VP Ops candidates talk services

A recap of the second AMS executive debate

VP Ops candidates Justin Reekie (left), and Mark Asfar (second from right).
VP Ops candidates Justin Reekie (left), and Mark Asfar (second from right).
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Tuesday evening’s AMS vice president of operations debate narrowed in on the management of AMS services and their budgets.

The two candidates for the position – Team WRL’s Justin Reekie and Mark Asfar from Team SMH – debated about dietary accommodations, opt-out fees and the autonomy of campus media services.

Both teams discussed adding new food items to Common Ground's menu. WRL is looking to add gluten-free options to its second location, The Brew.

When asked what he’d do if a Common Ground manager didn’t agree with his team’s plan, Reekie, ArtSci ’13, said he’d communicate to figure out common goals and would start a new discussion with the service.

“It would be starting from scratch and creating a plan together instead of it being something I want and something you want,” he said.

When asked the same question, Asfar, ArtSci ’14, said he’d sit down with Common Ground managers and inform them about why diverse food options are important for students. SMH is looking to introduce gluten-free, lactose-free, nut-free, halal and kosher items to the menu.

“We think the options are completely viable,” he said. “We don’t think ‘difficult’ is an excuse for not providing accessibility.”

In rebuttal, Reekie said former Vice-President (Operations) Ben Hartley made it public several years ago that kosher and halal options weren’t possible to introduce at Common Ground.

“Our operations are the same … you need to completely separate everything,” he said. “Currently we cannot promise that.”

Teams were later questioned on whether The Underground should remain open in spite of its high deficit.

Reekie said students need to look past these struggles and see its benefit as a safe drinking space. He said WRL will continue looking for student feedback on the service, in similar fashion to the current executive’s fall survey.

“That’s why you have Throwback Thursday,” he said. “More than 50 per cent of students had that as their favorite theme [in the survey].”

Asfar agreed that The Underground is an integral part of Queen’s culture, and shouldn’t be closed. When it came to student feedback, he disagreed with Reekie, stating that it was dishonest that students weren’t consulted about the rebrand before it was announced.

“When students weren’t told [about the rebrand], they felt left behind by the AMS,” he said. “The process over the summer should have been to garner their feedback sooner … [transparency] should have been lobbied for harder.” Reekie noted in reponse that the decision to rebrand had been made in Board of Directors closed session, and therefore was confidential information.

In contrast, both candidates addressed the surplus at Tricolour Outlet, with Asfar saying it could be used to re-invest in other services.

“[The surplus] can be used in the best way, we can offer cheaper prices,” he said. “We should use different ways to spend that.” He also noted that WRL’s idea of adding an online store to Tricolour Outlet would be too large of a risk. Reekie addressed this by stating the pop-up online shop would be experimental.

“It will be very temporary … two or three days,” he said.

The teams were also asked about this year’s executive pulling advertising from the Journal, and whether this would be continued into their term. Reekie said he’d focus on open communication with the paper, and respect its autonomy by acting as a support system.

“I would want to be very transparent with the Journal about why we aren’t advertising,” Reekie said.

Asfar said that the AMS won’t push the Journal in a particular direction, but will facilitate discussion and encourage innovation.

“The AMS should be using their money wisely, and that said, the Journal can be a wise investment,” he said. “We’ll have to discuss what the AMS and the Journal can do to work together.”

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