Saying goodbye to CMM

Peer Support Centre and sustainability office campaign promises works in progress, AMS executive says

Outgoing AMS executive Kingsley Chak, Julia Mitchell and John Manning say the AMS-specific fee had to be passed at Annual General Meeting instead of by referendum.
Outgoing AMS executive Kingsley Chak, Julia Mitchell and John Manning say the AMS-specific fee had to be passed at Annual General Meeting instead of by referendum.
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Not all of AMS executive team Chak, Manning and Mitchell’s campaign promises turned out as planned, but Vice-President (Operations) John Manning said the AMS executive’s focus on issues such as sustainability and mental health means the 150-year-old organization is maturing.

CMM’s promise to create a peer counselling service to promote mental health and alleviate pressure on Health, Counselling and Disability Services was a major part of last year’s election campaign.

The volunteer-run Peer Support Centre has seen one student since it began in February. HCDS still has a three-week waiting list to see a counsellor.

Mitchell said this is due in part to a lack of funds. She said the $2,500 budgeted for the support centre wasn’t enough.

“We didn’t have enough money to really market it,” she said. “I would have budgeted a bit more money. I don’t know where it would have come from.”

Mitchell said she hopes the Peer Support Centre can become as much a campus fixture as the Sexual Health Resource Centre.

“It’ll take a couple of years for it to get there.”

Another of CMM’s major campaign promises was to lobby Queen’s to create a University-wide sustainability office. The University announced in June it was creating an office with a preliminary $65,000 budget. They hired an office manager in late February.

Manning said the University has been updating them with progress on the office and said about three weeks ago they were in the hiring process.

“So far it hasn’t materialized yet,” he said, adding that he hopes the office becomes a focal point for campus sustainability.

“For any really good, sustainable campus you need a symbol—a space on campus everyone recognizes. This is where all the excitement and information flows from.”

Manning said the AMS is looking into how its sustainability co-ordinator would liaise with the University’s officer.

Chak said they’ve been working with Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane to integrate sustainability into academic curricula.

The team also promised to create an opportunities hub and a centralized events calendar on the AMS website. Neither materialized.

Mitchell said an AMS events calendar wasn’t necessary because the University has its own. AMS communications officer Jess Lindal was encouraging services and commissions to advertise their events on the University’s calendar before she resigned.

The AMS started talking with the University about Queen’s Centre governance in February, 2007.

“We have our roadblocks, we have our fundamental differences,” Chak said. “There remains things to be worked on. More progress is needed, and it needs to happen faster.”

The University has proposed a governing body for the entire Queen’s Centre with student representation, but the AMS wants to run the student centre on its own.

“It just makes sense for the people who are always here to take control,” Mitchell said.

On March 5, AMS Assembly passed a motion recommending the Board of Trustees not renew Principal Karen Hitchcock’s term, which is up for review.

The motion, an article about which ran in the Globe and Mail the following Saturday, elicited criticism from both students and members of the administration.

Chak said he doesn’t think the motion will hurt the AMS’s relationship with the University.

“This is not a personal attack of any sort,” he said. “I hope they will come and work with us and say, ‘OK, why are these views being presented?’”

Chak said they would have consulted with students before passing the motion, but because they didn’t intend to pass a motion when they began the discussion, that didn’t happen.

“If we were to know we going to do a motion then should we consult students more? Sure. But the discussion takes a course of its own.”

Not all students are familiar with Hitchcock or what the principal does, Chak said, so the responsibility to take a stance lies with the AMS.

“So do I think it’s appropriate for student leaders to comment on that? I’ll say yes,” he said. “Is it regrettable it made national media? Yes.”

In the March 11 AMS Annual General Meeting, 88 students present voted unanimously to increase the AMS-specific fee by $9, from $54.62 to $63.64.

Manning said the AMS Board of Directors decided early in the year to bring the AMS-specific fee to AGM.

“We knew we were likely going to be asking to increase the fee,” he said. “We made the commitment in the summer or early fall that was the best way to go.”

Chak said there wouldn’t have been time to pass the fee increase in a referendum because the time it takes to put together an information package to educate student voters about the reasoning behind the increase wouldn’t have given them enough time to do the necessary research.

“In order to do all the analysis and put it together, it takes time to do that,” he said. “At AGM we can say, ‘AMS is passing an AMS-specific fee, come and we’ll tell you why.’”

Mitchell said the fee increase was too complex to be properly explained through a referendum campaign, and they couldn’t put it to a referendum during the March rector election because that would be too expensive.

If the fee had been put to referendum, however, Chak thinks it would have passed.

“Yeah—there’s no reason to say no.”

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