No more election leaves of absence

New policy aims to ensure political neutrality during AMS elections

AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Stephanie St. Clair says she hasn’t received any complaints regarding the new policy.
AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Stephanie St. Clair says she hasn’t received any complaints regarding the new policy.
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Members of the AMS are no longer allowed to pick political favourites as the result of a motion passed at AMS General Assembly on Sept. 19.

The new policy prohibits the society’s council and officers from publicly supporting an individual candidacy and from taking a leave of absence in order to campaign for a particular team.

AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Stephanie St. Clair said the reason for the change went beyond the issue of ensuring political neutrality within the society.

“The AMS is a political body and it is supposed to be a representative group with the interests of the whole school in mind,” she said. “The second reason is that election time is recruitment time so it’s important that AMS officials are constantly in their offices so that they can always be of service. ... Because of that we felt it was inappropriate for those people to be taking these leaves of absences to be supporting specific candidates.” Managers are still allowed to campaign for teams during their own time, however they are also prohibited to take a leave of absence to do so.

“[They can campaign] when they’re not on shift, and they’re not allowed to campaign within the vicinity of AMS services,” St. Clair said. “Managers don’t really represent students in a political sense, but since they are in a position of leadership, we felt it was inappropriate for them to take leaves of absences to support a particular side.”

St. Clair said she has received no complaints regarding the new policy.

“I don’t think there was any opposition. It was more just people wanting clarification. This is something that has been thrown around since last year,” she said. “As a council we decided unanimously that it wasn’t appropriate for staff to take leaves of absence and members of council shouldn’t endorse a particular team.”

St. Clair said there was an additional, failed motion brought forward.

“We proposed a new section of the Constitution where the Internal Affairs Commissioner and the Human Resources Officer cannot run for president. ... It’s because of the nature of the jobs. The CIA is responsible for elections, so if they run for exec they are neglecting a third of their duties,” St. Clair said. “The responsibilities of an exec elect are pretty demanding for three months. I don’t know how an HRO could balance the particularly demanding job of hiring and recruitment during January and February while being an executive-elect.”

According to AMS protocol, a constitutional amendment requires two successful readings in order to be made official. The motion must first be passed at AMS Council before being brought to AMS General Assembly.

St. Clair said she has no plans on appealing assembly’s decision.

“To be honest, I’m not familiar enough with AMS policy to say if I can bring it up a second time. I don’t think so.”

Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) President Jacob Mantle voted against both motions.

“It was more of an ideological difference,” he said. “In a liberal, democratic system everyone should have the right to support who they want to.”

Mantle said he was concerned if the second motion was to pass, the AMS would be doing away with two potentially strong candidates for its executive.

“People who take positions like the CIA and the HRO like to be involved, they clearly have the experience and the passion, so running for exec would be the next step.”

Mantle said preventing managers from campaigning for teams isn’t an effective solution to the issue of personal bias within the AMS organization.

“I understand the AMS’s position, but if the system is going to be a balanced one then the system itself should be changed. ... Not by taking away a person’s freedom of speech and association.”

Food and Safety Director Holly Archer supports the new policy.

Archer, who served as 2007-08 P&CC Head Manager and ran as the presidential candidate for team ACH in January, said AMS council members, officers and service managers should be available as a non-biased source of information during the election period.

“[Taking a leave of absence] limits people who are specialists in areas of the University,” she said. “Even though I do see the argument it can be limiting … their best role would be to provide people with as much information as possible during the election.”

Archer said for executive candidates trying to research aspects of the current year’s society, having AMS council members involved in another team’s campaign could inhibit the research process for certain teams.

“I would be less comfortable approaching them to ask about their portfolio,” she said. “For example, the CIA … if I wanted to know something but she had been involved [with another team’s campaign], we couldn’t have gone to her.”

Archer said although she had a strong team working at the P&CC, taking a leave of absence to run in or work on a campaign can be stressful for AMS service managers.

“It gave them many more hours to work and it was something I had to make up for when I came back,” she said. “Luckily, January is a quiet time for most of the services, but it can be a strain on the team. Fortunately, by January most people are well-trained and comfortable in their positions.”

—With files from Lauren Miles and Jane Switzer

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