Updated: AMS executive disband Commission on Environmental Affairs

A motion to dissolve Commission of Environmental Affairs was passed during AMS Assembly on Jan. 19

AMS Commissioner of Environmental Affairs Liam Dowling during the AMS Assembly on Jan. 19 where he was unable to comment on the dissolution of his own commission due to his bid for CESA Presidency.
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Originally posted: Jan. 19, 4:00 p.m. 

A motion to dissolve the Commission of Environmental Affairs was passed during AMS Assembly on Jan. 19. 

In a 41-page agenda released before Assembly, one paragraph was included in Vice President (University Affairs) Carolyn Thompson’s report, noting the sudden dissolution of the Commission of Environmental Affairs (CEA). 

The news, which came along with a 9-page plan, was a surprise to anyone who wasn’t involved in the team of planners and executives consulted within the AMS, namely many students currently working in the CEA’s many sub-groups. 

When The Journal attempted to contact CEA Commissioner Liam Dowling — whose position will be dissolved once he leaves office on May 1 — AMS Communications responded that Dowling was unable to comment, as he was currently taking a leave of absence from his position to run unopposed for President of the Concurrent Education Students Association (CESA). 

Dowling’s report to Assembly, where the motion to dissolve the commission will be voted on, included his regular updates on upcoming CEA events, but no mention of the disbanding of his commission.

In lieu of Dowling, AMS Communications offered a conversation with the Executive team in explanation. 

“What we’re going to be doing is distributing the elements of the CEA in to different pockets of the AMS,” VP Thompson explained on Wednesday evening. 

A common issue Vice President (Operations) Dave Walker, President Tyler Lively and herself had seen in the CEA was a lack of collaboration. Ideas related to sustainability were often siloed into one office. 

“What the goal is, is to strengthen the AMS’s commitment to sustainability throughout the AMS,” she said. 

While some of the groups within the CEA that were previously listed as AMS clubs will return to that status, other committees like student housing consultant Greenovations will become part of the Municipal Affairs Commission starting next academic year, if the motion passes at Assembly.

Explaining the decision-making process behind the move, AMS President Tyler Lively was frank.

“I think what happened there was an example of us trying to put too many things under one roof,” he said. “Where we’re trying to run services, do advocacy, education, outreach, and make the AMS more sustainable, and we’ve got all these things under one commission.” 

With the proposed format, the groups advocating for sustainability within the AMS will be able to advocate from directly within various commissions as opposed to acting as their own group. 

“For the past couple years, people have been noting that the commission hasn’t been living up to expectations,” Lively said. “But I think they haven’t wanted to tackle the issue because it can become an emotional issue at times. I think we’ll see that with this change, but I think we’ve got a plan and we’re going to keep pushing that.”

The AMS Executive were in agreement that despite the change, they haven’t heard a lot of direct concerns with what they deemed to be their “comprehensive plan” for the future of the CEA. While the agenda and the plan were distributed to The Journal upon request, they weren’t posted on the AMS website as of Thursday afternoon.

 “One of the concerns that people have brought up is around consultation,” Lively said. While students had voiced issue with the lack of consultation, he noted that the move won’t change what the AMS is doing. It would simply restructure the way those responsibilities are fulfilled, he said. 

Diana Yoon, former deputy of student engagement for the CEA and current co-chair of Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change, is disappointed in how LWT handled the dissolution. 

“This motion seems to be rushed through to meet a timeline for the next hiring period, instead of genuinely understanding environmental sustainability or consulting with the students who care about environmentalism on this campus,” she said.

“The senior volunteers of the CEA were not informed or aware of this decision until the start of the winter term this January, the other volunteers did not hear until last week. If the process was thought-out and researched carefully, it should have taken several months.”

Lively, however, believes the proper steps have been taken. “If we wanted to get rid of one of those mandates, stop providing these services or environmental education, then definitely we would be going to students, talking to them about that, but this is a case of doing those things better,” he said. 

Updated: Jan. 20. 3:31 a.m.

At Thursday night’s busy Assembly meeting, the proposal was met with some questions and debate regarding the logistics of the project, but overall support of the motion was passed with only a handful of representatives voting in opposition. 

The most vocal denouncing of this proposal came from a group of students seated in the gallery. While some were 

able to voice their concerns throughout the discussion on the motion, the proxy Speaker eventually implemented a one-minute cap on questions and commentary directed towards the AMS Executive. 

This proved difficult for one student, who continued to speak after he was told his time had expired. Voices were raised on both sides as the proxy Speaker attempted to gain control of the situation.

After a lengthy discussion on the topic, the motion was called to question and with hands still raised by members of the gallery, the motion was voted on by members of Assembly.

After this, the troupe of students assembled at the back of the room immediately gathered their things and exited Wallace Hall without waiting for the rest of assembly to adjourn. 

Among those quickly leaving the premises after the vote was cast was current CEA Commissioner Liam Dowling. Due to Dowling’s current leave of absence from his position, he was unable to speak with The Journal after the meeting had ended.

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