CYZ & MAP talk cash

AMS executive candidates discuss budgets and bottom lines

Team CYZ wants to promote student involvement in Queen’s financial decisions.
Team CYZ wants to promote student involvement in Queen’s financial decisions.
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Team MAP thinks the AMS should shoulder some of the University’s financial burden.
Team MAP thinks the AMS should shoulder some of the University’s financial burden.
Photo: 

With Queen’s facing a 15 per cent cut to its operations budget over the next three years, Team CYZ plans to advocate for students’ financial and academic interests.

Presidential candidate Michael Ceci said universities across Canada are facing budget cuts.

“In terms of university operations, the 15 per cent budget cut is a problem a lot of universities are facing,” he said. “Other universities such as Waterloo that have more disposable land to grow are getting the money [from the government].”

Ceci, ArtSci ’09, said there are internal financial measures Queen’s can take to deal with budget cut backs.

“We need to look within us to cut costs here as well as externally,” he said. “When salaries are increasing on a year-to-year basis—three to even seven per cent—that is not sustainable. A lot of faculty members realize this is unsustainable.

“The AMS can have a big influence in decisions. It can make the argument for faculty that this has to be done to preserve the quality of education.”

Ceci said other measures Queen’s can take to save money include consolidating the purchase of office supplies.

Vice-president (university affairs) candidate Adam Zabrodski said Team CYZ wants to promote student participation in Queen’s financial decisions.

“The cuts are coming. Now it’s a question of minimizing the impact they’ll have,” he said. “We want to involve students in the process of decisions.”

Zabrodski, Sci ’09, said this includes receiving student feedback in regards to courses.

“We need students in the room to say ‘This is not really necessary,’” he said. “This means engaging with the curriculum, eliminating the redundancies.”

Ceci said this doesn’t prevent Queen’s from being a leader in research and academia.

“What we have to realize is that if there is a 15 per cent budget cut, Queen’s can’t be stagnant. It’s unfeasible to form new departments, but it’s important to keep innovating new courses.” Vice-president (operations) candidate Leslie Yun said clubs are one area where Team CYZ wants to see funding increased. Many students are connected to the AMS through clubs so these initiatives should be supported, she said.

“There are a lot of students who see the values of the services but not the AMS,” she said. “There’s a disconnect there.”

Team CYZ wants to increase club funding by 500 per cent so a total amount of $30,000 is allocated to student clubs and managed by a Clubs Manager.

Yun, ArtSci ’09, said the current position of Student Centre and Clubs Co-ordinator functions mainly as a liaison between the JDUC office and the AMS.

“We want a full-time staff member solely focused on clubs.”

This year, the AMS increased funding to special projects grants by $30,000. Yun said Team CYZ wants to provide club funding in addition to the special projects grants. Special projects grants are not exclusive for clubs and require a separate application, she said.

“There are almost 200 AMS clubs. Special projects grants are not easily accessible. Funding is still inadequate compared to other universities. This $30,000 will be allocated directly on a needs basis. [Clubs] don’t have to go through a separate application process.”

Yun said Team CYZ wants to provide students with financial resources due to the financial hardships that are being faced nationally.

“In our platform, we have a couple of ideas to help out students. The Financial Fitness program is to help students’ personal finances.”

Financial Fitness workshops would deal with issues such as financial planning and filing taxes, she said.

“This is to ease the transition from graduation to the real world.”

Ceci said another financial assistance initiative put forward by Team CYZ aims to save students money on textbooks.

“We want to really push for all textbooks to be on reserve, so students can use textbooks there at the library,” he said. “In addition to tuition fees and all these other fees, people forget about the cost of textbooks.”

Zabrodski said the high prices of textbooks can be combated with technology.

“Publishers are driving up the costs of textbooks,” he said. “There’s been a shift towards electronic databases.”

Ceci said Team CYZ also wants environmental sustainability to be a priority because it will save the University money in the long-run.

“We want to push the University to become a leader in environmental sustainability,” he said. “It saves money and energy. We want Queen’s Centre to be kept to the LEED certification that has been planned. We support the certification. It keeps the University accountable.”

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Team MAP believes the AMS should be able to shoulder some of the financial burden.

“It’s a big AMS problem. While it may not cut back on our budget, it cuts back on the quality of education people are getting. I think this is where we need to refocus our efforts by lobbying with OUSA and lobbying internally so that these funds can be used,” said presidential candidate Colin McLeod.

McLeod, ArtSci ’09, said his team plans to advocate for educational reform in order for Queen’s to maintain its high standard of academic quality.

“The way that the University is set up right now is the type of education we’re learning is a system that’s at least 100 years old. You’re in a room with 400 people, crammed into a lecture hall, listening to someone talk. It’s not really the most conducive way to learn,” he said. “As the AMS, it’s our job to propose new ideas to make education more timely by investing in new technology. It’s about finding new ways that are more affordable, cutting back on operating costs and making sure that the budget cuts aren’t detrimental.”

McLeod said his team has no intention of increasing the mandatory AMS student fees, which currently total $376.92.

“At this point we haven’t even talked about raising the student fee. I don’t even think that’s on our radar,” he said. “It’s about strengthening what we have now. I think we need to make sure we use the most of the funds we have now.”

Vice-president (operations) candidate Ellen Allwright said team MAP plans to implement more efficient operational procedures in order to save student funds.

“I think you can look at it more as a transitioning year in that sense,” she said. “We can work with the $12 million we have right now. But, in future years with all the changes we hope to make in cutting down things in the services, making them more sustainable. Potentially in future years the budget won’t be as high.”

Allwright, ArtSci ’09, said the AMS can cut costs by not operating as regularly during the off-season.

“Increasing efficiency in the AMS services, I think will come a lot from the summer months. Right now the AMS services are open for all four months, five days a week,” she said. “Had we not been open all five days during the week, we would have been able to have researched our suppliers and really learned about all the goods that are out there, so that we can cut down on our operating costs.”

Allwright said MAP also has plans to consolidate TAMS and the Used Bookstore into one service.

“Right now for the two spaces, they’re paying $88,000 in space allocation fees, so that would give us an extra $44,000 that we wouldn’t be paying in rental fees. The AMS could use that space as a bidding space.”

MAP also hopes to implement a “green audit” at the start of the next school year to help further decrease costs.

“It’s going to cut down on travel time for distributors and that’s a big funding thing,” he said. “That also includes how much food we waste.”

Allwright said the green audit program would be run in co-operation with students and an outsourced environmental efficiency agency.

“Externals will come in and work with students to perform these green audits. That way we have students who are learning from it, but also professionals in doing the actual work.”

Vice-president (university affairs) candidate Suhail Panjwani, ConEd ’09, said the green audit would benefit Queen’s more than just by saving money.

“So much emphasis is put on saving money and making sure that we’re financially sustainable, but no one really thinks about being environmentally sustainable. It may not pay itself back right away, but over time these investments will inevitably help us to cut down on operating costs, energy cost and waste reduction.”

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