With the fall semester kicking off, AMS Executive Team ETC—composed of President Eric Sikich, Vice-President (University Affairs) Callum Robertson, and Vice-President (Operations) Tina Hu—shared their goals, concerns, and aspirations for students.
One of ETC’s major goals is running a successful orientation week to welcome new students to Queen’s on a strong note.
“This Orientation sets the bar, and the changes will be kept over time for the next couple of years,” Robertson said in an interview with The Journal.
“Faculties do their own branding, and the Orientation Round Table [ORT] introduces folks to AMS branding. This general awareness leads to marketing and their [marketing director’s] most consistent work,” Robertson said.
“We have a very strong marketing officer this year. Activities that we’ve done in the marketing office have required more funding to ensure we’re able to reach our goals,” Sikich said.
Internally, ETC is redeveloping the AMS visual identity standards, logos, and website for increased inclusion, including online office hours. The new website was launched on Sept. 1.
ETC’s platform also included “encourag[ing] cross pollination between offices, commissions, services, and clubs.”
“All parts of the AMS have their own respective goals, and [the AMS] is starting their own marketing caucus, so they have a chance to interact with other student societies,” Sikich said.
Many student societies haven’t been working in the summer, so ETC hasn’t had the chance to contact them.
“When those societies do have more initiatives underway, it will give us the opportunity to be more involved with them,” Robertson said.
Hu added she holds a vice-president operations caucus to promote cross-pollination.
“We have interacted most with the Engineering Society (EngSoc) and ASUS,” Hu added.
Sikich said he wants to conduct meetings in which presidents from all faculty societies sit in a room casually to discuss any issues they experience on a weekly basis, including the Residence Society (ResSoc) and the Queen’s Student Alumni Society (QSAS).
“I sent an email to faculty presidents about this early in the summer, but there was low pick-up because a lot of presidents were not available,” Sikich said.
ETC hopes to use their new offices at the LaSalle and Rideau buildings to engage students on campus.
“The proximity to residence buildings is quite important, and this goes for the marketing campaigns,” Robertson said.
Student Engagement and Trust
Regarding AMS elections and assembly, ETC hopes to “re-energize” students.
“We want to prove to students within [AMS] Assembly they can ask us questions and hold us accountable,” Robertson said.
The AMS holds a closed president’s caucus during the summer to discuss university-wide issues.
“It’s not something we would’ve changed during the summer because beginning [the term] with a more private atmosphere makes student leaders more comfortable,” Sikich said.
“As someone who did not come from a background of politics or policies, I had to learn quite a bit. It’s important we do have transparency but the summer Assembly does not have that same power as Assembly during the [school] year.”
The AMS significantly increased the Secretariat’s marketing budget for Assembly and elections in hopes to increase engagement, Sikich stated.
“A large aspect is ensuring the student perspective is heard at the AMS, so branding and services need to be better advertised,” Sikich said.
Spreading out and increasing the accessibility of advertising campus is important to ETC.
“We’re paying more attention to the branding the AMS provides to students, especially since its money we’re getting from them such as the services [fees] we offer,” Sikich said.
“The SLC front desk has moved to the Queens’ Centre, which gives students a great opportunity to get involved since the location is more accessible,” Sikich added.
While ETC’s platform included having a more accessible OnQ interface, Robertson said the AMS doesn’t currently centrally advocate in academics.
“Our job is to get faculty societies together and advocate for accessibility and work on the financial side of the university,” Robertson said.
Transparency and Communication
One pillar in ETC’s platform was building trust with the student body. Hu said the team recently brought the consolidated budget forward and is happy to walk through the budget with others.
Team ETC said the budget not being posted on their website is an “oversight,” but Robertson said there’s hesitation to do so because some people have trouble understanding parts of the budget that are a “bit more complex.”
“Should we continue raising the student fee this year, we would likely opt for smaller increases to make it more accessible for the students who have to pay these fees in future years,” Sikich said, about the budget being impacted by inflation.
This year, the AMS is revealing a revamped website, hoping that the new design will allow students to better understand its services and policies.
“We will sway students to refrain from opting out of AMS fees [by] showing students the value of AMS [the] services that they pay for,” Sikich added.
“One of the issues we’ve been looking more broadly at this year is our policies. Our secretariat is reviewing a lot of our [AMS] policies as well as the constitution to make sure it’s more up to date.”
Sikich said the team has been liaising with the Human Resources Officer regarding updating policies.
“We’ve realized a lot of policies don’t work in tandem with each other, especially with the constitution, because policies are updated in different years.”
According to ETC, restructuring the Social Issues Commissioner (SIC) into two positions—one focused on internal AMS matters and the other focused on community issues—is long overdue.
“We’ll be putting a large amount of time and focus into this project, and we look forward to the hiring, training, and implementation processes for this change,” Robertson said.
The executive is also hiring an Indigenous Initiatives Coordinator, a new position at the AMS.
The AMS is upgrading Queen’s EmpowerMe mental health program to Console, which will provide students with better access to self-directed counselling support and round-the-clock crisis support.
Team ETC is currently developing a working group related to student housing, which Sikich said will determine ways the AMS can best support students on affordable housing initiatives in the future.
The executive pledged to review their platform three more times this year as they better understand the needs of the student body. They will re-release their platform in September and at the end of each semester.
“This will allow us time to engage in more discussion with students and continue consultations with groups on campus,” Sikich said.
—With files from Asbah Ahmad
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