AMS Assembly discusses Black Student Clubs Caucus letter at AGM

2024 Orientation budget passed, Rector says Queen’s in operating deficit

Image by: Herbert Wang
AMS President Eric Sikich speaks at Assembly.

At the AMS’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), members of the Black Clubs Caucus said the AMS doesn’t see them as a priority.

Students had the opportunity to make statements and ask Assembly members questions at AGM on March 9, which was followed by a general Assembly.

As the meeting kicked off, AMS President Eric Sikich started by recapping the successes and failures of team ETC’s term thus far.

Executive Report at AGM

Sikich congratulated outgoing student leaders, commending the work done this year. 2022-23 marked a full return to campus following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the team’s Bettering Report launched this year they aim to make the AMS a safer work environment.

“This report is an initiative we as executives undertook to better assess and evaluate how to make the AMS a safer work environment for all students,” Sikich said.

“It’s hopefully going to wrap it up by the end of our term to provide the upcoming team with suggestions on how to make the AMS even more inclusive work environment.”

Splitting the Social Issues Commissioner position into two, overseeing the merger of two media services to introduce the Media Hub, and building “meaningful” relationships are among ETC’s successes, Sikich said.

Team ETC addressed food insecurity by starting the pay-what-you-can PEACH Market and increasing direct donations to the AMS Food Bank.

The team also faced various challenges this year, Sikich said. He referenced the recent AMS election—albeit contested, it highlighted a “significant” failure on the AMS’s behalf.

The AMS didn’t protect Black students from the racist incident at the AMS debate—during the debate on Feb. 2 or afterwards—according to Sikich.

Sikich addressed the Black Students Club’s Caucus for their work addressing the AMS Assembly and AMS executive.

“Work on this matter cannot be overlooked for the rest of the year,” he said.

Question and Discussion Period at AGM

Amaiya Walters, ArtSci ’23 and incoming Ars and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) president, brought forth concerns on behalf of the Black Student Club Caucus regarding the AMS’s failure to respond to their requests in a “timely manner.”

“For three weeks we did not hear from you, and this has left us incredibly disappointed, dismissed, and unheard,” Walters said.

The AMS informed the Black Student Club Caucus they would be consulting various groups to develop future policy, but not with students.

“The intention with [consultations] is that we work with individuals who have developed policies similar; I know there has been work at the University level,” Sikich responded.

Ruth Osunde, ArtSci ’25, asked Sikich why it took so long to respond to their questions.

“You clearly don’t see us as a priority,” she said.

Following the AGM, Osunde told The Journal marginalized communities at Queen’s are not represented or checked-in with due to lack of internal and external communication.

According to Osunde, ASUS had a “more structured” and timely response to the Caucus’ concerns, although the issues are the AMS’s responsibility.

“We’re just disappointed,” she continued. “I’m upset because it feels like I’m sitting here and I’m educating you on something that you should have the decency to want to do yourself.”

According to Sikich, the AMS has a capacity issue. They wanted to ensure they were “nuanced” in their response and didn’t want to rush it.

ASUS President Yara Hussein brought up that many executives are at the end of their terms, and asked Sikich if they plan to implement “sustainable” goals for the incoming executive.

Sikich said ETC is planning to develop a committee by the end of the year that will be transitioned for the incoming executive team, KMV. The AMS plans for the committee to be under a commissioner or executive, rather than being a floating committee.

Walters asked if the committee would have autonomy from the AMS.

“As we know, AMS is racist, and specifically anti-Black. Although if [the committee] has external stakeholders—if they did not have autonomy in the AMS—it would mean part of them [could be] disbanded or fired at any time,” she said.

The Black Student Clubs Caucus addressed the AMS’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII) policies, which are “extremely short,” according to Walters.

“[EDII policy] needs to be changed immediately. What if something happens tomorrow? Our community really doesn’t feel safe as it is.”

Sikich said he wasn’t aware the policies were lacking and would need to review them.

Tara Rezvan, president of the Commerce Society (ComSoc), acknowledged that with one-year terms, executives need to find ways to institutionalize EDII policies.

ComSoc is creating a leadership development program which will be mandatory for leaders within the program.

“[It will] actively challenge any biases and perspectives that people are going into their roles with, into these leadership positions,” Rezvan said.

AMS General Meeting Updates

The AMS general meeting passed the 2024 Orientation Week budget.

Vice President (University Affairs) Callum Robertson said he and incoming Orientation Roundtable Coordinator Mariah Keeling consulted various faculty societies to inform the budget.

In consultations, they had stakeholders score various areas of spending out of five and presented the findings to Assembly in a series of bar graphs.

Most sections saw a 10 per cent increase from last year to account for the rise in inflation. They’ve re-allocated the spending for “volunteer appreciation” to disparate budget lines for each part of Orientation, rather than keeping it as a full line itself.

“We feel really confident in his budget. It’s similar to last year, but it provides increases and decreases,” Robertson said.

Social Issues Commissioner (External) Dreyden George announced Queer Prom will be held on March 17 and is a fully sustainable event. There will even be no trashcans present at the venue, he said.

George is also working on finalizing and marketing a braille labeling program for university buildings.

“It should be that every building on this campus already has braille labeling—otherwise it’s really not accessible for blind people,” George said.

Rector Owen Crawford-Lem told Assembly the University is running an operational deficit. The tuition freeze implemented in 2019 has been “fantastic” for students, but not so great for the University, according to Crawford-Lem.

He said the University is compiling a small group of senior leaders to address housing issues and possible strategies for students.

Discussion surrounding the JDUC’s blueprint prompted ASUS president Yara Hussein to ask about prayer spaces for Muslim students on campus.

Sikich responded that the space may be a little bit different than expected, but he will continue further conversations with Hussein regarding it.

Hussein said prayer spaces on campus are “critical,” especially as they were promised in the original plan.


AMS, AMS Assembly, Annual General Meeting, orientation

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