Winter exec review

Berkok, Pritchard and Plummer discuss progress on platform

Evaluating the executive’s progress.
Evaluating the executive’s progress.
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The rebranding of Common Ground Express to The Brew was a success.
The rebranding of Common Ground Express to The Brew was a success.
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Bikes & Boards has been more successful since moving to the JDUC.
Bikes & Boards has been more successful since moving to the JDUC.
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With less than a month left in their term, this year’s AMS executive hope that they have better prepared the AMS for the future.

The current executive, made up of Eril Berkok, president, Thomas Pritchard, vice-president (university affairs), and Nicola Plummer, vice-president (operations), have released their AMS State of the Union report.

The Journal sat down with Berkok, CompSci ’12, Pritchard, ArtSci ’12, and Plummer, Comm ’13, to discuss their report, and whether platform points that were made last year were able to come to fruition.

University District-wide Wi-Fi

The project to spread Wi-Fi to the University District was intended to be a partnership between the AMS and Queen’s IT Services (ITS), but did not materialize after a key vendor decided not to participate in the process, said Berkok.

“There was a vendor we were expecting to engage with this process that did not, and that’s really completely out of our control,” Berkok said.

He said he didn’t know why the vendor pulled out.

Berkok added that in the meantime, IT Services is working to improve Wi-Fi coverage throughout campus.

“In the future this project could be revisited. There’s nothing stopping that from happening,” he said. “If the AMS wants to take it up again, then they certainly are welcome to then, there is now precedent to have the conversation.”

Off-campus blue lights

While blue lights weren’t installed off-campus this year, the executive said they’re confident that they have pushed the process in the right direction.

The executive said they originally intended to have blue lights installed in City Park and Victoria Park over the summer months, but leadership change in the Kingston Police made this difficult.

“We needed a lot of stakeholders to get involved, so we were working with both the University and Campus Security and meeting with the City,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard added that there were many levels of City bureaucracy to go through, but he was confident that the process wouldn’t take as long as the three-year University District signage project.

Pritchard and Berkok both said that funding was no longer an issue for blue light expansion. Berkok cited rollover from an exclusivity contract the University holds with Coca-Cola that grants money every year for safety initiatives.

Individual blue lights cost roughly $10,000 per light, they said.

“I would expect with it going through the committees and just kind of the amount of approval that’s involved, you would earliest be looking at next spring,” Pritchard said of the timeline for the blue light installation.

The Brew

Team BGP ran on a promise to turn Common Ground Express into The Upper Crust and offer grilled cheese and soup.

The Brew, located on the second floor of the JDUC, doesn’t offer grilled cheese, but it offers soup.

“I think next year’s team just has the intention of holding strong with The Brew and then obviously making some infrastructure changes, so with the lighting, perhaps kind of different seating,” Plummer said.

“Now that they know that it is a space that students want to frequent, they can invest a little bit more in it.”

Plummer said even though Common Ground, located in the Queen’s Centre, and The Brew have run surpluses this year, it won’t have an effect on next year’s spending.

“I have no idea what next year’s team intends to put in but I would imagine they wouldn’t go over $10,000, which to me is incredibly reasonable and to anyone looking at this it would be reasonable,” she said.

The Brew falls under the same budgetary projections as Common Ground. Common Ground is projected to have a net surplus of $63,181 by the end of the year, according to information presented at the Corporate General Meeting.

The AMS Health and Dental Plan

The team originally intended to launch a marketing survey in order to tailor the plan to student needs. Though changes did not occur, the AMS pushed a communications campaign that would help students engage with the plan.

“More people are engaging with the plan than they ever have before,” Plummer said.

The plan saw loss ratios of over 100, indicating that people accessed it at a one-to-one ratio — an increase in student engagement since past years.

Mental Health Advisory Board

The policy for the Board was passed last spring, before the executive began their term.

“Different students from different faculties face different challenges … so the group is … meant to better inform our lobbying,” Pritchard said.

He said the purpose of the Board was to allow different faculties to come together and understand the different issues each faculty faces, as well as to share solutions to problems.

“[I’m] happy with where it is,” he said, adding that he thought incoming Rector Mike Young was a “great chair”.

Division and Union Streets crosswalk

This aspect of the platform coincided with the University constructing and finalizing its Campus Master Plan, which lays out a framework for development over the next 10 to 15 years. The crosswalk at Division and Union Streets was included in the plan.

“We’ll continue to help push for these things but it is something that the University’s taking on and they have significantly more resources to accomplish these kinds of things, and it is within their short-term plan,” Berkok said.

“Probably within the next year or two … there will be progress on the crosswalk.”

The executive said the crosswalk would be of no cost for the AMS.

Next generation web presence

Plummer said the executive had looked into whether an online pop-up shop for Tricolour Outlet would be feasible for the winter holiday season

She said after speaking with consulting group Creole Solutions, they determined an online store wasn’t necessary.

“We couldn’t get a good read that the demand was there, that’s something we’ll be looking towards next year,” Plummer said.

She said the target market for the store would be alumni and parents, and it was difficult to determine whether the need was there.

Homecoming

Berkok said he was pleased Homecoming was successful, although he would like to see more programming in the future that would connect students and alumni in a casual environment.

“We really want to see, and hope to see in the future more large-scale programming,” he said.

The issue of “liability and risk” prevented the University from approving that kind of programing, he said.

He said the executive wanted to introduce the “Tricolour Run” — an event, which was slated for the first Homecoming weekend. It would be similar to events such as “Run or Dye” where coloured cornstarch would be dropped on participants as they run.

The City believed it would be a liability and wouldn’t allow it, Pritchard said.

Plummer noted that it’s important for the student body to understand that this year’s success doesn’t guarantee next year will be the same.

In sum, the Alumni Reunion, Let’s Not Fuck It Up video and SMART clean-up cost the AMS less than $5,000. Other events that were hosted did not cost the AMS anything, according to the executive.

Bikes and Boards

The original bike shop was located in MacGillivray-Brown Hall, with a flight of stairs leading down to the shop. Bikes and Boards is now located in the Lower JDUC, where QTV’s old location was.

“The bike shop has been very successful this year,” Pritchard said. “[Bikes and Boards] is very visible, they are located where a lot of other student services are.”

Along with bike repairs, the shop features long boards painted by students. The AMS provides the tracks and the wheels for the long boards.

Currently, it costs $50,000 a year to run MacGillivray-Brown Hall, said Plummer.

Athletics and Recreation signed a contract last year with Tristan Lee, the previous vice-president of operations, to pay one-third of the $50,000 cost.

“I suspect maybe they would pay a little bit less than one-third next year,” she said. “They will still pay some sort of contribution that’s somehow related to their usage.” Bikes and Board’s budgeting operating cost for the year was $4,505. Plummer told the Journal via email that they were budgeted to bring in $2,400 worth of revenue, with the rest to be covered by their Assembly allocation.

She said the shop has brought in more sales than previously anticipated, and will end with a surplus.

Arts Council

The policy to create an AMS Arts Council was passed in February at AMS Assembly.

Pritchard said the group had been formed since the fall, and that the council itself created its own policy. The council had currently organized the Umbrella Arts Festival on campus.

“[Umbrella Arts Festival] was put in place because the [Exposure Arts] Festival, which used to be funded by the University, no longer was in existence,” Pritchard said. “[The festival] make[s] sure there’s a focus on the appreciation of the arts.”

Pritchard added the council has developed a $1,000 student arts initiative fund that students can apply for if they are looking to showcase art at Queen’s.

“If they’re looking to put on a show or something like that … it’s a new way to engage students in the arts,” he said. “In the future, we think it will really help to kind of shape the advocacy that we can do for arts-based groups.” “The University yesterday sent an email to us about the Provost creating a committee about the arts,” Pritchard added. “This will allow the Campus Activities Commissioner, most likely, to sit on that committee from the AMS and really push forward the information.”

AMS Infrastructure Re-evaluation

Team BGP’s original platform stated that the team planned to shift the AMS to a culture of long-term planning, and to undertake a full structural review, as well as ensure more financial accountability.

“This year we undertook a review in order to change around some of the full-time student staff and the permanent staff interactions with one another, and how the positions are structured,” Plummer said.

The executive’s State of the Union report stated that the AMS commissions switched to project accounting, making their finances more transparent.

The Underground

Plummer said last summer’s rebrand of what was formerly Alfie’s nightclub was a “much-needed change.”

Despite efforts to engage students with the new brand of the club, the Underground will face a deficit by the end of the year, she said. The projected deficit, which was presented at this year’s Annual Corporate General meeting, was $135,467.

“Obviously it was unfortunate. All the clubs across the city saw a decrease in attendance and a decrease in sales,” Plummer said.

“Our problems were that students just weren’t interested in going to a campus nightclub anymore.” Plummer said that Alfie’s had faced a deficit last year, and the rebrand was implement in order to create a brand that students could identify with. “Nothing changed, so next year … I think it’s up to the students to decide if they want a campus nightclub,” Plummer said. “If they don’t we’ll just shut it down.”

JDUC

Though the JDUC revitalization process needs to begin before April 2015, it likely won’t start before the executive leaves office.

The revitalization fund has over $1 million in it, none of which has been spent.

“Knowing how fickle buildings and development can be, it was really important that the million dollars was spent in a way that was consistent with a certain vision,” Berkok said.

He said that their initial goal was to “incorporate student input into spending”, but the executive has since altered their vision.

“There’s actually some insurance money that has collected on the one million since we got it,” he said.

“We took that and we’ve actually signed with a local architectural firm who will be developing sort of a vision for the whole building which will include as a subset how to spend the one million dollars.”

The firm has created some initial sketches that Berkok said he hopes to see soon.

“First and foremost, we want to make sure that the end product is good as opposed to signing it off as a checkmark in our term, because we want to treat the AMS as a continuum rather than ‘it’s our thing we did’,” Berkok said.

“The JDUC’s been a hub of student life for many, many years, it’s very important to get it right, so we want to commit to doing the best we can.”

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