Students will vote on fall Reading Week

AMS endorses Darfur divestment, votes down Board of Trustee questions

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, students will vote to express their support or disapproval of a fall
Reading Week. Last Thursday, AMS Assembly approved the Reading Week question to appear on the winter referendum ballot. Sivan Nitzan, ArtSci ’09, put forward the question.

“I think that stress is a big problem for a lot of students,” Nitzan said. “We can’t keep in line with all of our classes while studying for midterms properly.” Nitzan said she spoke with members of the AMS and corresponded by e-mail with Patrick Deane, vice-principal (academic), along with Cynthia
Fekken, associate-dean of Arts and Science. “They’ve said that it’s very possible [to have a fall reading week], that I need to get student opinion on it first.”

Nitzan has started a Facebook group dedicated to the cause, and she said student response on Facebook has been divided. If her question were to receive a popular vote, Nitzan would take the results to the AMS Assembly and to the administration to follow up. Referendum questions related
to policy are non-binding and the University is not responsible for following through with whatever
students vote. “I’ve been told that I can only generate interest. I can’t get anything done myself,” she said. Assembly also rejected two questions put forth by Aaron Lemkow and Queen’s Students for
Accessible Education. The first question asked students if they felt people with affiliations to major banks, such as Board of Trustee members, should be making financial decisions for the University.
“We basically wanted to create debate,” Lemkow said. “Banks have nothing to do with Queen’s culture and are only making money off of it.”

The second question asked students if they wanted the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario to appoint student members to the Board of Trustees.

Under the University’s Charter, the Lieutenant Governor is permitted to appoint up to four members of the Board of Trustees. This right has never been exercised, however. Lemkow said one of the major
reasons he wanted the question in the referendum was because having four student trustees instead
of two would give the board more diversity.

“Right now, one undergrad trustee means one voice. If this were taken to referendum, a lot of students would probably say the same thing,” Lemkow said. Neither question received the required amount of signatures before the deadline. AMS Chief Returning Officer Ilana Ludwin said the organization didn’t receive the required 675 signatures, and had to explain to assembly why they didn’t receive enough signatures.

“[They] were significantly lower than the required amount of signatures,” she said. “Assembly usually won’t reject any questions that have enough signatures.” AMS President James Macmillan said the two wouldbe referendum questions were voted down not because they were problematic themselves, but
because their sponsors didn’t collect enough signatures.

“They didn’t get the required 675 signatures, so they appealed to assembly for special exemption,
which they didn’t get,” he said. “I don’t think there was a real demonstrated reason why they didn’t get the signatures.” Queen’s Project on International Development (QPID) was also unable to get the required number of signatures by deadline. Macmillan said their question passed anyway because of QPID’s stature as a club. “QPID is a very established organization at Queen’s,” he said. “It has a reputation of both being a well-organized organization and a nationally renowned Queen’s institution that does good all over the world, so I would imagine that factored into some people’s decision.”

Macmillan said wording was an issue with Lemkow’s referendum questions, particularly with the plebiscite about banking.

“There was a little debate about wording but it ended up being taken off the table instead. That one was actually never voted on. Instead, it was removed by the mover of the motion.” Lemkow pulled the question regarding major banks from the table before it was voted upon. “There was way too much
resistance, so I didn’t bother,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to go through ... I saw no point.”

The question regarding appointing students to the Board of Trustees was voted down 12 to 7. That evening, Assembly also voted to endorse the group Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND ) and its policy of targeted divestment from companies associated with genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

The campaign is calling on Queen’s to sell its shares in any company that provides a large revenue stream to the Sudanese government without providing a measurable good to the average Sudanese citizen.

Macmillan said now that the AMS has endorsed STAND, they will meet with its members to discuss how to implement a targeted divestment campaign at Queen’s. Macmillan said precedent exists for this kind of thing at the University. “It started in the ’70s with a company called Noranda Mines which did business in Chile, and in sort of the early- or mid-70s that was a big issue with the AMS,” he daid. “Starting in the early ’80s a number of both AMS clubs … were really involved in South African divestment as well, something the AMS used to do quite substantially.”

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