In the past week, democracy at Queen’s has been deeply compromised.
With Peter Green’s resignation from his elected position as the incoming AMS Vice-President of Operations and his swift replacement with Nicola Plummer, students’ questions have continuously remained unanswered. Whether it has to do with Green’s resignation or with his replacement, Eril Berkok and TK Pritchard have failed to give voters the full story they deserve.
The entire process has proven that Berkok and Pritchard don’t in fact stand for what they promised during the election. The lack of transparency and the tone taken on by the team shows that student voices aren’t truly valued. AMS Assembly has echoed this by placing their own interests above those of students.
Starting with Green’s resignation, Berkok and Pritchard demonstrated their lack of commitment to transparency. While they did release a statement on their individual Facebook accounts and vaguely explained what happened from their perspective at AMS Assembly, their side of the story still contradicts Green’s.
The day of Green’s resignation, Berkok and Pritchard repeatedly avoided requests by the Journal for an interview. They also refused to write a letter to the editor to address the issue.
While they did send in their Facebook statement, they didn’t give the Journal the chance to ask the questions necessary to understand the situation better.
They’ve also failed to provide students with three elected representatives in the AMS executive office. Starting in May, students won’t get the team they voted for.
But democracy isn’t just about elections; it’s also about how elected representatives choose to speak on behalf of their students. Plummer’s appointment was ultimately approved by members of the AMS Assembly — they should carry part of the onus for putting the interests of the AMS over the interests of students.
It’s true that the decision to use section 2.02.03 of the AMS constitution — allowing Berkok and Pritchard to nominate Plummer to replace Green — follows the procedures in place.
It’s also true that Plummer was voted in to office by elected representatives in a constitutional manner. But democracy shouldn’t just be about following rules. What elected representatives failed to do in this case was look beyond procedure and truly consider how their constituents’ voices would be best heard.
What was shown instead by voting representatives at AMS Assembly was an almost unanimous concern for AMS hiring and the damage a new election or referendum would cause to the AMS proceedings.
Students were told that a new election or any other alternative would be more detrimental to students than the outlined path.
At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be up to representatives to make that call — it should be up to their constituents.
The decision to vote with so little consideration for representing students’ voices is both patronizing and paternalistic.
In an ideal world, the fairest and quickest way to vote Plummer in would’ve been through an online referendum. A quick vote from students would have given Plummer the legitimacy to sit on AMS Assembly and serve students.
AMS Assembly didn’t have to vote yes to Plummer’s appointment, they could’ve called for an election. Furthermore, the decision to carry out the vote as a public roll call instead of as a secret ballot was unfair to voting members who may have disagreed with the status quo.
By forcing everyone to publicly voice whether they supported the motion or not, peer pressure may have played a role in the representatives’ decision more than it should have.
A closed vote would have been the fairest way to run the vote, and it’s baffling why a motion was made to make it a roll call instead.
It’s disappointing to see that many of those who spoke at the Special Assembly put their own interests ahead of those of students.Many of those who spoke in favour of this matter were personally connected to the incoming executive or had a personal stake in the matter.
While it’s true that an overwhelming majority of 37, against 3, voted in favour of Plummer taking the position, we can’t help but doubt this vote’s legitimacy due to the way the vote occurred.
As a result of the proceedings, Plummer still doesn’t have the democratic legitimacy that she would’ve had were she directly elected by the student body.
The incoming AMS executive has shown a fundamental disrespect for students’ voices. Moving forward, the very least they can do is take steps to make constitutional changes to ensure that this sort of situation doesn’t happen again.
The constitution should reinforce democracy. By engraining amendments that would allow for a quick referendum to be called in case this ever happens again, the executive can commit themselves to reinforcing democracy instead of abusing it.
Much of the damage may be irreversible at this point.
Students ultimately are not getting what they voted for. How are we supposed to trust an executive that has shown such blatant disregard for keeping their word, even before their term has begun?
— Journal Editorial Board
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