Prescott elected AMS Speaker, Special Assembly called amid backlash

University District

'He is decidedly the wrong candidate for the position,' Team JBP says

From 2013: ASUS Representative to the AMS Daniel Basilio leaves Assembly as Representative Alexander Prescott watches. Basilio was one of three assembly members to formally resign following the meeting censuring Prescott for comments about rape.
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Updated April 4 10:53 a.m.

As of Monday evening at approximately 9 p.m. the AMS Judicial Committee (JCOMM) came to a conclusion on three policy interpretation questions being considered in closed session prior to the Special Assembly called to discuss Alexander Prescott's election as Speaker.

The three questions were an interpretation of AMS Constitution, Section 5.3.3, as well as two personnel questions. The first question asked whether the AMS Speaker is, in fact, a member of AMS Assembly, which JCOMM voted unanimously to be the case.

The second question asked JCOMM to more clearly define "just cause" as it appears in the AMS Constitution, Section 5.5.5. "The Committee was cautious to avoid either overly vague or overly restrictive definition," JCOMM Chair Blair Wentworth wrote in the report.

The agreed upon definition is of "any action or behaviour precluding a member of AMS Assembly from being able to effectively uphold one or more of the tenants of the AMS Mandate as contained in the AMS Constitution." The definition should rightly reside with legislative bodies of the AMS, not the judiciary, the report concluded.

The final question asked JCOMM to interpret whether the AMS Speaker position counts as an AMS Volunteer position, for which the committee considered whether the role requires significant involvement in AMS Activities and whether its unpaid or only paid an honorarium, to which the Committee unanimously answered yes.   

The rulings will be used in the Special Assembly on Tuesday evening, which was called within 24 hours after the incoming AMS Assembly voted in Alexander Prescott as Speaker, which led to backlash from students and leaders and the calling for a new vote.

On the evening of April 2, in their mock-assembly to learn the ropes of the next year’s governance, next year’s student representatives and leaders elected in Prescott for the role of Speaker — a role that entails granting speaking rights and facilitating Assembly meetings for the next year. 

In 2013, Prescott — who sat on Assembly as an ASUS representative — was formally censured by Assembly during a specially-called meeting for his comments about rape on Facebook. 

During the 2013 meeting, assembly members Daniel Basilio, ASUS representative to the AMS, Chelsey Morphy, chair of ASUS Board of Directors, and Greg Allan, ASUS representative to the AMS publicly announced their resignations. According to The Journal at the time, none of the three felt comfortable working with someone who holds such beliefs as Prescott’s. 

Immediately after Sunday night’s meeting, student leaders who weren’t present chastised the other student leaders who allowed the vote to go through. Former Commissioner of Internal Affairs Jon Wiseman wrote on Facebook that Assembly “prides itself in allowing a variety of opinions to be spoken — ensuring a safe space for all members of Assembly and students-at-large.”

“That safe space is now gone,” he wrote. Rector Cam Yung and COMPSA President Aniqah Mair, among others, also posted messages of support for survivors of sexual violence, each also opposing Assembly’s choice to elect Prescott as Speaker. 

In a joint email announcing the Special Assembly, the outgoing AMS executive of Team LWT and incoming AMS President Jenn Li, Vice President (Operations) Brian McKay and Vice President (University Affairs) Palmer Lockridge wrote to incoming student leaders that “as you are aware, significant scrutiny has been given to the selection of Alexander Prescott as Speaker of Assembly for the 2017-18 academic year.”

“While he was the only candidate to present himself for the position, he is decidedly the wrong candidate for the position,” they wrote.

“Assembly, above all, is a space for every student to come and voice their opinion on the issues of the day. To do so, Assembly must be accepting of all. Many students have raised significant issues with Mr. Prescott's election as Speaker — issues that were not properly or openly discussed during the time of the vote.”

The executive team wrote that elected representatives must listen to their constituents and offer them a chance to voice concerns; similarly, that Prescott should be given a chance to address them. 

“If Assembly is to truly be a safe space open to all, this issue will undoubtedly put this to the test. We hope that all parties will come together to discuss this issue fairly, openly, and in line with established Assembly decorum,” they wrote.

In a public statement, the two teams wrote to the student body that "In 2012-13, Prescott was reprimanded by ASUS Assembly for comments he made that belittle and disrespect the experiences of survivors and victims of sexual assault. AMS Assembly needs to be a place where students can voice their concerns honestly and openly. It is up to the Speaker to ensure Assembly is that open and respectful environment. Having a Speaker who has made comments that contravene these values challenges Assembly’s ability to be an open forum for all students."

The Special Assembly will take place Tuesday evening at 10 p.m. in Wallace Hall. The Journal will update this story as it progresses. 

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