The Alma Mater Society here at Queen’s is the oldest student association in Canada and has been the primary institution of student government at Queen’s since its founding.
The AMS was officially founded in 1858, emerging from the Dialectic Society, which was a debating association. The Dialectic Society of Queen’s College was the first student association at Queen’s and met regularly to debate current issues and read essays. According to the Queen’s Encyclopedia, “other activities included delivering public lectures on temperance and establishing Sunday Schools.”
After its conception, the AMS retained the tradition of debate — which would last until the late 19th century — while also taking on additional responsibilities for student affairs and governance.
In 1898, the AMS officially took over responsibility for the student discipline and the AMS Court (now the AMS Judicial Committee) became responsible for cases involving undergraduate students.
In the 20th century, the AMS was a key component of one of Queen’s two student strikes. According to the Queen’s Encyclopedia, a student protest broke out in 1928 after two students attempted to organize an off-campus dance.
Due to disciplinary action that had been taken, the initial on-campus dance had been cancelled and students decided to organize one off-campus. Those two students were suspended from the school for two weeks.
Outraged by the decision, students protested. At the time, the students argued what they did off-campus wasn’t the University’s business. The AMS organized a meeting and students voted to go on strike until their peers were reinstated.
Fast-forward to today, the AMS is a very different institution than it was 160 years ago. According to the AMS website its mission is “to serve and represent the diversity of students at Queen’s University.” In addition to the many services the AMS provides, they strive to provide students with representation both within and outside of the University and to liaise between the various student societies, such as ASUS, or EngSoc.
The AMS operates under a budget of approximately $16 million, and runs many campus hot-spots including CoGro, the Underground and QP.
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