Five fixes for new year

The Journal lists the top five changes we want to see in 2012

Reinstate fine arts

The Nov. 9 announcement that admissions to Queen’s Fine Arts program would be suspended was met with shock and criticism. The movement towards its reinstatement to remain vocal and active this semester.

AMS’s committee investigating the issue put forth a motion to establish guidelines for the future suspension of programs. While useful for future program suspensions, it does little to challenge the current suspension of Fine Arts.

When the motion was brought to Senate, it was postponed for future consideration. The guidelines for future suspensions and a reconsideration of Fine Arts’ suspension needs to be weighed.

Budget limitations require sacrifices, but a more creative solution needs to be reached. Decisions need to be more transparent, and allow for student consultation — unlike the stark email that was sent to Fine Arts students without warning.

Rather than trying to justify the suspension, the University should work to find an amicable solution. Students need to rally support to secure the future of the Fine Arts program.

Fall reading week

It’s time for Queen’s to add a fall reading week to the calendar. Doing so would bring us into line with schools like Ryerson and University of Toronto, which recently added the weeklong break.

The extra time to catch up on work and readings while providing a change of pace could immensely benefit students. Stress levels are high as assignments and readings pile up, and a break to catch up on them would be a big help to students.

Instating a fall reading week would also give graduating students time to prepare applications for graduate programs and jobs.

The idea of introducing a fall reading week was last brought to an AMS plebiscite in 2007, with an entirely different student cohort than today. Students should be given the chance to vote again on implementing the break.

With a winter semester reading week, it makes sense that Queen’s should have one in the fall as well. The change would likely impact the placement of Frosh Week or the winter break, but these are scheduling hurdles that can be overcome.

Implementing a second reading week could have a big payoff for students. If it doesn’t work out, there’s nothing to stop Queen’s from reverting back to the current system.

Improve mental health services

In response to the tragic student deaths last year, various action groups with similar goals were struck.

Groups including the AMS’s mental health committee, the Principal’s Mental Health Commission and the mental health working group should consider pooling their resources and merging into a larger and more effective body.

With greater resources at their disposal, the groups could provide an efficient and united front capable of significant action.

Working towards the same goal while functioning as different bodies could result in redundencies. A single combined group could reduce time-wasting. With months to discuss and formulate plans, action needs to be taken. It would be useful to increase the number of counselors and staff at Health, Counseling and Disability Services and provide more staff for the Peer Support Centre.

Re-examine the GPA

The utility of switching from percentage grades to a Grade Point Average system is questionable, but now that the change has been made, it needs to be better explained.

The 4.3 GPA system that has brought Queen’s in line with other North American universities remains complicated in the minds of students. Little explanation was provided for the change and students are stressed out, wondering what adverse effects it will have on their transcripts.

There are inconsistencies among class instructors, some of whom haven’t switched over to letter grades or have made a partial switch, using both number and letter grades. It’s confusing.

There need to be more resources put in place that will help students and faculty members to get a better grasp of the GPA system this year.

Technology overhaul

Technology is playing a greater role on campus and in classrooms at Queen’s, but current technological systems have left many disappointed.

Expectations were high for the new multi-million dollar SOLUS database, but the new program has failed to meet student hopes.

It’s not offline for 12 hours a day like its predecessor, QCARD, but a number of flaws in the new system have kept it from being a vast improvement.

Difficulties in finding financial information and a class planner that didn’t provide class times are just two examples of the major frustrations that need to be fixed. SOLUS has proven difficult to use, and would benefit from an extensive in-site tutorial or information Youtube video for first-time users. Staff at the Registrar’s Office aren’t even fully equipped to use the new program.

Another piece of technology at Queen’s that needs improving is Webmail. With email functioning as a primary mode of communication, the 100Mb inbox of Webmail is limiting. Restrictions on singular email sizes are troubling as well.

With the current popularity of smartphones, Webmail should be tweaked to make pairing your inbox with a phone simpler. As it stands now, installing Webmail on a smartphone is like navigating a maze.

Tech glitches have also been rife in the AMS’s online voting system. This year, some alumni were able to vote, while some eligible students weren’t. If problems like these aren’t repaired, the AMS should consider reverting back to a paper ballot system.

Otherwise a shadow is cast on an already low voter turnout. It’s better to have an inefficient system, as long as it ensure a credible democratic process.


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