Recap: AMS executive candidates’ debate

Teams JBP and MTW break down their platforms and tackle pressing issues

Left to right: MTW's Julie Tran, Landon Wilcock and Aniqah Mair. 
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An audience flocked to Wallace Hall on Tuesday to hear the AMS executive candidates answer student-submitted questions and hash out differences in their platforms.

Teams JBP and MTW addressed issues surrounding mental health, accessibility, diversity and inclusion, housing, and other topics concerning the Queen’s student body. 

The Journal has compiled the most heavily disputed questions of the debate.

For Presidential Candidates: What do you think is the greatest student advocacy concern? When answering this question, please keep in mind relations with the Queen’s University administration.

Team MTW began by identifying that the greatest student advocacy concern is that students worry that when they bring their voices forward, either they won’t be heard or their opinions will be disregarded. MTW Presidential candidate Aniqah Mair advocated for an amicable relationship with the administration to ensure students’ perspectives are communicated properly. 

Team JBP Presidential candidate Jennifer Li identified a lack of access to administration as being the primary student advocacy concern, but explained how she could leverage her pre-existing relationships with administrators to advocate for students.

Team MTW responded with a concern that too often, communication only exists between administrators and “elite” members of the AMS, and stressed the importance of providing all students the opportunity to be heard by the administration.

Li rebutted that as a chief spokesperson for the AMS, she would ensure that she advocated for the students’ best interest.

Above, left to right: JBP's Brian MacKay, Jenn Li and Palmer Lockridge. 

Directed at Team MTW: In your platform you stated that there is a need for further inclusion for LGBTQ+ members on campus. You would like to do so by tailoring events specifically for this community. Could you speak to how these events will aid in the broader conversation surrounding inclusion on campus?

Team MTW began by stating their commitment to including and supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community and noted that JBP failed to specifically mention the community in their platform.

“Unfortunately, there [are] no LGBT points in the opponent’s platform,” Landon Wilcock, candidate for vice-president (operations), said. “This is shocking, disappointing, and disheartening.”

Team JBP rebutted by saying that they decided rather than having “individual, isolated events” to support LGBTQ+ students as Team MTW has outlined in their platform, they plan to take a broader approach in including the community. 

In response, Team MTW insisted that these sorts of events need to continue in order to improve mental health and increase socialization among LGBTQ+ students.

Team JBP Presidential Candidate Jennifer Li responded that their platform is not set in stone and they invite underrepresented groups to come forward with their concerns, but maintained that their goal is still to address the entire student body, not just “isolated communities.”

Wilcock took issue with the use of the phrase “isolated communities”, saying it was “quite different rhetoric than [he] thought was appropriate.”

“To say that they’re still an isolated community, or a community that isn’t vocal, is inappropriate,” he said. 

Team JBP wrapped up by expressing their desire to avoid “politicizing an issue that can be sensitive” and rather focus on platform points that will support the LGBTQ+ community, such as creating an interactive wellness map to help identify gender-neutral washrooms on campus.

Directed at Team JBP: The idea of increasing study space across campus is often discussed by student leaders. In your platform, you state that you will partner with the University Librarian to increase study space. Can you elaborate on what other tangible steps must be taken to complete this task?

Team JBP explained that in their consultations with the University Librarian and others, they have tried to come up with plans to enhance and expand study space on campus. One point they provided as an example was creating study space in John Watson Hall, which is close and accessible to many first year students living in residence.

Team MTW presented their idea to create an environmentally friendly “green” study space on campus.

In response, Team JBP pointed to their long-term student life master plan, which would guide study space projects over the next five to 10 years on campus. They commended MTW’s commitment to sustainability, but stressed that providing and updating space now is the best way to make a change within the confines of their executive term.

To both: What would you say is your biggest strength as well as weakness as a team? How do you plan on overcoming your weakness?

Team MTW answered that their team’s biggest strength is also their biggest weakness: the fact that each candidate comes from a position fairly external to the AMS. They said it’s their biggest strength because it provides them with a fresh perspective, but is also their biggest weakness because they lack some knowledge of AMS documents.

Team JBP responded by clarifying that no one on their team had held internal AMS positions either, despite having all sat on AMS assembly. Jenn Li noted that “there is no excuse for not knowing what you need to know to competently fill these positions.”

In response, Aniqah Mair, Team MTW presidential candidate, noted that they’re willing to take full advantage of their transition period to address the gaps in their knowledge and do their jobs properly. Mair also pointed out that AMS positions are supposed to be “no experience necessary.”

Team JBP rebutted that they pride themselves on the amount of research and consultation they engaged in leading up the campaigning period in order to gain as much knowledge about Queen’s as possible.

Li ended the discussion by saying that preparation “shouldn’t start in transition, it should start when we’re preparing for our campaign.”

Directed at Team JBP: How will you justify varsity recognition on transcripts without recognizing any other involvement? For example, being a residence don or involvement in Queen’s Model Parliament. 

Team JBP answered that they see this as a realistic first step that will lead to acknowledgement of a broader range of extracurricular activities. According to Palmer Lockridge, vice-president (university affairs) candidate, members of the administration expressed willingness to implement this small step in their consultations.

Team MTW rebutted by saying many groups deserve recognition, and that varsity athletes have more pressing needs than being recognized, especially in terms of mental health.

Team JBP responded that they take other issues facing varsity athletes very seriously and address them in other parts of their platform.

MTW said they “struggled to see the equity behind just focusing on one select group”, especially considering that once this intitiative is implemented, administration may be hesitant to spend more money on expanding it to include all extracurricular activities.

Team JBP closed by reiterating that this is just a small step forward that they could implement in their short term as executives.

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