At AMS Assembly last month, the Union Gallery brought forward a motion to establish a mandatory student fee to fund their operations. This came about a year and a half after a vote to continue their fee failed by just 28 votes in the 2012 Fall Referendum.
The February motion was unsuccessful, and Union says that without the fee, their future is in jeopardy.
At Assembly, several student politicians expressed their opposition to the fee or refrained from supporting the art gallery on the grounds that it’s a “niche” service. Others have said that Union’s mandate isn’t broad enough to justify a mandatory fee.
Only 33 per cent of voters cast ballots in the last AMS election. Many previous referendums and elections had even lower turnouts, including last fall’s referendum ,which brought out a disappointing 16 per cent of voters.
The Union Gallery, which provides opportunity not only for students to appreciate art, but also for students to work and operate a gallery firsthand, reports that approximately 5,000 people attend its showings on an annual basis. Five thousand visitors is almost larger than the number of votes cast in this year’s AMS election.
If the Union is too “niche” to deserve a measly $3.75 from each student, an organization like the AMS — which brings out a similarly sized group of members to its elections — is just as “niche”.
No one will deny that Queen’s has a problem with student apathy. However, the fix doesn’t lie in free coffee or superficial attempts to bring out more voters.
The solution has to be systematic. Queen’s students have to realize that the number of opportunities they have on campus and beyond is directly correlated to the number of clubs and services they support on campus, even if they only appeal to a minority of students.
Although Union’s dilemma is tragic, it’s only indicative of a larger problem on campus: self-involvement without compassion for one another.
When we’re asked to support a club we don’t directly benefit from or give them a few bucks through a fee, we often shrug our shoulders and ask “what’s in it for me?”
Every club, service and group on campus has something to offer. Each one of them provides an opportunity that someone — internally or externally — values very much. In aggregate, these experiences make for a vibrant campus life.
Students should recognize this — especially our elected representatives. Writing a service off as “niche” does nothing to combat disengagement. Instead, it actively detracts from the already suffering Queen’s community.
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