Q&A with Team LWT

From left: Tyler Lively, presidential candidate; David Walker, vice president (pperations) candidate; Carolyn Thompson, vice president (university affairs) candidate.

As part of the endorsement process, Journal staff sat down with each of the teams running for AMS executive for a Q&A period. The Journal chose questions that hadn’t been asked, or fully answered, throughout the campaign. The following transcript has been condensed. 

Team LWT:

  • Tyler Lively, Presidential Candidate
  • David Walker, Vice President (Operations) Candidate
  • Carolyn Thompson, Vice President (University Affairs) Candidate 

Related links: Team CSG's Q&A | Team LWT's profile | The Journal's endorsement 

Click on the questions below to see the team's answers:

  1. What do you think are your fellow candidates’ strengths and weaknesses?
  2. What do you admire most about your opponent?
  3. How do you plan to ensure that when you’re hiring people, that you’re hiring people from a diverse range of backgrounds?
  4. If elected, how will your term differ from the other team's?
  5. What tangible steps will you take to increase female leadership in the AMS?
  6. What are the current flaws that you see in the AMS right now and how do you plan to fix them?
  7. [Carolyn] answered the question about female leadership both here and in the debate. Dave and Tyler, what do you think about it?
  8. How are you going to fund the PSE?
  9. Was there anything in your platform that you disagreed on?
  10. How do you plan on combatting student apathy?
  11. How are you going to include international students, and first-years who don't live in residence, in the Queen's community?
  12. What do you think about the change to the definition of the mandatory student fee?
  13. What are you going to do if you make a huge mistake?
  14. How are you going to negotiate with administrators when advocating for student issues?
  15. How are you going to ensure the AMS's relationship with landlords doesn't go south with the creation of a Rate-My-Landlord feature? 
  16. What does the AMS prioritize now that wouldn’t be a priority for you?
  17. Conclusion 

What do you think are your fellow candidates’ strengths and weaknesses?

Dave: I’ll start with Tyler and Carolyn first. Carolyn’s the most approachable, she’s just really down to earth. As for Tyler — if I have a question about anything, he knows the answer. He’s really easy to talk to. They’ve both just been really helpful throughout this entire process, just really really helpful.

Carolyn: Yeah, just to echo that. Dave, I feel like I can really trust with everything, and the same goes for Tyler. It was really comforting to know that if we’re electing and if I’m in the VP office, I can at any time go to Tyler’s office and say, “Hey, I don’t understand this policy, can you explain it” and I know he’d be there, no matter what, to help me out with that.

Tyler: For Dave, especially, he comes from an external perspective and so he brings a lot of new things. He gets really fussy about certain things. He stresses the small things.

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What do you admire most about your opponent? What platform point do you most admire about your opponent’s platform?

Carolyn: In terms of platform, something that we really admire is their emphasis on the importance of space on campus. We’ve all seen the effects of increased enrolment and how space has just stayed constant — that’s been really problematic for all students. Just not having a space to go, that’s really problematic. So, working with the university and creating a master plan, to make sure we can progress that forward to give students what they need, honestly.

Tyler: Especially their focus on the JDUC. It’s really important to give students more study rooms, but even just looking at the student life space and how students are able to use that.

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How do you plan to ensure that when you’re hiring people, that you’re hiring people from a diverse range of backgrounds?

Tyler: Yeah, so I can touch on that a little bit. In our platform, we touched on how we wanted to do an equity hiring review once we begin hiring our new council. We realize that’s going to be a very quick turnaround, but starting January 28th, if we’re elected, we want to go to the Equity Office, the Human Rights Office, the Aboriginal Four Directions Centre, and make sure that our hiring process is reflecting the needs of a diverse student body and we don’t really want to begin hiring until we can make sure that our practices reflect that diversity.

Carolyn: Looking at the accessibility of the jobs and making sure that any student, if they want to, can apply to them, because that is going to be the most beneficial to the AMS.

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Let’s fast forward to April. You’ve been elected. What do you hope your lasting impression will be and how will your term differ from the other teams?

Tyler: I think the most important thing, and this is something that we talked about for a long time when we were putting together the platform, is that we don’t want to treat it like we’re just one year. This is really part of a longer story. You know, I think the example that people give is one year is just one page in a book that is the AMS and that is Queen’s University. So what we really want to do is, coming April 30th of next year, May 1st, when the new team comes in, that they felt that we really built a foundation that they can use to then keep working on issues, for example, like sexual assault on campus, or tackling diversity. These aren’t issues that we are going to solve in one year but we want to make the steps that we can now so that when the next team comes in, they can make that difference and keep building upon the work that we’ve done.

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So, this question was asked in the debate but we’d like you to get more into the specifics. What tangible steps will you take to increase female leadership in the AMS?

Carolyn: I love this question, I said that in the debate too. I think that the Queen’s Female Leaders in Politics conference is, we talked about baby steps, a stride we have taken because that conference was widely successful. The leaders that came to speak to us, I know that I personally was very inspired especially coming into something like this where I was going to be standing up in front of so many people and speaking. So, working on building those conferences and building that female empowerment because I think it’s very important. And it’s definitely lacking these elected positions and we’ve seen that year after year after year. And we need to work on it to make sure women are confident enough to step forward and up their name up.

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What are the current flaws that you see in the AMS right now and how do you plan to fix them?

Tyler: When I say the biggest one is making sure that we’re not retreating into the JDUC, that’s one of the things that we brought up in the debate and one of the things we think is really important is that consultation cannot only exist within the walls of the JDUC. We really need to take it back to students. For example, during this election campaign, one of the things that we did is that we released the first ever Clubs platform where we went and consulted with over a dozen clubs and their leaders about what they need from the AMS in order to support their student leadership. So we want to continue to do that and it’s really as simple as going out and having those conversations and being mindful of the fact that we have our own biases when in the JDUC and we need to talk to student leaders with whatever the issue is.

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[Carolyn] you said you really loved the question with women in leadership and that’s great. But what I did notice is that both in the debate and today when that was asked, you [Carolyn] answered the question rather than you two. And I’d like to know you think rather than Carolyn.

David: For sure. I one hundred per cent agree with Carolyn. While there is a lot of female leadership involved with management positions or isn’t enough at the executive level, I think we need to promote an environment that really, really says “come, you can do good things”. Carolyn is a great example, Sarah is a great example, Catherine, Alli have all been influential. I think that’s a great thing to come off of what Carolyn has been saying. 

Tyler: I think there’s a lot of things that we need to do as men to make sure that we are encouraging women to get involved and really empowering them. I know that one of the things that Carolyn spoke to is her own uncertainty in coming this position and feeling that she was ready to run. You know, Dave and I were saying “Carolyn, this is something you can do. You are qualified, you should get involved and you should do this.” And we need to do that as men and as women to encourage people to get involved. I think that’s really what it comes down to is being honest with each other about that.

Carolyn: And the quote that I said that really was the most impactful thing for me on the QFLIP meeting was “When one women steps through the door, pull another one with you”. That shouldn’t just be for women. That should be for men. You guys definitely did that for me, and that was a huge confidence boost and it allowed me to be with you here right now. We need to be taking those steps so women feel confident to step forward and put their names forward.

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Just in terms of the PSE and re-establishing it – have you guys thought about what that would be like financially. Having someone to do that? Is that something that you think is worth the money and investment, and if the University doesn’t want to pay for it, would you guys read all PSEs yourself? 

Tyler: I probably wouldn’t read them. It just wouldn’t be humanly possible.

But we have thought about the cost – that’s obviously going to be a difficulty with the University especially where they just got rid of it this year. But if you listen to students, it’s really important to them and it’s really important to us. Because as we talked about in the previous question, it’s that sense of community. In the PSE, it’s not just something we want to bring back, but it’s something we want to go back to the drawing board and look at. If it’s something not just get engaged students, but it’s also looking at how we can incorporate diversity in that. And looking at best practices from more holistic admissions processes used at universities around the world.

It’s something we think the University should be dedicating money to because, they always like to, whether it be a Board of Trustees or whatever, they’re always talking about how Queen’s is about community and it’s about engagement. This is how we foster those things. It just doesn’t happen because we’re at Queen’s. It’s because of the students that we get here and because of what we built. We risk losing that if we don’t have the PSE and we’re only looking at grades.

David: And when we were at Board of Trustees, they were proud because we had the second most clubs per capita next to Harvard. They were celebrating that at this formal meeting with these people who are very influential. You need to recognize that there are some things the PSE is by and large a big reason of why we are able to develop that.

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So when you were coming together to create a platform, was there anything you disagreed on?  And how did you then compromise and come together to create a coherent vision of what you wanted?

David: The very first night when we said that we were all going to do this together, but we need to sit down and talk about our personal views, our views on university things and we’re going to sit here for as long as we need and see if we’re going to be able to problem solve together. And we sat in the room for three hours one night and went back and forth between yes we agree, yes we can solve problems. There were areas on even non-AMS things that we just didn’t agree on. Like, I’m a big Leafs fan and Tyler is not.

Those things even came up just getting to know each other as people. So I think moving forward, we all had the same vision of what the AMS should look like and that made developing that a lot easier. We want achievable things that are going to benefit student of tomorrow, but be a long-term building block of what the AMS is. And the recognition that the great things that have happened in the AMS aren’t necessarily because someone set out saying they needed to do this thing by this date, it’s like this foundation that has been laid by previous people that has allowed these amazing events or advocacy points take place.

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It feels like there's a lot of student apathy – how do you plan to combat that? How are you going to reach out more?

Carolyn: So, this is something that we touched on at the debate, but I think that we have done [that] with the club’s platform. It is unique and it was truly made by clubs. We went out and we got feedback from them because we don’t know what clubs need — they do. And it’s about continuing that not only with clubs. We talked to athletes and we talked to the hockey team and they said “honestly, no one has ever come talk to us about these things” and it was very clear that no one had ever done that. We could have talked to them probably for about three hours. They had so many ideas. So I guess it’s putting time in your schedule to do that.

We acknowledge that executive schedules get very busy, but you know, you can block off time to go and meet with these people. Meet with the varsity leadership council. Meet with specific clubs. The open door policy is great, but I don’t think it necessarily – I mean, if I were a student and saw that the AMS had an open door policy then I would say “cool” and then move on. It’s still an intimidating environment, I think, but it will be something we will continue to combat over the years. I don’t think you can do that in one year, but it starts with that face time. Going out, talking to people at bake sales. Going to the varsity leadership schedule. Putting in that face time so that students at least know who you are and then they’re comfortable coming to talk to you.

Dave: Yeah, I think that one of the coolest parts of this whole experience that has been the last 12 days. It’s that we’ve gone to so many — at least for me personally — I’ve been to so many club events or performances that I might not have necessarily gone to otherwise. I’ve opened my eyes. I went to Excetera and we went to Drama Studio Series. We were at QISA last night and they all were so cool in such a different way … it’s important for your student government and your leaders to take it back to the student level and go to these things…

Tyler: If I can just build on that quickly, a few of the things we noticed, the AMS is so broad you almost have to find those focal points where everyone seems to be meeting from all these different sub-communities, almost. So for example all these different clubs, one of the things we’re hearing from clubs is how we can get clubs together to discuss club issues because it is very difficult for us to go and meet with a hundred clubs or even a dozen clubs. It just takes up so much time. So [it’s] bringing clubs together to talk about the issues and then bringing that information back to, say, Assembly or to us as an executive by creating a club’s caucus….

So [it’s] finding those subgroups and really pushing up so we’re getting information from all different points of student leadership. And I think that’s the most important thing is really sitting down and figuring out how we can create those channels of communication.

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You guys talked a lot about being in the community at Queens. It’s a fantastic thing and a lot of that is fostered through first-year events like Orientation Week or residence. So what are you going to do for students that don’t live in residence in first year … [or] international students, like people who are coming from really far who don’t have that support system [and] things like that?

Carolyn: So I think, in terms of that, it’s about reaching out. It’s about, again, it’s about that face time and just making it known that we’re hear for students and going to the NEWT events ... I know ASUS has the ASUS Exchange Buddies event that we went to at Clark. Just putting in the time to do that because I think it goes along way, a lot further than people sometimes even understand. I mean I think it’s largely about that and just making sure you're making time for it.

Dave: It’s also about being proactive and not always needing an invite to go do something. It’d probably be very appreciated if you just introduced yourself to new students that might now have that support system and said “hey, I’m so and so, come talk to me if you need anything. We’re here.” … Show them people are here for you, we’ll do what we can. I think that’s important, really just opening up to other people.

Tyler: One of the other things we talked about in our platform was going in and looking at transition supports that exist for students because the university does have a lot, whether it be, for example, QSuccess or for students that are coming, international students or exchange students. We have NEWTS week, which is unique amongst most Ontario universities … one thing in particular we talked about was our upper year mentorship program where we wanted to link these students with students who have similar interests that are in upper years and can really enhance that tradition to university. Also, perhaps looking what we can build on that and going into second year, which is another huge transition phase. 

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The new definition of a mandatory student fee could potentially affect clubs like Queen’s bands, Golden Words and even The Journal. What do you think about the change and its effects on tradition?

Tyler: Just to clarify that, I think when we spoke, what we were getting at was the AGM workshop portion and not necessarily the definition, because we sort of went back and talked about that. It was the things we didn’t get a chance to discuss like amongst ourselves, the definition of mandatory student fees. I guess one of the things we're thinking was it’s not necessarily up the AMS to decide what students feel are essential services and what should exist on campus, and perhaps what we want to look at, for example, is like it doesn’t make much sense to say, well, 51 per cent of students can impose a three dollar mandatory fee on the other 49 per cent. So it’s more of a question threshold than the AMS VPOPS trying to judge what services should be essential and which are non-essential. I think that’s where we’re coming from as group, but [we’re] definitely in favour of all the going through referendum instead of through AGM.

Dave: To reiterate that point, it’s important to have students speak on it because we can sit in our offices and say this one can, this one can’t, but at the end of the day, it needs student involvement and student [input to] say what the current student body believes [is] necessary and what is not … Looking at the review system and maybe saying there’s certain characteristics of something that are just needed. And maybe it’s adding an education feature on the fees and explaining to people this is what it’s for. Because a lot of people have no idea what they are for on their student fees, but if you told them [it] goes toward the Queen’s bands they can fund this on a year-to-year basis. [They’ll say] I love seeing them out on events; I love seeing them on the frosh parade. You get them to understand what the importance of each one is.

Tyler: You saw that with Bus-It.  The AMS ran a great campaign and it was nearly a $20 increase. If you take the time and really engage with students, I think they understand whenever you’re trying to increase a fee.

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This is a hypothetical question. You make a huge mistake, e.g. the fall referendum, that significantly impacts students. How would you deal with it? 

Tyler: I think you have to be honest with students. These are no experience necessary jobs and people make mistakes. I know I made a few over the course of my years being involved in the AMS. Last year, actually, I was running the elections and I forgot to put two referendum teams on the ballot and so we head back and make sure we called them and said that we would get a second ballot up and you guys would be on there and it's fine, but you need to have those open lines of communication and let them know. 

I think that people understand that we are students too and as much we come into these jobs and we try to learn we are still going to make mistakes. As long as you are honest with students, then that’s the biggest thing. When we spoke to a lot of clubs what they told us about the fall referendum was the biggest issue wasn’t necessarily the annulment of results but that they were left in the dark why it happened, what was going to happen going forward, what about the 50-dollar deposit they paid – those things matter to them and didn’t feel that they had that information.

Carolyn: We should be extending ourselves to them. Largely what we got out of those consultations with clubs was that with the fall referendum was that it was on the onus of the AMS to go up to the clubs office and say “this happened, we are so sorry, now what can we do to support you”. I just honestly think that that’s lost a lot, and I think that it goes a long way and we need to ensure that its happening next year. 

David: It is a realization that while we are in these tough positions that you have to value what everyone else is doing too. We had a club come to us and say we were first told that we were on the ballot and then we weren’t on the ballot and then I went to vote on the referendum and saw that my club was on the ballot and didn’t even get the opportunity to advertise, and those sort of things. It's important to realize that while throughout the process of getting that infrastructurally set up it’s just as important to include them along the way [as] it mitigates the issues that arise.

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When you’re advocating for student issues — whether that’s getting funding for the Reunion St. Festival, whether that’s advocating about NAD, whether that’s expanding mental health services — you’re going to be negotiating with administrators who have more experience than you do, access to more data and possibly more savvy in negotiations than you. In your experience, what is required to make something happen at Queen’s and how are you going to overcome that disadvantage?

Tyler: Execs in the past have gone on and said, well, all we hear [is] the quality of La Salle whether it be counsellors or physical health services sucks, but the University just says everything we have, [it] says it's awesome. And we finally went and got that data ourselves and it completely contradicted what we’re hearing, and said you know people are having bad experiences. They’re not happy with the hours and we brought that to the University and we said look, you guys have got to improve and they’ve started along that path. That’s something that we want to keep pushing them on.

I think preparation in that respect, preparation in terms of knowing who you’re dealing with. All the administrators at Queen’s are different and they sort of interact in their own little bubbles. I’ve noticed in my role as academic affairs commissioner this year, for example, so if I go and deal with administrator in the Teaching and Learning portfolio, they have a lot of different priorities and they even sometimes just say “look, we need you guys to help us push these ideas”. So finding those pockets of administrators who really care about the issue you’re pushing is important, [as is] knowing the administrator, knowing your students and going and trying to find those sort of common goals with the University. A lot of times we come from our own perspective and we just say, well, students want this, but if you can frame something in terms of perceived risk or things that the University is caring about they’re a lot more amiable to what you’re pushing.

Carolyn: At the end of the day, we have the students. That’s why we’re at this University. We have the students behind us and I think it’s important to look at the weaknesses within the AMS and see that students aren’t necessarily engaging with us. Figure out how to engage with them and get them on our side again so that we can go to the University and say we know that the students want this and you need to help us out because without us, this is just an institution and there’s nothing else to it. 

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Part of your platform is that you want to hold landlords accountable. And that means that you want to create a Rate-My-Landlord feature on the AMS housing portal. I know that the AMS used to do the Golden Cockroach awards, you’re familiar with those? The reason the AMS stopped doing that was because things were getting better, but also they wanted to have a better relationship with landlords. Something like this could potentially affect that, so why did you choose to address landlord accountability in this way and how are you going to manage that technical relationship with them, make sure it doesn’t go south? 

Tyler: For sure. So we actually ended up discussing this platform point with a former Municipal Affairs Commissioner and they mentioned to us that there were, that the AMS was going to try this in the past and that there were a few legal issues with it in terms of how do you avoid defamatory comments in the landlord rating system. And we’re sort of recognizing now that that is a problem and it's not something we necessarily thought when we were in the planning process. So taking a bit of a step back from that we still do want to look at sort of the legal background behind that, because you can have Yelp, you can have these other rating systems, so I’m unsure why we couldn’t necessarily have this one.

But looking into that in terms of the relationship with landlords, I think it is important to develop a positive relationship, and I think it was a good decision to get rid of the Golden Cockroach Award, but at the same time there’s still bad landlords out there that have not responded to us trying to build that positive relationship, and I think at the end of the day if we can get this system off the ground it’s something that we can hold landlords accountable for, and if we’re not able to get it off that ground, we also looked at a housing bylaw coordinator, which would be a 25 hours per week position that would be created under the Housing Resource Centre. And their job would be to guide students through a grievance process with landlords to help them seek out Queen’s Legal Aid, to know the bylaw’s ins and outs, to develop relationships with city staff and bylaw officers and to help them on that end. And we’d like to do both of those things ideally, but if we can’t, I think that the bylaw officer goes a long way to solving that problem and in a positive way as well. 

Carolyn: The reason we came up with the landlord and the housing things for our platform was because students have told us that this has been a problem for them. I mean, things like not knowing if their landlords are treating them properly … So seeing that this is a demand and kind of answering that and talking and providing something for students that they actually need.

David: Yeah and I know from personal experience that I’ve had some interesting interactions with my landlord that we were ignored for the first year and a half because it’s a competitive market, we don’t want to ruin this relationship, because uld we don’t want to be like, nah, we’re not going to re-sign with you guys, we don’t really want to move ... I had to resort to looking up building code and the legalities around windows in houses and as soon as I sent that to the landlord, it was like 15 minutes [and] she was there ready to look at my problem.

And I think similar stories like that was a big motivator motivation behind the bylaw coordinator, because you know, it goes back to the data and the facts … they can listen and be like, oh, they’re just students, they’re blowing this out of proportion, but when you really bring them into the house or show them the issue they understand what it is.

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You only have 24 hours in a day. You’ve listed a lot of new initiatives. What does the AMS prioritize now that wouldn’t be a priority for you?

David: For me personally it's almost like …  [you] need to meet the deadline, or deadlines are important, but the need to just get it done and not really follow through on the full promise and [it’s] like yes we have these priorities but we shouldn’t put them out there or you know make them operable until they’re the 100 per cent of what we’ve expected. So I think that that’s what’s important to give students what we’ve asked for and not just promise them just [to] be like, well, it’s got to go out now because we haven’t done something in a while. It’ll best serve students when the commissions are producing what they’re intended to and not rushing the processes so I think that goes for university-wide issues too. There are certain processes that we need to follow and it's important that you don’t screw it up sometimes. Rushing it just to say we did it is usually not the best approach.

Tyler: Yeah and I think that’s what we came in knowing is like there’s a difference. Like a lot of things we talk about in [the platform’s Technical Review on] services are things we can get done this year. We’ve listened to management teams [who said] that these are things we can do, but some of them are longer term goals, and as Dave said, we don’t want to necessarily say we have to get it done in this year [or that] it has to be our names stamped on the project.

We want to make sure we’re focusing on laying a groundwork to get this done over the next two or three years or even five years, because we tried to pick the most important things that we see in student life and make sure that the foundation is there. Because there are a lot of things we have to deal with and we won’t get them all done in one year, and that that’s just how it is. Every executive comes in knowing that, I hope, and we’re just going to acknowledge it and try our best.

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Conclusion

Tyler: We came in here today, answered a lot of questions on a wide variety of topics and the biggest thing that we wanted to stress is that we come from a lot of different experience. I’ve been in the AMS forever, Dave didn’t know what the AMS was in first year, Carolyn’s sort of in the middle ... We have a lot of different experience that we bring to the table and I think that we’ve got the right ideas in our platform. And I think most importantly we’re the right people to get it done with that diverse range of experience with the focus on hiring the right team with their own ideas and allowing them that freedom to really express themselves. I think that that’s how we’re going to get things done.

David: It’s just an understanding of what you can and can’t do and knowing your limitations and recognizing that and being upfront about it with each other and with our management teams and with commissioners and with volunteers — it’s being honest with each other.

Carolyn: And we’re really excited and we really thank you guys for allowing us to come and talk to you today because we were nervous but this was really fun. And I think that’s what we’ve found is that all of these consultations have been very valuable. So thank you.

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