Students gathered in the lower ceilidh of JDUC on Monday evening as AMS President Tyler Lively called to order the 2017 AMS Annual General Meeting (AGM).
While usually represented by elected officials, at the AGM each student-at-large that attends is eligible to participate in voting, Lively explained to the crowd.
“The AGMs used to be a venue for the AMS to impose new fees on students, now they have become a chance to reflect on the AMS and where the organization needs to go in the coming years,” Lively said.
State of the AMS address by President Tyler Lively
Lively began the meeting with an update on the state of the AMS, during which he reflected on the work he and his team had accomplished during their term thus far.
In his speech, Lively focused largely on the AMS’s weaknesses rather than its strengths.
Lively admitted that historically, the AMS has consistently fostered an attitude of “entitlement, reckless self-confidence and resistance to change” which has often left the student government out of touch with the needs of its members.
This attitude needs to be addressed with ongoing discussion, Lively said.
Lively also addressed the AMS’s ever-evolving relationship with the University administration, specifically citing recent conversations about changes to the Non-Academic Misconduct (NAM) system.
According to Lively, when the Provost decided to strike an investigation in 2013-14 into the Non-Academic Discipline system, as it was called then, the AMS executive at the time responded with a threatening letter warning the Provost to “not underestimate their resolve on the issue.”
Rather than engage productively with administration, that year’s executive tarnished the relationship between the AMS and administration, making it impossible for the AMS to make gains on the issues that mattered most to students, Lively said.
This year, Team LWT has worked hard to improve relations with the administration, and has seen great success, according to Lively.
Lively then went on to discuss the “poor fiscal performance” of AMS Pub Services TAPS, which has lost approximately $100,000 per year since Alfie’s rebranding to The Underground.
“Our predecessors tried everything to hide the poor fiscal performance,” Lively said. “Though we’ve tried to take a critical look, it is not until now that we are acknowledging there is a very real problem.”
Lively then shifted focus to list several projects Team LWT has successfully completed thus far in their term, including providing 24/7 study space at The Brew, broadcasting of Gaels games, the expansion of Tricolour bus services and the arrival of a skate sharpening service at Bikes and Boards.
He continued by identifying the team’s long-term commitment to revitalizing the JDUC, which he said is currently “not up to par.”
“We’ve made more progress [on the JDUC] this year than in the past five years combined,” Lively said.
Lively reiterated the team’s focus on increasing study space, improving town-gown relationships, providing better mental health services, and strengthening the AMS’s relationship with the clubs community.
Lively also revealed a few projects in the works, including one to allow students to send documents to the P&CC from their homes for pick-up, and another to create a digital “clubs compass” to help students find clubs opportunities that suit their interests.
In closing, Lively thanked “student leaders and engaged students alike” for contributing to the AMS, and encouraged them to always speak up and challenge the AMS when they are being shortsighted.
Last year, the Board of Trustees took the NAM system under review and an interim protocol was put in place, which prompted contention among current and past student leaders. A Central Intake Office and student conduct office were created and solidified in policy after the Board accepted a new Student Code of Conduct.
According to Ryan Pistorius, Judicial Affairs Manager, the structure of the NAM system was significantly altered by this agency agreement, which now allows the University to remove students from handling NAM-related duties in some cases.
As such, the total number of cases handled by the Judicial Affairs Office plummeted last year to less than half of what was normal.
While Pistorius admitted that this change could merely be viewed as yet another shift in the nearly 120-year-old system, “it would be naïve to underestimate the significance of the review when it comes to the principle of peer-administered justice,” he said.
There is increased uncertainty among students filing complaints now, Pistorius explained, as they can never be sure whether the AMS or the University will handle their complaint.
However, Pistorius stressed that he remains hopeful about the future of NAM, as the AMS is slowly being awarded increased functions and is continuing to improve relations with the administration
One member-at-large asked the panel why NAM failed to reprimand the racist party on campus last semester.
Pistorius responded that it is the responsibility of the Central Intake Office to determine which body will handle concerns such as those, and that it is usually the responsibility of the Human Rights Office to deal with issues of discrimination and human rights violations.
Another student inquired about whether the strain on mental health services at the Student Wellness Services office will be addressed going forward, to which Vice-President (University Affairs) Carolyn Thompson responded that it will indeed remain a priority, especially with the building of the Innovation and Wellness Centre.
Another member-at-large inquired as to why politically-affiliated clubs aren’t eligible to apply for grants or student fees, to which the panel explained that it’s written in AMS policy, and is generally best practice at most universities to exclude this kind of funding.
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