business-casual, replaced with matching grey sweatshirts they swore were accidental.
Last Tuesday, 52.61 per cent of voting undergraduate students elected the team – Jenn Li, Brian MacKay and Palmer Lockridge – as the AMS Executive for the 2017-18 term.
The morning after the vote, hiring announcements went up and the trio were expected in the AMS offices of the current executive to begin their months-long transition.
“Jon Wiseman shared the hiring announcement before we did,” MacKay said in reference to former AMS Commissioner of Internal Affairs. There wasn’t much time to recuperate from what the team recalls as a taxing two-week period, and months of planning beforehand.
“I think the thing for me that made the campaign the hardest is kind of separating ideas versus people,” MacKay said. “The idea of like, if somebody is very very vocal in supporting the other team. Some people made some really passionate statements about us, on both sides. At some points it got very heated.”
“It was hard on us,” he admitted. “Specifically when it came to us as individuals, nobody ever came after us personally. But it gets tough when people are very vocally opposed to you.”
Li echoed the sentiment, noting how de-personalized candidates can become during a campaign season. “The three of us kind of got lumped together into this one image, whether or not it was real, and that was the hardest part,” she said.
The campaign itself was filled with technicalities. The $800 reimbursable funds available to each team have yet to be paid back, which, for Lockridge means a large credit card bill for posters, campaign supplies and buttons – the latter of which the team joked was their most contentious purchase.
“There’s no happy medium with buttons,” Li said. Either they were loved, or absolutely despised by voters. MTW made the choice to forgo the purchase, while JBP invested, which the team says they stick by. “We like the buttons,” Li said.
When jokes were put aside, though, MacKay noted issues with the current financial system of elections and potential barriers for students running in tight financial positions. Providing a pre-paid debit card, versus reimbursing expenses, would be one way to improve accessibility.
The current system was labelled by MacKay as catering to those “already involved,” with a full-time salary and the flexibility to take the necessary time off. Finances of a campaign are a tricky business, they noted, as any materials used like speakers or whiteboards that were pre-owned by the team needed to be included in the budget and evaluated for market value.
As well, MacKay noted that his Arts program was more accessible than Lockridge’s Life Sciences course load. During his ASUS campaign last year, he had zero assignments due.
Lockridge, however, is now down to a two-course load, and plans to take one per semester through the coming summer, fall and winter. Though the team joked about Lockridge’s recognizability on the street during and since the campaign, academic staff didn’t think the same.
“I wish it worked on my TA,” he said of a single-semester course. “Because I went into class, and she said, so who are you? And I just said ‘I’m sorry I missed your class.’”
Though their campaign was successful, it brought an awareness of several underlying issues within the AMS. Voter apathy, while helpful in getting around 400 students to blindly sign their ratification form, meant many students they approached had no idea what the AMS is.
“People do associate the AMS as just a corporation,” Lockridge said. As they push out applications for their team, due Thursday at 4 p.m., he said they’ve made a concerted effort to market to groups that wouldn’t normally apply to be part of student governance.
However, Li added, at the end of the day, they can’t force anyone to apply for jobs they don’t want. They’ll be hiring their team based on who fits best for the roles and will announce the successful candidates next week.
Though the process of hiring, transition and training are just beginning for the executives, real life has begun to set back in. MacKay walked back into his ASUS office the day after elections, where ex-opponent Julie Tran works down the hall, and looked at the stack of cheques to process in front of him.
“It was like it never happened,” he joked. He thought about his first day at ASUS — exactly one year before their upcoming May 1 AMS start date — when he looked around for those who transitioned him in.
“They were all gone,” he recalled, laughing. “And it was kind of like, now what?”
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