Team JBP issues statement cancelling Emergency Assembly

OISE Open House

Incoming executive team say meeting violated HR policies and procedures

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Journal file photo

Less than 20 minutes after issuing a public statement cancelling an Emergency Assembly meeting set for Tuesday evening — intended to facilitate a discussion and re-vote for the Speaker role given to Alexander Prescott days prior — President-elect Jenn Li and Vice President (Operations)-elect Brian MacKay addressed the turnaround in an interview with The Journal.

Team JBP issued the statement announcing the cancellation on Tuesday at approximately 4:25 p.m.

"We must be mindful of our long history of following principles of restorative justice, due process, and fair treatment of all students," the statement read. "We recognize now that calling this emergency Assembly was the wrong thing to do. It explicitly violates those principles."

"All members of the Queen’s community deserve the opportunity to grow and learn during their time here, and we must be helpful and supportive in this process. By vilifying an AMS member, or allowing social media to dictate our decision-making, we are failing to uphold our responsibilities to all of the students we represent."

According to JBP, the reasons behind the sharp turn of decisions included their own violation of AMS Constitution, policy, procedures, and HR guidelines. Immediately after their statement was issued on Monday, AMS Secretariat Miguel Martinez informed Team JBP of the violations. 

"We acknowledge that a mistake was made in making a hasty decision, and not checking the policy and procedure and following that," Li said. 

At this point, the team asked the Judicial Committee (JCOMM) to convene and clarify some sections of policy that were unclear, including whether the AMS Speaker counted as an AMS volunteer and would thereby be privy to the volunteer policy and procedures, and whether the Speaker was a member of Assembly. Both questions were ruled to be a yes.

The definition of "just cause" as it appears in the AMS Constitution, Section 5.5.5 was also clarified to be "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.

This information was then taken to a meeting of President's Caucus for the incoming year, which includes faculty society executives and ex-officio members like the Rector and Undergraduate Student Trustee. The body then decided that an Emergency Assembly wouldn't be "a safe space to have constructive dialogue around this issue," Li said, "given that we would be violating policy and procedure." 

MacKay added that there was historical precedent for such meetings getting out of hand, referencing the 2013 Special meeting when Prescott's original comments were called to question. "It needs to be a space where everyone, including Mr. Prescott, feels safe and welcome and included. Our top priority remains the health and safety of all AMS members," Li said. 

On Tuesday morning, Team JBP met with Prescott to discuss the issues raised. Li said that the team outlined their concerns and expectations of Prescott in his role, as well as detailing an "action plan" for how the issue would be handled. The action plan will include training relating to human rights and sexual violence, and sensitivity around those particular issues. Though the team sent an email to their Assembly on Monday calling Prescott, "decidedly the wrong candidate for the position," Li believes they spoke too soon.

"It doesn't change the fact that we do not stand by his actions, and we don't condone them," she said. "But I think it was a hasty decision for us to release that statement without at least giving him the opportunity to speak on his behalf and to hear out his story ... until he has been given the chance to fulfil the job, we don't have any reason to believe that he can't." 

Both Li and MacKay said they knew nothing about Prescott's 2013 comments during Sunday's Assembly when he was voted in, saying that almost no one — excepting individuals like Rector Cam Yung, who they pointed out doesn't hold voting rights but had the chance to speak — has been around long enough to remember. On his end, MacKay cited the poor "institutional memory" in the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) of which he is currently finishing his term as Vice President for not keeping the minutes from the 2013 Assembly somewhere accessible. 

"I can say our governance officer Matthew Kennelly has genuinely been in his office digging all day," he said. "Darrean has been trying to help. I went digging entirely through my email. We genuinely can't find them."

Given that Sunday was the team's first Assembly as an executive, Li said, they needed to be better if similar situations arose again. "We do need to be listening to all parties, and that means whether you agree or disagree with the decision. It's not just a one-sided story. There's always two sides, and I think we didn't do our part in listening to both." 

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