Student input a priority for PDA

Team aims to change the culture of the AMS to better serve students

Left to right: Craig Draeger, Alexander Prescott and Lisa Acchione make up team PDA.
Left to right: Craig Draeger, Alexander Prescott and Lisa Acchione make up team PDA.
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PDA wants the AMS to listen.

Presidential candidate Alexander Prescott, vice president of operations candidate Craig Draeger, ArtSci ’13, and vice president of university affairs candidate Lisa Acchione, ArtSci ’14, say they’re running a different kind of campaign — one that’s intent on opening the student government to the needs of its constituents.

“[The AMS] is very good at projecting their ideas and their actions to the students, but if you question any of those actions, it feels as if you get gang-tackled sometimes,” Prescott, ArtSci ’14 said. “We want to change that culture.”

PDA isn’t purely external to the AMS — Prescott currently serves as an ASUS Representative and Draeger sits on the Board of Directors — but their campaign is predicated on reforms they’d like to see within the student government, starting from the top down.

“The three of us figured that the culture of the organization needs to change … so that students have an organization that can serve them better, and speak to the real issues that students are facing on campus,” Prescott said, citing mental health concerns, academic quality and increasing constraints on student housing as priorities.

PDA’s campaign is based on a 20-point action plan, focusing on slashing unnecessary expenditures from the AMS’ budget and returning funds to students.

Under PDA’s proposal, each member of the executive would kick back 5 per cent of their salary to the AMS for each point the team fails to accomplish. The success or failure of an ambiguous point would be determined by a vote in AMS Assembly at the end of the executive term.

“If we get nothing done during our year in office, then we make no money,” Prescott said.

Financial accessibility is a cornerstone of PDA’s campaign, highlighted by a proposed reduction to the mandatory $70.18 AMS Specific fee and increased insurance coverage for students that rely on prescription drugs or psychiatric counseling.

Alongside their 72-page platform, PDA released a proposed budget for every AMS service, commission, office and governing body, identifying roughly $160,000 in inefficient spending.

“I went into the expenses of every individual committee, and broke down what’s necessary and what’s completely superfluous,” Draeger said. “Most of that is things that I would simply call waste – vacations, discretionary funds that don’t need to be the size that they are.”

AMS Assembly currently allots $15,000 to “Discretionary Executive” funds. Draeger, the AMS’ Clubs Manager in 2011-12, said he believes these are often used to finance extravagant staff retreats during the summer and over transition weekends in April.

Tristan Lee, the current AMS vice-president of operations didn’t comment on PDA’s issue with the funds, but he said the funds are used in part for “staff development and appreciation throughout the year.” “Discretionary budgets and certain line items in the budget are some of the most dubious expenditures we see in the AMS,” Draeger said. “We’d eliminate this type of stuff.”

PDA’s commitment to transparency is not only financial, but also social. The team plans to introduce a publicly elected Ombudsperson to act as a liaison between the AMS and the general student body and schedule monthly town hall meetings to communicate with students directly.

Along with Acchione, current vice president of discipline of the Main Campus Residents’ Council, Prescott and Draeger believe their proposed structural reforms can return the AMS to relevance among the student body.

“When you juxtapose us with the other teams, I feel like we’ll be the ones bringing professionalism, reality and the leadership that students deserve from their student leaders,” he said. “We’ll be the better choice.”

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