Teams talk deficit woes

CHR and PNF plan for University’s projected deficit

Kasmet Niyongabo, Davina Finn and Mitch Piper of Team PNF give a class talk in Etherington Hall auditorium yesterday.
Kasmet Niyongabo, Davina Finn and Mitch Piper of Team PNF give a class talk in Etherington Hall auditorium yesterday.
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Chris Rudnicki, Safiah Chowdhury and Ben Hartley of Team CHR give a class talk in Chernoff Hall auditorium yesterday.
Chris Rudnicki, Safiah Chowdhury and Ben Hartley of Team CHR give a class talk in Chernoff Hall auditorium yesterday.
Photo: 

Next year’s AMS executive will have their hands full dealing with the effects of Queen’s projected deficit over the next three years.

Team CHR said they think the AMS should advocate for students when the University discusses where to make funding cuts.

“It’s the AMS’s role to represent student voices and say, ‘This is what we students think is important,’” presidential candidate Safiah Chowdhury said, adding that she thinks the AMS needs to have open lines of communication between students, the AMS, faculty and administration in order to accurately represent students’ interests.

Chowdhury said the team wants to stay in communication with students during the summer because many academic and financial plans are made at that time. Most undergraduate students aren’t focused on the University in those months, she added.

Team CHR also wants to equip students with the tools to have their voices heard throughout the budget cut process, she said.

“We want to enable students with the tools for communication with the administration and the faculty themselves,” she said. “I, myself, e-mailed professors this past summer to tell them what I think is important and I did get a response.”

“We want to make sure students understand the gravity of the cuts and how powerful their voice can be,” she said.

Vice-president (university affairs) candidate Chris Rudnicki said although budget cuts call for tough decisions, he thinks students should have a say in making them.

“I think administration is tempted to say, ‘We know what’s right and we don’t need to gauge student opinion,’ but this is a mistake,” he said.

Rudnicki said although Principal Daniel Woolf described internationalization as a priority in his academic vision document, international students face fee increases in the next few years.

The Board of Trustees approved a fee increase of up to 10 per cent for international undergraduate and professional students at its Dec. 4 meeting.

“The AMS didn’t speak out against this increase nor was knowledge of this increase made widely available,” Rudnicki said. “We would make Senate and Board of Trustees more accessible to students by promulgating knowledge of meetings to all students and highlighting all relevant issues.”

Woolf also made the environment and energy conservation one of his priorities for the University and Team CHR will hold him accountable to it, Rudnicki said.

“One of the biggest parts of our platform is capitalizing on the current movement for solar panels,” he said. “It would give us a risk-free increase ... to our operating budget and would allow us to tangibly combat the budget cut process.”

Vice-president (operations) candidate Ben Hartley said Team CHR plans to cut costs within the AMS by making the transition process more effective and merging some services.

“Because we’re a student government, we turn over 75 to 90 per cent every year and we don’t want that knowledge to walk out the door,” Hartley said.

Hartley, who sits on the AMS Board of Directors, said he’s seen many AMS service managers mentally check out by the end of the year and money is lost due to inefficiencies.

Many incoming managers aren’t prepared for the September rush and money is again lost on things such as inventory and staffing errors, he added.

“We can fuse the outgoing experience with the incoming managers,” Hartley said, adding that this means incoming managers would transition in the spring when they’re hired so they have experience by the time they assume managerial control for the next academic year.

They could also add enthusiasm to a tired staff, he said.

Hartley said one possible use of the old Common Ground space would be to put the Tricolour Market amalgamation there.

“We can amalgamate Tricolour Outfitters, the Used Bookstore and Destination with an integrated management service which will save the students a lot of money,” he said. “Another proposal is to amalgamate the Guide to Queen’s Agenda, Yearbook and Convocation and the design portfolio of P&CC into Tricolour Design Service, which will save students money as well.”

When it comes to bringing budget concerns to the administration, Team PNF’s first consultation will be with the students, presidential candidate Mitch Piper said.

“We’re here to ensure that the student voice is heard,” he said. “They’re already starting this year the initiative to bring in student proposals in respect to the principal’s vision statement, and I think an initiative like that we can continue to do.”

Piper said he thinks most students come to Queen’s with academic expectations that should continue to be met even in the face of budget cuts.

“We’re going to have less class, less TAs, different style exams, more people in the classes we do have and those are going to be the most tangible things that are going to affect students,” he said. “We’re not necessarily receiving what we came for. … At an administration point of view it may be better financially to do something but it’s not necessarily better for our education.”

Piper said as AMS president, he would work closely with faculty societies to determine what’s best for students from all academic disciplines.

“The AMS has a lot of info that some societies probably don’t have to make the plans happen at the administration level,” he said. “When we’re discussing lobbying it sounds very broad, it sounds very intangible. I really feel like you can’t underestimate the power of being there.”

Piper said he thinks it’s a priority to ensure accountability for the conferences, services and events that the AMS and students take part in.

“When you go to a CASA conference it can be anywhere from Halifax to Victoria and we need to ensure that we’re only going to those things that are going to bring a benefit back,” he said.

Vice-president (operations) candidate Kasmet Niyongabo said he thinks Team PNF will ensure stability for AMS services.

“Amalgamating the three services [the Used Bookstore, TAMS and Destinations] I think is going to be great for the profit generation,” he said.

Niyongabo said he thinks this year’s AMS executive did a good job of representing students, something that Team PNF hopes to continue next year.

“They also did a great job at representing everybody almost equally and they wouldn’t just focus on this one group,” he said. “I think that everybody felt kind of represented, whether it be athletes or groups on campus.”

In his academic vision, Woolf said the University needs to re-evaluate its academic programs and consider cutting certain academic programs.

Vice-president (university affairs) candidate Davina Finn said she thinks the University needs to find out what students expect academically when they come to Queen’s and uphold those academic standards.

“I think Queen’s needs to find its niche,” she said. “We need to find what we’re best at and keep being best at it. We need to know that those students who want to be here continue to want to be here.”

Finn said she thinks it’s the role of the AMS to find out what student opinion is and make that opinion known to those who are making decisions about the budget.

“The AMS is the student voice and we need to represent students. We need to collect what student opinion is and make sure that, at the administration level, our voice is constantly there,” she said. “We can’t just go there, present our ideas and then say that we tried.”

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