Separating societies

Referendum to be held in January to decide if Educational Students Society will secede from the AMS to join the SGPS

Educational Students Society president Amanda Leonard says previous ESS presidents have supported joining the SGPS because of the unique concerns of education students.
Educational Students Society president Amanda Leonard says previous ESS presidents have supported joining the SGPS because of the unique concerns of education students.

The Education Students Society (ESS), representing about 700 students in the Faculty of Education, will vote in January on whether or not to secede from the AMS and join the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS). At a meeting on Nov. 19, the ESS Council passed a motion calling for a referendum on membership in the AMS. Discussion of the motion took place under a closed session and no minutes were released. The ESS has not released the number of votes for and against the motion, only that it passed.

ESS President Amanda Leonard stressed that ESS Council will not be taking a formal stance on the issue.

“During our ESS meeting we voted to go to referendum—not to leave the AMS. The members of ESS Council are completely neutral,” she said. “The information our constituents are given will come from the AMS and the SGPS. It’s not going to come from the ESS.”

Leonard said previous ESS presidents have supported joining the SGPS because of the unique concerns of education students.

“The nature of the education program at Queen’s is a lot different than a typical undergraduate program,” she said. “We’re gone for weeks, back on campus, gone again. A lot of the concerns education students have are different than a lot of the concerns a typical undergraduate student would face.”

Leonard said the ESS has been discussing the idea of a referendum on membership in the AMS for a number of years but she is uniquely situated to follow through because her teaching placement is in Kingston.

“Previous presidents have looked into it, researched it and looked at the pros and cons,” she said. “It’s been hard to take the next step because of the nature of our program. A lot of previous presidents have had their placements outside of Kingston so it’s hard to put the wheels in motion and get the referendum going.”

AMS President Talia Radcliffe first heard of the ESS motion through a letter of notice she received from Leonard on Nov. 10. The letter said the ESS would be considering the motion.

If the education students vote to secede, the AMS will lose $45,000 in revenue from the AMS Specific Fee. Radcliffe said the shortfall could have detrimental effects on AMS programming but they have not discussed increasing fees to make up the loss.

Radcliffe was invited to make a case for membership in the AMS at the Nov. 19 ESS Council meeting.

“We were under the impression we were giving a presentation,” she said. “When we got there we found that the SGPS was giving a presentation as well and it became a debate.”

Radcliffe said from a financial perspective, the AMS provides more for education students than the SGPS could.

“[With the SGPS] their student fees will be higher, period. They’re only on campus for four to five months a year. In that sense I think a lot more education students will care about the dollar value,” she said. “Our health and dental plan is a lot cheaper for regular students and students with families.”

In the 2008-09 school year, coverage for a single student under the AMS health and dental plan cost $139.31 less than the cost of coverage under the SGPS plan, which costs $434.20. For couples the savings increase to $402.28.

At the ESS Council meeting on Nov. 19, Radcliffe told ESS Council the AMS could reduce mandatory fees for ESS students because they spend so much time off campus. She proposed reducing athletic fees by 33 per cent and Bus-It and Queen’s Centre fees by 50 per cent—a total savings of more than $100.

Radcliffe said fewer AMS members may force AMS services to begin charging higher rates for graduate students.

“[At the P&CC] we might charge seven cents for an AMS member but 10 cents for an SGPS member. It’s not something we’ve discussed in detail but we will have to start looking into it,” she said.

SGPS President Jeff Welsh said he believes education students would benefit from membership in the SGPS.

“A lot of our members are in one-year masters programs and there are a lot of course-based masters programs,” he said. “They felt they had a lot more in common with SGPS members than most of the AMS societies.”

“The types of services we offer are more applicable to their membership and my understanding is that this has been driving the discussion in their executive for the last few years. “

Welsh said the SGPS will be reducing the cost of its health and dental plan in the future but he doesn’t think finances have much to do with the referendum.

“The total of mandatory and optional AMS and SGPS fees are roughly similar—about 700 if you throw in everything. We’re certainly willing to explore some reductions in fees for their members because they’re on campus so little.”

Welsh said the SGPS will be providing ESS members with information to make an informed choice.

“We’re certainly happy to see them as new members. We in the SGPS feel there is a good fit there. We will be making efforts to ensure that all their members get information before the vote. “

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