Levana Gender Advocacy Centre to be evicted from the Grey House

AMS and Levana in conflict over a series of errors that led to loss of club status

The LGAC's space in the Grey House on Bader Lane.

After operating in the Grey House for 42 years, the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre (LGAC) is now being evicted from the property and has lost their official club status with the AMS.

When LGAC — under the name Women’s Centre — was founded in 1975, it functioned as an advocacy group focusing solely on women’s interests. The group changed its name to Levana Gender Advocacy Centre in 2010, and has since expanded its mandate to include and engage in other topics relating to feminism and equity. 

Throughout the club’s 42 year history, they operated from within the Grey House on Bader Lane. With the loss of club status decided by the AMS, Levana is now being evicted and will look to find another home on campus.

This all stems from the requirement by all clubs in the AMS to complete the re-ratification process in April of this year. Since they didn’t go through the process, Levana is  no longer listed in the AMS Clubs Directory, due to what they described in a post on their Facebook page as a “clerical error.”

Failure to re-ratify

In an e-mail to The Journal from Levana board member Marion Gonsalves, she clarified the error, explaining that it was “in regards to the new re-ratification process.” 

On March 3, the AMS Clubs Office released space allocation and re-ratification packages with a March 27 deadline. The LGAC board claims that there was a lack of clear communication in regards to re-ratifying.

“There were some re-ratification forms we needed to fill out, but they changed from previous years and they [the AMS] were not transparent,” Gonsalves wrote.

After missing the deadline, the LGAC received an email on April 4 from the Clubs Office with notice of their loss of status. The LGAC then reached out to re-ratify and were directed to the proper forms by the AMS on April 6, with an extension provided until April 11 to complete the packages.

LGAC unable to access portals

Gonsalves stated that, “by the time we understood how the new re-ratification process worked, we couldn’t access the online portal that it was hosted on. When we tried to contact the Clubs Manager they did not respond. I think the issues boil down to a lack of transparency, clarity, and communication.”

After receiving no reply from the AMS in regards to being unable to access the online portal, Gonsalves said an LGAC member met with 2016-17 AMS Clubs Manager Grace Kim on April 25. 

Kim again informed the LGAC member that the AMS decided to evict LGAC from the Grey House due to their failure to complete the re-ratification procedure. Levana was given an eviction date of May 13.

Current Clubs Manager Emmy Vassos told The Journal via email that LGAC was given several opportunities to complete the ratification process, “all of which were ignored.” LGAC’s failure to re-ratify thus rendered them ineligible to participate in the yearly space allocation procedure. 

According to Vassos, LGAC contacted the Clubs Office on April 6 saying that they didn’t have access to their clubs email account. Vassos said LGAC was provided with the contact information for AMS IT, and directed to make a support request. 

Vassos wrote that “Levana claimed that they still have not heard from the IT department [on April 11], but upon investigation they failed to submit a request form. Their password was reset at the instruction of the Director of Clubs and Levana was informed that the re-ratification package still needs to be submitted by midnight on the 11.” 

The portal for the ratification form closed on April 12, and on April 20 Levana emailed the Director of Clubs informing her that they had no access to the ratification form or the portal, after which the meeting on April 25 occurred notifying Levana of their eviction date. 

The Memorandum of Understanding

On April 26, LGAC uncovered an agreement signed in April 2011 by the AMS and the LGAC, as well as several other equity groups called the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU gives LGAC occupancy rights “beyond the normal yearly space allocation procedure.” 

According to the MOU, “The [AMS] shall not reallocate the space of the organizations listed in Section 1 without their express permissions, given through their appropriate governing structures.”

The organizations listed in Section 1 include LGAC, the Queen’s Pride Project and the Ontario Public Interest Research Group.

“Club space is a very limited resource, and only three per cent of AMS-ratified clubs have use of dedicated, individual club space. The committee makes difficult choices every year in order to enhance student life opportunities and balance the needs of a growing number of students and clubs,” Vassos told The Journal.

When asked about the MOU’s applicability in LGAC’s current situation, Vassos explained, “It was based on the fact that all parties were AMS-ratified clubs. Levana is no longer an AMS-ratified club and the AMS has no authority to assign space under its management to groups or individuals that are not an AMS-ratified club.”

On May 3, Levana was informed that the 2011 MOU wasn’t enforceable with a reaffirmation of their eviction sent on May 4, along with an extended move-out date of May 31. According to Vassos, Levana hasn’t responded to any emails from the Clubs Office since May 4. 

However, Gonsalves told The Journal that the MOU makes no mention of this club status requirement. 

“The AMS is arguing that because Levana didn’t re-ratify as a club using their new system, the aforementioned agreement is null and void — despite the contract avoiding the use of the term ‘club.’ It’s very much a problem revolving around semantics, which is why I believe that the real problem is that the AMS doesn’t understand the value of Levana and isn’t really thinking the decision to reallocate the space through enough.” 

A September 2011 Journal article revealed that the MOU was rendered invalid by the 2011 Space Allocation Committee. The committee “reviewed the MOU and determined that it was not valid because it hadn’t passed through the right bodies before it was signed.” The groups listed on the MOU were informed of its invalidity in July 2011. 

Levana and OPIRG also failed to ratify in 2011, and faced eviction in September 2011 by the AMS, who had failed to consult the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) prior to notifying the groups of their eviction. After a meeting between the AMS, SGPS, and the university, the groups were granted an extension to re-ratify, which allowed them to remain in the Grey House that year.  

The petition and the demonstration

LGAC launched a petition on May 7 that has garnered 3,856 Canadian supporters as of May 26, with many current and former Queen’s students voicing their support. 

On the LGAC’s Facebook page post sharing the petition on May 7, they cited a “clerical error” as the reason for their removal. 

However, Vassos asserted in her email that their eviction is “not the result of a ‘clerical error’ or any sort of oversight by the AMS or the Clubs Office.” 

LGAC also created pamphlets and held a demonstration prior to a Board of Trustees meeting on May 12, where Gonsalves wrote that they had “a chance to speak to those in attendance about Levana’s current situation.” 

Going forward

According to Vassos and Gonsalves, the space held by the LGAC will be taken over either by Jack.org or Queen’s For The Boys.

LGAC won’t be allowed to apply to re-ratify until the fall term. 

“If we do not have a space on campus, it renders so much of what we’ve done in the past impossible, expensive, or overly-complicated to achieve,” Gonsalves wrote.

Vassos stands by the actions of the AMS in responding to the LGAC. 

“Levana was given several opportunities to complete the same ratification process as every other AMS club, and was given an extension of 15 days to their deadline that no other club received,” Vassos wrote.

Under the current circumstances, LGAC will indeed be leaving the Grey House on May 31. 

“I think their [the AMS] actions reflect a lack of understanding about how integral the work Levana does is to the student body,” Gonsalves wrote. 

“They are focusing on these bureaucratic details, which I agree are important, however, I think in this case it is more important for Levana to be reallocated the space the club has occupied for 42 years.”

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