Reviewing 12 campaign promises

Eight months after their election victory, team MBT reviews the promises they made for each month of their executive term

Team MBT, left to right: VP (Operations) Ian Black, President James Macmillan and VP (University Affairs) Meghan Teuber.
Team MBT, left to right: VP (Operations) Ian Black, President James Macmillan and VP (University Affairs) Meghan Teuber.

Of the 12 promises team MBT made during last year’s AMS election campaign, five are more or less complete, four are in progress and three have fallen by the wayside.

The AMS executive—President James Macmillan, Vice-President (Operations) Ian Black and Vice-President (University Affairs) Meghan Teuber—revealed a campaign featuring one promise for each month of their term in the AMS government should they be elected. Eight months into that term, the results of these promises have been hit and miss, but MBT say they wouldn’t have changed a thing.

“Nothing comes to mind right now,” Macmillan said. “I mean, obviously we have done a variety of things that weren’t election promises … I think we provided 12 pretty good things.

“We spent a lot of time coming up with those.”

MBT’s first goal was to get to know the AMS. Black said it’s taken a while, but he feels like he knows the ins and outs of student government now.

“I came back to the office from new year’s break feeling rested and like I really knew what I was doing … then outside my office I heard someone picking up a[n AMS] election package,” he said.

Macmillan said he thinks the new reincarnation of the All-Ages Access system, which requires groups to apply for an all-ages event, is working.

“There’s still been some frustrations on the part of organizations and underage students that not everything was all-ages, [but] achieving complete access is impossible,” he said. “I think it lays a good groundwork for building upon in future years.”

Macmillan said he thinks the future of all-ages programs at Queen’s shouldn’t involve alcohol and doesn’t necessitate all-ages access in bars or pubs.

For July, MBT promised “a website that works.” For the second time in as many AMS terms, the website we revamped.

Macmillan said the new AMS website is more than just another design, however.

Our website uses a content management system,” he said. “Out commissioners, our service managers can log in and change the information … rather than the system which existed before where they had to e-mail our IT folk [to change anything].

“Hopefully the website that exists now will not be a one-year thing.”

Black said the feedback mechanisms that were included in MBT’s website promise are working on the new site.

“It hasn’t made its way onto the main page,” he said. “We, surprisingly, don’t get a lot of feedback through it.”

The Ghetto Games, which were to have taken place in September, didn’t materialize.

“I think the timing wasn’t really right for it,” Macmillan said. “The headache that the cancellation of house parties caused was a hassle for the office to deal with, as well.”

Black said there was a possibility of hosting Ghetto Games in January, but all the proposed activities relied on the presence of snow.

Macmillan said he thinks the AMS fulfilled its September promise to have a safe Homecoming 2006.

“I think that this year’s Homecoming was a step in the right direction--I think we certainly turned the tide versus last year,” he said.

The plan the AMS implemented, which involved legally closing the street to traffic and using volunteer groups to minimize tension and discarded glass, was one of three that team MBT put forward as part of their campaign.

Macmillan said they chose that plan for feasibility reasons.

“It came down to the fact that all of a sudden we looked at the calendar and it was July-ish and we didn’t really have that much on paper as a plan.”

There isn’t much the AMS can do to prevent out-of-towners from showing up on Aberdeen Street, Macmillan said.

This year, approximately 800 people crowded onto the street on the Saturday night of Homecoming weekend.

“It’s not entirely surprising when you have a party that graces Maclean’s magazine and has national coverage,” he said. “Hopefully people who drove 10 hours won’t find it as interesting as they hoped and won’t come next year.”

For the month of October, MBT promised to spearhead an annual Kingston job fair that would bring local recruiters and job-seeking students together, develop a career opportunities commission and various job fair committees, as well as facilitate the AMS’s relationship with Career Services.

The new Career Opportunities Commission had a hand in organizing a job fair in October, and another next Tuesday, allowing students an opportunity to meet Kingston employers and vice-versa.

Macmillan said the partnership with Kingston employers makes sense.

“I know a lot of local businesspeople lament the fact that we’ve got lots of qualified grads leaving the city.”

MBT’s November promise was to publish TA evaluations online and use them to umprove current TA programs and policy. AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner Charles Sumbler is part of a consultative committee on teaching assistance, whose purpose it is to look at the University’s TA policies, from English communication assessment to training to dispute resolution. Chaired by Dean of Graduate Studies Janice Deakin, the committee was formed following a SCAP report in May 2006 and will make recommendations to Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane’s office.

“[The committee is] looking broadly at what TAs’ role is, how they can be trained, what sort of tools they need to do their jobs,” he said, adding that it’s important to reassess and possibly revamp the TA program as a whole before taking on the evaluation system.

“I don’t think that the first step, necessarily, is imposing some sort of evaluation; I think that training component is very important,” he said, adding that one possible change to the current TA evaluation system would be to have evaluations in the middle of the term, allowing TAs to improve during the rest of the year.

However, it isn’t likely any TA evaluations would be made public, Sumbler said.

“Seeing them widely public, I don’t think would serve an interest,” he said. “In many cases these TAs are only around for one year, two years max; we’re not looking at being able to collect data that would be of long-term use.”

One promise that seems to have panned out well is the pledge to open Stauffer Library for 24 hours a day during exams: the University implemented a trial period during December exams that did just that, and committed the $10,000 required to keep the library open for the extra hours during Fall and Winter exam periods.

Black said he was surprised by how amenable the University was to the idea of keeping Stauffer Library open 24 hours a day during exams.

“We had an initial meeting with Martha Whitehead … we threw out the idea and really expected that to be an area of contention,” he said. “The University was on board and they ended up leading the charge.

“We were expecting a bit of work at our end, but the folks at the library really led the charge on that one.”

Perhaps the most ostentatious and ambitious of MBT’s promises was that of installing plasma screens across campus to keep students up-to-date with goings-on at the University.

The plasma screens were to be up this month.

Black said the AMS is working with the University to get plasma screens, and although the project is progressing slowly, he thinks it will be completed.

“It was also on the University’s to-do list … we thought it would make more sense to get on board with them,” he said.

Queen’s Marketing and Communications Director Richard Seres said the University has been working towards creating a university-wide digital communication network in the form of on-campus plasma TV screens since last spring.

“The idea is to create a whole network of these screens across campus,” he said, adding that much planning remains to complete this project.

“We’re not at a poit right now where we’ve got it all nailed down or anything like that,” he said. “It’s hard for me to put out a timeline because I just don’t know … the kind of costs that are going to be required.”

Seres said it’s possible the University may seek a company with which to partner in funding the screens.

“We’re wondering if through the University’s development office fundraising, some companies might be willing to donate or come through as partners in the system,” he said. “What we have not been doing is seeing this at all as a system for advertising: it is absolutely not that,” he said. “It’s not in our revenue model at all.”

The locations and number of screens have yet to be decided, Seres said, adding that he hopes to have them installed by the end of 2007.

Teueber said MBT’s February promise to eat dinner with first-years wasn’t meant to be, either.

“Logistically it didn’t work out,” she said. “We talked to residence life [but] it didn’t work out to contact the dons and schedule everything.”

For the month of March, MBT promised an International Festival celebrating cultural diversity. Now termed the Queen’s Multicultural Festival, Teuber said this event will coincide with the African and Caribbean Students’ Association Culture Jam.

Gael Force One, a plan to increase student support for University athletics, was supposed to be accomplished by April, but the three execs said it’s not going to happen.

“Football season has come and gone and I don’t think we were as active as we hoped to be there,” Black said.

Despite some setbacks, Black said he’s glad the team set out those 12 goals as part of their campaign.

“It was good for an election because it gives students a good idea of what we want to do during the year and it gives us a good idea of what we want to do during the year,” he said. “It actually is a good guide.”

Teuber agreed.

“It’s a tangible result that students can see,” she said. “When you get into office there are a lot of other things you want to do … Those 12 promises are things students will look at and say, ‘This is what I got out of this year.’”

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