Fees deserved fair shot at AMS Annual General Meeting

Letter to the Editors

Dear Editors,

The decision at last week’s AMS Assembly to reject a motion put forth by three groups hoping to instate opt-outable student fees, while adherent to AMS policy, stifled debate surrounding the proposals and should likely have been approached with more flexibility.

Assembly rejected all three fees based on a policy requirement that all fees going forward to the ballot at next week’s AMS Annual General Meeting (AGM) be approved by an AMS Assembly vote at least two weeks prior to the AGM. Unfortunately, last week’s Assembly occurred just 12 days before the AGM.

It seems somewhat misleading to have a policy requiring students to come to Assembly with a motion for approval a full two weeks in advance of the AGM when the AMS Assembly meeting directly preceding the AGM falls just 12 days before this meeting.

We hope to bring a motion forward to next week’s AMS Assembly to amend this specific policy to change the deadline from two weeks before the AGM to the AMS Assembly meeting directly preceding AGM.

A motion at Assembly to add a motion to the agenda — in this case the fee questions — is a strict yes/no vote with no debate. There’s no reason why Assembly couldn’t have ended up deciding to uphold policy had they decided to put these motions on the agenda for consideration.

Had Assembly considered the motion, they would have at least allowed for debate and discussion about these specific cases. A vote could have then occurred, at which point the fees could have still been rejected if the required two-thirds majority was not reached.

This is how democratic debate is supposed to work. So why wasn’t Assembly interested in letting it happen? We don’t believe that members of Assembly had a conscious intention to silence student voices at last Thursday’s meeting, but unfortunately that was the message that was received.

Policy is important, but we think there may be legitimate cases where some degree of flexibility in its application, at Assembly’s discretion, is warranted. If this weren’t the case, Assembly wouldn’t have the power to overrule policy.

Last Thursday, given that it was a very arbitrary two days that put these groups against policy, may well have been a case where some flexibility was needed. But the crucial issue is that the Assembly didn’t have the chance to make a fully-informed decision.

AMS policy should exist to serve the Queen’s students. Why is it being used to silence student voices?

Going forward, we hope that two things will happen. First, we hope that Assembly will consider the small change we propose to this specific section of AMS policy in order to prevent needless incidents like last Thursday’s occurring in the future.

But more importantly, we hope that in the future AMS Assembly will think seriously before making decisions that limit the ability of students to have a voice at their society’s representative body.

Michael Scott, ArtSci ’13, and Faria Jafri, ArtSci ’14,
ASUS representatives to the AMS

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