ACH would bargain with student money

Withholding Queen’s Centre fee last resort, vice-president (operations) candidate says

The AMS signed an agreement with the University to contribute a total of $25.5 million to the Queen’s Centre project. Team ACH would consider withholding the AMS’s annual contribution.
The AMS signed an agreement with the University to contribute a total of $25.5 million to the Queen’s Centre project. Team ACH would consider withholding the AMS’s annual contribution.

If next year’s AMS executive decided to withhold the money from the student fee collected to go toward the Queen’s Centre, that money would have to be made up either out of the University’s cash reserves or by incurring additional debt, said Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance).

In both cases, the alteration would affect the University’s operating budget. If the money were to come directly from the operating budget, the Board of Trustees would have to approve the new amount. If the University opted to borrow money to subsidize the project, the money to finance the loan would come from the operating budget.

Either way, Simpson said, withholding the money would force the University to make up the difference.

“It is money that we need for the project to go forward.”

As part of their platform, AMS executive candidates Holly Archer, Jay Collins and Jeffrey Howard have said they will consider withholding the approximately $1 million in Queen’s Centre student fees the AMS will collect next year if they feel the University isn’t maintaining the quality of student services.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the University and the AMS in January 2006, the AMS executive is supposed to conduct a yearly review of the agreement to determine whether both parties are upholding their ends. Team ACH has said they will take a motion to the AMS Assembly to stop the transfer of the money if they don’t believe the University’s obligations are being met.

ACH vice-president (operations) candidate Jay Collins said they would monitor the timeline and budget of the project to ensure responsible management by the administration.

There are no strict criteria as to what would prompt the team to try to withhold the fee.

“It would be a wait and see thing.”

Simpson said he’s happy to be a part of the yearly review discussions.

“If the teams are saying they’re going to be diligent in following the process then that’s fine. I would expect nothing less.”

Collins said the fee is the AMS’s most useful bargaining chip.

“This is actually some tangible way we can hold the University accountable,” he said, adding that advocacy alone is not always a viable option. “It’s difficult really to be effective when we’re talking about a handful of students.”

The University needs to be conscious of the needs of current students, Collins said, ensuring they aren’t sacrificed to meet the needs of future students. He cited the loss of an on-campus arena and tennis courts due to construction as examples of the University failing to do that.

“They didn’t have to knock down Douglas [Library] to build Stauffer,” he said. “To build the Queen’s Centre we’re having to knock down buildings. We’re seeing a loss in services.”

He said students need to understand that the team will only use the power to withhold the money as a last resort.

“We don’t want to have to do this. It shouldn’t have to come to this. Holly, Jeff and I would hate to withhold the money.”

The money would still be collected and kept in a bank account until the University remedied the concerns of Assembly, Collins said. If after a year, the issues were addressed, the money would be paid in full.

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