AMS, confess you’re a mess

The remedy to AMS mismanagement of students’ funds is devolution of authority to faculties

Since it was established “to serve and represent the diversity of students at Queen’s,” everything the AMS does should uphold this purpose.

But what happens when it fails to fulfill its own founding principle? Is there a structure that would provide better representation?

In a recent AMS meeting, the Campus Activities Commissioner (CAC) was asked why the AMS was running a charity ball if it was projecting a loss for the event.

In the budget report, the expense of the charity ball is listed at $30,500, while the revenue is only $28,500, coming to a $2,000 projected loss. She replied that the possible benefits of this function outweigh the expectation that it will lose money.

This has been the case for the past few years, and the CAC has been unwilling to use past experience to cut costs and break even on the event.

This begs the question: what are the benefits? Surely, a charity event should raise money.

It’s a fundraiser, and if the ball is not bringing in money there is no purpose in throwing it at a loss to students. Students pay over $620 in mandatory student fees to the AMS each year.

Essentially, they hand their own hard earned dollars over to the commissioners to handle for them.

Queen’s students are the brightest in the country and Canada’s future.

If they can’t figure out how to spend their own cash wisely, tomorrow looks pretty bleak.

So how would a student spend their cash? Surely, they would be careful with the amounts they spend and budget based on their revenue. They would not exceed that, for they have constrained budgets, and are forced to be prudent.

Tragically, the AMS is following what most governments do. When they don’t have enough money, they resist the logical option of curbing spending, and instead raise taxes.

So while $2,000 may not be a lot, the $17,000 deficit the CAC is running this year is fairly substantial, especially when you have five commissioners each making a nearly $23,000 yearly salary.

Of the five student commissions, two of them are in the red. The CAC and Social Issues Commission (SIC) have sustained losses for the past few years.

Since the 2005-06 fiscal period, the CAC has been running deficits of over $10,000, but even before then it was still seeing red.

The SIC has been running deficits on and off for the past five years, and last year had a deficit of over $3,000.

If these committees are to exist, they should operate within their budgets, as other committees have been able to cut costs and keep deficits to a minimum.

Faculty representatives should hold the commissioners to this task. If they do not, the commissioners should be required to forfeit enough of their salary in order to cover the losses of their commission.

The AMS must return to fiscal responsibility and stop putting it to the students to fund its engorgement.

One way of doing this is cutting back on the massive amounts of programs run by the AMS. Who needs a charity ball that doesn’t appear to bring in any money for charity?

We, the students of Queen’s University, must demand fiscal responsibility from all the commissions of the AMS to ensure the money we give our student government is better spent.

Now, it would be unfair for me to criticize without offering a better way of doing things.

We need the AMS to decentralize, as not all students have the same priorities; this difference becomes greater in terms of faculty differences.

To ensure greater reliability, we as students should demand the AMS reduce the scope of many of its programs, and allow the faculties to solve the issues their respective students face.

The CAC and SIC should receive smaller allocations, leaving room for the faculties to step up. For instance, the CAC’s “capture the faculty” and “catch me if you can” events doubled in expenses since last year.

If the faculties were running it themselves, each would have to ensure it met its budget or was well below it, as they are constrained to begin with.

This will be a better system because the faculty could, for instance, decide if a charity ball were in its best interest and in line with student views, and run it in an effective manner.

The key to a more responsive system is one that has a larger emphasis on faculty participation, with a reduced role for central planning through the AMS.

Because ArtSci students have different goals and interests than engineering or commerce students, each faculty should be allotted more money from the AMS to pursue their respective goals.

On issues where the faculties see eye-to–eye, they should team up in funding and co-operate to achieve it.

As long as we are required to pay student fees, and deem it necessary to have social events and charity programs run together and not by individual initiative, we must change the system to allow the faculties to play this role.

It is the only way to ensure better representation.

The AMS was not established to employ us, run our programs or dictate our lives, but be a mediator on our behalf.

To this end, the AMS must return to the reasons it was founded: to represent students to the administration and the city.

If it strays from this or abuses its students, it might as well disband.

Its time we elect representatives who get it, the ones who understand that they’re there to represent the student populace and protect the interests of their faculty, not make themselves look good and assert their authority.

The AMS must reform, and get back to serving the ideals on which it was founded.

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