Letters to the Editor

Prescott needs to go and For the common good

Prescott needs to go

Re: “ASUS reps quit, Prescott censured at ASUS Special Assembly”

Dear Editors,

“University politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”--(attributed to) Henry Kissinger, former Harvard Professor and United States Secretary of State.

Never has a truer statement been made regarding student affairs and politics. The lack of professionalism displayed at the special ASUS assembly of March 5th, 2013, speaks volumes about how notably that quote stands. Student politics in recent weeks have been displaying that viciousness, over these small stakes, ranging from the AMS “VP scandal” to the ASUS assembly of that Tuesday, to an extent I never thought to see in person as a first year undergraduate. Whatever the reasoning behind the utter pettiness and disgusting behaviour, on both sides of the aisle, it should bring shame to the university I so proudly attend. From the sporadic jeering and aggressiveness, to the impractical ideological tangents, I’ve never been so discouraged from Queen’s and its student body--the lack of restraint was pathetic. This school was built upon respect and tradition; the entire purpose of a university is to encourage free thinking and discourse, in an environment where all are welcome to share their ideas. It was not to lambast each other to gain some minor power in a student assembly. It sorely disheartens me to see the utter disregard for respect as of March 5th.

As a first year, I never took much interest in student politics. They’re not terribly important to me in the grand scheme of things; I often am preoccupied with clubs and intramurals, or personal interests in sports, etc. I made the mistake of assuming that people involved in student government would be at least moderately rational--clearly I was wrong in that regard. Tuesday night was the first ASUS assembly I attended. Rumours were circulating regarding the attempted impeachment of Representative Prescott, and having heard his remarks and somewhat followed the executive election, I was curious to see what would happen. And so I attended the meeting. The night devolved from a legitimate discussion regarding his comments quite rapidly, in which individuals on both sides of the issue quite obviously stepped out of bounds, though arguably a fair amount of it was reactionary to the incendiary comments made by Rep. Prescott. The impeachment of Rep. Prescott may have been somewhat harsh regarding his facebook post alone; however, his behaviour that night, in my view and the view of many others, was enough to justify impeachment, beyond any doubt I may have held prior.

His comment on Facebook did indeed place blame on the victim of sexual assault, regardless of his intended message. All Rep. Prescott had to do was apologize for the comment, perhaps delete his post, accept a censure, and stand down over the issue. But instead, Rep. Prescott deemed it necessary to defend his position in assembly, often aggressively, belittling former sexual assault victims who came forward to speak against his victim-blaming comment. Rep. Prescott has the right to speak his mind, and his views, he’s entirely correct in that regard; and doing so, he should also recognize that he is not properly representing the student body, and should stand down. As an ASUS representative, one cannot make such offensive, demeaning statements in a place where it will certainly be seen or heard--it doesn’t matter if he claims that his personal views are separate from his work as an ASUS representative, personal views often determine one’s approach to ideology and work. Public figures are held to higher standards, whether they believe they should be or not, especially when they serve in a capacity to represent a constituency. We all pay student fees to have our voices heard in a safe environment. Additionally, calling individuals “cowards” for not saying things to his face was just another example of his irrational behaviour--everyone has the right to say what they want, how they want, without him turning the environment into a hostile one. Indeed, at one point he yelled at a girl, who had been tweeting about the event from a view hostile to him, while she was in the washroom. I don’t know what to say about his so-called integrity with such reckless, weak behaviour. Finally, upon the resignation of Rep. Basilio towards the end of the meeting, it was despicable to see Rep. Prescott decide to call out “good riddance”, smirking triumphantly as Rep. Basilio exited the chamber. What followed afterwards, however, is the worst part.

Upon Rep. Basilio’s exit, which should be noted was quite respectful, without a word spoken or addressed towards anyone (outside of his statement that he was disgusted with ASUS’ lack of serious reprimand towards Rep. Prescott), Rep. Prescott called him out. Immediately thereafter, he was asked to leave the chamber as well by the ASUS executive, on account of his stepping out of bounds. Sadly, opponents of his deemed it necessary to stoop to his level and call him out, which in my view merely brought them as low as he was and accomplished little—admittedly, many of these responses were emotional by nature and expected given the provocative comments made by Rep. Prescott. The session devolved into a shouting match as Rep. Prescott then ranted about how members of ASUS simply wanted him to “kill [himself]”, and that he should “tighten the noose” himself. At no point in the assembly did any individual make the claim that he should try to do so; indeed, the majority of individuals present were in favour of an amendment to the motion to censure that merely forced more equity training or perhaps a minor suspension, rather than full-on impeachment. As previously stated, much of the hostility directed towards him was derived from his own hostile, divisive behavior. These wild claims by Rep. Prescott further expose his lack of ability to restrain himself, and reflect poorly upon ASUS and its representatives; he should be ashamed of himself.

I’m saddened to see the state of affairs Queen’s student government has recently been in. ASUS has lost quite a bit of legitimacy as a result of this mess, and I abhor all those involved in the demeaning shouting match that occurred at the end of the assembly. I applaud Rep. Basilio, Allan, and Morphy for their respective resignations in protest to the failure of ASUS executive to properly deal with Rep. Prescott. With that in mind, the only representative who stepped out of bounds on March 5th was Rep. Prescott, who, as an ASUS representative, should be held to higher standards. Rep. Prescott will never represent my views, interests, or voice, in any capacity, or those of many others, as a member of ASUS, which I pay student fees for so that my interests may be represented in a safe environment. For these reasons, I call upon the resignation of Alexander Prescott from his position as ASUS Representative to the AMS, and should he not resign, for ASUS to grant him his two weeks notice of impeachment.

Forest Edwards, ArtSci '16

For the greater good

Re: “ASUS reps quit, Prescott censured at ASUS Special Assembly”

Dear Editors,

I am a very recent Queen’s alumna. I spent four years at Queen’s pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Studies from 2008-2012. Throughout my time at Queen’s, I was involved in the AMS and student activities in various capacities and always took a strong personal interest in student politics. Reflecting upon my undergraduate years, I credit the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met at Queen’s for shaping the kind of young adult that I’ve become. I think (and I hope) that I’ve become a thoughtful and intelligent person capable of thinking critically about issues I hold dear. One of these issues near and dear to my heart is student politics – particularly, the politics of the AMS and ASUS, both of which represented my interests as an undergraduate student.

Recently, there has been a lot of controversy, tension, and negativity in both of these student government bodies for a variety of reasons. Any casual observer of Twitter, Facebook, or the Queen’s Journal can elaborate on the details of both instances to which I’m referring. While I was admittedly obsessively refreshing my Twitter feed during the AMS election scandal and the ASUS Assembly controversy, one consistent idea pervaded my thoughts: “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small”. This thought, typically attributed to Henry Kissinger, framed my perceptions of these events as an (albeit, recent) Queen’s graduate until today.

I stand by the idea that the stakes of undergraduate student politics are small relative to the issues our provincial, federal and international governing bodies address on a daily basis. However, the controversies of student politics do not feel small or insignificant in the slightest when you are experiencing them firsthand. Context matters so much here. As a student representative, interested party, or even as a casual observer, controversies and tensions in student politics affect you immensely when they occur and have the ability to shake you to your core. When you live, work, and study in the same community for years, you are naturally affected by any developments that upset the balance of your environment. As a recent Queen’s student, I understand this and have personally experienced it several times. It’s an all-consuming feeling that can bring you closer to others or create a divide between you and your friends and colleagues. What I want to impart to students is that although the recent controversies seem overwhelming and have changed the way many Queen’s students view their community and student governments, context matters. It’s natural to get caught up in issues that directly affect you and your community. It’s natural, positive, and healthy to want to take a stand on those issues. But what is so hard to remember (and what I definitely wasn’t able to see as a student last year) is that we are all still growing up. We all make mistakes, whether they are on a large or small scale. We’ve all said things (sometimes publicly and sometimes for attribution) that are regrettable, even if we don’t regret the comments at the time. We’ve all firmly believed we were right when we were very, very wrong. This is part of the continual process of growing up, which I don’t believe ever fully comes to an end.

My concern with recent events at Queen’s is that students are not treating each other with the fairness, empathy, and respect that we all deserve as young people growing up together and going through similar experiences. I’ve seen bullying and hateful comments thrown every which way, by current and graduated students alike, on every side of each situation. This is not to say that I condone any actions or comments made in any of these specific situations or that I disapprove of people feeling strongly or taking offense to these situations. I wholeheartedly approve of and encourage thoughtful and respectful discourse and debate in student politics. My point is that although we are educated individuals and know a lot about a lot of things, we really don’t know as much as we think we do. This certainly includes me, and I’d wager, most self-aware adults. What we know and hold dear often comes from our own personal experiences but we usually don’t stop to consider that the knowledge and beliefs held by others stems from their own significant experiences. It’s immature and unproductive to be hateful to those who disagree with you, no matter what your personal ideals are. I won’t attempt to claim that I haven’t been guilty of this in the past, but time apart from student politics and Queen’s has helped me to see where I was wrong and try to conduct myself differently moving forward.

Above all, I think it’s important to try to take a step back and see the bigger picture when faced with controversial situations in student politics and in life. Just as you are facing challenges in your life that feel insurmountable, others are as well. People who are fundamentally at odds with what you believe are students too, and experience similar or greater struggles than your own. No matter what age or stage of life, we are all constantly learning and growing up. Making (big) mistakes is a part of that process. The best way to do student politics, in my opinion? Be kind, try to learn from others, and don’t crucify each other for gaffes and missteps. University should be a safe place to make mistakes and learn from them, and university politics can provide great opportunities to grow and develop important skills. But we need each other to make that environment possible.

Sincerely,

Megan Stanley, ArtSci’12

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