Looking back at the year with MBT

2006-07 not a big year for hot-button issues, outgoing executive says

Vice-President (Operations) Ian Black, left, and President James Macmillan said they would have liked to engage faculties and students more outside the AMS.
Vice-President (Operations) Ian Black, left, and President James Macmillan said they would have liked to engage faculties and students more outside the AMS.
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A year after being elected on a promise to “Make it happen,” members of Team MBT—AMS President James Macmillan, Vice-President (Operations) Ian Black and Vice-President (University Affairs) Meghan Teuber—agreed it’s hard to put a finger on their year’s defining issue.

Macmillan said this year’s executive wasn’t in the public eye as much as others, but that doesn’t mean it accomplished less.

“[We worked on] things that aren’t necessarily seen by the average students or don’t get a lot of attention in the Journal, but they change how the AMS is going to run for the next few years.”

These changes include the creation of a new position within the Academic Affairs Commission and the move of AMS services such as the Foodbank to Macgillivray-Brown Hall, he said.

Black agreed that this year was relatively free of “huge, hot-button issues.”

“We had the thought, if we do one thing right this year, let’s do Homecoming right,” he said. “This is so long ago now and I don’t think we’ve been sitting on our hands since then.

“It’s been one of the years that’s been lacking in a big issue that captures everyone’s attention.”

The AMS’s relatively low profile makes it harder to gauge student attitudes towards their government, Black added.

“In terms of students, it’s a very tough question to answer. … It’s tough to judge something like what students’ opinion of the AMS is, but I certainly don’t think this year the students’ opinion of the AMS has fallen,” he said, adding that there would probably have been a lot more focus on the AMS if things like Homecoming or non-academic discipline had gone especially badly.

Black said he found jumping into the position without prior experience to be one of the most challenging parts of the year.

“The hardest part would definitely be being in a position, especially early on in the year, when you’re trying to make a decision which you don’t necessarily feel you have all the right tools to make,” he said. “I think often in this environment, especially with respect to financial decision … [we] have to make some decisions we’ve never had any experience doing before.

“Not knowing how [things work] … but having to take a risk; I think that’s one of those things that took getting used to.”

Black said he wished he could have had more time to get to know the position before taking on the responsibilities of AMS executive.

“There’s something about the wealth of things you need to know about and it’s tough to do your job when you don’t have an understanding of what your job is,” he said. “The scope is quite large and it’s a very tough experience to learn [how things work]; a better understanding of that from the get-go would have helped me.

“You’re on the up-slope of the learning curve until the day you leave.”

Macmillan said he would have liked to develop more of a relationship with faculty societies during his time in office.

“You always have the impression there’s a little more time than you have,” he said. “I think that the AMS and I specifically would have benefited from developing those relationships a bit earlier.

“Going to their assemblies is one easy thing to do, but also have lunch with them and develop relationships with them, get to know their opinions on issues that come up.”

Teuber said it’s important to try to find a diversity of opinions among the different faculties.

“When you look at the people who apply to our jobs, they come from the ASUS umbrella and EngSoc,” she said. “[But] there is a diverse set of opinions sitting around the assembly table. We are stronger for that and we get better results because we have different views.”

Teuber said sitting on the Ontario Undergraduate Students Association steering committee made her realize the importance of involving students from different faculties in discussions on policy.

“Most of the people were in Arts, in politics,” she said. “Being from a commerce background I had a little more insight into what the commerce students need.”

Black said it would have been nice to reach out to more to students this year.

“There’s a lot going and it becomes hard to … focus on being outside of the JDUC and make sure we’re doing our best to reach out,” he said. “If your own house isn’t in order, the AMS is in really bad shape.

“The challenge of that is to communicate. It’s tough to go out of that sphere. There’s only so much time in every day and it’s hard to do everything in that time.”

Black said he thinks the AMS’s biggest accomplishment this year was putting a focus on campus sustainability.

“The sustainability co-ordinator has gone a long way. … Many of our services have undertaken sustainable initiatives that were not necessarily on the table last year,” he said. “I think that is one area where the AMS has gone in a new direction.”

Macmillan said he’s most proud of the relationship the AMS established with the University this year, specifically by working together on initiatives like Homecoming 2006, a partnership he said also aided the AMS’s relationship with the city.

“I think the AMS is in a very good position in relation to the University; we’re seen by the administration as being a very credible partner,” he said. “I think we’re seen in a good light by the University; that hasn’t always been the case.”

Macmillan said he credits this improved relationship with helping to avert a Senate motion, put forward by seven deans in May and subsequently tabled until November, to put non-academic discipline in the administration’s hands.

“I think we’ve done a lot to improve the atmosphere that allowed that notion to come to Senate,” he said. “The University and the AMS will not always be on the same page, but this year we’ve managed to create an environment that is positive and cordial almost all of the time.

“We realize, and the administration realizes, it has to deal with the AMS as a partner.”

“We hope,” Black added.

Macmillan said that, given the chance, he wouldn’t have altered his decision to call an emergency assembly after the Dean of Student Affairs Office sent an e-mail to Judicial Committee Chief Prosecutor Jenn Mansell with a list of 11 keggers expected for St. Patrick’s Day that Campus Security had previously forwarded to the Kingston police.

He said the motions passed that condemned the University’s actions were justified and the right thing to do, adding that he doesn’t think this will adversely affect the AMS’s relationship with the Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker, who told the Journal he was disappointed with the emergency assembly and the motions.

“The relationship with the Dean of Student Affairs Office isn’t always smiles and handshakes, and we wouldn’t be doing our job if it was that,” he said.

Black said the purpose of the emergency assembly was to make sure students were aware of what was going on and to communicate their view that what the University was doing was wrong.

“It’s easy to look to this as a singular event to which there’s no follow-up and no context,” he said. “The motions were not the centre of the event—it’s how the University decides to act in the future.

“I think they were the right motions to put forward and we put them forward so Assembly could agree with them, or not. We put them forward as a discussion point.”

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