My AMS vote has a deal-breaker

As you read this on Tuesday morning, I’m probably sporting coiffed hair, a crisp white blouse and an artificial smile as I pose for my grad photo. I’m reaching the end of four years here, and I’ve recently started to realize I’m approaching the last of a lot of things, including, in this space, my last signed editorial.

I’m currently also witnessing my last AMS executive election campaign, and I’m trying to decide what vote I want to cast on behalf of those first-year students who’ll arrive on campus this fall to take on the Queen’s the Class of 2006 left behind.

The main thing I’ve learned about AMS elections over the past few years is that promises are the least important thing in an exec campaign. The AMS as an organization is often extremely limited by its financial resources, bureaucracy, and high turnover, as well as by its relationships with other groups within and outside the University.

Election promises therefore mainly showcase a team’s desire to come up with some kind of solution to some hot-button problem, in an effort to appear engaged and visionary to as many potential voters as possible in a short span of time.

As a senior student with a modest amount of perspective on student governance, I couldn’t care less about their promises.

Instead, I care about their character and motivation. The most successful AMS execs I can remember have also been the least slick or visionary during their campaigns. They just worked like dogs all year on whatever students asked them to do, and accepted the inevitable criticism with humility and grace. Can you, prospective execs, do the same?

Can you prove to me that you can work just as hard on mundane, unforeseen issues as on those in your specific platform? Can you prove you’ll deal respectfully and fairly with every staff member in your organization and every member of the public? Most importantly, can you prove you’re not seeking office for your own prestige? I’ll tell you right now that not all of you have me convinced.

That having been said, AMS teams who want anything more than a spoiled ballot from me must make one promise tied closely to the strength of character I’m looking for. Underpinning my perspective on elections and student governance are the four years I’ve spent working for this newspaper, interviewing and writing about student politicians, covering elections, and observing the reactions of student officials to the work that we do.

I’ve also learned a lot over those four years about the constant battles that take place between the AMS and the Journal. Almost every year, there have been suggestions, attempts and even threats—not by the wider body of students we serve, who have on balance expressed confidence in and satisfaction with their student newspaper, but by senior AMS staff—to bind the Journal more tightly to the AMS bureaucracy, or to change the policies and structures that keep the AMS and the Journal as independent from each other as possible.

Candidates, you won’t get my vote, and probably not those of the other students who work here, unless you can convince me you won’t go along with that; that you’ll actively strive to understand what it means to have a strong student newspaper and to make sure there’s one on campus for the Class of 2010 and beyond—despite what that newspaper might say about you.

On this topic, I take a lot of convincing. Just a heads-up.

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