Farewell, RWS

Students felt better represented in decision making process this year, AMS executive says

With one week of classes left and a month before they pass the torch to their successors, members of executive team Radcliffe, Wang and St. Clair say their three-pronged campaign platform was effectively accomplished.

RWS’s promise to combat racism through equity training was a major part of their electoral campaign.

“We tried to approach the issue from a more holistic perspective of anti-oppression,” Vice-President (University Affairs) Stephanie St. Clair said. “Obviously issues of racism have been a hot topic on campus this year.” St. Clair said all AMS staff were required to sit through equity sessions and anti-oppression sessions focusing on individual positionality.

“We’ve tried to extend that learning to other forms of oppression as well,” she said. “All members of council have a good knowledge of these issues and try as best as they can to pass this knowledge on.”

President Talia Radcliffe said the incident involving ASUS President Jacob Mantle proved be an important step towards greater dialogue on issues of racism in the Queen’s community.

“This campus has never seen such open discussion about these issues before,” she said. “That was really scary for a lot of people.”

Radcliffe said she’s proud of how RWS handled the incident.

“We are the first AMS executive in a long time to respond to the needs of marginalized constituents on campus instead of succumbing to the majority,” she said. “Jacob alienated a huge portion of his constituency, one that has and continues to be in a very vulnerable position in Canada and on campus. Upon learning of this grave mistake, he didn’t apologize until the eleventh hour, proving a lack of understanding of the issue. We still believe he made the wrong decision in not resigning.”

St. Clair said she thinks it’s been a different year for students on campus who feel the AMS has historically ignored these issues. “While a lot of students may not agree with it, the number of students that came to us and said we needed to take action on this issue far exceeded the number of complaints.” RWS launched an anti-racism campaign on campus with art displays featuring pieces submitted to Culture Shock, a website with educational materials and a calendar of events.

“We need an administration that takes these issues seriously and stops talking in terms of diversity and inclusivity and starts actively combating racism on campus because without naming it, you can’t actually fight it,” St. Clair said.

Team RWS also campaigned for referendum voting online as well as cutting committees and re-examining conferences that aren’t relevant to most students.

“Security of the elections is our primary concern,” Radcliffe said. “We don’t want to rush into anything. Integrity of the election is the most important thing.” RWS cut five committees and merged three together to create efficiency and ensure no overlap at the AMS.

After considering closing Tricolour Outfitters and replacing it with the Earth Center, the Oxfam Fair Trade Co-Op and sustainability office during their campaign, they opted to keep the store open for the 2008-09 year.

“We have a retail space in the Queen’s Centre,” Vice President (Operations) Wang said. “The original target was the Tricolour but we re-examined the business model and it isn’t sustainable. There’s been a sense of complacency on the part of the University administration in terms of moving forward with the Queen’s Centre.”

Radcliffe said the University hasn’t given them the cost of the space or the dimensions allocated to the AMS.

Wang said the Board of Directors didn’t feel comfortable closing the Tricolour without another year of experience under its belt in an attempt to turn a profit. But he added that the store likely won’t go with the AMS to the Queen’s Centre because of long-term sustainability concerns.

“The general consensus is that the Tricolour won’t be operating in the Queen’s Centre,” he said.

The RWS campaign also called for an increase in the number of first-year half-credit options so students could take a broader range of courses in their first year.

“We don’t feel comfortable advocating that anymore,” St. Clair said. “That project has been dropped due to serious budget constraints.”

The team did, however, push to implement new departments to include African, Asian, Aboriginal and Islamic studies.

“Many faculties across the University are being restricted from implementing really innovative projects because of structural barriers and not for any pedagogical reasons,” Radcliffe said. “The entire problem is that there is no individual sitting behind a computer who is monitoring that this student is taking courses X, Y and Z.

“This was never a plan to establish this year by any means. This is very much a long-term plan. Our hope is that instead of budget cuts going on in a very uniform way that there’s a lot more strategy put into these cuts. As far as I’m concerned we need a really serious restructuring of the way we offer programs at this university.” Radcliffe said overall, RWS feels students are more included in the AMS and have a greater voice in the decision-making process.

“The external liaison has been the most frustrating component of this position for me,” she said. “This focus on tradition and what Queen’s tradition is, is quite ironic because what Queen’s prides itself on is excellence but when we actually try to define excellence in a really meaningful way we sometimes fall short of that definition.”

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