A breach of students’ trust

Contributor argues AMS special assembly placed convenience ahead of transparency for students

On Mar. 3, a special AMS assembly gathered in Dunning Hall Room 14 and voted 37 in favour and three against the nomination of Nicola Plummer as the incoming vice-president of operations.
On Mar. 3, a special AMS assembly gathered in Dunning Hall Room 14 and voted 37 in favour and three against the nomination of Nicola Plummer as the incoming vice-president of operations.
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Students should be saddened by the news that former AMS Vice-President of Operations-elect Peter Green has resigned, they should also be angry about the excuse for process that his former colleagues have chosen for his replacement.

The AMS executive-elect’s decision to appoint Nicola Plummer as vice-president of operations in Sunday’s Special Assembly after Green’s abrupt resignation sets an alarming and undemocratic precedent for AMS executives.

In the days and weeks to come, we will learn more about the conditions of Green’s departure.

Presently, all we possess is Green’s brief letter of resignation and a response from former-teammates Eril Berkok and TK Pritchard.

But from what little general AMS members know, one thing has become clear: the only fair course of action is to replace Green through an open and democratic process that reflects the will of students — not the whim of the current AMS Assembly.

We have three reasons why.

The first is that the manner of picking Green’s replacement is utterly undemocratic. Students voted for Team BGP, not Team BP, GP or any other combination.

When students participate in AMS elections they vote with the expectation that the united AMS team will serve as the next executive.

The idea that that executive elect then have the legitimacy to choose their own vice president of operations without first going to the student body is preposterous — elected representatives or not, Berkok and Pritchard don’t have the right to decide who makes up our AMS executive. That task falls now, and always, to Queen’s students.

We have elections because we value the ability for AMS members to choose their representatives, if we allow the unilateral appointment of a new vice president, we’ve breached the trust of AMS members.

Students chose Peter Green as their operations candidate and when he was unable to fill that role, the voters, who accepted the initial proposition that a Team BGP executive would include Peter Green, should get the chance to choose his replacement.

To do otherwise would be like Stephen Harper appointing a new MP from a riding where one had just resigned instead of calling a by-election so that voters could choose their new representative. Students choose their AMS executives, the AMS doesn’t get to choose itself.

The second reason is that the reading of AMS policy to select Green’s replacement is seriously suspect. The policy on record allows a sitting AMS executive to appoint a new person during their term should a vacancy arise. The key distinction between the policy and our current situation is that Berkok and Pritchard aren’t the AMS executive, they are executive-elects.

The policy is designed for emergency circumstances where an executive member is no longer able to fulfil their duties while in the middle of their term. This isn’t the situation we are faced with today.

The new executive hasn’t entered office and doesn’t have the power to evoke this replacement clause. We shouldn’t bend or revise policy to fit this situation either, for the same reasons that it would be undemocratic, not transparent and a breach of trust.

The third reason is that the decision to replace Peter Green via Assembly, even if it’s the Assembly’s right to do so, is insulting to all Queen’s students. The AMS Assembly should have rejected any nominee brought forward at the behest of our executive heirs apparent because it offends both the trust of students in their government and the sacredness of the democratic process.

It shows that the executive-elect is more concerned with expediency of process than respect for the student body that elected them.

AMS Assembly may well be a representative institution but it’s nowhere near as representative or legitimate as the student body itself. This Special Assembly is the ultimate insult to Queen’s students by removing not only their agency to choose their leaders, but the ability to even provide input in Peter’s successor.

It isn’t the purview of the executive-elect to decide for students the membership of the AMS executive. AMS members elect delegates and representatives, not monarchs, and it’s the membership that should have the first and last right of refusal over who is chosen to lead them.

The executive-elect’s decision to internalize the process for Green’s succession is ignorant at best and sinister at worst; it shows that, not nearly a month since they were elected, they have forgotten who elected them in the first place.

As responsible citizens and concerned members of the society we should call for a more democratic process for selecting Green’s replacement, only then can we ensure that the next executive has the legitimacy to govern.

The only question that remains is if our leaders-to-be will listen.

Stuart Clark is the executive director of Queen’s Students for Accountability Fairness and Equity (QSAFE).

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