Editor’s Note: The Journal’s Editors-in-Chief were involved in the circumstances prompting the discussion item “Queen’s Journal Discussion” at Assembly. The Editors in Chief were distanced from the editing process of this piece.
Described as “pivotal” by AMS President Zaid Kasim, the AMS held its first Assembly of the summer on May 20.
AMS Assembly was slated to consider various issues on the agenda, including standard executive reports, the Board of Director’s report, the student senate caucus chair report, and other statements by students.
The start of Assembly was postponed by an hour due to technical errors and eventually convened at 7:00 p.m. with a motion moved to discuss The Journal’s retracted statement on Palestine solidarity first.
Members-at-large shared lived experiences on matters affecting Palestinians at home and abroad.
Following statements made by members-at-large, Kasim moved for a discussion on the issue of neutrality to be discussed in a closed session.
This is a procedural move that allows the AMS and other faculty’s executives to discuss pertinent issues at a certain level of confidentiality.
The closed session on neutrality intends to determine whether the AMS should change its mandated constitution to allow the organization to take a stance on matters deemed political by the Society.
According to RTZ, changes in this portion of the mandate would mean the AMS could depart from neutrality.
“We should have been more educated […] Our mandate is old, the AMS is old, it’s time for a shift in how our organization is structured,” Kasim said.
“This year will be the year a shift will occur in our mandate, and we are going to listen to Palestinian voices, and we no longer want to be reactive.”
Further testimonies were stated from attendees following the president’s statement, with proposals raised on divestment.
Kasim took the unprecedented step to have a motion on divestment moved to closed session. No further elaboration was made with respect to divestment.
This is the first time the AMS has gone into closed session since 2015.
In response to making future political statements, the AMS and other faculty groups said they would reach out to Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Queen’s to organize educational training sessions that include monetary compensations.
Computing Students’ Association (COMPSA) president Sanindie Silva said it will also host consultations with equity-based clubs on campus once hiring for the executive team is completed.
“We will definitely reach out to SPHR and ‘CC’ any emails with Patrick Deane […] I really want to extend my support, I really do,” Kasim said.
Kasim also responded to the Society’s role in accusations directed towards SPHR’s activities on campus earlier in the year, as well as issues of free speech and hate speech on campus.
“I must acknowledge our lack of education on this matter,” Kasim said. “I want to learn more about this before making a commitment.”
In reference to the JDUC redevelopment plans, members at large raised concerns about whether the building’s prayer space will be affected.
Kasim emphasized prayer spaces for Muslim and Jewish students will be protected and kept safe, as well as all other places of worship on campus.
“We are going to advocate with other groups on campus to get space, this includes keeping space in the JDUC. We will not take ‘no’ as an answer from the admin if we receive push-back,” Kasim said.
“When we advocate for safe spaces, that means having posted security members through the student constables, since we know that Queen’s security has a reputation as being a predominantly older white male population,” Tiana Wong, vice-president (operations) said.
“Our student constables are more representative of our student population.” In a verbal commitment, the AMS said the Society will be held accountable by logging and releasing all actions to the public to increase transparency.
Roshael Chellappah, Residence Society president, also mentioned that she will work with equity-based organizations and other organizations to ensure the residenceexperience is inclusive and safe for all.
Following the statements made by members of Assembly, Omar Baboolal, Commerce Society president, said he’s excited about working to provide better communications.
“Patience with student leaders is important. We are learning and unlearning publicly, but please hold us accountable,” Baboolal said.
Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) President Alyth Roos said her inbox is always open to receiving students’ suggestions and input.
“This is just the beginning of our dialogue and I thank everyone for coming out,” Roos said.
Students and AMS executives also spoke to the importance of protecting the Jewish community and students of Jewish faith on campus.
“I don’t think the two things are mutually exclusive. I can make my statement in support of Palestine and Palestinian voices, but at the same time make Jewish students feel comfortable, safe and heard as well,” Kasim said. “I want to make sure there is support available for students.”
The closed session will be held by next Thursday at the latest, according to the AMS.
“I need to be the leader you folks elected me to be. I am listening, and I will advocate,” Kasim said. “These are not empty words, and real change will happen. I want to assure everyone of this.”
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