It’s up to the AMS to increase student engagement

As President Jennifer Li told those who attended this year’s AMS Annual General Meeting, “it’s no secret that engagement with the AMS hit an all-time low this year.” Now it’s time we start asking why.

This year, the AMS was forced to appoint an Executive after the only team on the ballot dissolved days before the election. Having no teams campaigning for AMS-Executive was an unprecedented situation in the history of the society.

At the same meeting that appointed a new AMS-Executive, the Campus Activities Commission indefinitely dissolved four of their committees. Namely, Queen’s Live Music Committee, Queen’s Media and Journalism Conference, Queen’s Model Court and Queen’s Model United Nations were all closed due to a lack of engagement.

Moreover, faculty society elections across the board saw very low voter turnouts in their winter election periods and six high-level AMS positions were vacated over the course of this year. The vacancies forced the AMS to review and revise their corporate structure.

So yes, it’s clear student engagement with the AMS is low — but why? What’s stopping students from getting involved now more than ever before? Simply put, the many financial and social barriers to getting involved in the AMS have become insurmountable for many students. 

Preparing to campaign for AMS Executive is a stressful process that can also take a financial toll if students have to take time away from work or school to do it. It’s no wonder why most students don’t see the rewards of the job as outweighing the pressure of what it takes to get there.

As for the conferences cancelled due to low student engagement, the barrier there is likely financial. While AMS-run conferences are rewarding experiences, they often come with hefty delegate fees that many students simply can’t afford.

Vacancies in high-level AMS positions can be attributed to a number of causes. But in a statement released by the AMS this December, the Executive acknowledged that for some, “it’s difficult to balance the pressures of school and personal matters with full-time employment.”

It’s up to the AMS to provide more tools, guidance and resources to those interested in campaigning for executive positions so they’re prepared to do so. The AMS should subsidize delegate fees or create and advertise more grants for those who can’t afford to attend conferences. 

They need to foster a positive work environment within the society that allows students to strike a balance between their extracurricular involvement and their academics without burning themselves out in the process.

It’s time the AMS questioned why students are turning their backs on the society and produce tangible solutions to invite them back in, free of barriers.

 Maureen is The Journal’s News Editor. She’s a fourth-year English major. 


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