WRL — the year in review

The AMS executive looks back on their platform, 11 months in office

From left: Justin Reekie, Allison Williams and Philip Lloyd, or Team WRL.
From left: Justin Reekie, Allison Williams and Philip Lloyd, or Team WRL.
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Following the release of their State of the Union report, AMS President Allison Williams, Vice-President of Operations Justin Reekie and Vice-President of University Affairs Philip Lloyd — or Team WRL — sat down with The Journal to reflect on platform points and overall progress during their term.

Williams said a “defining element” of the year was opening up discussion to various stakeholder groups, adding that as a result, significant trust was placed in the executive and many successes came about.

“I think when you care a lot about something and feel really strongly about it succeeding, there can be a tendency to become a little bit defensive,” Williams said. “But we tried very hard to open everything up.”

Williams said the executive began speaking to the University in the summertime about broader issues related to the AMS, instead of communicating with the administration “on an incidental basis”. She added that this helped establish where both sides were “coming from” and aided discussions during the year.

Lloyd said collaboration was his major takeaway.

“In order to accomplish what we did, it rested on the idea that we are working together to meet the goals,” he said.

Understanding the perspective of the University, student groups, the AMS itself and the City was key for Reekie.

“While taking in every perspective, finding common outcomes and common goals and understanding really what is going to benefit students at the end of the day and working together to strive to meet those goals,” he said.

Tricolour Festival

Williams said the executive has always stood by the fact that if a student fee were implemented, it wouldn’t cover the full cost of the festival, adding that sponsorship, non-student ticket sales and “alternative revenue streams” were also examined as part of the funding model.

“At present time, we have students paying for two-thirds of next year’s event, with all the other funding already secured — with the exception of some sponsorship funding that is outstanding,” Williams said, adding that they hope sponsorship will play a bigger role in future years.

She said the AMS hired an Advancement Officer, whose position will focus on acquiring funding for events like the ReUnion Street Festival, and that the University will support the festival through this position as well as a fund that the AMS “allocate[s] towards student initiatives”.

Reekie said the executive believes the festival will likely become self-financing as a result of sponsorship.

“We encourage future executives to really look at that revenue stream,” he said.

“Moving forward, we’d be able to reduce the student fee because of that, and truly become a self-sustaining festival.”

Homecoming ticket distribution

In the past two years, Lloyd said, there was “poor communication” between students and Athletics and Recreation, and after talking to Athletics in the summer, they decided to distribute football tickets during one day rather than doing so at different times.

“Coming into it, we had in our minds a more complex mechanism for distributing them, and then we realized that really, simplicity was key, because the barrier the entire time had been a barrier of communication rather than a flawed distribution process,” Williams added.

Liaising with campus clubs

Lloyd said the AMS was able to talk to clubs’ executives about various aspects of their relationship with the Clubs Office as part of the Clubs Workshop this year.

He said that allocating space to clubs based on their theme — having charity clubs share office space with similar groups, for example — has the potential to increase interaction and collaboration. He added that having clubs in a similar area during the Tricolour Open House also helped “encourage greater collaboration” between clubs.

“I think the Clubs Office’s role is more behind the scenes or to see if there are ways that clubs could interact,” Lloyd said.

“In terms of getting them to partner on certain initiatives, that’s really for the club executives for that to happen more organically.”

Orientation Week

Although the position was created before their term, Lloyd said the position of Orientation Week Leadership Director this year was “quite successful”, adding that he’s “incredibly pleased” with the work done by the Campus Activities Commission, Orientation Roundtable (ORT) and student members of the Senate Orientation Activities Review Board.

“There were a lot of heavy discussions that have taken place over the past year or two over Orientation Week policies, procedures, what the relationship is like between ORT, the faculties, the AMS, etcetera, and everybody has been really working hard to better understand what that relationship looks like,” he said.

Walk-in clinic

Williams said their model for the on-campus clinic will include greater involvement from Health, Counselling and Disability Services — though staffing concerns had previously discounted this possibility.

While there are currently some “big unknowns” related to the transformation of the PEC into a student health and wellness centre, after working with the University for a year, she said, “it appears to be at top of [their] mind”.

Tricolour fitness app

If a developer is able to fulfill the requirements of the app for “a reasonable amount of money”, Williams said, the AMS would be ready to move ahead with it.

She said the “toughest mitigating factor” of the app is working with the particularities of the Athletics and Recreation website, which includes both varsity and recreation components.

“It has a few functionalities that are very different from regular websites and it actually is missing some of the functionalities that most regular websites have, particularly around putting in a mobile-responsive website,” Williams said.

Grocery delivery service

With plans to begin trials this coming summer, Williams said two difficulties in moving this forward were finding a space that can be accessed by a loading dock and having Grocery Checkout implement a business plan.

“We’ve known since this summer, actually, that that probably would be our timeline to completion,” she said.

Health and dental plan communication

Reekie said the AMS advertised the plan in several different ways this fall, including an email blast, a presence at the Sidewalk Sale, flyers for first-year students and an ad in the Tricolour Yearbook.

A student survey, which will be completed this month, was discussed in the fall and will detail how various students have heard about the plan, in order to aid in developing a communication strategy for next year.

SOLUS

Williams said the AMS has been involved in discussions surrounding SOLUS improvements, particularly with regards to prioritizing system updates.

“There have been a few new additions in the last year as a result of that,” she said.

“Of course, the wait list was one of them — we’re on a newer version of SOLUS now as well and the financial reporting was recently updated.”

Courses without prerequisites

Given the lengthy process for creating new courses, Williams said the focus has been on the larger discussion of “the need to be establishing courses like this”.

She said the Arts and Science internship program is a tangible example of a program without prerequisites developed this year, and added that certificate programs — like the business certificate that can be taken with an Arts and Science degree — can be developed more quickly.

“Arts and Science has also been working hard on establishing more certificates of that nature,” she said.

Enhancements to Career Services

Replacing an Arts and Science career fair, the “It All Adds Up Campaign” took place to bridge the gap between university involvement and one’s career.

Lloyd said “major maps” designed by Career Services with input from the Academics Affairs Commissioner, also helped connect with ArtSci students.

Although WRL’s platform initially focused on supporting entrepreneurs, Williams said it was “clear” the Queen’s Innovation Connector provided “innovation entrepreneurship support”.

“We looked more so at how we could align with some of the work that they were already doing in an area where there maybe was more of a need,” she said.

In particular, she noted the Collider Initiative, which “looked at space, programming, and how to basically create more opportunities for students to gather and talk about ideas”.

Open Government

There were a few setbacks in the timeline for its release, but an Open Government webpage is set for release with a new AMS website within the next four months.

“The difficulty was first of all from an ethics review process, in terms of publishing survey results,” Williams said. “We had to look at exactly what it would take for us to be able to do that.” She added that this took them a while, having been unfamiliar with the regulations.

Having been cleared by the ethics review process now, there will be a page on the new website dedicated to making AMS resources such as research data, surveys and policy publicly available for student access.

The second setback was the AMS website itself.

“It became clear very quickly that, as with everything else, you can’t upload much more than 15 MB and [it] was very restrictive,” she said.

Williams said she has seen an initial review of the site that’s currently under development, which will be launched either at the end of their term or just into the summer months.

They’ve also approached the University in an attempt to make some University-gathered information, such as the exit survey, publicly available through the AMS site.

Cell phone boosters

WRL gave their cell phone booster platform a checkmark in their State of the Union address, but the implementation has yet to be completed.

According to Williams, the timeline will be based on the cell booster provider, but will likely take place over the next year.

“What our role in this was looking at which buildings needed it and creating that sort of prioritization component of it,” she said.

New services in the JDUC

Only one new service will be added to the JDUC, though WRL proposed the possibility of two new services in their platform. A dental office will be introduced to the JDUC sometime next fall, after a successful bid for the lease. WRL is currently in the midst of finalizing the lease agreement.

Part of the delay has been due to the collection of survey information from students about what to do with the space.

“We were very committed to making sure we had a statistically significant result to look at what [students] actually wanted from that space,” Williams said.

“Once we had that, it was just a matter of going to public tender, and now it’s just the final stages of negotiation.”

Student engagement

WRL feels they’ve done well — not only as an executive, but also with regards to the AMS as a whole when engaging with students and staying relevant on campus.

The establishment of marketing “street teams” and “The Morning Show” were some of the platform points that they said were a key to success.

“A lot of the points written in here were executive driven in terms of some of the things we could do ourselves,” Lloyd said.

“That said, I think that in terms of engagement with students all three of us and working with our council and our officers and those who work under us had a very extensive process, really questioning whether or not what we’re doing is something students have expressed interest in.”

Williams said some of the tangible outcomes of student engagement were the goal plans and budgets created based on survey results.

On the corporate side, Reekie said, they’ve let market research guide initiatives, and collaborated with student consulting groups such as FreshSight Queen’s and Queen’s Business Consulting to obtain student feedback.

Any changes they would have made

Williams said she wished she’d been able to approach the platform with more of an emphasis on student engagement — having seen the day-to-day work of the AMS, she said, she’s realized that the student mandate is at the core of every non-platform initiative.

“I wish that there would have been more opportunity to consult around platform points because with everything else we did this year, every non-platform initiative, a huge part of that initiative was receiving the student mandate for it,” she said.

Reekie said something he would have changed was having an idea of the AMS services and managers before building their platform, so that they could build upon previous years and keep continuity.

Lloyd said he would have liked to spend more time engaging with students and making the AMS more of a factor in the student experience.

“You always feel the most prepared for your term at the end of it,” he said.

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