AMS Executive-elect Team MLM Q&A

Team discusses their appointment at special assembly and goals while in office

From left to right: Liam Tharp, Munro Watters and Miguel Martinez.

Team MLM sat down with The Journal to share their plans for the future of the AMS and their thoughts on their appointment.

What did you think of the Special Assembly process in general? 

Miguel: I think it was a very interesting process. They basically set the precedent for this if no team ever runs again. It was interesting with us, because we didn’t really know we would be participating in a debate until just 24 hours before we were going to be going into it. Even at that time, our team hadn’t fully come together so it was a lot of learning and learning about each other and how to work together. 

Liam: I really did appreciate Ryan Cattryse’s comments at the beginning, because a lot of people thought he was talking too much, but I really appreciated that he did want to make it as transparent as possible … He wanted to make sure everyone was held accountable. I think that it is really valuable to have someone in the room, or a lot of people in the room, who will say ‘I think we need to make this more public … I want everyone else to have input.’ Regardless of what happened, that idea is very important.

Munro: With regard to assembly itself, it was easily the scariest thing I have every done in my life, but also the coolest. And the most exhausting. It was an interesting parallel because you would go into Wallace Hall and it would be so intimidating and you would be hit with all of these difficult questions, then we go back to our holding room and we would all just be chatting and having a good time. That was a fun dynamic which helped ease the tension at 2 am. 

At the Special Assembly, there were complaints from members about the transparency of the process in terms of electronics access and semi-secret ballot issue. In your eyes, did you see that process as transparent? 

Liam: I think it was the best thing that could have happened with that being the situation. Obviously it is preferable if we had run an election, if we had time to talk to a lot of people. That is the ideal situation. The transparency is extraordinarily important, and there is always more that can be done. That is not to say we didn’t do a lot. Everyone was able to watch, it wasn’t closed-door, which really I think was important. 

Miguel: I think it is very important that the whole process was as transparent as possible and that people get to see how their representatives voted. It was very important for Ryan Cattrysse to stand up and challenge the process and challenge the fact that it was going to be a secret ballot. Because students deserve to know how their student leaders are voting and who they’re going to be appointing to run the AMS next year. I think it is important to be as transparent as possible.  

What do you hope the results of the JDUC referendum will be?

Miguel: The JDUC redevelopment project was a major project that the current AMS Executive decided to focus on this year. We as a team would want to see that vote be successful. We would want to see the AMS redevelopment project because it is important for the building to develop and become a better infrastructure building. Accessibility needs to be better in the building, heating needs to become better in the building, and so I think for us, it is important to make sure that what JCP has done this year continues to expand, not only into our year, but into future years. 

Munro: The JDUC is a huge hub right now. [We need to make] sure that we are as transparent with students as possible, make sure they understand what is going to happen to their JDUC. 

Since being appointed, how has the initial part of the transition period been?

Miguel: We took the weekend following the appointment process to kind of take a step back and really process what happened. This past week has been focusing on hiring and pushing out hiring. Round one hiring is this weekend, so a lot of people who want to apply for student positions have been reaching out. After round one hiring, we’re going to get more into specific portfolios for transitioning. It’s a lot to take in.

Munro: I think that because we didn’t have the privilege of having the initial campaign period, when we do a lot of consultation, it is happening in reverse I guess. Now because we are focusing on hiring, it is about making sure we put in the hours. It’ll be a lot of hours to consult with everyone and to make sure that the dialogue remains open. We’re trying to get through this first round of hiring because that is really immediate, then from there our focus is primarily on consulting with groups on campus.

Liam: The last week has been a lot of work. What I am specifically focusing on is information gathering. I have met with more people than I have fingers in the last day, just trying to get information, because we want to make sure we have a good team that we can rely on and who can rely on us. 

Has the current executive been helpful and supportive during the initial transition phase?

Miguel: They have been very supportive. They have really pushed for us to ask questions on the things that we’re still learning about. I think I can say this on behalf of all of us. If we ever need them, they are readily available for us. If I have questions, they put aside whatever they are doing in that moment and ask, ‘how can I help you?’ Right now it has been very supportive to have them trying to ensure our success.

Liam: It is important to note that the executive team this year is an extraordinary resource, but there are other resources. The permanent staff is extraordinarily helpful. Everyone there has the desire to make sure everyone’s student experience is the best that it can be and that is really uniting. 

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

Liam: Munro listens to country music, and this has been the biggest source of contention — we’re struggling, but we’ll make it through.

Miguel: On a more serious note, one of Liam’s strengths is he is willing to learn and ask questions. He is just a very smart person. Munro, I can go on a big list of her personal strengths but I think her way to learn and to relate to other people and to feel empathic to other people is a huge strength that she has. She feels for other people.

Liam: Miguel is in a very front-facing position, and that means he interacts with many, many people. His ability to interact with someone and make them feel comfortable [is extraordinary]. That ability to have other people to be confident in you is very rare and when it does happen it is something to note.

Munro: I think Liam’s biggest strength, is that he is very calm, which is amazing. He’s very good at being able to take a step back and look at a situation and go ‘ok, lets take a time out here and let’s take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.’ Miguel is extraordinarily levelheaded. Through all this, Miguel has been very much able to analyze situations and not get upset. 

What tangible actions do you see the AMS being capable of in terms of how to continue recent efforts related to sexual violence prevention and response? 

Munro: I think what Liam has said in terms of information gathering — I am very much still in that stage. I think a more centralized resources center is what’s really going to be the most valuable. It has taken the time to sit down and ask how can we do this, because we say ‘centralized resources center’ – what does that mean? What does that actually look like? Is it going to be a physical space? Is it going to be an online hub that is accessible and easy to navigate? I think within the AMS, since it is such a large entity, we can’t kind of go in on all four cylinders and say, ‘we’re going to make this huge thing happen.’ It is not going to work that way and we recognize that, but making sure we take the steps that make sense and one step at a time.

We posed several questions about sustainability to Team ECN during the campaign period, given that this year’s, and the previous year’s executive regressed on sustainability. Will your executive break this cycle? How?

Liam: Sustainability is an issue that is extraordinarily important to me. It’s something I have been exposed to all of my life and it’s something I believe can always be improved upon. As an engineer, I spend a lot of time in the ILC and the Tea Room — looking at a lot of the measures that they have, we can look at the things they have there can be applied to other services. And also looking at other things that universities are doing. Tangible, actual action plans are very difficult to develop. I can’t say very much right now with absolute certainty and there’s a lot I would like to do and explore in the future, specifically in the area of sustainability.  

Munro: Within my portfolio, that’s definitely something I’ve been looking at. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at flow charts about the way things are structured, and some people might be aware that the Environmental Affairs Commission was dissolved so there’s no longer a central body for environmental issues to be addressed, and that’s unfortunate. In my discussions with Palmer over the last couple of days, part of the issue there is that students don’t know what is being done because there isn't that central body. Right now, I am critically looking at ways to add it under one of the Commissions to make it a centralized entity. I can’t give you an action plan just yet, because I’m looking at different options and have been in discussions with several different people and will continue to do so to find out exactly where this should be placed because it is a complex issue. 

What are the current flaws you see in the AMS and how do you plan to approach them?

Miguel: I think the biggest flaw is that connection between the students and the AMS. The last couple of years, the AMS has slowly disconnected from students as teams have done things that students don’t agree with and there’s been backlash. Because of that, the AMS has kind of a stigma around it that it’s a culture of exclusivity, that it’s a toxic culture and that people who go into the AMS don’t come out the same. I think that's something we really want to address and we don’t want to be disconnected from the students anymore. For us, it’s very important for us to create a culture of inclusivity, and we can’t do that from within the AMS offices. We have to reach out to students and have those one-on-one conversations and show them that we support them. 

Liam: Speaking to that, Munro and I were basically outsiders to the AMS before doing this. With that, we have other opinions, and opinions that might not have been voiced. Not because people didn’t like them, but because they weren’t there. We want to reach out the availability of AMS positions to everyone and make sure that all faculties are represented and all ideas are heard. 

During the transition period, can you explain how you will proceed with creating a comprehensive platform for public release?

Miguel: In terms of developing a platform, I think it’s important for us to continually recognize we weren’t elected by the student body — we were appointed by 34 members of Assembly who represent the student body. And for us, in creating our platform … it’s important for us to sit down and reanalyze and rethink what the students actually want to be addressed. What are the issues facing students? So it really comes down to consulting with students and faculty societies and the University administration [and] clubs on campus. 

Munro: We definitely want to give Queen’s students all the information we possibly can about us and what we want to implement. I think it’s important to recognize that we can’t actually rush the process. We have to make sure we take the time to consult with everyone we possibly can. 

In the event of a major mistake or mishap, what would be your team’s public relations response be?

Miguel: If we did make a mistake, it’s very important for us to not try to justify our mistake or our actions. [We must] acknowledge we were wrong and to take steps to reanalyze and critically rethink how we’re going to address the situation. Because if there’s student backlash, it’s important for us to understand why … and hold ourselves accountable to when we make mistakes.

Liam: Every mistake is a learning opportunity. If you don’t make mistakes in the beginning, you aren’t really learning. It’s a hard reality because to learn, you do have to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also be preventative and be constantly analyzing how we go about the decisions we make so that we can see where they’re flawed and where they may have resulted in the mistakes. 

How do you plan to navigate the legalization of marijuana on campus? 

Munro: This is completely uncharted territory and I think … making sure we have things in place to deal with this effectively is the best way to go about doing it. Our concern is making sure students are safe, so for me, I’ve been thinking specifically about resources available for education at the University. We need to incorporate education into Orientation Week [and look] at initiatives that could be specifically targeting cannabis use. 

Liam: Another thing we could look at is the insurance for this. I can’t speak to any specifics, there’s a lot I still have to learn about this process, but I think that looking and ensuring that the University is equipped from a legal and insurance point with the legalization happening. 

Munro: On that, one thing we have had conversations about that we will need to address with administration is medicinal use. Again, we haven’t had the chance to look into that much yet but it’s something we’ve had conversations about and we need to take the time to look into. 

Miguel: For us it’s important to promote safe use habits. But in terms of the question of where the location of the dispensary will be, to be honest I haven’t had those conversations yet. I think it’s important to acknowledge people can already get marijuana through illegal methods or through medicinal processes. I think it’s important for both the university and municipality that a location that’s close to campus is more beneficial than a location that is far away from campus. A location far away from campus is going to continue to push students to continue getting cannabis from the people they’re already getting it from, that can’t be tracked or we don’t know where it’s from or what it’s laced with. I think it’s important to make sure that it is accessible to students, that we’re not trying to restrict students from engaging in whatever recreational activity they want to engage in. 

Any final comments? 

Miguel: We’re very excited and we’re looking to have fun, and we’re looking to actually make a change within the AMS and Queen’s community. 

Liam: I think next year is going to be a year of us continually earning the trust of the student body and we will do that through actions and not words. We will do that through going to faculty societies and interacting with students and making sure that everyone’s voice is heard, so the AMS isn’t some entity that oversees everything that’s scary. 

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