Candidates talk problem areas for University

BGP, PDA and TNL discuss the issues facing Queen’s they’d like to tackle if elected

BGP, PDA and TNL said student consultation, mental health and increasing enrolment, respectively, were issues they'd like to address.
BGP, PDA and TNL said student consultation, mental health and increasing enrolment, respectively, were issues they'd like to address.
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With the AMS executive election around the corner, the three teams in the running have different ideas about the challenges facing the University.

For team BGP, the biggest of these problems is a lack of adequate representation for all students.

“This isn’t the TK, Eril and Peter show,” TK Pritchard, the team’s vice-president of University Affairs candidate, said.

Some of the team’s major platform initiatives, which include expanding AMS Health and Dental Plan, implementing an LGBTQ Thursdays at Alfie’s, as well as continuing the revitalization of the JDUC and creating a Student Mental Health Advisory Board, will be conducted in collaboration with students.

Pritchard, ArtSci ’12 added that reaching out to students who don’t agree with certain aspects of the AMS is necessary to be an effective leader.

Part of this effort will be ensuring representation for a projected increase enrolment at Queen’s, Eril Berkok, the team’s presidential candidate said, along with Principal Woolf’s plans to increase internationalization on campus.

The University is expected to increase enrolment by as much as 2,000 students by 2018, Berkok added.

“The AMS needs to be prepared to represent a dramatic increase of domestic and international students,” Berkok, CompSci ’12 said.

Peter Green, the team’s vice-president of operations candidate, said this lack of student consultation is related to a lack of respect towards the arts on campus, something he wishes to address by establishing an AMS Arts Council.

The Council, which will represent fine arts, drama, dance, fashion and written and music groups at Queen’s, will develop strategies to share resources and collaborate on projects.

“This would create a unified voice for the arts and a much more powerful lobbying platform to ensure the preservation of arts on campus,” Green, ArtSci ’13 said.

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PDA believes Queen’s must confront its “mental health epidemic.”

According to their platform, PDA intends to increase elective insurance coverage for prescription drugs and psychiatric counseling.

Presidential candidate Alexander Prescott, said the AMS must take a leading role to enhance mental health resources.

“I’d say we’ve kind of scratched the surface of what really needs to be done for mental health care and awareness,” Prescott, ArtSci ’14 said. “It’s important that we have [an increased insurance] plan in place whereby students can upgrade to that from a basic plan.”

For Prescott, the lack of comprehensive coverage boils down to the priorities of the student government.

“It’s abhorrent to think at times that this society has not taken the action required — picking up the phone and calling the insurance provider — to make this a reality,” Prescott said.

Financial accessibility is central to PDA’s emphasis on student well-being.

Vice-president of Operations candidate Craig Draeger, said the team’s plan to lower the AMS Specific Fee and double the AMS Membership Bursary is intertwined with their focus on mental health.

“Our approach to the insurance situation is not just one of strengthening support for mental and physical health challenges, but for making options available for those who may not be able to afford them out of pocket,” Draeger, ArtSci ’13 said.

Mental health resources must also be accessible in a timely manner, according to PDA.

Vice-president of University Affairs candidate Lisa Acchione, said the extended wait times for sexual assault therapy at Health, Counselling and Disability Services must be resolved, particularly with increases in undergraduate enrolment at Queen’s, likely around the corner.

“The only way this could change is if the incoming Vice-president of University Affairs [is] someone who lobbies for increased coverage regarding mental health help,” Acchione, ArtSci ’14 said.

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Increased enrolment will directly affect the culture of Queen’s which proves a major issue with the University, team TNL said.

Through lobbying at the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and demanding more information from administration to better prepare AMS services, dealing with increased enrollment is a top priority for TNL should they be elected.

“Really, enrolment increases are the symptom of a lack of resources for the University and a poor financial state,” Vice-president of University Affairs candidate Liam Faught said.

He added that increased enrolment isn’t inherently bad when the proper planning is in place, though he believes it might not be reflective of the Queen’s community.

TNL believes a lack of upper-year student housing will be another consequence of increased enrolment.

Although the University has identified Williamsville as a place for student housing, Sherman said, the development and infrastructure will take 10 years and cost the City millions of dollars to accommodate approximately 2,000 more students.

“We need a housing plan for students after first year,” Faught said.

Troy Sherman, TNL’s presidential candidate, questioned if Queen’s is still a medium sized university and whether the University will outgrow the smaller city of Kingston.

Furthermore, Nicola Plummer, vice-president of operations candidate, noted a shift as the University changes from an academic-focused institution to adapting more of a business-like approach of operation.

Team TNL will look to lobby to preserve this coveted culture at Queen’s and will look to adapt accordingly to more students on campus.

“If you start treating your students as though they’re numbers, that their individual experiences don’t matter, then you’re going to drive away a lot of very capable people from the University,” Plummer said. “All of these things will change the culture of Queen’s.”

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